Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, September 18, 2015

Finalist for the National World War One Memorial Design: World War I Memorial

We continue our presentation of the finalists for the design of America's World War One memorial with:

0037 "World War One Memorial Concept" submitted by Devin Kimmel, Principal at 
Kimmel Studio, LLC,  in Annapolis, MD

Major Design Features:

  • Centerpiece Victory Tower with Grotto of Remembrance

  • Relocated Pershing Monument; New Cavalry Horse Monument

  • Parks, Gardens, and Picnic Areas

Jury Comments: The style of the monument is inspired by the time of the Great War. Neoclassical in form and concept, the space and elements combine to create a narrative about the current condition and the historic precedent of monuments. The plan develops a strong park concept and includes a number of elements that add interest and focus. The challenge in evolving the design will be creating a sense of openness balanced against the enclosure of the central space, a continued evaluation of the scale of the elements, and relationships of non-traditional elements (like the grotto) with memorable historic forms.

We also invite commentators to share your observations with your fellow readers below.  MH


  1. Of the five finalists, this is clearly my favorite. While it wasn't at the top of my list when viewing all the entries, it was probably in my top 15 or so. I'm definitely pulling for it to win. Very classic looking.

  2. Agree fully with CJ. The design is appropriate for the time of the Great War.

  3. Why the cavalry horse? The US Cavalry had norole in the war.

  4. Why a cavalry horse? An artillery horse or horses would be much more appropriate.

    When this is complete, what happens to the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, now named the national World War 1 Memorial. It seems to me that whoever is responsible for this has not considered the historical context of the Great War as completely as I would expect. especially for those of us whose parents were in the AEF.

    1. The piece of legislation that gave Liberty Memorial national designation also specified that whatever is created in Pershing Park would be a national memorial. It was a compromise.

  5. The grotto element reminds me of the ossuary at Douamont -- not sure why or if that is the intention.

    I also wonder upon what will visitors reflect? Will there be names of battles, representations of doughboys, lines of American poetry related to the war?

  6. While many don't seem to enjoy the classic bronze statues, and see them as pigeon roosts. They have impact, and look real. I still have to ask- where are the Doughboys? - it's their Memorial.

    1. I don't think a memorial needs doughboys to be impactful. Liberty Memorial has none, and it is spectacular.

  7. This looks like a memorial. But to what? The war itself? or to whom? President Wilson? Our Allies exhaustively listed on the pillars?

    It doesn't seem to memorialize those who served in WW I or lost their lives in the war. I don't see any plans here to memorialize the troops, unless it is going to be specifically addressed later in the "grotto area".

    Wilson's speech dominates the work, upheld by pillars noting all his allies in this war. That comes across bigger than life in this design and dominates the memorial with its message.

    It seems like the American troops who served and died in the war, if mentioned at all, play a minimal role visually in this memorial. I don't see it. Maybe I am missing something that addresses this issue in my examination of this design?

    If the grotto area is just a refection pool and nowhere is there going to be mention of or inscriptions about those who sacrificed, served, lost lives or were permanently disabled by this war...then my interest wanes in this design.

    The use of Wilson's 1917 "Saving the World for Democracy" speech, as the triumphal and altruistic centerpiece to the memorial, seems a bit over the top. In retrospect, after a war that resulted in a war settlement, which planted the seeds for WW II Nazi Germany and the excesses of Hitler and the Holocaust, the altruistic goals of Wilson in April 1917 sound hollow after the war, viewed by contemporary Americans who will come to view this memorial through 21st Century eyes.

    Many Americans today do not see that war outcome that Wilson advocated for in 1917 as a great success, in the light of history... and mourn the war's losses, more than feel triumphant about it.

    The list of many obscure "allies" doesn't do much for me either...Montenegro, Siam, Nejf & Hasa, Brazil & Emirate of Asir ??? How about a shorter list of allies?...or maybe military unit patches of those who fought in the war with the AEF on one column replacing Siam, Hasa, Brazil, the Emirate of Asir, etc? Maybe someone else has a better idea, but in my mind's eye, this needs work. I'm sure my WW I veteran dad did not even know in his whole lifetime that he served alongside such allies.

    And what's with the cavalry horse? Cavalry played little or no role in American forces efforts in WW I by 1917, with cavalry charges ending early in the war (1914-1915) in Europe, after horses became massive casualties to German machine guns that tore up cavalry charges. Cavalrymen like Colonel Patton in the American Army in WW I by 1917 had started transitioning to tanks as a way of charging enemy lines.

