A veterans organization is criticizing plans for a multi-million memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the country's 34th President who led U.S. and Allied forces in Europe in World War II as Supreme Allied Commander.
Concerned Veterans for America said the memorial design – to feature 80-foot high columns, metal-sculpted tapestries and statues depicting Eisenhower as President and as a 5-star Army general – is "a disgrace," and also hit the project over costs, recently estimated to be about $144 million.
"The ugly, confusing, and grandiose design does not befit a man who asked to be buried in the same $80 government-issued casket provided to the common soldier," Concerned Veterans for America Outreach and Research Analyst Shaun Rieley said in a statement on Thursday.
The planned memorial, in the works since 1999, has so far cost about $40 million but no work has begun, Rieley said.
Chris Cimko, spokeswoman for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, said that $40 million has been spent over the past 15 years on site selection, design competition and selection, legal work related and more.
"If you divide $40 million over 15 years you'll see a lot of work is being done," she said. "In terms of [the group's] concern, we are used to having veterans be very supportive of this memorial … We're sorry this veterans group does not support it."
The memorial is to be built on a 4-acre site at the foot of Capitol Hill, across from the National Air and Space Museum.
The memorial has the backing of two of the country's largest veterans' service organizations, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion, Cimko points out.
But the Legion, in a resolution of support for the project, said it supports the memorial "if the design is acceptable to the Eisenhower family."
That may pose a problem because the family opposes the current design.
"I think, obviously, we're strongly supportive of recognition for the achievements of Eisenhower," Ian DePlanque, legislation director for The American Legion, said. "The project is certainly controversial and I want to make sure we're respectful of the family and their concerns."
A letter signed by Anne Eisenhower, one of the late President's granddaughters, states the family opposes the memorial because it seems to celebrate Eisenhower's rural Kansas roots rather than his accomplishments as World War II commander and President.
The letter also questions the use interactive features that will require "expensive on-going updates" and oversized sculpted tapestries that are not likely to stand the test of time.
One group opposing the memorial design, the National Civic Art Society, posted photos of the metal tapestries that reportedly come from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which approved the design. Rieley is also listed as secretary of the NCAS.
"These photos have barely been seen by the public or media – for good reason," the Society states on the page. "They prove that the [tapestry] screens are a rat's nest of tangled steel, a true maintenance nightmare."
Some Republican members of Congress have also come out against the memorial design, and last year filed legislation attempting to pull federal support.
Rieley, in his statement, said is clear that the current design "lacks consensus from Congress and the public, and that it will never be completed."
Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, a World War II veteran who serves as finance chairman for the memorial commission, called for an end to the opposition in a column Wednesday in The Washington Times.
"It is ironic that a handful of Republican members of Congress are trying to withhold funds for an effort that was, in fact, established by Congress," Dole wrote. "It's time to start construction on a memorial to a great Republican president. We are hopeful that Congress will appropriate the necessary funds that will, at last, bring alive the vision of the 1999 legislation establishing the memorial."