The memorial will honor the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S. during World War II, the more than 400,000 who died, and the millions who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial will be a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people to the common defense of the nation and to the broader causes of peace and freedom from tyranny throughout the world. It will inspire future generations of Americans, deepening their appreciation of what the World War II generation accomplished in securing freedom and democracy. Above all, the memorial will stand as an important symbol of American national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and awesome power that can flow when a free people are at once united and bonded together in a common and just cause.
The first step in establishing the memorial was the selection of an appropriate site. Congress provided legislative authority for siting the memorial in the prime area of the national capital, known as Area I, which includes the National Mall. The National Park Service, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission approved selection of the Rainbow Pool site at the east end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. President Clinton dedicated the memorial site during a formal ceremony on Veterans Day 1995.
ABMC engaged the General Services Administration's (GSA) Public Buildings Service to act as its agent to manage the memorial project. The design submitted by Friedrich St.Florian, an architect based in Providence, R.I., was selected as one of six semi-finalists in an open, national competition. Leo A Daly, an international architecture firm, assembled the winning team with St.Florian as the design architect. The team also includes George E. Hartman of Hartman-Cox Architects, Oehme van Sweden & Associates, and sculptor Ray Kaskey. St.Florian's memorial design concept was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission in the summer of 1998. The commissions approved the preliminary design in 1999, the final architectural design and several ancillary elements in 2000, granite selections in 2001, and sculpture and inscriptions in 2002 and 2003.
The memorial is funded primarily by private contributions. The fund-raising campaign was led by National Chairman Senator Bob Dole and National Co-Chairman Frederick W. Smith.
Senator Dole, a World War II veteran seriously wounded on the battlefield and twice decorated with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was the Republican nominee for president in 1996 and the longest-serving Republican Leader in the U.S. Senate.
Frederick W. Smith is chairman, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Corporation, a $17 billion global transportation and logistics holding company. He is a graduate of Yale and a former U.S. Marine Corps officer, and serves on the boards of various transport, industry and civic organizations.
The memorial received more than $195 million in cash and pledges. This total includes $16 million provided by the federal government.
Construction began in September 2001. The American Battle Monuments Commission expects the memorial to open to the public in April 2004. The memorial will be dedicated on Saturday, May 29, 2004 -- Memorial Day Weekend.
The American Battle Monuments Commission is an independent, executive branch agency with 11 commissioners and a secretary appointed by the president. The ABMC administers, operates and maintains 24 permanent U.S. military cemeteries and 25 memorial structures in 15 countries around the world. The commission is also responsible for the establishment of other memorials in the U.S. as directed by Congress.