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America Pays Tribute To The Greatest Generation,
This review is from: Their Last Battle: The Fight For The National World War II Memorial (Paperback)
This timely book arrives on the eve of the dedication of the National World War II Memorial, but can be read with interest for some time after. Anyone who absorbs this story will likely come away asking how we as a people manage to create any national memorials at all. The battles over the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, as well as the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, are recent history and perhaps still fresh in many memories. Mills retells these with economy and grace, and also recounts the opposition, delays and clashes over location and design that also faced the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.
The opening of the World War II Memorial represents the culmination of an effort that began almost two decades ago. One man, WW II vet Roger Durbin, asked his Congresswoman why there was no national memorial to those who fought and died in that momentous struggle. Winning approval in both houses of Congress took six years, and was only the first hurdle. Next came the far more complex battles to win approval for the site and design. Mills recounts all of this in great detail, from the potentially serious concerns to the more ludicrous (an assertion that construction at the memorial site might cause the nearby Washington Monument to tip over. It didn't). It finally took another act of Congress to lay the challenges to rest and get actual construction under way.
While Mills attempts to give voice to all viewpoints about the memorial project, his sensitive examination of its artistic merits that closes the book makes it clear that he sees this as the right memorial, in the right place, and at the right time. We can wish that it might have come along sooner, so that some of the 12 million WW II vets who have left us in the six decades since V-J Day could have seen it. But at least some four million of their brothers in arms are still with us to enjoy this overdue, well-deserved tribute.--William C. Hall