Last Surviving Doughboy Seeks World War One Memorial In DC

The last member of a generation of Americans sent off to die in the trenches of France thinks it’s time that the soldiers of World War One had a memorial on the National Mall:

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — America’s last surviving World War I veteran says Congress should pass legislation to create a memorial in the nation’s capital honoring veterans of that conflict.

Frank Buckles, the 109-year-old honorary chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation, said Wednesday on the eve of Veterans Day that such a memorial is overdue.

The West Virginia resident is the last of 5 million Americans who served in World War I. He says a memorial doesn’t have to be elaborate, but a monument should be created alongsideothers commemorating other 20th century conflicts.

This does seem to be worthy of consideration. The National Mall currently contains memorials to World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It would seem appropriate to have some recognition for the 4,000,000 men, 300,000 casualties, and 110,000 deaths that the United States gave to a war that, quite honestly, we never should’ve been involved in to begin with, or as Harry Patch, who was the last surviving British combat veteran from the Great War until he died in 2009 put it:

Mr. Patch did not speak about his war experiences until he was 100. Once he did, he was adamant that the slaughter he witnessed had not been justified.

“I met someone from the German side, and we both shared the same opinion: We fought, we finished and we were friends,” he said in 2007.

“It wasn’t worth it.”

Twenty million people dead for no good reason, and, in the end, all it did was set the stage for the greatest slaughter in human history.

What a waste. The very least those men deserve is a memorial on the National Mall.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Where on the Mall should it go? I’d suggest on the west side of the Ellipse — symbolically between the White House, where the error of judgment that got us in to European wars was made, and the WWII memorial, representing the even-more-deadly culmination of the way our foreign policy was mishandled after the election of 1912.

  2. B. Minich says:

    I still think we should call it the Great War, like we did originally. Not because the war was great: it was not. But because it was so pivotal.

    The Great War started the process of Americans being involved abroad. Heck, why call World War II a separate war? It never would have happened if the Great War hadn’t been fought. The Great War weakened the British Empire, and destroyed the Ottoman Empire, which gave birth to the present order in the Middle East. And we are still feeling the effects of THAT, aren’t we? The Great War allowed communism to arise in Russia, and that still affects us today as well.

    All this to say that the Great War should have a memorial on the National Mall. And we should be constantly aware of the war that gave birth to what we think of as the modern world (in a geopolitical sense, not a technological sense).

  3. DC Loser says:

    There is already a WWI memorial on the mall dedicated to DC residents who served in the war.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_War_Memorial

    In September 2008, Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, with the support of Frank Buckles, the last living US veteran of World War I, proposed a bill in Congress stating the memorial should be expanded and designated the national memorial to World War I.

    In July of 2010, the National Park Service announced that restoration work, funded by the federal stimulus package, would soon begin on the memorial. Work began in October of 2010.

    The memorial is administered by the National Park Service under its National Mall and Memorial Parks unit.