Correcting The Critics
The National WWII Memorial enjoys overwhelming support from
Congress and the American people. Hundreds of thousands of individual Americans, hundreds of corporations and
foundations; dozens of civic, fraternal and professional organizations; state legislatures, and more than 450
veterans organizations representing 11 million veterans have joined the effort to say thank you to America's WWII
Unfortunately, much of that written or said about the memorial was based on distortions and misinformation
distributed by those who opposed our efforts to establish this tribute to America's WWII generation.
Here are the facts ...
- Critics claim that the memorial was approved behind closed doors by a small group of individuals without
regard to the law. Not True!
The WWII Memorial is the product of an open and democratic process, in full compliance with all applicable
laws. The site and design were debated in the media and 30 public meetings since 1995. No one was denied the right to be
heard, and critics had full opportunity to state their positions during the many public meetings held over the past eight
- Critics claim that the memorial will desecrate grounds made sacred by the civil rights movement and will
greatly impede or prevent future public gatherings and marches on the Mall in the vicinity of Washington and Lincoln. Not True!
Two events often cited--Marian Anderson's concert and Martin Luther King's speech--took place at the Lincoln
Memorial, more than a quarter-mile from the Rainbow Pool. The design will not interfere with future events and marches; rather,
the WWII Memorial will itself become the site of many future gatherings.
- Critics claim the memorial will pave over 7.4 acres, destroying the open vistas and natural beauty that define
the National Mall. Not True!
The design will not pave over 7.4 acres. The principal area of the memorial will not be paving, but water, grass
and trees as it is today; only thirty percent of the total acreage will be hard surface. The design preserves present vistas in all
directions, an important design requirement from the beginning, and the memorial landscape plan preserves and enhances its park-like setting.
- Critics claim the memorial will block the Mall's open space between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial,
inhibiting pedestrians from walking through this part of the Mall. Not True!
The design allows the open flow of visitors between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The
pedestrian pathways from Washington to Lincoln are the same as they were before construction of the WWII Memorial. Visitors approaching the memorial
will have the choice of entering it or continuing along the existing pathways to their destination.
- Critics claim that the memorial will destroy the historic Rainbow Pool. Not True!
The Rainbow Pool has been lowered and rebuilt in its historic configuration. The Pool's waterworks, which have not
functioned for decades, will be restored to their original splendor. The Rainbow Pool will earn greater historic significance as the
centerpiece of the only memorial to a 20th century event commemorated on the main axis of the Mall.
- Critics claim that the design echoes the Nazi Fascist architectural language of triumph and public spectacle. Not True!
The design complements the classic style of Washington architecture. It is the language of much of the federal architecture
found in Washington. It is ludicrous to claim that Nazi gigantism, which separates its brand of architecture from other periods in history,
bears any relevance to the scale of the WWII Memorial, whose vertical dimensions are modest in relation to the principal visual features of
- Critics claim the WWII Memorial is being built on ground that is part of the Lincoln Memorial. Not True!
A 1922 report of a meeting of the Lincoln Memorial Commission contained this unequivocal statement: "The chairman stated that
while the Lagoon [the Reflecting Pool and Rainbow Pool] was part of the plan for beautifying the park surrounding the Memorial, it was not part
of the Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial Commission had no connection with its construction."
- Critics repeatedly imply that a site in Constitution Gardens was the American Battle Monuments Commission's preferred site
for the WWII Memorial. Not True!
Of six sites initially made available for the memorial, a site in Constitution Gardens was deemed the best by ABMC. However, when
the Rainbow Pool site was made available for study, ABMC immediately chose it in preference to the site in Constitution Gardens, recognizing that there
was not a more appropriate place to commemorate the most significant event of the 20th century than at the Rainbow Pool site on the central axis of the National
- Critics claim the memorial will create problems of arsenic contamination and flooding, and contaminated ground water will be pumped
into the Tidal Basin and Potomac River. Not True!
Testing by project engineers revealed that ground water was seeping into storm water pipes that ran through the site, allowing ground water
to flow untreated into the Tidal Basin. These defective pipes were replaced. The project will reduce ground water flows into the Tidal Basin, and ground water that is discharged
will be treated to EPA water quality standards, including those for arsenic. This will improve the pre-existing conditions.
Much of the western end of the Mall sits within a flood plain. Thus, the WWII Memorial will sit within the same flood plain as the Jefferson Memorial, the
Reflecting Pool, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the D.C. World War I Memorial. If a flood occurs, water will be removed from the WWII Memorial
plaza by storm water pumps within 24 hours after flood water levels recede, and the memorial will be cleaned, as will other memorials in the area.
- Critics claim that constructing the memorial will require continuous pumping that will lower the water table in surrounding grounds, threatening the health of the elm trees near the site and the stability of nearby structures, including the Washington Monument. Not True!
The memorial will not affect the surrounding water table, during or after construction. The foundation design of the memorial
is similar to that used for many buildings in Washington, D.C. A concrete cutoff (slurry) wall extending from grade level down to bedrock around the entire perimeter of the memorial
isolates it from the water table outside. With this construction method, the water table outside the project will remain at the same level it was.
- Critics claim that the WWII Memorial will alter the meaning of our National Mall. Not True!
The National Mall contains cherished symbols of freedom: the Capitol and Washington Monument, symbols of the nation's founding in the 18th century; the
Lincoln Memorial and Grant statue, symbols of the nation's preservation in the 19th century. There is not a more appropriate place to recognize the 20th century's triumph
of democracy over tyranny than directly in line with those other symbols of our democratic ideals. The WWII Memorial will reinforce the message of our National Mall -- the
message of freedom -- for generations to come.
The consistently favorable decisions rendered following
30 public meetings and the many endorsements received from prominent newspapers and individuals support
- The National WWII Memorial is the right statement in the right place.
- The design is open and transparent, preserving views in all directions.
- The architecture complements the classic style of Washington.
- The architecture creates a sense of place and sets the stage for remembrance and celebration.
- The memorial is destined to be one of the great public gathering places on the National Mall.