Tag Archives: Washington DC

Serving with Paint, Paper and Pencils

Weapon? – Check!

Gas Mask? – Check!

Paint Brush? – Check!

Sketch Book? – Wait! WHAT???

Paint brushes, sketch books and charcoal pencils are usually thought of as implements of art, not of war. But a very special exhibit of combat art from World War I currently hosted at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum demonstrates how they can be both. The exhibit, entitled Artist Soldiers, is a collaboration between the Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

While art depicting combat has been around probably as long as there has been combat, what makes this exhibit unique is the featured artists.

877 Dunn

Battle of the Marne by Harvey Dunn; Watercolor and Pastel on Paper, 1918

Shortly after the U.S. entered World War I, military policymakers decided to recruit artists directly into the Army, due in part to similar British and French programs. Visual images in posters, newspapers and magazines would be important for maintaining the morale and support of the American public. British and French military artists had generated some impressive work for their governments in this regard.

The task of recommending specific artists for this duty fell to Charles Dana Gibson, an accomplished artist and illustrator who headed the Division of Pictorial Publicity of the Committee on Public Information. Gibson recommended illustrators, artists who can usually draw or sketch quickly, an important skill for someone working in combat.

882 Townsend

Helping A Wounded Ally by Harvey Everett Townsend; Charcoal on Paper, 1918

In early 1918, eight of these successful commercial artists were commissioned as Reserve captains in the Corps of Engineers and assigned to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).

It was the first time the War Department incorporated artists directly into the Army’s ranks and sent them into combat areas for the expressed purpose of “making a complete pictorial record of the American Army’s participation in the war”.

Many of the artists already knew each other before arriving in France with the AEF, having studied at the same art schools such as the Art Institute of Chicago or the Art Students League in New York.

The eight artist-soldiers were:

William James Aylward – A successful book, magazine, and advertising illustrator, he grew up around docks and often portrayed maritime subjects. As a combat artist, he focused on ports, of course, but also landscapes.

896 Aylward

Unloading Ships at Bassen Docks by William Aylward; Charcoal and Gouache on Paper, 1919

Walter Jack Duncan – Also a noted illustrator before the war, he often depicted the soldier’s life in rear areas.

George Matthews Harding – During World War I, Harding produced combat scenes incorporating many new technologies introduced in World War I, such as aircraft and tanks. Harding would serve as an official combat artist again during World War II.

Wallace Morgan – Prior to the war, Morgan worked for many of the major magazines of the day, such as Colliers’ and the Saturday Evening Post. He was especially well known for his black and white drawings.

897 Peixotto

Tressing Nets for Artillery Emplacements by Ernest Peixotto; Pen and Ink Wash and Charcoal on Paper, 1918

Ernest Clifford Peixotto – The “old man’ of the group at 48 upon his commissioning, Peixotto worked in France, painting landscapes and illustrating travel books prior to the war. Peixotto stayed in France for several years after the armistice. He taught art in an AEF’s educational program for soldiers remaining in Europe.

J. Andre Smith – Trained in architecture, he actually preferred to draw and etch. Smith was the only one of the artists who received military training before he deployed, having served briefly in a camouflage unit. He also became the group’s commanding officer.

879 Smith

Band concert at Neufchatel by J. Andre Smith; Watercolor and Charcoal on Paper, 1918

Harry Everett Townsend – He returned to the U.S. from Europe in 1914 to draw war posters, then volunteered for Army service. Townsend lost a brother early in the war in a plane crash. He focused much of his work on aviation and other new technologies. Townsend later worked at the Paris Peace conference and taught art at the AEF’s training center.

Harvey Thomas Dunn – He was a daring combat artist who usually worked in close proximity to the front lines.

Upon arriving in France in May 1918, the artists were assigned to the AEF Intelligence Section, Press and Censorship Division. For several weeks after their deployment–as U.S. forces continued to drill and train for combat missions–the artists oriented themselves to Army life, toured the battlefields, and prepared themselves for what was to come.

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The Morning Wash Up Neufmaison by Wallace Morgan; Charcoal on Paper, 1918

They established a studio in the French town of Neufchateau, halfway between the AEF’s Headquarters and the front. There they could complete or refine their drawings into finished pieces. The artists were directed to submit their images to the War Department at the end of each month, along with a report on anticipated follow-on pieces.

Once deployed, they had the authority to move freely around both the forward and rear areas to do their work. While there is no record of any of the artists going “over the top”, they took their mission very seriously. They positioned themselves at the front, lived in the trenches, got wet in the rain, missed meals, and exposed themselves to enemy fire many times in order to do their work.

In the nine months of service with the AEF, the artist soldiers produced over 700 pieces. They drew, painted and sketched scenes from the front, rear areas, the use of new technologies, soldiers both on and off duty, landscapes, civilians, in short, all they were exposed to.

878 Aylward

Returning Refugees at Hattonchatel by William Aylward; Charcoal and Gouache on Paper, 1919

For all their efforts, however, the brass in Washington was not always happy with their work. While skillfully prepared, the pictures and their subject matter were not always easily transferred to home front use in boosting morale. But they do provide a challenging and thought-provoking contemporary rendering of the daily life of American soldiers and French civilians in 1918.

