Two Years, $32 Million to Go on Desert Shield, Desert Storm Memorial

The National Desert Storm War Memorial is shown in an artist's rendering. Illustration courtesy of the National Desert Storm War Memorial.

The National Desert Storm War Memorial committee has approval for a site on the National Mall and is hoping to dedicate the new monument on the 30th anniversary of the conflict, but it needs to raise another $32 million to get there.

Scott Stump, CEO and president of the committee, said at the National Press Club June 25 that some $8.4 million has been raised so far against an estimated $40 million cost to erect the memorial, but that final design and all construction is still to be done. Stump was speaking at an event to launch the first of three “capital campaigns” to raise the bulk of money needed to build the memorial.

“We are hoping for conceptual approval in the fall,” he said. “We expect to break ground in 2020, and we are looking for the dedication in January 2021,” he explained.

The site chosen—and approved in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act—is a plot near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street. The site, which is now used as a pick-up sports field, is across the street from the National Institute for Peace. Stump said it was intentionally chosen to be near the Vietnam War and Korean War Memorials, and will be easily seen by travelers visiting those sites and driving in the area.

Renderings of the memorial as currently conceived show a relatively flat design with arcs of engraved stone. Stump told Air Force Magazine that a vertical design, like that of the Air Force Memorial, would not be approved because it would visually compete with and potentially detract from the Lincoln Memorial. Moreover, at an unnamed, alternate site where “verticality” would have been acceptable, “nobody would be able to get to it,” he said. However, he said the final version “will have figures,” although whether they will be realistic statues such as those at the Korean War memorial or merely suggestive of generic people has not yet been decided. “We believe that is an important element and we are working on incorporating that,” Stump noted.

The memorial will recognize the contributions of the US military services, as well as the 35 countries that contributed people, materiel, or money to the effort, Stump said.

“This is not a place of mourning,” he asserted, having earlier said that the memorial is necessary to prevent “a forgotten victory.” The “positive messages” of the 1991 conflict—a coming together of many nations to repel aggression, victory with few casualties relative to the mass casualties expected, and the re-embrace of the American military by the American people—will be highlighted.

“Future generations will look at this and say, if we can do this, then anything is possible,” he asserted.

Stump also noted that the design will take technology into account, offering ways to see historical footage or backstory on a mobile device. The memorial will not, however, have an interpretive center or museum. It will be intended to evoke an “emotional connection” and inspire visitors to learn more about the conflict on their own.

In introducing a panel of speakers to discuss the historical significance of the Gulf War, Stump said he has been corrected from describing Desert Storm as a “100-hour” ground war, given the six-week air campaign that preceded the ground phase? and destroyed more than 50 percent of the Iraqi forces in or near Kuwait.

Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute, who served as one of the principal architects of the Desert Storm air campaign, said the war was historically influential for five reasons:

  • “It set the expectations for low casualties” on both sides of an American war.
  • It “presaged the age of precision weapons,” he said, noting that although Desert Storm was often thought of as a war of precision weapons, only seven percent of the munitions used actually fit that description. In Operation Inherent Resolve, however, the number leaped to 98 percent, he said.
  • It marked the first use of a joint force concept of operations, and it was the first campaign to employ the Goldwater-Nichols reforms.
  • It was the first war aimed not specifically at attrition, but on achieving desired effects, Deptula said.
  • And, it was the first time “airpower was the key force” in achieving victory in a military campaign; a modern reality quickly recognized and embraced by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the overall commander of the coalition force.