Since 1987, when I was approached by Roger Durbin, a World War II veteran and resident of Ohio's Ninth District, about why there is no memorial in our nation's capital to honor the brave men and women who served in World War II, I have been working to pass legislation to establish such a Memorial in Washington, D.C. With budget constraints being what they are, I also recognized the need to find a way to finance this memorial without public funds. H.R. 1623, the World War II Commemorative Coins Act, was passed during the 102nd Congress and became Public Law 102-414. The World War II Memorial Act was approved during the 103rd Congress as H.R. 682 and became public law 103-32.
Both of these bills were introduced at the beginning of the 102nd Congress. The Coin Bill, H.R. 1623, was referred to the House Banking Committee Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage. The Memorial Bill, then H.R. 1624, was referred to the House Committee on Veteran's Affairs and the Committee on House Administration.
H.R. 1624 passed the Veteran's Affairs Committee on July 31, 1991. The bill then waited in the House Administration Committee until such time as the Coin Bill was ready to move. The bills were always intended to move concurrently. Finally, after a great deal of negotiation, it was agreed that H.R. 1623 would move forward through the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage provided that funding for the D-Day Memorial in Normandy was included in the legislation. The final version of the bill provided that 30% of the funds raised by the coins would go to the D-Day Memorial, and 70% would go to the WWII Memorial.
With this agreement in hand, I turned to the House Administration Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials. I learned that the late Senator Thurmond had introduced the companion legislation in the Senate. However, the Senator's bill authorized the National World War II Memorial Fund to establish the Memorial. The Kaptur bill authorizes the American Battle Monuments Commission to establish the Memorial. This was a bit of a surprise, especially considering Senator Thurmond had introduced legislation the past two Congresses.
Due to the problems that have plagued other memorial projects, and because the coins will generate millions of dollars which will be public funds, it is very important to have proper accountability of funds and administration over the funds. Previous memorial projects have encountered accountability problems because though the Commemorative Works Act does provide the overall structure for groups to follow when establishing such memorials, there is extremely little oversight over the funds.
On June 18, 1992, the House Banking Committee considered the coin bill. Representatives of five different veterans organizations came to the mark-up to encourage passage of the legislation. The organizations represented were the VFW, the American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The veterans, along with representatives of the Normandy Foundation, took the time to talk with each Republican Member of the Committee asking them to stay in the event of a quorum call. When the vote came, 30 Members were present and voting, a sufficient quorum, and the bill passed 39-5.
Meanwhile, the final draft of H.R. 1624, the WWII Memorial Act, was worked out between the House Administration Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee. The bill was put under Suspension of the Rules and passes by voice vote by the full House of Representatives June 22, 1992. It was received in the Senate on June 23 and mistakenly referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration instead of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. H.R. 1623, the WWII Commemorative Coins Act passed the House on June 30, 1992, also by voice vote.
On June 24, Senator Thurmond agreed to substitute H.R. 1624, the Kaptur Memorial bill, for his bill - S. 2244, as funding for construction of the D-Day Memorial is included and the Department of Defense WWII Commission confirmed that they favored the Kaptur version. S. 2244, as amended, passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on September 22.
In the meantime, the search for a Senate sponsor of the Coin Bill began. On August 12, in response to Hon. Kaptur's request, Senator John Glenn introduced S. 3195, companion legislation to the Kaptur Coin bill, H.R. 1623, which was then referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. A big push was made by the many veterans groups who had been integral parts of this whole process to gain cosponsors and a hearing on the bill by the Senate Banking Committee. The goal was 40 cosponsors to satisfy Banking Committee rules before Senator Riegle could place the bill on a Banking Committee hearing agenda. As a result of calls made and letters sent to each individual Senator, cosponsors for S. 3195 began to increase. Then, on September 18, a motion was made in the Senate to discharge three bills from the Banking Committee - S. 3195 not among them. Noting the absence of S. 3195, Senator Glenn voiced an objection to this motion on the Floor. In a great flurry, the promises to cosponsor the Coin Bill were acted upon and 44 cosponsors were confirmed by late that night. S. 3195, the WWII Coin bill, passed the Senate at roughly 11 p.m. on September 18, with the other Coin bills discharged from Committee. Since S. 3195 contains stylistic differences from H.R. 1623, the bill was sent back to the House for final agreement. The House passed S. 3195 by voice vote on September 29 and it was signed by the President on October 14, 1992 (Public Law 102-414).
Although the memorial bill, S. 2244, was placed on the Senate calendar on September 24, there was still much work to do, as it was part of a package of Energy and Natural Resources Committee bills caught in the middle of end-of-the-session stalling tactics. Finally, on October 7, H.R. 1624 was discharged from the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, the text of S. 2244 was substituted for it, and the memorial bill passed the Senate under unanimous consent. Due to minor changes in the text, H.R. 1624 was sent back to the House for final consideration. A final session of the House was planned for Friday, October 9, when the memorial bill was scheduled to be considered under unanimous consent. However, this final session was cancelled by the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader on Thursday. The House adjourned Friday morning without considering any further legislation. Therefore, this legislation had to be introduced again in the 103rd Congress.
On January 27, 1993, I introduced the World War II Memorial Act as H.R. 682; Senator Thurmond had introduced companion legislation, S. 214, a day earlier. Due to the long history behind this legislation, the bills moved quickly. S. 214 was approved by the Senate on March 17 and by the House, with a minor amendment, on May 4. The Senate passed the amended bill on May 12 and it was presented to the President on May 13. President Clinton signed this bill into law (Public Law 103-32) on May 25, 1993.
On Memorial Day, 1993, I was pleased to join World War II veterans at a White House ceremony during which President Clinton unveiled the World War II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coins. Mr. Roger Durbin then had the honor of presenting the President with a set of the coins.
The site selected for the World War II Memorial is known as "Rainbow Pool" and is located on the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. The site was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 1995. The dedication was on the last day of a week of activities concluding the remembrance and 50th Anniversary of the Allied victory in WWII.
The dedication included the scattering of soil from cemeteries around the world where American WW II veterans are interred, as well as the unveiling of a plaque marking the site of the Memorial. The list of speakers at the ceremony included: General Frederick Woerner, Jr., Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC); Peter Wheeler, Chairman of the World War II Memorial Advisory Board; Helen Boyajian, a representative of the home front efforts during the war who sewed parachutes; General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Bill Mauldin, a WW II veteran and cartoonist who drew the "Willie and Joe" strip during the war; President Clinton; and yours truly.