A winning design has been selected for a national memorial in Washington, D.C., honoring the sacrifice of the more than 4.7 million Americans who served in the military during World War I, the early 20th century conflict often lost between historical remembrances of the U.S. Civil War and World War II.
The $30 million memorial will be constructed on a 2-acre site a block from the White House that is currently a park named after John J. Pershing, overall commander of American forces in WWI. Plans call for completing the project by Veterans Day 2018 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the war’s conclusion, according to a January 2016 article by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The winning design, titled The Weight of Sacrifice, was created by architect Joe Weishaar and sculptor Sabin Howard. Incorporating the park’s open space, the design includes a sculpture of three servicemen kneeling behind an artillery piece. A wall encompassing the sculpture will bear 23 carved images of wartime scenes.
The concept is intended to give a broader sense of the nation’s sacrifice rather than just honoring one leader, though the existing statute of Gen. Pershing also is included in the new park design, according to the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, which reviewed more than 360 submissions for the memorial.
“The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars” began in summer 1914. It was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which sparked diplomatic crises among conflicting European alliances. America didn’t enter the war until 1917.
More than 53,000 U.S. servicemembers were killed on the battlefield, while an additional 63,000 died outside the war theater, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). About 204,000 U.S. servicemembers were wounded. Many troops remained in Europe for months after the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice until being shipped home during 1919.
The last surviving U.S. veteran of WWI, Frank Buckles, died in February 2011 at age 110, according to the VA.
Edwin Fountain, vice chairman of the Centennial Commission, told the PBS Newshour that WWI “is very much lost in our national consciousness,” eclipsed by the Great Depression and WWII. In a news release, he said the new memorial is meant to educate and inspire Americans to learn more about the largely overlooked war, which continues to influence modern events.
Other military conflicts such as WWII, and the Korean and Vietnam wars, have large monuments on the National Mall, the nearly 2-mile-long swath between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. Construction of additional memorials on the Mall is prohibited by law, which steered the Centennial Commission to nearby Pershing Park.