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Liberty Memorial Museum And Monument

 

I grew up in the Kansas City area, and have lived here most of my life.  I am ashamed to say that until urged to do so, by my late Father-in-law, Major James V. Southworth, USA Ret., I had never visited the museum.  The monument tower is a standard feature of the Kansas City Skyline, and I'd driven past it a million times.  After Jim's prompting, I did visit the museum and was shocked that such a treasure existed in my own hometown!  I have been a big fan of the museum ever since.  The museum is the only one in the U.S. solely dedicated to World War One.  Just recently, I made donations to the museum, and I encourage everyone to consider doing the same!  Our good friend, Bill Krehbiel donated a copy of his book, "History Of The 80th Blue Ridge Division In World War One, A.E.F." to the museum's archives recently, so the 80th Division is represented there now!  In the following pages, I hope to give you some sense of the beauty of this national and global treasure.  If you are in Kansas City, be sure to visit!  You'll be glad you did!  -Terry D. Janes

 

Our thanks to James S. Aber, Emporia State University for the use of the aerial photo above!

Image © J.S. Aber

 

History of the Memorial

 

“In honor of those who served in the world war in defense of liberty and our country.” – inscription, on the Liberty Memorial tower in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.

 

The quote above best depicts the reasons and emotions behind the raising of the Liberty Memorial Monument. World War I (1914-1918), which ended on the Western Front in Europe on November 11, 1918, had dramatically changed the world and deeply affected future generations.

 

After the guns were silenced and the huge celebrations had died down, concerned citizens in the United States reflected on the past War and on the losses sustained. What could be done to honor and remember, they wondered. Just two weeks after the Armistice, a meeting of Kansas Citians brought forth the idea and need for the creation of a lasting monument to all men and women in the war and to those who died.

 

R.A. Long, founding president of the Liberty Memorial Association stated: "From its inception it was intended that this Memorial should represent on the part of all people, a living expression for all time of the gratitude of a grateful people to those who offered and who gave their lives in defense of liberty and our country."

 

A community-based fund-raising drive in 1919, led by this Association, raised over $2,500,000 in less than two weeks through public subscription in Kansas City and around the nation. This staggering accomplishment reflected the passion of public opinion about the Great War, which so recently ended. Following the drive, a national architectural competition was held for monument designs by the American Institute of Architects.  The competition yielded the selected design by architect H. Van Buren Magonigle.

 

The site for the Liberty Memorial was dedicated on November 1, 1921. The main Allied military leaders spoke to a crowd of close to 200,000 people. It was the only time in history that these leaders were together at one place. In attendance were Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium; General Armando Diaz of Italy; Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France; General John J. Pershing of the United States; and Admiral Lord Earl Beatty of Great Britain.

 

After three years of construction, the completed Liberty Memorial opened on November 11, 1926 –eight years after the end of the War. President Calvin Coolidge delivered the dedication speech, in which he spoke of how "the magnitude of this memorial, and the broad base of popular support on which it rests, can scarcely fail to excite national wonder and admiration."

 

The historical collections of the Liberty Memorial Museum began years before an actual museum building existed. Immediately after the armistice of November 11, 1918, a group of Kansas Citians gathered to propose a memorial to the men and women who served in the war and to those who died. The earliest ideas for the memorial included a museum of objects from the war.

 

The first items in the collection were a number of posters from the war.   Other materials soon followed, and the museum continues to collect today. The museum has remained faithful to the initial objective: to collect, preserve and interpret the physical objects of World War One. The Liberty Memorial Museum is acknowledged as the only public museum in the United States dedicated solely to the history of World War One.

 

 

The Passing Of A Generation March 12, 2011

 

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