Following the war, all the artists continued their successful art careers. The War Department transferred about 500 of their works to the Smithsonian Institute which displayed them at various times through the 1920’s. Since then however, the paintings have not been exhibited very often, making this a rare opportunity to see a portion of these unique and historic works.

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American Artillery and Machine Guns by George Harding, Charcoal on Maison, 1918

An accompanying exhibit entitled Soldier Artists displays some impressive photography of stone carvings created by soldiers while living in the underground trenches, along with other World War I period artifacts from the Smithsonian collections.

Both exhibits are currently on display until November 2018.

While you are at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, be sure to visit the permanent exhibit on World War I combat aviation.

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ROUTE RECON

The NASM is located at the intersection of Independence Avenue and 6th Street, Southwest. There is no onsite parking, but there are several commercial lots nearby. The nearest Washington Metro stations are the L’Enfant Plaza Station on the Yellow and Green Lines and the Smithsonian Station on the Blue and Orange lines. Both stations are about a two block walk to the NASM.

MESS CALL

The Wright Place Food Court offers a variety of fast food meal options from Boston Market, Donatos Pizza and McDonald’s.

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Featured Image: The Prisoner by Harvey Dunn, Oil on Canvas, 1918

Celebrating 70 Years of “Aiming High” at the U.S. Air Force Memorial

September 2017 marks the 70th Anniversary of the United States Air Force, which was formally established as a separate military service by the National Security Act of 1947. Previously, various ground-based air reconnaissance, combat and support units had existed as part of the U.S. Army.

Flags

The U.S. Air Force celebrates its 70th Anniversary in 2017.

What better way to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Air Force than to visit the Air Force Memorial?

Given the relative young age of the Air Force (compared to Army, Navy and Marine Corps, which were all established in 1775), it is rather understandable that for most of its existence, the Air Force had no memorial of its own.

In 1991, leaders of two Air Force veterans’ organizations began an effort to build a memorial to those who served in the Air Force and its predecessor organizations.

The memorial sits in Arlington, Virginia along a high ridge adjoining Interstate 395, the main southern arterial into Washington, D.C. With views of the Potomac River, Pentagon, and other official buildings spread out below, this location fittingly evokes the aerial nature of the Air Force mission. Arriving and departing aircraft from nearby Reagan National Airport add to the effect.

View with flags 2

Official Washington as seen from the U.S. Air Force Memorial.

Architect James Ingo Freed, (who also designed Washington’s Holocaust Museum) studied how to use the physical location to capture the essence of the Air Force and the dedication of the men and women who have served in its ranks. The resulting venue is sleek and streamlined, with minimal adornment and flourish, as if inspired by a modern aircraft.

The most prominent feature of the memorial is three vertical, arc shaped steel spires, meant to evoke the image of soaring flight. The spires are arranged in a triangular pattern with the highest reaching up to 270 feet.

Spires from hill

The Air Force Memorial’s most prominent feature, three steel spires reaching skyward.

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The U.S. Air Force “Thunderbirds” perform the High Bomb Burst maneuver.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

The spires are also reminiscent of a contrail pattern formed by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird Air Demonstration Squadron as they perform their “breaking bomb” maneuver. The lack of a fourth spire alludes to the “missing man” formation, used by Air Force flying units at funerals and other events to mark the loss of a comrade. Given their height and prominence, the spires have also added an additional landmark to the Washington, D.C. skyline.

Just to the west of the spires is a wide walkway connecting two highly polished granite inscription walls. The northern wall lists Air Force Medal of Honor winners. In front of it is a small glass contemplation wall to remember our airmen who are no longer present.

Commemoration Wall

Mementos left at the base of the memorial’s contemplation wall

Airman

The visage of one airman from the honor guard sculpture.

On the opposite southern wall are displayed the Air Force’s core values:

Integrity first,

Service before self,

Excellence in all we do

In front of the southern wall is a sculpture of a four-member Air Force honor guard, keeping watch over the Memorial and adding a human element to the lofty arches and inspired words.

The colors of the Memorial’s features are muted, again like a modern aircraft, metallic spires, polished dark granite walls, gray statues, and the glass contemplation wall. The only other prominent color is green, from the manicured lawn and the trees ringing the parking lot.

HG in Wall

The honor guard sculpture and spires reflected in the southern inscription wall.

Woman and FlagsWhile most aspects of the memorial are clearly visible, one is not: silence.

A certain stillness permeates the venue, bringing a sense of quiet to a busy corner of Arlington. Given this setting, along with the views, designs and significance of the memorial to members of the Air Force, it is a common location for promotions, concerts and other special ceremonies, so you may be sharing your visit with larger gatherings and even the Air Force Band.

(You can check event calendar for a listing of special events at the memorial.)

Some visitors, upon seeing the Memorial for the first time, remark about its unique designs and features and how they are relevant to the Air Force experience. President George W. Bush addressed this in his remarks at the memorial’s dedication on October 14, 2006.

He said: “A soldier can walk the battlefields where he once fought, a Marine can walk the beaches he once stormed; but an airman can never visit the patch of sky he raced across on a mission to defend freedom. And so, it’s fitting that…the men and women of the Air Force will have this memorial, a place here on the ground that recognizes their achievements and sacrifices in the skies above”.

