August 28, 1998

Monument dedicated to sailors, Marines

by Nicole Gearheart
Pentagram staff writer

When driving on the George Washington Memorial Parkway near the airport, a monument of a wave with several sea gulls flying over it can be seen near the Potomac in Lady Bird Johnson Park on Columbia Island.

The monument, designed in 1922, is made of medium cast aluminum and comprises seven flying sea gulls above the crest of a wave. A thin coat of green pigment, to imitate the sea, is on the undersides of the waves, and a yellow pigment, to resemble sunshine, is on the wing tips of the gulls and the wave's crest.

It was built in honor of the sailors and Marines who died at sea during World War I.

The swirling waters, the cavernous wave, the whirling birds portray the dangers faced by those who have "gone down to the sea in ships, and have done business in great waters," according to literature from the Park Service.

The surface of the water on the monument is designed to be like shells and rocks carved by the ocean.

The monument, designed by Harvey Corbett and sculpted by Ernesto Begni del Piatta, stands 35 feet tall and is 30 feet long.

Original plans called for an elaborate superior-quality green granite base to simulate the movement and color of the sea, but the funds were not available for a project of that magnitude.

Instead, the base was made from tough concrete. Later, in 1940, the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency, installed a base of green granite -- better than the cement but of lesser quality that the original plans called for.

The Navy-Marine Corps Association built the monument at a cost of $350,630. Government officials, military officers, sailors, Marines and school children raised $330,737.40 to pay for the monument. Congress then approved $13,000 for the transportation and setting up of the memorial.

Secretary of the Navy Charles Adams broke ground for the memorial Dec. 3, 1930, and it was finally was dedicated Oct. 18, 1934.

The memorial reads:

"To the strong souls and ready valor of those men of the United States who in the Navy, the Merchant Marine and other paths of Activity upon the waters of the world have given life or still offer it in the performance of heroic deeds this movement is dedicated by a grateful people."

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