A new World War I Memorial opened to the public Saturday in Washington, D.C. — one day after a dedication ceremony that included a military-jet flyover that caught some in the capital off guard.
The memorial to “The Great War” of 1914-1918 honors the 4.7 million who served in the fighting, and the 116,516 Americans who died during the conflict.
“In some ways the Great War shifted America’s thinking about ourselves and redefined our place in the world,” President Biden said in recorded remarks played during Friday’s dedication ceremony. “We grappled with what we stood for, what we were willing to fight and die for and to defend, principles of freedom and democracy.”
“Let us remember all that was sacrificed, all that was sanctified by the proud brave Americans who served in World War 1,” Biden added. “More than 100 years have passed, but the legacy and courage of those Doughboys sailing off to war and the values they fought to defend still live in our nation today.”
The memorial was built in Pershing Park near the White House, which was already a tribute to General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the U.S. forces during the war.
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During Friday’s online ceremony, two F-22 Raptors flew over the area around 11 a.m., with the loud roar of the planes briefly interrupting a White House news briefing led by press secretary Jen Psaki and a welcoming ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for Japan’s visiting prime minister, led by Vice President Kamala Harris.
“Wow! There is a plane right overhead,” Psaki said while addressing reporters.
Harris briefly halted her remarks to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga while the planes passed by, a video shows.
Plans for the memorial got underway in December 2014, when then-President Barack Obama signed legislation authorizing the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to establish the tribute.
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Friday’s ceremony in the park included the raising of a U.S. flag that flew over the Capitol on April 6, 2017, the 100-year anniversary of the day the U.S. entered the war, the last of the nation’s four major 20th century battles to be commemorated with a memorial in Washington.
The memorial features fountains and sculptures.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.