Spires and Sky

The U.S. Air Force Memorial is located at 1 Air Force Memorial Drive, Arlington, VA, 22204. The memorial is free and open every day but December 25. Daily hours of operation from October 1 through March 31 are 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM and from April 1 through September 30 are 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM.

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Route Recon

The Air Force Memorial is easily reached by car, from the Pentagon or Pentagon City Metro stations or bus. From Visit the Air Force District of Washington Website for more information.

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Mess Call

The nearby Pentagon City neighborhood has a wide variety of dining options. Pentagon City is located about 1 mile from the Air Force Memorial. When exiting the Memorial, take a left onto Columbia Pike. At the first intersection, take a right on Joyce Street and cross underneath I-395 and you will enter Pentagon City. Take a left on Army-Navy Drive and you will see several parking garages on your right.

Mount Vernon: An Admiral’s Namesake, A General’s Home

First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen…

So wrote General “Light Horse Harry” Lee in tribute to his colleague George Washington. And this is how George Washington is usually thought of: lofty, dignified, and somewhat remote.

Flag

A flag with 13 six-pointed stars is said to be George Washington’s personal standard as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. The flag and its bearer would follow General Washington wherever he would go.

Folklore repeats the familiar stories of Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, heroic and virtuous crossing the Delaware, valiantly leading his troops at freezing Valley Forge and in the final victory at Yorktown. As our country’s first president, he set the tenor and established customs still adhered to today.

But a visit to his home at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia portrays George Washington the man–rather than the myth–with insight into his roles as a planter, businessman and private citizen as well as the military and political leader.

George Washington loved his home at Mount Vernon and it is easy to see why. The graceful manor house, symmetrically arrayed outbuildings, tended gardens, rolling landscape and beautiful vistas of the Potomac River would appeal to any founding father (or mother!)

MtV West

The historic mansion’s two story piazza facing the Potomac River to the east.

The Washington family had owned the land comprising Mount Vernon since 1674, when George Washington’s great-grandfather, John, was granted a right to the property. It would pass to George’s father Augustine in 1726. George’s half-brother Lawrence inherited the property in 1743. It was Lawrence who gave it the name Mount Vernon after his commanding officer in the Royal Navy, Vice Admiral Edward Vernon.

Lawrence_Washington

Lawrence Washington, circa 1738. After their father died in 1743, Lawrence became a mentor and close friend to his younger half-brother, guiding him toward a military career.

Lawrence served under Vernon’s command in an attack on a Spanish fortress in present day Columbia in 1741. During the engagement, Lawrence commanded a regiment of volunteers from Virginia. It was the first time a regiment of Americans fought as a component of the British Regular Army outside of North America. George would command the same regiment from 1755 through 1758, when he resigned and moved to Mount Vernon. He would inherit Mount Vernon in 1761 upon the death of Lawrence’s widow.

Through his adult life, George Washington was devoted to Mount Vernon’s development and commercial growth. As a plantation, Washington relied on income from the plantation’s operations to support himself and his family.

Today’s Mount Vernon is comprised of approximately 500 acres, but in Washington’s time his estate occupied close to 8,000 acres, organized into four farms producing a variety of agricultural products for resale. Washington also raised livestock, milled grains, fished commercially and distilled whiskey. He was an entrepreneur, not afraid to take risks or invest in new technologies.

Sheep

Washington was an enthusiastic breeder of animals. Many of the same breeds of animals, such as these sheep, can be found at Mount Vernon today.

A walk through the manor house is the centerpiece of a visit to Mount Vernon. Through the years, Washington fashioned an ennobled mansion from the more modest farm house his father built, befitting his stature as a wealthy Virginia planter. Though he made improvements over time, Washington’s keen eye and attention to detail made the property, its buildings and landscaping seem consistent and whole. Today’s manor house has been carefully restored to resemble how it looked in 1799, the year Washington died.

MtV West copy

The Manor House at Mount Vernon facing west. The door is slightly off center to accommodate for a staircase added by Washington in 1758.

The tour enters through the “New Room”, the last room added to the house and completed around 1787. This large, double-story room, papered and painted in elegant and fashionable greens, was meant to impress Washington’s guests.

“When it was completed”, the docent explains, “most houses in Virginia could fit into this room.”

The New Room served as a reception room, ballroom, and dining room, as well as a studio for portrait sitting. The room’s decorations reflect Washington’s love of the land. Farm instruments decorate the mantel piece, molding and plaster ceiling while paintings of pastoral river scenes dot the walls.

Cuppola

Washington added the cupola to help draw hot air out the mansion in the summer time. Note the dove shaped weathervane, representing peace, atop the cupola.

On the opposite side of the house is Washington’s study. Unlike the New Room, this was a private space where Washington would manage his personal, public and business affairs. Washington brought the chair from his presidential office back to Mount Vernon and installed it here (where it is now on display). The room also houses a portion of his library; Washington was self-taught, and a voracious reader. His library collection reflected his many interests: agriculture, political philosophy, government, and military history, to name a few.

The Washingtons maintained six bedrooms at Mount Vernon, with additional attic rooms available as well. The Washingtons were accustomed to hosting many house guests and even more daily visitors. Washington openly welcome them. In a letter to his farm manager Washington wrote: “I have no objection to any sober or orderly person’s gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, Gardens, & ca. about Mount Vernon.”

