White House Vicinity: The First Division Monument, the Second Division Memorial and Pershing Park

The First Division Monument

Along 17th Street near the White House are monuments to two American Expeditionary Force units: the First and Second Divisions. The First Division Monument is located at the corner of 17th Street and State Place, just west of the White House and South from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The Second Division Memorial is adjacent to the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, near the Ellipse.

The First Division Monument has a bronze winged victory statue atop a granite column. The names of 5,516 First Division Soldiers who died in World War I are inscribed on it. The First Division, now known as the First Infantry Division (or by its nickname “the Big Red One”) was the first division to land in France in 1917 and the last division to leave Europe in 1919.

first-division-monument_travel-objective-dc

The First Division Monument (Note the flowers planted in the shape of a “Big Red One”)

Planning for the monument began in 1919 while the division was still on occupation duty in Germany. While initially opposed by the U.S. Fine Arts Commission, it was later envisioned as a new type of military monument, very different in design and purpose from the equestrian statues of individual Civil War generals that are still prevalent around the city.

Through the years additional names have been added commemorating the sacrifices of the First Infantry Division in World War II, Korea, Viet Nam and Operation Desert Storm. The First Infantry Division Association is now raising money to add additional names from its campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The monument is now located within the restricted area maintained by the Secret Service around the White House. It is not possible to visit the monument up close, but it can be viewed from the sidewalk along 17th Street. The First Infantry Division Association will hold a Memorial Service on Veterans Day starting at 11:00 am. Because of Secret Service restrictions, the service will be held on the north side of the Ellipse, within sight of the monument.

The Second Division Memorial

The Second Division Memorial portrays a blazing gilded sword before an open archway in a stone edifice, representing the Second Division’s defense of Paris in 1918. On either side of the opening are panels listing the World War I battles and campaigns of the Second Division. The division’s emblem, an Indian head inside a five pointed star, is incorporated on the base of the sword.

The memorial was originally dedicated in 1936 by Franklin Roosevelt. Two wings were added in 1962 to recognize the division’s service in World War II and Korea. The Second Infantry Division Association is proposing adding three granite benches to the front of the memorial to commemorate the 2nd Division soldiers who died while serving on the Demilitarized Zone in Korea, and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

second-division-memorial_travel-objective-dc

The Second Division Memorial

ROUTE RECON

The Memorials are easily reached from the Farragut West Station on Metro’s Blue, Orange and Silver Lines and walking south along 17th Street.

Pershing Park

U.S. military personnel deployed to Europe to fight in World War I were organized in a single unit, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), commanded by General of the Armies John Pershing. A park named in his honor lies at the intersection of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, about a block from the White House.

gen-pershing-statue_travel-objective-dcThe park opened in 1981 and features a bronze statue of “Black Jack” Pershing looking west over the park. An adjoining wall describes the role he and the AEF played on the European Western Front and in the Meuse-Argonne campaign.

Originally designed to be an expanse of green space in the middle of the city, the park has unfortunately not been well maintained over the past few years. The World War I Centennial Commission has selected Pershing Park though as the sight of a National World War I Memorial. A ground breaking for the new memorial is scheduled for next year with a targeted completion date of November 2018.

ROUTE RECON

Pershing Park is just south east of the White House across 15th Street along Pennsylvania Avenue. It can be reached from either the Metro Center Station on Metro’s Red Line or Federal Triangle on Metro’s Blue, Orange or Silver Lines.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s