Monday, July 21, 2008

Visit to Washington DC

I have just come back from my first visit to Washington DC which, contrary to my expectations I found to be a splendid and rather European city. I had been led to believe that the place was full of muggers, down and outs and druggies but felt much safer than in, say, Los Angeles (or indeed Nottingham!). It was, however, as hot as everyone said it would be!

The Hay-Adams. A very good hotel indeed!

Partly I suspect this was because I was staying in a hotel about two hundred yards from the White House so the police and security presence was rather visible. This was the small but perfectly formed Hay-Adams which was built in 1928. I could actually see the White House from my bedroom window!

I managed to get out and about in the city twice as I was there at the weekend. On the first trip I walked from the hotel into the mall and went down to the Lincoln Memorial. I visited the three war memorials in the area; the Koran War Memorial, the World War 2 Memorial and the Vietnam War memorial. All three were impressive in very different ways.

The World War 2 memorial was large and literally monumental, with its pillar for every state.

1:1 scale metal Korean War figures!

The Korean War memorial was very evocative with its life sized metal figures on patrol.

The most effective, because of its simplicity was the Vietnam memorial. I was surprised that some Americans I met didn’t like it as I thought it was the most moving memorial I have seen, simply because it focuses on the names of the people killed without any statuesque military bravado.

There were many small posies of flowers and little notes left by relatives which of course, you rarely get at memorials to older conflicts.

It certainly made me realise why I am unhappy about wargaming conflicts that are still in living memory and have yet to pass into the realm of history. Wargaming is a trivial pursuit and it does seem wrong to turn something into a game which was such a recent reality for people who are still living. Of course there is no difference between the suffering of Vietnam combatants and their families and those of Waterloo, or Edgehill or Towton but it does seem disrespectful to me to be playing a game when there are still people around who had to fight in that war or people who lost close friends and relations in it. I think if you actually fought in that war then you have the right to game it but otherwise I’m slightly uncomfortable about it. It was my father who got me interested in military history and then wargaming and I used to play WW2 at school but then he fought in North Africa and Italy in WW2 and Palestine after the War. He was in 2nd battalion the Sherwood Foresters which fought in Tunisia at Sedjenane and the Medjez Plain. I suppose if I did do WW2 then I would do Tunisia as I would feel I have enough family connection to justify it (sort of). My thinking on this is rather muddy but I know that modern wargaming does make me feel a bit unsettled.

This all slightly falls down as I am working on some WW1 figures at present but then, again, my grandfather was in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps in World War 1 (before joining the Royal Flying Corps). I am unusual amongst my contemporaries in having had a father who fought in WW2 and a grandfather in WW1. Most of my friend’s parents were too young but my father was 37 when I was born (very unusual for 1960).

It was rather frustrating in travelling to and from Dulles Airport (which I did six times!) to see road signs to Centreville and Manassas and not be able to get there. My second walking trip took me to the Natural History Museum (some useful Cavegirls in Fur Bikinis material) and the National Gallery of Art (a couple of very famous Renoirs). I really enjoyed the Air and Space Museum and was impressed by the Ulysses S Grant memorial in front of the Capitol (oh no, must resist ACW).

I also had a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Building which was built as the State, War and Navy Building in the 1870s and 1880s. I enjoyed walking the same rather grand corridors as Churchill, Roosevelt and Eisenhower and was very impressed by the number of doors the offices of the White House Counsel had; all very West Wing!

All in all there is a lot more to see in Washington DC so I hope I can get back there in the not too distant future.


  1. Sounds like you fun, LH. It's always frustrating when you seen signs to battlefields and don't have the time to go and visit them (I'm also like that with wineries...).


  2. Very neat site!

    And don't feel lonely or unusual about having a father in WW2 and a grandfather in WW1: I did, too. And it's a bit unsual in the US to have a grandfather in WW1. There really weren't that many from the USA in the AEF.

    My Mother was big in geneology and I found out one of my ancestors (de Bartelot) was with Henry V at Agincourt.

    Makes the world a smaller place.
    Dave Dave
    Chillicothe, MO