As you walk along the Mall in Washington, D.C. you will pass the somber memorials to the veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam––yet none to the 4.7 million men and women who fought and served in the Great War. The United States World War I Centennial Commission seeks to change that after the final concept was approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts on September 19, 2019 and by the National Capital Planning Commission on October 3rd. The Commission received a construction permit shortly after.
First groundbreaking was held in December 2019, after a nearly six-year campaign to build the memorial, the Commission seeks to enhance Pershing Park, along Pennsylvania Ave, to honor the millions of Americans who served during World War I.
“Finally the 4.7 million Americans who left their homes to deploy to a country most had never visited, fight in a war they did not start, and were willing to die for peace and liberty for people they did not know, will be honored at this magnificent spot in our nation’s capital,” Commission Chair Terry Hamby said at the groundbreaking.
Despite arriving late in the war in 1917, the U.S. suffered more than 320,516 casualties, with 53,000 killed in action, and more than 63,000 non-combat related deaths. The memorial serves to provide a “solemn understanding of just how costly freedom can be,” Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II told reporters in December.
The memorial, designed by architect Joseph Weishaar, will feature a monumental bronze, which sculptor Sabin Howard and his New Jersey-based team have been working on for five years. The bronze sculpture, titled “A Soldier’s Journey,” serves to complement the existing sculpture of General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces.
“It’s been a tireless effort by the design team and the World War I Centennial Commission to see this project through and I’m proud of all we’ve been able to accomplish. This memorial is a century overdue, but here we are, and we’re doing it!” said Weishaar.
The dedication of the memorial is planned for November 2021, 103 years after the end of the Great War.