The year after his presidency he and Martha received some 600 guests. Not all would stay in the mansion. This required a certain social standing or letter of introduction from a friend, relative or well-known acquaintance. But all visitors were provided with Martha’s trademark hospitality and overnight accommodations somewhere on the grounds, if necessary.

Kitchen

Mount Vernon’s kitchen is the closest outbuilding to the mansion. The kitchen was kept separate to limit the impact of heat and the threat of fire in the house.

The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which has owned and maintained Mount Vernon for over 150 years, opened the Donald Reynolds Museum and Education Center in 2006 for a more in depth examination of Washington’s life. Here Washington moves beyond the two dimensional figure read about in history books.

The museum skillfully employs modern display technologies with life sized dioramas, professionally produced films, and over 700 artifacts to tell Washington’s story as a surveyor, military officer, husband, stepfather, grandfather, slave owner and president. His brief retirement and untimely death at Mount Vernon are also portrayed.

Valley Forge

This statue of Washington at Valley Forge is part of a special research project to present Washington’s appearance as realistically as possible. Scientists and researchers examined artifacts, archives, and artistic renderings in order to depict Washington at three different ages: as a young man, at age 45 at Valley Forge, and as he assumed the Presidency.

If your visit to Washington, DC involves learning more about George Washington, then time at Mount Vernon will make your trip complete. Join the legions of guests who have visited Mount Vernon over the centuries. Walk the grounds, tour the mansion, explore the many exhibits or take part in some of the special events hosted each year. After all, General Washington would want you to!

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Route Recon:

Mount Vernon is open every day, although hours do vary by season. The estate is located at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA 22121, approximately 15 miles south of Washington, DC, at the end of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Parking is free, but if you visit during a busy time, you may be directed to more remote overflow parking.

You can also reach Mount Vernon by public transportation. Take the Metro Yellow Line to Huntington. Exit downstairs to Huntington Avenue. Take a Fairfax Connector Bus #101 to Mount Vernon.

More information on the Fairfax Connector System can be found here.

Please note: Photography is not permitted in the mansion or the museum.

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Mess Call:

There are two dining options at Mount Vernon. The Food Court offers a variety of sandwiches, pizza, salads, snacks, desserts and beverages. Breakfast is also available during the morning.

A more formal dining experience can be had at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant which provides sit-down meal service with a menu including both contemporary and colonial era dishes.

Both are located in the vicinity of the main entrance.

 

The Library of Congress Opens its Books on World War I

I WANT YOU

James Montgomery Flagg, 1917 Lithograph, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

You know the look.

Intense. Almost a scowl. With piercing eyes that follow you around the room.

The man’s right index finger points directly at you, leaving no doubt who he is looking at. The long goatee, blue coat and top hat give him away.

He is your uncle, of course, and you know what he wants.

You! In the U.S. Army! NOW!

Artist James Montgomery Flagg’s image of Uncle Sam is probably the most iconic American illustration to come out of the World War I era.

This poster and many other artifacts from the First World War can be seen in the recently opened exhibit Echoes of the Great War at the Library of Congress.

Video Kiosk

View World War I imagery on video kiosks such as this throughout the exhibit. The Library of Congress digitized over 26,000 feet of period film for Echoes of the Great War, some not seen in over 100 years.

The Library of Congress regularly presents exhibitions based on its extensive collections of all types of print and recorded media. Echoes of the Great War is the Library of Congress’s commemorative exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I. The impressive assortment of posters, newspapers, letters, diaries, maps, videos and other articles assembled by Library of Congress curators for Echoes of the Great War bring the issues and experiences of the World War I era down to the human level.

The exhibit is neatly organized into four separate sections, corresponding to the period of neutrality, domestic mobilization, operations in Europe, and how the U.S. navigated the challenges of the war’s aftermath. The first section entitled Arguing Over War explores the Wilson Administration’s policy of neutrality and how German unrestricted submarine warfare contributed to its demise.

ExhibitIThe section also highlights an important relief operation less well known today, the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB). Taking advantage of U.S. neutrality, the CRB procured, transported and distributed 11.4 billion pounds of food to 9.5 million civilians living in German-occupied Belgium and Northern France saving many from starvation. It was chaired by a young mining engineer then living in London named Herbert Hoover.

Waste No Food

The U.S. did not have mandatory food rationing during WWI, but the government encouraged voluntary food conversation through posters such as this. (Waste No Food. Wash.DC, U.S.D.A., ca. 1917. Broadside, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress)

The second section Over Here examines how the United States effectively prepared for this new, global war and met the associated challenges of mobilizing the economy, expanding the military, and balancing the various demands of the public while trying to maintain public support of the war effort.

Posters vividly tell the story of this section, depicting the need for Americans to enlist in the military, buy war bonds, conserve food and work more efficiently.

The U.S. military in combat is the focus of the third section, Over There. In this section the diaries and letters take on a special poignancy as civilians, Marines and soldiers of all ranks including General Pershing and Lieutenant Colonel George Patton explain their personal experiences in combat as well as their daily routines.

