The guard

Memorial aims to bring World War I to life for the new generations of America

Thirty-eight hyper-realistic bronze figures in Washington will commemorate a conflict that lacked the moral clarity of World War II – but they’re not ready for the airborne conceptual representation of the World War I Memorial on Friday. Photo: Courtesy of World War I Centennial Commission On a typical day, Washington’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial attracts veteran soldiers from the conflict to run their fingers over the names of more than 58,000 deceased comrades etched in polished black granite. The creators of a World War I memorial in the nation’s capital faced a particular challenge: no one who fought in it is still alive. Your answer is a monumental bronze sculpture with 38 hyper-realistic, oversized figures depicting the great war, accompanied by information boards telling the story of its origins, costs and consequences. The memorial opens on Friday with a largely virtual ceremony attended by Joe Biden, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The site will hoist a flag that has flown over nine battlefield cemeteries in Europe in the past three years, and there will be a flyover by the 94th Luftwaffe Fighter Squadron. More than a century after the last shot, the site will finally join national monuments for World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. Unlike these landmarks, it’s not in the national mall, but its location is still prestigious: on Pennsylvania Avenue near the South Lawn of the White House. “The Vietnam Memorial was erected seven years after the war ended,” said Edwin Fountain, former World War I Centennial Commission deputy chairman, who took the Guardian on a tour of the new site. “Everyone knew what Vietnam meant and knew the history of that war and its place in American culture. You put up a black wall with 58,000 names, you know why that shape was chosen, you know why those names are there. “The Vietnam War Memorial was a place of mourning. The WWII memorial is triumphant and fairly fair given the great accomplishment of the Allied victory in WWII. This monument was erected a hundred years after the end of the war. The people who fought in this war are gone. The people who would have mourned these people have disappeared, the people who served with them have disappeared. “In striking contrast to Maya Lin’s famous substitute monument in Vietnam, the centerpiece of the WWI memorial will be” A Soldier’s Journey, “showing faces, characters and scenes based on the archetypal myth of the hero’s journey. Overlooking a pool of water, it will be the largest freestanding bronze relief sculpture in the Western Hemisphere, 58 feet long and 10 feet high. “This should not be a memorial to mourning, although we want the memorial to recognize the loss that was associated with the war. It wasn’t an open place for triumph because World War I was a much more complicated war; The reasons for joining the US were morally far more ambiguous than our reasons for joining World War II, ”said Fountain. The sculpture will not be ready until 2024 – it is currently represented by a giant reproduction drawing – as it is a complex transatlantic production involving models in period costume in a photogrammetry rig at the Pangolin Editions foundry in Stroud, UK. to pose. The resulting 3D prints have been sent to sculptor Sabin Howard in New Jersey to make clay and are being returned to Pangolin Editions for molding and casting. When out-of-towers come to the capital and ask what to see, Fountain wants the locals to answer, “There is this killer piece of art in public space that is nothing like anything you’ve seen. It is a truly monumental work of bronze that is completely different from any other monument in the city. “A staircase leads from the upper terrace to the water’s edge at the Peace Fountain, a natural place for reflection, reflection and perhaps a little break from the busy Washington that surrounds this oasis. Photo: Jeff Atkinson Freedom Digital / Courtesy The World War I Centennial Commission fountain argues that it was also necessary to give the World War I memorial – which highlights the contributions of women and people of skin color – a stronger educational component than its counterparts other conflicts. “We all know what Normandy looked like, but we don’t know what it was like to storm Belleau Wood. I ask in 75 years’ time what visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will take with them because they are not associated with these names and cannot remember how tragic this war was for us. There was a conscious decision to make this more educational and less abstract. “Based on a winning design by a young architect, Joe Weishaar, the $ 42 million memorial was grafted into a 1970s park that housed an ice rink, kiosk, statue of World War I General John Pershing , and a memorial to the American Expeditionary Armed Forces (AEF) – The Pershing statue and AEF memorial have been preserved. On the back of the sculpture wall is a Peace Fountain, a cascade of water that flows over lines of poetry by Archibald MacLeish, an artillery captain in the war who later served as the librarian of Congress Our death was for peace and a new hope or for nothing we don’t say can: you have to say that. “The memorial is littered with other inscriptions, including one from then-President Woodrow Wilson, who has recently fallen into disrepute for his racist acts and opinions. Fountain stated, “Our view was that he was our president at the time, he led us to war, he articulated the reasons we went to war, and in doing so, articulated an idealistic view of American foreign policy, which we have had for a hundred years long pursued. “You have to involve Wilson, he’s too central a character. I think people will understand that this is not a shrine to Wilson. “World War I is arguably America’s forgotten war. It caused twice as many American deaths as Vietnam and promoted civil rights, women’s suffrage, and the rise of the US as a superpower of the 20th century. But the 100th anniversary of the country’s entry into the war in April 1917 came and went with hardly a murmur compared to the full orchestra of remembrance in Great Britain. It lacks the simple history and moral clarity of World War II. Fountain, General Counsel of the American Battle Monuments Commission, said: “World War II, which, as some people casually say, had bigger bombs and better villains than World War I, overwhelmed our consciousness. We were attacked in a way that we weren’t in WWI – you have Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini – and it existed in popular culture at the time in a way that it didn’t in WWI. “World War I is not as part of American mythology as it is in Britain, France and Eastern Europe,” added Fountain. “It can be said that the revolution was our creation myth, the civil war our tragic myth of original sin and redemption, and the Second World War our great heroic quest, but there is no specific mythology for the First World War. The closest I come to is that World War I was our growing up. “