Eisenhower Memorial

Twenty-one years into the making, the dedication of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial is planned for 2 p.m. May 8 in Washington D.C. on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

The memorial was commissioned in 1999 to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and 34th President of the United States.

“It’s an honor. It just swells the heart,” said granddaughter Mary Jean Eisenhower. “It’s just an incredible honor for our family.”

A trip to Washington is being planned by the cities of Abilene, home of Eisenhower’s Boyhood Home; Denison, Texas, home of the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historical Site; and Gettysburg, Pa., home of Eisenhower’s retirement farm.

“We are working with Denison, Texas, where he was born, Abilene and then Gettysburg where he retired to all get together for the opening of the Eisenhower Memorial in May in D.C.,” said Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Julie Roller Weeks. “The three communities will get together and have a nice time celebrating their common former resident. We are hoping this springboards more cross promotion.”

Design

The controversial design of the $150 million memorial went through several changes. It finally received approval in 2013. Final approval was given in 2015 and ground breaking was held in November 2017.

The Eisenhower National Memorial is set within a four-acre park situated on Independence Avenue, SW, directly across from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and adjacent to the Department of Education to be known as Eisenhower Squire.

Chris Paul, communications manager for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, said there will be dedication events all week.

He said there is a mixture of private and public events.

“That day on May 8, in addition to the ribbon cutting ceremony, there will be a flyover over the National Mall by the Arsenal of Democracy. They are an organization that flies World War II aircraft,” he said.

The flyover will be at 11:30 a.m. At 10 a.m. a 75th anniversary of VE Day will be held at the World War II Memorial. That is open to the public.

The Eisenhower Memorial dedication is by invitation, Paul said, but there will be a public viewing area.

Paul was uncertain about when the memorial would be open to the public but it will be sometime in early May.

Paul said two groupings of sculptures are the center of attention.

General Eisenhower will be portrayed as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force meeting with his troops before D-Day. Directly across from the statue of the general will be a statue of Eisenhower the president and a handful of advisors with him.

“There are some other items that surround the memorial as a whole. It takes a couple city blocks but those two groupings will make up the core,” Paul said. “When people walk in, there will be the presidential group and there will be the group where he is general.”

Tapestry

Framing the entire memorial within its complex urban context, an innovative, transparent stainless-steel woven tapestry portrays an abstract artistic depiction of the cliffs of the Normandy coastline in peacetime to represent the peace Eisenhower won as Supreme Commander and preserved as Commander in Chief. Made of woven stainless steel cable, the tapestry will change dramatically throughout the day and night, as natural and artificial lighting play upon the metal image.

This memorial will be the first national presidential memorial to incorporate an electronic companion E-Memorial, which will serve as a fully integrated, interactive tool to bring Eisenhower’s dynamic and diverse legacy to visitors. The E-Memorial will use wireless technology and personal mobile devices to provide interactive enhancement throughout the site and expanded interpretation of the Eisenhower’s accomplishments.

The E-Memorial will feature a mobile-device experience and companion website, which will provide a technologically advanced way to engage visitors of all ages in the Eisenhower story, demonstrating why his memory and legacy require memorialization.

In addition, there will be a small structure on the perimeter of Eisenhower Square that will house a National Park Service Ranger Contact Station, a bookstore, and public restrooms. The memorial site will be accessible to disabled visitors.

Designer

Frank Gehry, a world celebrated architect, was selected to design the Eisenhower National Memorial. An internationally recognized and highly respected architect, Vanity Fair magazine declared Mr. Gehry “the most important architect of our age.”

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, is the chairman of The Eisenhower Memorial Commission, and former Kansas Senator Bob Dole is a member.

The Abilene, Denton Gettysburg trip tour will begin with a reception and dinner with Mary Eisenhower speaking. A motor coach full day trip to Gettysburg is planned visiting “Ike-sites” on May 5.

Tours in Washington D.C., including the White House and the Smithsonian, are planned for May 6 and 7.

The Eisenhower Memorial will be dedicated on May 8.

“There will be some days of just free exploring,” Weeks said. “Not every minute of the day is scheduled and if you can only come for part of it, that’s fine too. I really think the private tour with Mary Eisenhower down at the Eisenhower Farm in Gettysburg will be special, not something you could do otherwise.”

“That will be fun,” Mary Eisenhower said. “That is where I grew up.”

Information about the trip can be found at EisenhowerLegacyTrip.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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