Honoring a general and a president
Looking toward the memorial to Dwight Eisenhower
As June 6 — the 73rd anniversary of D-Day — approaches, our nation gratefully remembers Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th president and the heroic military leader who brought World War II to an end, starting with the D-Day Invasion in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.
This fall, something very special will happen in Washington, D.C., ground will be broken at the site of the National Eisenhower Memorial, commencing construction of the memorial honoring Eisenhower in his dual roles as president and general. This great American spent his entire life serving our nation — first as a brilliant, strategic military leader, effectively leading the allied forces to victory during World War II. Later, as our nation’s visionary 34th president, he led the post-war United States through the beginning of the Cold War to peace and prosperity.
From his West Point graduation in 1915, to his retirement from the presidency in 1961, Eisenhower served his country and the memorial reflects his legacies as both president of the United States and general of the U.S. Army. The memorial will reflect Eisenhower’s life in its entirety, from his youth in the heartland of Kansas, to his military service around the world, and his guiding hand as president as America emerged as a world power.
It’s exciting to see so many aspects of the memorial currently well underway. The General Services Administration has sought proposals from construction firms anxious to compete for the honor of building the first presidential memorial of the 21st century.
Heroic statues will feature Eisenhower addressing members of the 101st Airborne on the eve of D-Day, and also as president in the Oval Office, flanked by both civilian and military aides, depicting the delicate tension and balance necessary to keep the peace for eight years. Grounded in the values of his upbringing in Kansas, a life-size statue of young Ike will sit atop a wall inscribed with his “Homecoming Speech” from 1945 where he proclaimed, “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.”
Unique to Eisenhower was his global view of the world even before he became president.
The memorial will feature text taken from a speech he gave in London at the end of World War II and a bas relief with a depiction of the D-Day invasion off the coastline of France. As a background for the memorial, a one-of-a-kind tapestry will depict the peaceful shores of Normandy today, reminding us of Eisenhower’s unique role as a warrior for peace.
Eisenhower Memorial Commission Chairman Pat Roberts, Kansas’ senior senator, and I are extremely gratified by the generosity with which donors to the memorial have stepped forward. From elementary school students who have launched projects collecting coins for Ike, to generous seven-figure donations from corporations, individuals, and foundations, our donors have emerged from across the U.S. and abroad.
It is expected that the Eisenhower Memorial, located adjacent to the Smithsonian museums, the National Mall and Capitol Hill, will attract several million U.S. and foreign visitors each year. Paramount among them will be the veterans who participate in Honor Flights that bring them to Washington to visit the World War II and Korean War Memorials. The National Eisenhower Memorial will join Washington’s Honor Flight route.
When we gather to celebrate the momentous groundbreaking of the National Eisenhower Memorial, there are many friends and family who won’t be with us on that long-awaited day.
In particular, Sen. Dan Inouye, a Medal of Honor recipient who served with bravery and distinction under Ike’s command in World War II and later introduced the legislation creating his memorial; the troops he met at Greenham Common who fought bravely at Normandy but didn’t make it home; and Ambassador John S.D. Eisenhower, Ike’s accomplished son, himself a West Point graduate, of whom his father was so very proud. They, and others, will be remembered on that special day and in the future, as construction begins and the memorial takes shape, for they were a part of Ike, and they will be a part of his everlasting tribute from a great nation.