Plan is to separate educational messages at the Memorial

By Tom Wilmoth Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Change is coming to the status of the statuary at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. And though the controversial bust of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin will be removed from its current location, it will be put back up at a different location at the Memorial sometime in the future, according to Foundation President Robin Reed.

Reed said after a significant amount of discussions with a wide variety of constituencies regarding the pros and cons of statuary at the Memorial, the Foundation determined that a change was in order. What that means is that immediately the statuary of Chiang Kai-shek and Joseph Stalin will be removed from their current locations, with the busts of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill to follow. They will remain removed until a more appropriate venue at the Memorial can be found to tell the story of the educational component of the Allied leaders, Reed said. “While the Board is firm in its resolve to depict history accurately and truthfully, it also realizes there are ways to accomplish the Foundation’s educational goals without risking the perception that certain elements detract from the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of the veterans recognized by the Memorial,” he stated in a news release this week. Reed said since taking over as the Foundation president 10 weeks ago, he has talked with Foundation members, constituents and donors, along with other historians and museum officials, about the controversy created when the bust of Stalin was placed at the Memorial in June. “We have been able to hear a lot of different voices, some who are very much in opposition of the bust remaining and some with very strong feelings that it should remain,” he said. What became clear, he added, was that the message of the Memorial’s two main educational components had been diminished by having them merged. “The principle education message that we’re trying to accomplish here is (telling about) the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of those who participated on D-Day,” Reed said. “We also think it is important to have an educational lesson about the Allied leaders who were on the world stage at the time. By having them in such close proximity to one another we feel we have diluted both of those messages, so we need to find a way to strengthen both of those educational approaches.” Removing all of the political busts is the best way to accomplish that, he added. By immediately taking down the Stalin bust, Reed said he was showing sensitivity to the opposition of those opposed to it. He did say that the plaques that accompany the statuary will remain until it’s determined how they will later be displayed. The moving of statuary is not a “reaction to special interests” but rather an opportunity to provide a better educational component for the site, he said. The timetable to reintroduce the busts will be dependent on coming up with a design for the venue and the financial means of paying for it. Reed said designs are already being discussed. The goal will be to take the statuary of the Allied leaders “and congregate them and be able to talk about them in the proper context of the political story away from the soldier’s memorial.” “My responsibility — and the board’s responsibility — is to create the best educational message we can here at the Memorial,” Reed said. “We feel that by removing the busts and congregating them by themselves someplace else on the property is the best way to strengthen the message for the soldiers and the best way to strengthen the message for the Allied leaders.” Reed said his number one mission right now for the Foundation is to create financial stability for the Memorial, followed by following through with the original design elements there. That includes being able to better recognize the Army Air Corps, the United States Navy, the Merchant Marine and the Coast Guard. He said launching a financial campaign for the construction of the Education Center will also be a major priority, in order to help the Memorial become an even better tourism destination, both locally and nationally. “I have spent a lot of time answering a lot of phone calls and answering a lot of letters from individuals nationwide and across the world in reaction to those in support of the (Stalin) bust remaining and those who were in opposition to the bust remaining,” he said. “They’ve been very interesting conversations.” He said some of those in opposition were placated once the context of the statuary was explained to them. He said much of the opposition to the bust came from special interest groups, while those in favor tended to be individuals. “We have two educational messages here: One for the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of those soldiers who were gallantly involved in the D-Day invasion. That story needs to be paramount. That story needs to be important. That story needs to be emphasized,” Reed said. But, he added, there is also the story that places D-Day in context of what was happening on the world stage at that time, that is best told through the lens of the world leaders. “We need to strengthen that story, at a more appropriate venue that will allow us to tell that in a more thoughtful and direct way.” Since arriving, Reed said he has been considering the issue of the best way to get the story of the Allied leaders to the general public. One key to achieving the Memorial’s goals will be to help the Memorial Foundation achieve financial stability so it can move forward with its mission, he said. “We’re going to be looking for support from local government, from state government, from outrconstituents, from our members, from those who have shown interest in this interpretive approach, to help us by reaching deep in their pockets to get us financially stable,” Reed said. “This is a time for people to rally around the Memorial and help us any way they can financially.” He said growth helps create stability. “It’s a financial challenge to keep the Memorial looking as good as it does for our public on a day-in and day-out basis. I have to commend the staff for doing a wonderful job of that with very little resources. We need to find a way to ease that burden.” Reed said the Memorial should be able to market itself alongside other major historical sites within the growing U.S. 460 corridor. He added that any chance of the Memorial being acquired by the National Park Service remains a remote option for the board. “The Foundation’s primary goal concerning ownership and operation is to remain a private, not-for-profit corporation,” he stated. “While the board believes this is the best structure for the future, it also recognizes the wisdom in considering all viable options and not closing any doors prematurely. Therefore, the process of a formal study of the site by the National Park Service is proceeding with results expected within two years. Meanwhile, the Foundation will continue reviewing a variety of scenarios for sustainability.” At present, Reed said funding for the NPS study has not been appropriated by the federal government. He said while financial hurdles must be overcome, the Foundation has moved the ucation Center into the forefront of its planning process and considers it an essential part of the Memorial’s near-future success and long-term viability. “The Center would welcome visitors, house artifacts and archives, present educational media, and generally orient people to the Memorial. With ample meeting space, restroom facilities, galleries, a gift store, offices and parking, the building would allow consolidation of all operations in a single location,” the release from the Foundation stated. Construction could cost somewhere between $5 million to $10 million. “What we’re trying to do right now is to fast track everything as much as possible. We need to move the Education Center up to the forefront of what we’re trying to achieve. The Education Center will be the flagship of that fundraising,” Reed stated. The Foundation also plans to soon form an advisory committee to assist the Board and staff in outlining the Memorial’s mission for the future. This committee will be populated by veterans, community leaders, volunteers, donors, municipal officers, scholars and other constituencies. Reed said he expected that committee to take shape this fall and begin working in earnest after the first of the year. For more information about the National D-Day Memorial, and it mission and programs, visit www. or call 540-586-3329.