Diary

A page from the diary of  Sergeant Major Claud Charles Hamel, USMC, who served at Belleau Wood. He writes about visiting Dr. Boone’s aid station and meeting wounded Marines. (Claude Charles Hamel. “Diary of Claude C. Hamel, Formerly Regimental Personnel Sergeant Major Fifth Regiment U.S. Marines AEF, April 1917 to August 15, 1919”, June 22, 1922. Bound typescript memoir. General Collections, Library of Congress)

 

An early test of U.S. forces in World War I was the Battle of Belleau Wood, fought in June 1918 when the U.S. 2nd Division, comprised of both Army and Marine Corps elements engaged the Germans in a forest near Paris.

Lieutenant Joel T. Boone, U.S. Navy, was serving as Medical Officer for the 6th Marine Regiment and operated an aid station during the battle. In his diary on display, he describes the first night of the battle as “a Perfect Inferno”. Dr. Boone would be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service in caring for the wounded and preparing patients for transport, even when the aid station was hit by enemy fire.

One month later, he earned the Medal of Honor for treating Marines under direct fire and risking his own life to collect medical supplies. Dr. Boone would later win six Silver Stars and become the most decorated medical officer of any branch in U.S. military history.

The artifacts found in the final section, World Overturned, reveal the post-war U.S. as it sought to keep the peace, expand democracy, welcome veterans, and absorb the other societal changes which were hastened by the war. There are maps with hand drawn overlays of new countries in Central Europe and the Middle East, posters extolling employers to hire veterans, and a picture of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt awarding Dr. Boone his Medal of Honor.

Nobel Prize

President Woodrow Wilson’s 1919 Nobel Peace Prize (Medal, case and scroll box. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress)

There is also an original draft of President Wilson’s “14 Points” address to Congress, where he laid out is ideas for a lasting post-war peace. Wilson believed that democratic values in place of autocratic monarchs, self-determination of peoples and the collective action of a League of Nations would help prevent future global conflicts. He would forcefully argue his 14 Points at the Paris peace negotiations following the war and win the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

You can always learn something by visiting a library and this is especially true when visiting Echoes of the Great War at the Library of Congress. At the end of the exhibit is a video featuring the exhibit’s curators, advisors and consultants discussing their contributions and what they learned while researching this project.

Echoes EntranceIn order to preserve what is on display, some items will be rotated out every seven months so Echoes of the Great War is worth visiting more than once before its scheduled closing in January 2019. The Library of Congress also put details of the exhibit, including photos and information on what is currently on display, teaching aids, curator notes and other resources on their website so you can still view many of the items, even if you cannot travel to Washington.

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Tucked away in a separate room behind Echoes of the Great War is another exhibit worthy of a visit. This exhibit commemorates Thomas Jefferson’s sale of his personal library to Congress in 1815. Jefferson made the offer after the original holdings of the Library of Congress were destroyed by fire in 1814, when British forces attacking Washington, D.C. burned the U.S. Capitol. In 2015, the Library of Congress marked the bicentennial of the purchase of Jefferson’s collection by putting many of the original volumes on display.

JEFFERSON

Visitors examine several original volumes from Thomas Jefferson’s library conveyed in 1815 as the beginning of a new Library of Congress.

Throughout his life, Jefferson had accumulated more than 6,000 books on a wide variety of subjects. Jefferson believed members of Congress would benefit from access to such a broad collection. Through the years, his idea of the Library of Congress possessing the widest collection of materials for Congressional reference has taken hold. Today the Library of Congress holds more than 160 million items, making it what many consider to be the largest library in the world.

The Library of Congress’s main building is named in honor of Thomas Jefferson and is a worthy destination for anyone visiting Washington. The building was built in the late 1880’s and the interior is filled with beautiful carvings, mosaics and stonework. The Library of Congress offers tours on the half hour. Tours originate on the ground floor and last approximately 1 hour. Arrive around 10 minutes early to view a short video on the Library of Congress.

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Route Recon

Echoes of the Great War is found in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, located at 10 First Street, SE, Washington, DC, 20540. The closest Metro stop is Capitol South on the Orange, Blue and Silver Lines. Upon arriving at the station, use the main exit and walk approximately two blocks north on First Street SE. The Jefferson Building will be on your right, opposite the U.S. Capitol on your left. An alternate stop is Union Station on the Red Line. From Union Station exit the main entrance and cross Columbus Circle to First Street SE. Proceed about a half-mile and you will see the Jefferson Building on your left. Union Station’s public parking garage is also a good option if you are driving to the Library of Congress.

FDR: A Man and His Memorial

SignJust west of the Tidal Basin lies the memorial to the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unlike most memorials in Washington, DC that consist largely of a single structure or statue, the FDR memorial is a mix of engravings, vegetation, statues, sculptures, walls and water features. It’s big, spread out over an area encompassing more than five football fields.

Noted landscape architect Lawrence Halpern designed the memorial so visitors could experience it in their own distinct way, which explains its unique, open, and rambling nature. Many Americans remember FDR as the only President elected to four terms and Mr. Halpern incorporated this unique accomplishment into his design. The memorial is laid out in four distinct sections or “rooms” with each room corresponding to one of FDR’s terms of office.

