May 16th, 2010
10:47 AM ET

Volunteers gather at neglected WWI monument

American Legion volunteers gathered Sunday at a neglected marble temple on the National Mall to commemorate veterans of World War I, at a site they hope will soon be a national memorial.

The structure from the 1930s was dedicated as a tribute to local troops from the District of Columbia who served in what was called the "Great War." Now, a campaign to turn the site into a national memorial continues to be led by the last living U.S. veteran of WWI, 109-year-old Frank Buckles.

Although the old soldier couldn't make it to Sunday's 75th commemoration, the ceremonies included remarks from National Park Service officials about a $7 million renovation plan scheduled to begin soon.

"We have been wanting for decades to make this look better, and happily now we have the federal funding by which to do it," said Michael Kelly, a park ranger for the National Park Service.

Those involved in efforts to create a national WWI memorial say Buckles' goal is getting closer.

Under compromise Senate legislation in discussion, Congress would be asked to grant "national" status to both the National Mall site and the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.

"After a few months of going back and forth with the Kansas City people, we have arrived at what seems to be a very simple, and we think appropriate, compromise solution, which is essentially that both sites have national status, as a tribute to all the nation's dead of World War I," said Edwin Fountain, an official with the World War I Memorial Foundation.

Advocates for both proposed memorials believe they deserve national status for a variety of reasons that include boosting the strength of fund-raising appeals.

Although the name of the Liberty Memorial makes no direct reference to WWI, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, said it was dedicated in 1924 as "the national World War I monument, not for Kansas City, Missouri, but for the entire nation." The Liberty Memorial site includes the National World War I Museum.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, had countered that a national memorial should be located in the national capital.

"I realize others have their views, but this, this is Washington, D.C.," Rockefeller said in support of the D.C. Memorial at a congressional hearing last year.

Kelly echoed similar sentiment. "This memorial is by far one of the more essential in American history," said Kelly.

Buckles has bipartisan support among senators pushing for the Washington location. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, told the same hearing last year that "we have what we call the Memorial Triangle on the National Mall today - World War II, Korea, Vietnam (memorials) - and so I think it's fitting that all the great wars of the 20th Century have their place on the National Mall." Thune, Rockefeller and Senator Jim Webb, D-Virginia, have introduced a bill that Fountain hopes will pass before the summer recess.

Speaking to the gathered crowd Sunday, Fountain said, "It is my great hope that next year, if I'm invited back to speak to you all again, I'll be able to report that we have passed the Frank W. Buckles World War I Memorial Act."

Buckles joined the U.S. Army as a teenager and rose to the rank of corporal. His assignments included driving an ambulance in Europe. In recent years, he has traveled from his West Virginia home to Washington several times to make his appeal that his comrades deserve national recognition alongside other war memorials in the nation's capital.

Post by:
Filed under: Military • Veterans
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Tom Peterson

    Wow – your reporter Dan Rivers – not sure if he knows but in his latest report he noted there was no traffic on wireless road in Bangkok – gee, the government shut it down two days ago. Please get dome one more proactive to cover stories in Bangkok.
    Anyway – he really seems to do a poor job of OBJECTIVE REPORTING!

    May 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joy

    It's about time!!! We can never thank our Vets enough !!! I am glad to hear money will be spent on such a worthy cause instead of on illegal immigrant law breakers!

    May 16, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jackie Couch

      In 1924 our country had no problems calling the Liberty Memorial of Kansas City, MO the National Memorial to WWI veterans. The leaders of all the allied countries armies were in attendance and in some cases were meeting for the 1st time. Calvin Coolidge was in attendance and the entire downtown was flooded with people from across the country to pay tribute to our veterans and to dedicate what was supposed to be our nantional memorial.

      Any attempt to "upgrade" a local memorial now is silly and disrespectful to the memory of the intent of the original. This is like dragging a cannon from the park of Mayberry and calling it the National Confederate Memorial!

      "Upgrade your cute little local memorial if you must but leave the Liberty Memorial's status alone.

      To President Obama I will only say that when he stood in the shadow of the Liberty Memorial to solicit votes, he had no problem with it and to say now that he want's it usurped by a pretender would be a slap to the face of any American with WWI veterans in their lineage.

      To Emaunel Cleaver I would add that although your concern is touching now that it's a national news item but where was this passion when the debate was on whether to keep spending the money to keep the Liberty Memorial lit? If you really care then please help light the Liberty Memorial! Got a match?

      May 16, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bosston Bob

      Sorry, but I have no problem with two memorials. In fact, I have no problem with 20, and you can call them all national too if you want. Maybe Kansas was first, and that is great, but if we need Federal money to do the job then do what has to be done. I'd rather have two in good shape than two looking run down, that is just disrespectful.

      May 17, 2010 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Jackie, as a veteran, military retiree and taxpayer, I have zero problems with a memorial in every city and town in the land for each conflict.
      I have less than no problem with Kansas keeping national status, BUT the nation's capitol should most certainly contain a national memorial area for the WWI veterans. It's what one would expect.
      Regarding your complaint about President Obama wishing to change any status, please remember that he is the PRESIDENT, not a member of congress any longer. This matter is sitting in the SENATE, not anywhere near the president.
      Perhaps you'll remember from school, legislative branch, executive branch...?

      October 3, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. John R

    It's terrific and important to not forget the great war. I have a special memorial passed down to me from my grandfather. Unfortunately, we don't see to be remembering too much about that particular war's horrible impact, it's place in history and how it affects politics even today, and perhaps even about foreign entanglements in general.

