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 25, 2015

Finalist for the National World War One Memorial Design: The Weight of Sacrifice

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

The Weight of Sacrifice

0077 "The Weight of Sacrifice" submitted by Joseph Weishaar of Chicago, IL

Major Design Features:

  • Center Plaza on raised platform with the existing Pershing statue and informational wall relocated (both shown above)

  • Sculptured relief walls to tell the narrative of the nation's war experience

  • Removal of current visual barriers around the site to the new plaza

Jury Comments: A simple intervention of a platform into the existing landscape of Pershing Park provides a quietly elegant place within the park. Relocation of the walls and statue of the Pershing complex give new meaning to the individual elements. The result is an integral expression of park and memorial. The subtleness and art of the sculpted relief walls will enhance the narrative of the place—utilizing art as architecture. To execute a memorial and park that maintains the inherent elegance of the concept, a strong collaboration between designer and artist will be the key.

Designer's Concept Statement and Wall Detail

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


  1. I like this one pretty well, though I would prefer Pershing's walls to be closer to the statue. This is my #2 choice of the five finalists.

  2. I like the idea. The present park could use a face lift. The raised platform and the wall reflect the current Korean and Vietnam War Memorials.

  3. And finally a depiction of a Doughboy.

  4. I like this one the best of those that I have seen. It has a simple elegance and is very open, playing well with the light. I get the sense that it would be a restful, possible reflective area in a super-busy part of D.C. The relief walls are a nice way to portray doughboys, nurses, aviators, etc... I don't care for the inclusion of a figure patterned after the Visquesney statues, however..

  5. "WHO'S VOLUME"? Who's literate?

  6. This memorial has some interesting features: Inclusively showing images of all who served in WW I in a nice park--like atmosphere.

    It would be interesting to see how inclusive this WW I story is: Just another AEF Memorial to the 2 million troops who served with the AEF "over there" or an inclusive WW I Memorial to 4.7 million WW I veterans, 2.7 million who also served at sea in the Navy & Coast Guard and in CONUS Army & Navy & Marine Corps training camps "over here" preparing to go "over there."

    The focus of the plaque is "over there" across the sea, which certainly is appropriate, telling the AEF story of WW I. However, if nothing is ever mentioned of the rest of the WW I veterans who served in The Great War or mention that over 34,000 of them died in the United States to the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918 (as well as another 23,000 with the AEF...totaling almost half of the American war dead falling to disease not combat), is to neither accurately tell the WW I story nor honor all those who served and died in WW I who were not part of the AEF.

    Colonel Ayres in an end of action statistical report to the Secretary of the Army at the end of WW I reported 50,280 combat deaths and 57,460 troops dying to disease (52,199 to the flu) compressed into a time frame of roughly 3 months in the Fall of 1918.

    The “Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse” killed more American troops than fell in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign (roughly 26,000) during the same time period (see Chapters 8 & 9 of "The War with Germany- A Statistical Summary" by Col. Leonard Ayres, Chief of the Statistical Branch of the General Staff in an August 1919 report to The Secretary of War, Newton Baker: ).

    Diagram 53 of the Ayres 1919 report shows graphically the casualties of WWI of all causes (see: ), clearly telling a rather balanced story of combat and disease casualties of WW I, showing 30% of American war deaths taking place in the United States and 79% with the AEF. Of those deaths, 50% were due to disease (57,460), 43% to combat (50,280) and 7% (7,920) to other causes (accidents, suicides, etc.) for a total of 115,660 WW I American deaths. Of the 57,460 American WW I troop deaths due to disease, 30%, over 34,000 deaths, occurred in the United States and 20%, almost 23,000, died of disease in Europe with the AEF.

    Dr. Carol Byerly, research scholar for military medical history for the Office of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army wrote about this largely forgotten terrible battle with disease in WW I (see: ).

    Consulting with Mark Levitch, who heads up the “World War I Memorial Inventory Project” (see: ) he found no mention on any memorial of this battle with disease in WW I on any WW I Memorial in the United States, which killed more troops than combat. There are many WW I memorials in the U.S. to other battles and combat deaths, with no mention of this catastrophe, masking the true impact of this terrible battle with disease that raged in the U.S. Armed Forces in WW I that also infected 25% of the American population of 101 million, killing 675,000 Americans on the home front (parents, children, & spouses of dough-boys)… and killed an estimated 50 million worldwide in 1918.

