National World War I Memorial breaks ground in Washington, D.C.

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Updated Nov. 9, 2017 at 2:14 PM
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Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Groundbreaking was held in Washington, D.C.'s Pershing Park, on Thursday for the long-awaited World War I Memorial.

The ceremony marked the start of the $50 million project to honor those who served in what was first called The Great War, which involved U.S. servicemen between 1917 and 1918.

The design features soldiers on a 65-foot-long horizontal panel, and $12 million in private contributions has so far been raised. The World War I Centennial Commission said its goal is to complete the memorial by the end of next year.

Pershing Park, which is being remodeled to accommodate the new memorial, fell into neglect after it was built in 1981 as part of a design renaissance along Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue. A centerpiece of the park is a statue of Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of U.S. forces in WWI -- which is also referred to as The War to End All Wars.

Placing a war memorial in the park, designed by landscape architect M. Paul Friedburg and regarded as a milestone in his career, has been a challenge. Friedburg said the National Park Service has allowed the park to decay.

"Of course it's failed. If you let Central Park go to seed it would be a failed park, too," Friedburg said.

There is a memorial on the National Mall that honors Washington, D.C., soldiers who fought and died in World War I, but calls for a national marker have persisted for years. Millions of Americans served in the war and more than 115,000 died.

It took decades for a World War II memorial to be completed (2004) and service members from the Korean Conflict were only honored with a permanent memorial in 1995.

"It would be inconceivable to Gen. Jack Pershing that a century ago he would be told the men under his command would not have a memorial to their sacrifice in the nation's capital when the centennial of that conflict would finally arrive," Sandy Pershing, the general's granddaughter-in-law and honorary member of the Centennial Commission, said Thursday.

"One hundred years later, it hasn't been started."

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