Whacked Priorities: War Memorials Neglected and Decaying

b26a7cf0a34ffa11320f6a706700de7dHONOLULU — On the shoreline of Hawaii’s most famous beach, a decaying structure attracts little attention from wandering tourists.

A few glance curiously at the crumbling Waikiki Natatorium, a salt water pool built in 1927 as a memorial to the 10,000 soldiers from Hawaii who served in World War I. But the monument’s walls are caked with salt and rust, and passers-by are quickly diverted by the lure of sand and waves.

The faded structure has been closed to the public for decades, the object of seemingly endless debate over whether it should be demolished or restored to its former glory. The latest plan is to replace it with a beach, more practical for the state’s lucrative tourism industry – and millions of dollars cheaper, according to state and local officials. They say a full restoration could cost nearly $70 million.

The corroding monument has challenged the community to maneuver a delicate question: How do we honor those who have served when memorials deteriorate and finances are tight?

Similar debates have been playing out across the nation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation waged a 2 1/2-year fight to restore the aging Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., when some people proposed replacing it. Far less disagreement surrounded a decision to update the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco after a powerful earthquake in 1989.

In Greensboro, N.C., residents have been grappling with what to do with the city’s own decaying tribute to the soldiers of World War I.

The Greensboro World War Memorial Stadium hosted minor league baseball for decades and even served as a location for notable sports films such as “Leatherheads” and “Bull Durham.”

Read more: stripes.com

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