Thursday, May 27, 2004

Grant's Tomb, the sequel



A few years ago, after touring the Cloisters, I took my children to visit the Grant Mausoleum National Memorial. At 3:30pm on a weekday, I was the 8th person to sign the guestbook that day. When Civil War veterans were alive and active, the memorial drew more than 500,000 several years. By the 1920s, however, interest in the largest American mausoleum died away. The memorial was in terrible physical shape by the 1970s. The memorial has been restored physically in recent years, but interest remains limited. (The Grant Memorial Association is trying to change that.)

I mention Grant's tomb because this weekend is the dedication on the National Mall of the World War II memorial. Many veterans will be in Washington for the event, and for some it will mark the most important day in their lives. Still, in my humble opinion, the memorial is massively out of scale and its symbolism is obscure. By 2050, I fear, it's going to be regarded as another Grant's tomb.

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The location of Grant's memorial led to intense competition between New York and other cities. Grant had the final word on the matter.

The old Groucho Marx joke, "Who is buried in Grant's tomb? Nobody," draws on the fact that Grant and his wife are "entombed", not buried, in the memorial.

The last reunion of the Blue and Grey at Gettysburg was in 1938, 75 years after the battle. The corresponding 75th reunion of WWII vets would occur in 2020. It could happen....

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UPDATE

Charles Krauthammer wrote a column slamming the design of the WWII memorial. What has the world come to when I'm inspired to write Mr. Krauthammer an email thanking him for his letter?