    Horses were primarily used as workhorses by American forces to haul artillery pieces and ammunition wagons or other supplies to the front. Do we want a "workhorse statue" here? I really doubt it. What happened to the idea of statues of an Army dough-boy and a Navy Bluejacket at one end of the memorial, balancing out the statue of Pershing at the other end of the memorial?

    Few of us whose loved ones served in WW I, are not very interested in a monument to just remember WW I...most of our veterans wanted to forget about it and treat it as "the war to end all wars." My dad, a WW I Army veteran, did not even want to talk about it while he lived and had little interest in marching in veterans parades after the war. Yet, he would vote for a WW I Memorial that remembered the dough-boys he served with and honor those who never returned home.

    Just some thoughts.

    1. Surprise, I disagree with quite a bit of what you say.

      For one, Wilson's speech asking for the declaration of war, while at times a tad too legalistic, has some of the most enthralling passages I have ever read in a presidential address. My own idea would also have included it.

      I think it is way too much to say "most of our veterans wanted to forget it." Maybe your own family did. There are numerous books from the time period, as well as some contemporary looks at veteran diaries that shows a great many thought what they did was important and were proud of it. All the articles about the military parades in interwar period Los Angeles with thousands upon thousands of people would also testify that there was a large deal of pride involved.

      War leaves some mentally scarred that never want to revisit it, but you cannot take one example and try to apply it to everyone. Not by any stretch.

    2. CJ, you are correct, there were two sides to this war story.

      Over 2.7 million out of 4.7 WW I troops never even got "over there"... and of the remaining 2 million of the AEF, many were in the rear as SOS troops, aviation support units, and headquarters staffs and did not see combat up close...including most of the 500,000 sailors in the Navy.

      Parades after the war were filled with these veterans who had not borne the burden of battle who felt going to war was one of the best experiences of their lives....and the rest of their lives since the war were were seen as mundane and anti-climatic, feeling acutely the loss of camaraderie and sense of purpose of those days not duplicated in civilian lives. That was a big adjustment for them after the war.

      The other group were the serious combat veterans who endured mind-numbing artillery barrages, panic producing sprints for your life into a hail of machine gun fire crossing no mans land, only to crouch in a shell hole to evade fire and inhale lung rupturing and blistering poison gas that debilitates you for life if it does not kill you. It was a world were you constantly saw best friends torn apart by artillery or machine gunned was a world that would live on in the surviving veteran' nightly dreams the rest of their lives. One WW I veteran told me, while dying, "at least I'm finally going to get a good nights sleep for once since that damn war."

      These combat soldiers are the troops described in one of the latest posts on this website, "Remembering a Veteran: LT. Robert Hoffman" (see: ). This is stuff of a lot of bad dreams and certainly not fond memories to remember or celebrate.

      After the war the last thing many of these combat veterans were interested in was a parade to celebrate what they had been through... or going to a VFW/American Legion Hall and "swapping embellished war stories" and talk about seeing Paris and enjoying its pleasures.

      For combat veterans, war was not a great adventure to be fondly remembered; it was "hell on earth" that they wanted to push from their minds and thoughts in civilian life and expunge from their nightly horror filled dreams. Very few wanted to talk about or glorify it.

      There was a big difference in the view of the war by troops who never were in combat or it at best was an occasional shelling from a distance (which was the experience of the majority of WW I veterans... well over half of the 4.7 million...2.7 million who didn't even get to France) and those AEF veterans who went through the crucible of combat (a significant, but smaller minority).

      American Legion Halls were filled with "in the rear with the beer" veterans after WW I who loved to march in Armistice Day Parades, while much less enthusiastic to do so, were those combat veterans who had little interest in reliving the horror of combat.

    3. Again - I think you *massively* over simplify things. That's like saying no WWII veteran wanted to revist the war. Or Korea, or take you whatever war you want to. Many are shattered and never seek to remember it. Many who are proud of what they accomplished also never want to remember it because they were too scarred.

      A good deal of research has been done on the Doughboys remembered their service though in recent years, and not all of it as Ernest Hemingway-sh as you say. There is a Rainbow Division memorial put up in Exposition Park in LA for example -- they certainly saw combat --- and they had services there every year until the early 1990's when the patriarch of the WWI Vets died (the WWII guys also adopted it, but don't have ceremonies every year...I have met the son of the main officer responsible for putting up the memorial..I believe he is 93 now).

      They also marched every year. One year the First Division came out to join in the parade too -- they definitely saw plenty of action. PLENTY of divisions who actually FOUGHT marched in these things. The LA ceremonies were huge.