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Honoring Eisenhower at long last

Stephanie Akin, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON--Its critics have called it a "monstrosity," an "exercise in postmodern grandiosity," and a "textbook example of the Washington swamp Donald Trump vowed to drain."

Now, though, a memorial to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, mired in controversy for more than 17 years, is the newest monument under construction on the National Mall.

Plans for the four-acre park, designed by celebrity architect Frank Gehry, have gone through significant revisions and overcome an impressive array of opponents since it was first proposed during President Bill Clinton's administration.

Until the Nov. 2 groundbreaking, some of the most stalwart detractors still hoped that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would withhold the last approval required before construction could begin.

But those hopes were dashed at the last minute when the National Park Service quietly issued a construction permit three days before a groundbreaking ceremony.

"It's a very proud moment for us, and so deserving of a man who saved Western democracy," said Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Eisenhower's home state. "This memorial is long overdue."

Zinke's office did not respond to requests for comment. But Eisenhower's granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, said Zinke had contacted her to see where the family stood.

"I told him that we fully support it," she said. "We are excited by the opportunity to tell future generations about the pivotal, historic context of Dwight Eisenhower's leadership."

The monument will be organized around a roughly 25,000-square-foot transparent tapestry of steel cables woven along a metal framework. The tapestry comprises 600 3-by-15-foot panels and will span the length and width of nearly five basketball courts stacked baseline to baseline. It will skirt the north facade of the Education Department building, just across Independence Avenue from the National Air and Space Museum.

The tapestry design is a peacetime portrayal of the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, where on the morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944, Army Rangers captured and defended a German gun battery overlooking Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, the American sector of the invasion.

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