Honor Restored, A Mystery Solved, and History Reborn

 

The Wilson Building Rededicates Its World War II Memorial

On Veterans Day (Friday, November 11), Chairman Phil Mendelson and the Council of the District of Columbia righted a decades-old wrong and restored honor to nearly 2,000 DC government employees and warriors who had inadvertently lost their place of honor in our seat of government.

A lovingly restored World War II Memorial returned to the Wilson Building for the first time in three decades, once again honoring the historic intent of those who originally had it installed nearly 75 years ago. The rededication occurred at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, echoing the end of World War I, which in turn inspired the creation of Veterans Day. Chairman Mendelson, former Mayor Vincent Gray, and Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie participated in the unveiling.

The History

In 1942, in the midst of World War II, a decision was made to install in the District Building a memorial honoring District government employees serving in the armed forces during World War II. During a 1990s renovation of the building, the memorial was removed, damaged, and stored in such a way that its identity was forgotten. In the early 2010s, the memorial was unearthed but remained unidentified.

The Mystery

Earlier this year, through archival detective work, the mystery was solved. At an event tagged to Memorial Day, the Council revealed that the plaques included the names of nearly 1,900 DC government employees who served in all branches of the armed forces during World War II. Men and women’s names are intermingled on the list, which is also fully multiracial.

Conservation

In the time since Memorial Day, the pieces of the memorial (some panels as large as doors, some chips as small as fingernails) have been overseen by local art conservation industry leader Artex. The craftsmen and historians at Artex have been reassembling the puzzle that is the memorial, as well as reproducing the memorial’s missing title panel.

Archival Resources

This article on the Council’s website goes into much more detail regarding the history of the Wilson Building’s World War II Memorial, and includes links to the actual archival materials we used to resolve the mystery that enabled the memorial’s reinstallation.