Despite my initial concerns about the placement of the National World War II Memorial, I contributed money to its construction because I believed that a memorial was long overdue. I am satisfied that the memorial does not disrupt the beauty of our beloved Mall. But I do have some regrets about it.
While a few bronzed images taken from photographs reflect activities of the day, and quotes from historical figures give glimpses of soldiers' heroic acts, little at this memorial is designed to teach.
For example, the Atlantic and Pacific arches dominate the north and south ends of the memorial and are ringed by the names of important battles. But the dates and locations of these battles, information that could have been depicted on a map, do not appear. The memorial puts important names in visitors' heads, but it does not tell what happened.
The pillars representing the states and territories that encircle the memorial also would have been perfect tablets for the inscription of information about each place's contribution to the war. As designed, all the pillars are alike, and nothing about that state's contribution is offered. Information such as the numbers of soldiers from each state who participated, were wounded or died could have been inscribed.
Also, instead of cookie-cutter wreaths that hang on either side of each pillar (depicting wheat for our agricultural production and oak -- oddly -- for our industrial might), couldn't the designers have portrayed the contribution each state made to the war effort and hung its representation from the respective pillars?
If the Vietnam and Korean memorials teach us anything, it is that the most effective memorials personalize war. The bronze plaques with miniature figures that flank the entrance of the World War II Memorial fall short of personalizing the war.
MARK A. SCHEUER