But to better understand the man and his memorial, it is important to look beyond these four rooms and FDR’s time in the White House. He was born into a wealthy New York family. Schooled at Harvard and Columbia Law School, he ultimately chose a career in politics rather than the law.

He modeled that career after his fifth cousin Theodore’s, although the members of his branch of the Roosevelt family were Democrats, while Teddy’s were Republicans. FDR was first elected to the New York State Senate in 1910 from a Republican leaning district. He was a reformist, pro-labor state senator who worked to limit the impact of the political machines which dominated much of the state’s politics.

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As an early supporter of Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential election, FDR was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913. At the time, this was the number two position in the Navy Department, answering directly to the Secretary. He was eager to take the job. FDR greatly admired the Navy; he once claimed to own 10,000 books about the Navy and had read all of them but one. His cousin Teddy had also been Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he saw the job as an important political stepping stone.

His seven years as Assistant Secretary provided FDR with valuable experience that served him well as President. As Assistant Secretary, he negotiated contracts, supervised civilian personnel and tried to orchestrate the work of the Navy’s various bureaus. He learned the importance of keeping good relations with Congress, how to work with big corporations and maintain the support of labor unions.

Room 3

Scattered blocks symbolic of the chaos of war.

He also became acquainted with numerous Naval and Marine officers, many of whom he would call upon some twenty years later to serve in key commands and staff assignments. He founded the Naval Reserve and as World War I approached, he learned to apply various bureaucratic mechanisms to effectively harness industrial production and prepare the Navy for wartime. He was so highly regarded in his overall tenure at the Navy Department, he was selected as the Democratic Party’s Vice Presidential nominee in 1920. Although the Democrats lost that year, FDR’s advocacy for the common man in his policymaking and his remarkable communication skills would propel him to two terms as New York’s governor and, ultimately, to the White House.

Fireside Chat

Statue of a man listening to one of FDR’s Fireside Chats. FDR delivered 30 such radio addresses during his Administration, explaining his policies and programs to the American public in a simple, yet confident conversational style.

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Water is an important feature in this memorial. Over 100,000 gallons of water are recycled through the water features each minute. The water pools, the water falls, the water streams along, silently in some places, loud in others.

Waterfall

Visitors to the FDR Memorial experiencing a waterfall.

FDR loved the water. As a youth, FDR was an avid swimmer and sailor. After he was diagnosed with polio in 1921 at age 39, hydrotherapy became an important part of his rehabilitation. He purchased property in Warm Springs, Georgia where he returned regularly for treatments in the warm, mineral rich water.

FDR would devote tremendous time and energy to his therapy and was very supportive of others also afflicted by polio. He founded the Warm Springs Foundation, so many could experience the same therapeutic benefit of the waters. He would also found the National Institute for Infantile Paralysis, which we know today as the March of Dimes. While FDR would regain some limited use of his legs, he was always very careful not to be photographed or portrayed using the crutches or wheelchair he still relied upon.

FDR and Fala

The statue of FDR (as he might wish to be portrayed) and his dog, Fala, in the Third Room of the FDR Memorial. Note FDR’s cloak covering the wheelchair.

FDR’s portrayal at the memorial was the subject of some controversy when it opened in 1997. A large statue of a seated FDR, along with his canine companion, Fala, shows FDR’s large cloak covering his wheelchair. Some thought his disability should be in full view as an example and inspiration to others. Ultimately, a bronze statue of FDR in a wheelchair was added in 2001 at the memorial’s entrance.

Scattered throughout the memorial are 21 inscriptions of famous quotations from FDR’s speeches, fireside chats and writings. They clearly evoke the troubles and challenges of the times. But they also reflect FDR’s unique ability to reach each individual in his audience and assure the listener of FDR’s concern for them and their future. Some quotes are very familiar (“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”), others less so.

I HATE WAR

Excerpt from FDR’s I HATE WAR Speech.

The central/showpiece quote in the third room, denoting World War II, comes from FDR’s “I Hate War” speech. FDR actually delivered this speech in 1936, as he was increasingly concerned by events in the world. He understood the impact of a global war and hoped to sway other nations to join the United States in avoiding conflict. That effort was, of course, not successful and the haphazard waterfalls and scattered granite blocks in the room—several inscribed with “I HATE WAR”—are meant to evoke the chaos and destruction of that war.

FDR died on April 12, 1945 at his home in Warm Springs, Georgia, just 26 days before the unconditional surrender of Germany and the end of World War II in Europe. The last room of the memorial is dedicated to his legacy. There is a small relief of his funeral cortege and several quotes about the future he hoped to realize and the peace he hoped to build.

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Statue of First Lady Eleanore Roosevelt in the Fourth Room of the FDR Memorial. This is the only presidential memorial to also honor a first lady.

The FDR Memorial is one of the most unique in Washington and well worth a special visit. Like all the memorials in the vicinity of the National Mall, the FDR Memorial is open 24 hours a day. The late evening or early morning hours are actually good times to visit, when the grounds are quieter and the nighttime illumination or early light create special effects on the walls, water, statues and other features. Park Rangers are on site daily from 9:30 am until 10:00 pm. There is also a book store by the entrance with a variety of materials about FDR, his wife Eleanor, and the Great Depression, as well as souvenirs of Washington, DC.