    May 16, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sgt Dan

    Well if it comes down, by law, it has to stay down. So let's move it over to the hull. Then we can see it on our property.

    Just move on, don't dwell, remember we fought for everyones freedom, including the ones who did this.

    May 16, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tom Peterson, stick to THIS story - AND thank a vet

    Tom Peterson, if you're going to make comments, please let them be relevant to THIS story. Yes, the situation in THailand is certainly terrible, but this is not the forum to be making comments about what is happening overseas. Instead you should thank a vet like Frank Buckles. Without men like him (and women!) we wouldn't have the right to speak freely.

    May 16, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Fred S

    I have visited that memorial when hiking in the area, and it is certainly in need of renovation. The lettering on it reads "... THE WORLD WAR" because the designers were no better at predicting the future than anyone else, and WWII had not happened yet.

    May 16, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Myron Bershire

    Politics once again. Kansas City currently has an outstanding Monument and Museum. Why would we spend millions of dollars considering what is considered a world class structure in the center of our nation?

    May 16, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sjb

    Cheney/Bush wouldn't allow one thin dime to be spent on this memorial to these men! Thank you, Mr. Obama!

    May 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeffrey C.

    I visited the WWI Memorial in D.C. on November 11, 2008. The 90 year anniversary of the end of the war, and while large events were occurring at the Korean War Memorial, and at the Vietnam and WWII memorials as well , there was nothing but a simple wreath at the WWI memorial. It is a shame that such a watershed event as the First World War is as forgotten and ignored in the United States as it tends to be. I'd be thrilled for either or preferably for both this simple monument and the Liberty Memorial to be acknowledge as the official National memorial.

    May 16, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JB

    It is unfortunate that there will be two national WW1 monuments, and Cleaver has failed again. The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City captures the essence, time, and environment of The Great War. Jackie frames it up well. If you are ever in KC the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial is a must see. Ralph Applebaum (the Holocaust Museum, Clinton Library) designed it and it is world class.

    May 17, 2010 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. Big Al

    We talk a good game, but when it comes to giving our veterans true benefits we are the shame of the western world. Under Bush, a man who killed 5,000 of his people for his friends' oil investments and at the behest of his manipulative and cunning VP, Walter Reed was a sewer. Now – only NOW! – do we honor the soldiers of WWI??? Then again, it was the first war where we sent our people to die for corporate I guess neglecting them only seemed fit, right?

    May 17, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jay

    I think everyone makes a good point with regard to the existing WWI memorial in Kansas. Personally, I think that designating another memorial as the national memorial in no way diminshes the importance of the one in Kansas. After all, we have many national parks. I think it's also important to note that the effort to have the monument in DC declared a national monument is being led by the last remaining WWI vet. Mr. Buckles, thank you for your service, and thanks to all the men and women who have served our country since then.

    May 17, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Jackie Couch

      Well, first of all I would like to make it very clear to all that the Liberty Memorial is in MISSOURI and not Kansas. Missouri was chosen for many reasons not the least of which is that it was the birthplace of General of the Armies John J. "Black jack" Pershing leader of the American Expeditionary Forces of WWI. He was also a mentor to many future great leaders such as George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley, and George S. Patton.

      But mostly, I think the decision was made that after fighting our first war to impact all of the country so deeply, the site for it's commemoration should be placed in the heart of the nation, equally accesible to the whole country, not just the East Coast as in the past. And hundreds of thousand do exactly that every year. Make a trip to Liberty Memorial and I think you'll agree that sufficiant homage is being paid to our WWI veterans and that they are well represented at the true memorial which THEY approved. Our doughboys were still alive and voting when the Liberty Memorial was built and dedicated. They were touched by it and they approved of it. Why wasn't this controversy brought up in their life time?

      Bush and Cheney are no more to blame for it's disrepair as I am. That was a local monument built by local funding and just as D.C. has always tended to do they now want and will probably get federal "bailout" money to solve their problem. What the heck, let's all send a gallon of paint to Mayberry to touch up the cannon too.

      How about we all agree that the D.C. Monument should be rescued but also agree that Federal help in maintaining and re-lighting the Liberty Memorial is also required. Mr. Cleaver if you do nothing else, try to get your collegues to stop snickering behind your back long enough to agree to that. If the Liberty Memorial were in Washington D.C. it would be burning brightly and every wanna-be Senator would be lining up for a photo opportunity taking credit for it's beauty.

      May 17, 2010 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chuck

    I don't think that there is anything really wrong with having the two sites commemorating WWI, but what a shame this was not done years before the very last US veteran was almost gone. Of course, the DC politicians will all want to take credit and use this for a photo opportunity, but for the families of these veterans, I think they deserve to have the sacrifice of their loved ones prominently displayed with a fitting national shrine in our nation's capital.

    May 17, 2010 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. thunder1road

    We must remember WW1 because the sacrifices the men made in that war were horrific – the number of horribly crippled and maimed men was huge – and there was little medical science could do for them at that time. Many young men's lives were ruined by mustard gas.
    But in addition to all the war memorials – how about a PEACE MEMORIAL – engraved with all the years (if any) when America was not at war.

    May 17, 2010 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. Roni

    Finally. When touring the mall of monuments 5 years ago, it was a goal of mine to fine the WWI momument and point it out to my then 13 year old sons. Even the tour guide wasn't sure where it was. It's a shame that the momument was even allowed to fall into it's present condition. I am thrilled to read about it's restoration.

    May 17, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
1 2