WWII Memorial: Jewel of the Mall
Contributor: Bryan Hiatt
Review Date: 3 Sep 2008
Any student of history interested in World War II should visit Washington D.C. and see "The Memorial." If you can't get to D.C., the next best thing is Stephen Brown's book WWII Memorial: "Jewel of the Mall".
Upon receiving the text, I was surprised to see an introduction from Senator Robert Dole, with a close-up photo at the memorial. His words set the tone for the rest of the book, which includes photographs of the completed memorial, others at different stages of construction, and photos and descriptions of the artisans involved in the project itself. There is also an overview of the memorial's history, from its authorization by President Bill Clinton to the type of granite used in construction.
The memorial, says to Senator Dole, honors a generation's "sacrifice, their service and [it is] their blood that sanctif[ies] the Mall. They are forever remembered here, in the company of Washington, Jefferson, and Roosevelt."
There are many compelling photos of the memorial to be sure, but learning about the construction process and the artisans involved is an element that many picture books ignore. In fact, several photos of the memorial contained in the text could not be replicated again since the author was hoisted by crane on site to get these shots. Additionally, the narrative behind the artistic process, specifically of the bas-reliefs, was a highlight for me. There are four pages devoted to this process (artisans in action), with images of re-enactor sketches, the clay carvings, plaster casting, and finally the bronze casting. Other artisans are highlighted in the process as well, including the men and women who hand carved all 3875 letters in the monument.
Of course, no book is perfect, and WWII Memorial: "Jewel of the Mall" has minor flaws. Page numbers would be welcome in future editions, as would additional margin space on the page. But these are minor issues, and if the author was seeking to get as much as he could on the page, then mission accomplished. In fact, the memorial somehow defies an 8 x 11 treatment. Yet Brown has managed to capture it in surprising and interesting ways, especially for those unable to visit this American treasure.
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Winston Churchill, 1935