Interestingly, FDR desired something much different as a memorial. He once remarked to his friend, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, that if a memorial should ever be dedicated to him, it should be about the size of his desk and placed on the grass lawn in front of the National Archives.  He wanted it kept very plain, with only the inscription “in Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt”. He got his wish; the memorial was dedicated in 1965 and can be found at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, NW, right next to the National Archives.

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Route Recon

The two closest Metro stops to the FDR Memorial on the Mall are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian, both on the Blue, Orange and Silver Lines. DC Circulator’s National Mall route or Metrobus routes 32, 34 or 36 are also options. Visitor parking is available on Ohio Drive, between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Handicapped parking spaces are set aside at locations on West Basin Drive in front of the memorial. It is always important to note that street parking is often limited in DC.

Experience the Great War Above the Trenches at the National Air and Space Museum

The list of ‘Must Sees” for most Washington, DC visitors includes the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). It is one of the city’s most visited attractions, welcoming over 6 million people each year. It is easy to understand why. It is near the Mall, admission is free and the extensive collection of all things that fly attracts people of all ages. There are literally thousands of items on display, as well as a planetarium, an IMAX movie theater and flight simulators.

Some of the best military-themed exhibits within easy walking distance of the Mall can be found at NASM. In 1991, NASM opened Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air examining the budding role of aviation during the First World War. The exhibit contrasts the romanticized view of the experiences of World War I pilots with the starker reality of combat aviation. The exhibit entices you to enter with a bright red movie theater façade, complete with flashing marquee and similarly colored Pfalz D.XII fighter aircraft suspended overhead.

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This Pfalz D.XIII Fighter is painted bright red for its Hollywood movie role.

Inside the theater, a short, looped film explains how Hollywood adapted stories of World War I pilots for American audiences. Nearby a child’s bedroom exhibit features books, games and toys from the post-war period celebrating the glory, bravery and derring-do of World War I flying aces.

Turn the corner and a somber reality sets in.

The lighting fades and the sounds of combat emerge. Ground combat and life in the trenches are portrayed. The focus shifts to a more detailed examination of the roles pilots and aircraft would play during the war as observers, fighters, bombers, and conducting photo reconnaissance missions. Three early battles in the war, Tannenburg, the Marne and the Somme are briefly examined where the warring parties learned both the great potential and many pitfalls of deploying aircraft into combat.

During the Battle of Tannenburg and the Battle of the Marne, respective German and French commanders successfully countered enemy troop movements detected by aerial observation. During the Somme however, the British learned the limits of using aerial observation. While pilots could detect troop movements, they would not assess the morale, or the level of training of the enemy units detected below. British commanders also experienced the difficulties of coordinating simultaneous air and ground operations.

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Albatross D.Va Fighter – The German military built over 4,800 Albatross fighters of all types during World War I. Only two are known to exist today. This Albatross D.Va fighter on display and one other at the Australian War Museum in Canberra.

For the aviation enthusiast, the highlights of the exhibit are likely the Smithsonian’s restored vintage WWI aircraft. In addition to the Pfalz D.XII fighter, other German aircraft include an Albatross D.Va, and Fokker D.VII fighters. There is a Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe fighter from the United Kingdom and a French Voisin Type 8 bomber.

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Fokker D.VII fighter – Two mannequins representing a pilot and ground crewman inspect the Fokker D.VII fighter. Developed to counter more advanced Allied fighter aircraft, the Fokker D.VII fighter was introduced to front line squadrons in April 1918. Some historians and aviation experts considered the Fokker D.VII to be one of the best fighter aircraft of World War I. The plane was so highly regarded the final Armistice required the Germans to surrender all Fokker D.VII fighters.

There is also a SPAD XIII fighter. This French made aircraft was known for its sturdiness and ability to perform during dog fights. Multiple air services flew the SPAD XIII’s because of its excellent reputation and performance. In addition to the French, it was flown by the British, Italians, Belgians and Russians.

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The SAPD XIII Fighter. The number “20” on the side is the aircraft’s identification number, assigned by the aero squadron.

As the U.S. entered World War I with no combat ready aircraft, the SPAD XIII was also used by U.S. fighter squadrons of the American Expeditionary Force. The SPAD XIII on display was assigned to the 22nd Aero Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Service.

It was piloted by Lieutenant A. Raymond Brooks who named the aircraft “Smith IV” after his sweetheart’s alma mater. Lt. Brooks won one of his six aerial victories in Smith IV; other squadron pilots achieved additional victories. After being sent to the United States for a Liberty Bond tour in 1918, Smith IV was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1919.

There are no American made aircraft in the World War I exhibit, but a de Havilland DH-4, manufactured by the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company can be found in the “Looking at Earth” exhibit, downstairs in Gallery 107.

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De Havilland DH-4. This U.S. made bomber and observation aircraft would continue to serve the U.S. Government many years after the war.

As the U.S. was preparing to enter the war, the military began looking at various Allied aircraft designs that might be adapted and built in the U.S. The DH-4 was modeled after the British de Havilland bomber and the DH-4 would serve the U.S. Army Air Service in the same capacity. The first models began conducting combat missions in August of 1918.

