Fifty-eight generals and admirals signed a letter calling for a new design competition for the Dwight Eisenhower memorial in Washington, D.C.
"As flag officers who have been honored to serve our country in war and peace, just as Eisenhower was, we call on our elected political leaders to honor him properly by mandating a new, fair, and public competition to design his memorial," the letter states.
The signatories criticized the memorial planning process as inadequate and polarizing.
"Instead of the normal fair and open competition of designs, the appointed commission delivered a design that, after many years and much public money spent, still does not have public or Congressional support," the letter states. "As a result, progress toward the memorial is at a standstill."
"Ike’s legacy demands—and our country requires—a memorial that unites rather than divides us," the letter states.
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission was inaugurated in 1999, but the modernist design it selected in a closed competition sparked controversy that has stalled construction for years. The Eisenhower family withdrew its support for the memorial in 2012.
The design by architect Frank Gehry features statues of Eisenhower as president, Supreme Allied Commander, and a lanky Kansas farm boy. Critics have objected to the design and placement of the third statue, calling it ugly and inappropriate.
A 447-foot-wide steel curtain designed to look like the Kansas landscape overshadows the memorial’s statues. Eight-story-high limestone pillars suspend the curtain.
"It's no surprise that our military leaders see the folly in the design," said Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society and a leading critic of the Gehry design. "Eisenhower was someone who didn't crow about his achievements. He didn't wear his medals on his uniform, and he chose to be buried in the same $80 casket provided to the common soldier. It is wholly inappropriate to commemorate him with a grandiose design."
The signatories of last week’s letters join other veterans who have criticized the design of the Eisenhower memorial. Concerned Veterans for America has called for the Gehry design to be scrapped. The American Legion has stated it will only support the memorial design if the Eisenhower family rescinds its opposition.
Other veterans have expressed support for the design. The Veterans of Foreign Wars passed a resolution urging Congress "to reinstate funding and build the National Eisenhower Memorial." Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader and World War II veteran, is helping raise money for the memorial.
Congress cut off taxpayer funding for the memorial’s construction in 2013, but has continued to appropriate funds for the commission’s operating costs. It has considered eliminating all of the commission’s funding the past two years.
In the absence of congressional funding, the Eisenhower commission has tried to raise construction funds through private donations. The group’s private fundraising has lagged far behind the goals it set, the Free Beacon has reported.
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission did not respond to a request for comment.