AUSTRALIAN AMERICAN MEMORIAL
In 1948, the Australian American Association resolved to establish a memorial in Canberra to recognise the services and sacrifices of United States’ forces in Australia during World War II (1939-1945) and symbolise Australian-American comradeship in arms. A memorial committee was created, with Association members drawn from across the country. Members included notable Australians, such as the Rt.Hon. RG Casey, the then Federal President of the Australian American Association, and Sir Keith Murdoch, the then President of the Victorian Division.
In 1949, an Australia-wide competition was held for the design of the memorial. It was won by Richard M. Ure for his striking design of an octagonal aluminium column surmounted with an eagle with wings outstretched in a powerful symbol of victory. Following an extensive search, a suitable site was selected at the apex of Kings Avenue.
In 1950, the Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies, launched a nation-wide public appeal for funds to construct the memorial. Within six weeks, Australia’s small population had come together to donate £63,000. The final cost of the memorial would be £100,000. Work on the Australian American memorial commenced in December 1952, and took little over a year to be completed. Richard Nixon, the then Vice President of the United States, paid a special visit to the site during the early stages of its construction.
The memorial is located in the forecourt of Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey Square at the Department of Defence in Russell. It stands at an imposing 73metres and has two murals featured at its base – American combat in the Pacific and a map of America etched in copper. The column is topped with a bronze sphere surmounted by a stylised figure of an American eagle by the distinguished sculptor, Paul Beadle.
The Australian American Memorial, affectionately known as ‘The Eagle’, was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 February 1954. It symbolises the deep gratitude felt by Australians to American service personnel for their assistance, and the close ties and enduring friendships that were forged during the war. The Memorial is one of Canberra’s best-known and most recognised monuments.
For more information about the Australian American Memorial, please visit the National Capital Authority website.