The DH-4 on display was a prototype, flying many flights and experiments to test the aircraft’s design. Although it never saw combat, this DH-4 is fitted with the standard military compliment of combat equipment: six 25 lb Mark II bombs, two DeRam DR-4 cameras, two fixed, forward-firing .30-caliber Marlin machine guns, and the observer’s position is armed with two flexible .30-caliber Lewis machine guns.

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SMILE! A mannequin demonstrates one role of the de Havilland DH-4, as a photo reconnaissance aircraft.

Because the NASM is such a popular destination, it can become very crowded in the spring and summer. Planning ahead can save you some valuable time. Use the “Visit” section of the NASM website to see what is currently on display, learn about the day’s special programs, get helpful tips, and buy tickets in advance for any of the IMAX movies or the planetarium. It is important to remember visitors must pass through metal detectors to enter the NASM and certain items are prohibited.

If the NASM Mall location leaves you wanting to see more about aircraft and space exploration, the NASM has a second complex, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located about 28 miles from downtown Washington near Dulles International Airport. Several Smithsonian Institution museums, including NASM, offer extended hours during the spring and summer. You can find more information at: http://www.si.edu/visit/hours#ExtendedHours

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ROUTE RECON

The NASM is located at the intersection of Independence Avenue and 6th Street, Southwest. There is no onsite parking, but there are several commercial lots nearby. The nearest Washington Metro stations are the L’Enfant Plaza Station on the Yellow and Green Lines and the Smithsonian Station on the Blue and Orange lines. Both stations are about a two block walk to the NASM.

MESS CALL

The Wright Place Food Court offers a variety of fast food meal options from Boston Market, Donatos Pizza and McDonald’s.

75 Years After Pearl Harbor, the Taney Still Serves

What better way to observe the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor than to visit the last U.S. ship afloat which saw action on that fateful December morning.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney is moored about 40 miles north of Washington, D.C. The Taney is part of the Historic Ships in Baltimore, a floating museum of notable ships from our nation’s naval and maritime heritage.

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U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney (WHEC-37)

The Taney (pronounced TAW-ney) was one of seven Coast Guard vessels in the Treasury class of High Endurance Cutters. The Treasury Class would be known for their ability to perform many different types of missions and their many years of service to the Coast Guard. The Taney was built in Philadelphia and launched in 1936. She was assigned to Honolulu from 1936 through 1941 where she undertook missions familiar to today’s Coast Guard: law enforcement, maritime patrols, and search and rescue, among others.

pearl-harbor-poster_travel-objective-dcOn the morning of December 7, 1941, the Taney was moored in Honolulu Harbor, about eight miles away from Pearl Harbor. While not directly attacked that day, she did engage Japanese aircraft in her vicinity.

In the war’s early years, the Taney stayed in the Pacific, conducting maritime patrols, pilot rescues, and counter-submarine operations.

From 1943-1944, the Taney served in the Atlantic theater, performing convoy escort duty between the U.S. and Europe, and engaging German planes in the Mediterranean. In late 1944 the Taney was converted to an Amphibious Command Ship and returned to the Pacific. She was Rear Admiral Calvin Cobb’s flagship at the battle of Okinawa where her crew served with great distinction defending her from more than 250 attacks by Japanese aircraft.

After the war, the Taney returned to peacetime missions: reporting weather conditions, conducting search and rescue missions, and supporting law enforcement operations. From 1946-1972, the Taney was based at Alameda, California.

img_5794The Taney also participated in the Viet Nam War. From 1969-1970, she patrolled the waters off Viet Nam, supporting naval bombardments, preventing enemy resupply operations and providing medical assistance to South Vietnamese nationals.

In 1972, she was transferred to the east coast, continuing her peacetime missions, as well as serving as a training ship for Coast Guard cadets and officer candidates.

The Taney was decommissioned in 1986 and transferred to the City of Baltimore as a museum ship.

After 50 years of service to the Coast Guard, the Taney certainly lived up to her designation as a “High Endurance” cutter.

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Today the Taney is found on Pier 5 of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Climb aboard, walk the decks, explore the berths and you get a sense of the rhythm of mid-20th century “Coastie” life.

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A blue line with arrows painted on the deck guides you through the living quarters, dining areas and work spaces. Placards and actual shipboard notices to the crew, dating from the 1980’s, explain how crewmembers spent their days moving between duty, meals, hygiene and sleep with long hours of routine punctuated by brief periods of white knuckle danger, recreational diversions or just a few peaceful moments to observe a Pacific sunset.

Available space is tight on the 327-foot-long cutter, so privacy was clearly a luxury reserved for the Taney’s senior officers, especially when the size of the crew doubled to over 250 personnel during World War II. There are also special exhibits devoted to the attack at Pearl Harbor and the Taney’s service in Viet Nam.

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img_5785Younger visitors can learn about the Taney’s Mascot “Soogie”, a dog who sailed on board from 1937 until 1948.

Paw prints on the floor direct kids to information kiosks with details about this Coastie canine and his life at sea.

In recognition of her service at Pearl Harbor, each year on December 7 at 12:00 noon, the Historic Ships in Baltimore hosts a memorial ceremony on board the Taney. The event is free and open to the public.

But any season is a good time of year to visit the Taney and learn her stories. A few hours on board and you can’t help but develop a healthy respect for the ship and the crew members who sailed her through a half century of service to the United States.

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