    To honestly portray the story of WW I in a memorial, this story of the battle with disease needs to be included in the narrative.

    I would hope, any National WW I Memorial, including this one, would honestly and inclusively tell the WW I story, including the battle with disease which accounted for over half of the American war dead… and also includes all 4.7 WW I veterans who served and those who died of all causes in The Great War. For close to 100 years that story has not been well told in our history, on our monuments, or in our museums.

    1. I am not sure any of these numbers are completely true, as I have seen both more and fewer combat death totals listed, as well as others listed for disease and accidents, but yours are as good as any other.

      I definitely understand wanting to include disease, but I do not believe any Civil War monuments make special mention of it either. Not to mention any of our other war memorials (Revolutionary, 1812, Mexican American, Spanish American, etc). There is a revolutionary war memorial dedicated to the men who died on British POW ships...that's probably the closest I know of.

      I mean, even in WWII we lost over 100K men to non combat causes, but that is not mentioned on the memorial in DC. I don't think it's a glaring oversight though.

    2. The Ayers WW I after action report of August 1919 was a treasure trove of statistics of WW I used by many military historians, DOD and National Archives researchers after the war. The final accounting stayed open after this 1919 report until the mid-1920’s to make final adjustments to the 1919 data, adding 856 deaths of WW I veterans who died after the war in the early 1920’s due to long term chronic wounds attributed to the war (such as respiratory diseases attributed to war time gas attacks), finally settling at 53,402 combat or combat related deaths and 63,114 non-combat deaths due to disease or accidents for a total of 116, 516 deaths noted in the Congressional Research Report of January 2015 on “American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists & Statistics (1775-1991)”, pp. 2-3 (see: ).

      The above report highlights that non-combat deaths trumped combat deaths for 70 years from the Mexican War through 1918 in World War I, often by wide margins (combat and non-combat deaths were for the first time individually tabulated during the Mexican War in 1846-48): In the Mexican War, 1,733 died due to combat and 11,550 of non-combat deaths; in the Civil War, in Union forces 140,414 died due to combat and 224,097 of non-combat deaths; in the Spanish American War, 385 died due to combat and 2,061 of non-combat deaths; in World War I, 53,402 died due to combat and 63,114 of non-combat deaths.

      Yet, when you read histories of all of these conflicts, mostly the only thing reported is battles and combat casualties with little mention of a battle with disease that accounted for the majority of American soldiers deaths in this period of American history (from 1848-1918 there were 195,934 deaths due to combat and 300,828 non-combat deaths…largely caused by disease).

      Modern military medical historians are asking for the inclusion of the "battle with disease" among other battles and combat accounts in our war narratives, a story-line that has long been neglected in the historical narrative of our conflicts and absent on our memorials, and in our museum displays.

      It is a call for more equal billing of disease in our war narratives, in proportion to the size of this battle in a conflict and the numbers of servicemen felled by this enemy in our wars (see: ).

      To merely argue that we have never memorialized veterans who died of disease or accident in the past is a rather poor argument, basing it upon a history of past neglect as the basis for further neglect, perpetuating this practice that has significantly erased this important story from our war narratives.

      To further advocate that this silence should continue, with only the combat story being told in our war narratives, is in my opinion, a disservice to these veterans who died this way and distorts the public record of what happened in our wars. I am merely expressing a desire to see this changed and that we tell the full story of our wars, which includes telling the story of disease in war and honor those who lost their lives in our wars in this way.

    3. I only can speak for the Apnish American War memorial of the 7th CA Infantry at Pershing Square in Los Angeles. That was a piece that was initiated by the city, but SpanAm veterans from the 7th CFA Inafantry were on the committee. Every serviceman that died from the regiment was from sickness as they never made it to Cuba before the war ended (they are all listed on a plaque on the base). However, no mention of this was made (the soldier is in a guarded repose instead of combat, perhaps symbolizing their waiting in camp), leading one to believe the veterans themselves did not seek to put it in print.

    4. Spanish American* -- apologies for the typo

  7. My favorite so far -- real people are depicted on the sculpted wall. This is the first design I've seen that clearly depicts the war as personal, as well as political.

  8. This is my favorite. No grandiose structure to an architect but a memorial that was built before and has existed. With additions to reflect on the times. Maybe later generations can add a plaque or statue for their remembrances. But THE museum will always be in KCMO.