The World War II memorial now under construction in Washington nearly 60 years after battle's end got its start at a Jerusalem Township fish fry in 1987.
Army veteran Roger Durbin called across the room to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, (D., Toledo) to ask why there was no memorial in Washington to honor the millions of Americans who served in World War II.
Miss Kaptur said she thought to herself for a moment that there must be one, because there was no more significant event in the 20th century.
She asked him about the Iwo Jima memorial, but he replied that that was only for the Marines.
After researching the issue, she discovered Mr. Durbin was right. There was no World War II memorial.
“I was flabbergasted,” Miss Kaptur said.
She began what she called a “brutal struggle” to get Congress to authorize a memorial. Miss Kaptur said that the memorial's funding should have come out of the federal treasury, but that she asked for it to be privately funded because of the deficit and because she didn't want the bill to be bogged down in the struggle over money.
Finally, President Clinton signed the authorization into law in 1993. Ground was broken in a Nov. 11, 2000, ceremony, and construction began the following year.
Located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II memorial will have two arches - one each for the Pacific and Atlantic theaters - separated by the length of a football field.
A circle of 56 pillars, one for each of the states and territories at that time, will surround the refurbished Rainbow Pool.
On the western side, a wall of 4,000 gold stars will represent the 400,000 Americans killed in the war, said Michael Conley of the American Battle Monuments Commission, which oversees the memorial.
“It nestles into the landscape, but when you walk down into the plaza, and you have the arches and pillars rising above you and the Rainbow Pool with its restored fountains, I think it will be very monumental,” Mr. Conley said.
The World War II memorial is scheduled to be finished next spring. It will be formally dedicated on May 29, 2004, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
One of the reasons the process has been slow is the amount of controversy over everything from the monument's location to its design, said Melissa Growden, a member of the Memorial Advisory Board and granddaughter of Mr. Durbin.
Some people complained the new monument would block the view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol, and the plans were scaled back.
“There is no way that this memorial impedes the view,” Mrs. Growden said.
Local veterans are just happy to finally have a memorial.
“It's a wonderful idea,” said Sylvania resident Russel Ammons, who served in an artillery unit in the South Pacific for four years. “We need some recognition.”
Many say that recognition should have come earlier. With hundreds of World War II veterans dying every day, most will never see the completed memorial.
Mr. Durbin, who served in a tank division in Europe, was one of those. He died months before the groundbreaking ceremony in 2000. He was buried with a flag from a 1995 ceremony that dedicated the ground, Miss Kaptur said.
“He so wanted to live to see this dedication in 2004,” she said.
Of the 16 million who served, only about 3.8 million will still be alive at dedication time, Mr. Conley said.
“They should have had something started way before now,” said Army veteran William Wians, of Toledo.
But at least one local World War II veteran, Richard Berry, a Perrysburg resident who served as a Navy electronics technician, said he thinks the memorial isn't enough.
“We deserve something besides that insignificant $200 million thing in Washington that we had to pay for,” he said.
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