WASHINGTON — Marcy Kaptur acknowledges that the World War II Memorial, which opened to the public nearly a decade ago, is magnificent and widely popular, but it needs more.
“From the beginning, Marcy saw the memorial not just as a memorial, but as a way to tell the story about the war effort,” Steve Fought, a spokesman for Miss Kaptur, said Friday. “She kept pushing for a museum or educational center but that did not survive the give and take. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the memorial believe it or not and eventually Marcy and Bob Dole and the other proponents focused on simply getting it built.”
Miss Kaptur, a Democrat representing much of Toledo and Cleveland in the U.S. House of Representatives, wrote legislation that created the 7.4-acre marble memorial after Roger T. Durbin, a WWII veteran from Berkey, cornered her during a fish fry in 1987 about the lack of a memorial.
Mr. Durbin, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, died of pancreatic cancer on Feb. 6, 2000 — nine months before the memorial’s Nov. 11, 2000, ground-breaking. He had been honored in the nation’s capital during an earlier commitment ceremony for veterans’ ashes that were brought in from Arlington National Cemetery and World War II battlefield cemeteries.
Pete Durbin, Mr. Durbin’s son who lives in Berkey, was elated to hear that the idea of a museum or educational center was being resurrected.
“The Smithsonian has so many different segments of American history on display, but the World War II fighting isn’t shown anywhere in Washington,” he said. “There is a very nice World War II museum in New Orleans, but we need something right there in Washington.”
Mr. Durbin has more than 550 letters his father wrote to his mother from the war zone. “Those are the types of things that need to be in a museum,” he said.
Mr. Fought said funding for a museum, or at least some of it, could come from public sources.
“Even if there are federal tax dollars involved, I don’t think people would complain because of the significance,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the American people would support bringing greater attention to World War II.”
Miss Kaptur was in Poland on a personal trip and could not be reached for comment Friday.
The memorial is one of Washington’s most popular tourist destinations. More than 4 million people visit the site each year — more than the Statue of Liberty.
Mr. Fought said Miss Kaptur wants to incorporate an “eternal flame” or laser beam at the memorial.
Contact Ignazio Messina at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6171.