Facebook Twitter



It is being billed as the last major monument to be built this century in the ceremonial core of the nation's capital. But the odds are the World War II memorial won't be finished until long after the 20th century passes into history.

The process began only in late July to choose a site to honor the 16 million Americans who served in the war that ended 50 years ago. Given the laborious pace at which previous monuments came into being, and the millions of dollars that must be donated, officials involved with planning this one predict another long haul.Five years were spent from inception to completion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Korean Veterans Memorial, dedicated a few days ago, took nine.

Since the WWII monument is considered "the big one," it is likely to take even longer, given the extra scrutiny and kibbitzing from all corners that is expected to accompany each stage of the pro-ject.

"This is the swan song, so it will attract more attention," said Army Col. William Ryan of the American Battlefield Monuments Commission, in charge of building whatever ultimately is approved by overseers.

Already, a disagreement has arisen over where to locate the WWII monument. Until that's resolved, the long and likely contentious process of deciding precisely what form it will take cannot even begin.

"You've got to have the site before you can have the design," Ryan said.

Two agencies key to the decisionmaking process - the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission - could not agree on which of five locations might be the best.

One agency liked a spot at the bottom of Capitol Hill, near a reflecting pool created to honor President Ulysses Grant. The other panned it. Staff members are trying to work out a compromise.

Other possible sites include a grove of trees and a pool northwest of the Washington Monument and a spot across the Potomac River in Virginia, where a "triumphal arch" could be erected near the entrance to Arlington National Cem-e-tery.

The deadline for picking a place is Nov. 4, when the White House wants to formally dedicate it. After that, a designer and a design will be chosen.

Then comes the task of paying the bill. The monument will receive no federal taxpayer funds. Congress authorized the sale of commemorative coins to generate seed money, and more than $4 million has been raised.

Planners have no formal estimate of a total cost, but they are sure it will be hefty. The Vietnam memorial cost $8.4 million. The original price of the Korean memorial was pegged at $5 million; in fact, it cost $18 million.