The East Coast Memorial

“We meet at a moment of dedication. Inscribed upon these slabs of stone are the names of those who two decades or so ago gave their lives, and now sleep beneath these waters, in order that freedom might live and that free men and women might sleep more securely at home.”
—from the speech given by John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) on the 23rd of May 1963 for the East Coast Memorial

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan, John F. Kennedy

“Diving Eagle” by Albino Manca, centerpiece of the East Coast Memorial.

On the south end of The Battery, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan Island, stands a World War II memorial, the East Coast Memorial. Designed to align with the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor the memorial was commissioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), a small independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government.

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan, John F. Kennedy

The East Coast Memorial seen from New York Harbor.

The ABMC was established on March 4, 1923, when President Warren Harding signed legislation “to commemorate the service, achievements, and sacrifice of U.S. armed forces where they have served overseas since 1917, and within the U.S. when directed by public law.” Shortly thereafter Congress directed ABMC to build memorial chapels at the eight permanent military cemeteries in Europe, maintained by the War Department at the time. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an Executive Order, shifting responsibility for the management and maintenance of these hallowed grounds to ABMC. The East Coast Memorial is one of three memorials for missing service members in the United States. The others are the West Coast Memorial and the Honolulu Memorial, for Vietnam War service members; all three are administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan, John, F. Kennedy

“Diving Eagle” by Albino Manca, centerpiece of the East Coast Memorial.

“They came from every state of this grateful Union whose life they saluted in death. They belonged to every branch of the American Armed Forces whose honor they nobly served.”
—from the speech given by President Kennedy, May 23rd 1963, for the East Coast Memorial’s dedication

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

The East Coast Memorial seen from New York Harbor.

Designed by the architectural firm of Gehron and Seltzer, the memorial honors the 4,611 missing American soldiers, sailors, Marines, coast guardsmen, merchant mariners and airmen who met their deaths in the western waters of the Atlantic Ocean on active duty to their country during World War II. Their names, rank, branch of service, and state are chiseled on eight, 19-foot-tall, Chelmsford gray granite pylons, four each on either side of the axis. Chelmsford gray granite, a light gray stone of fine to medium grain and highlighted by small black flakes, is quarried in northern Massachusetts, west of the city of Lowell.

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

“Diving Eagle” by Albino Manca, centerpiece of the East Coast Memorial, from Battery Park.

“No stone or cross can mark the place where these men fell for freedom. No wreaths can be laid by kin or friend on the graves of those lost or buried at sea or simply missing in action. But their sacrifice was no less than that of those who rest in the grandest military cemetery or at the site of vast battle monuments—and these simple memorial stones, therefore, ensure that their names and their valor will not be forgotten by us who cherish freedom.”
—from the speech given by President Kennedy, May 23rd 1963, for the East Coast Memorial’s dedication

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

A branch of the U.S. military and its members honored at the East Coast Memorial.

The captivating centerpiece of the East Coast Memorial is a massive, stylized, bronze, 18’6”-tall eagle resting on a polished, black granite pedestal, 19 feet high. Designed by Albino Manca (1897-1976), “Diving Eagle” has a fixed, ferocious gaze as it swoops down clutching a laurel wreath in its talons, placing it upon an ocean wave. This is the traditional act of mourning at sea.

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

A branch of the U.S. military and its members honored at the East Coast Memorial.

Born on New Year’s Eve in Tertenia, from an early age Albino Manca showed interest in art. Following his military service, he moved to Rome, studying and then graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts. He began to make a name for himself among the Roman nobility, and soon the fascist regime took notice. Signore Manca painted some portraits of Benito Mussolini, most of which were lost after the fall of the country’s fascist government, and portraits of members of Italy’s ruling royal House of Savoy.

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

Branches of the U.S. military and members honored at the East Coast Memorial.

In 1930 Signore Manca was invited to New York by Giulio Gatti Casazza, director of the Metropolitan Opera; he move permanently to the United States in 1938. Some of his works were exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Because his area of specialty was nature, especially animals, in 1942 he won the commission to sculpt a bronze eagle placed above the door to the Lyons, Georgia post office; he also sculpted “Wild Duck and Deer,” terracotta reliefs inside the same facility. While doing this work he got to know Franklin D. Roosevelt, and painted portraits of him. Another important NYC work by Signore Manca is “Gate of Life,” at the Queens Children’s Zoo (1968); it is studded with bronze animals.

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

“Diving Eagle” by Albino Manca, centerpiece of the East Coast Memorial.

In 1965, when Pope Paul VI spoke at the United Nations, Signore Manca was commissioned to design the commemorative medal for the event. Signore Manca died in New York City. As he wished his remains were returned to his native town; he donated some of his works, now exhibited at the Albino Manca Museum of Tertenia.

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

The East Coast Memorial seen from within Battery Park.

“… if friend and foe alike can see that these massive monuments are made of untarnished, enduring greatness as well as granite, then the mournful loss of these brave men will not have been a waste—the last World War will  truly be the last world war—and neither war nor the threat of war, neither injustice nor denial of justice, will ever blight the planet Earth again.”
—from the speech given by President Kennedy, May 23rd 1963, for the East Coast Memorial’s dedication

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

The East Coast Memorial is aligned with the Statue of Liberty.

Cast by the Bedi-Rassy Art Foundry in 1961, “Diving Eagle” is made of bronze. The foundry was an old business, once located on Manhattan’s East 79th Street. It was moved to India Street in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn in the 1940s, under the name Bedi-Rassy Art Foundry, by the two Hungarian foundrymen who bought the business. This foundry has notable accomplishments, including casting the original maquette for “Prometheus,” sculptor Paul Manship’s handiwork hovering by the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. Likely the best-known work of art the foundry has cast is 1954’s U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, popularly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

Front inscription on the pedestal of “Diving Eagle,” centerpiece of the East Coast Memorial.

Following is the inscription at the front of pedestal.
1941 * * * * 1945 / ERECTED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / IN PROUD AND GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE / OF HER SONS / WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN HER SERVICE/ AND WHO SLEEP IN THE AMERICAN COASTAL WATER / OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN / INTO THY HANDS, OH LORD

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

Rear inscription on the pedestal for “Diving Eagle,” centerpiece of the East Coast Memorial.

Following is the inscription at the rear of pedestal.
1941 * * * * 1945 / IN ADDITION TO THE 4,597 AMERICAN SERVICEMEN HONORED HERE / WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN HER SERVICE AND / WHO SLEEP IN THE AMERICAN COASTAL WATERS OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN / THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / HONORS THE 6,185 SEAMEN OF THE UNITED STATES MERCHANT MARINE / AND THE 529 SEAMEN OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY TRANSPORT SERVICE / WHO LOST THEIR LIVES DURING WORLD WAR II

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

The rear of “Diving Eagle,” centerpiece of the East Coast Memorial. Notice the bride!

“Therefore, as President and Commander-in-Chief, ever mindful of our obligation to their cause and our devotion to their memory, on behalf of the United States of America, I dedicate this memorial in proud remembrance of the valor of her sons and in solemn tribute to their final sacrifice.”
—from the speech given by President Kennedy, May 23rd 1963, for the East Coast Memorial’s dedication

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan

The East Coast Memorial seen from within Battery Park.

Read our other articles about the many war memorials in NYC.
World War I Memorials, Part One
World War I Memorials, Part Two
World War I Memorials, Part Three
World War I Memorials, Part Four
Eternal Light Flagstaff
Father Duffy in Times Square

World War II, World War II Memorials, War Memorials, East Coast Memorial, Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Merchant Marine, Air Force, New York Harbor, Grateful Nation, Eagle, Bronze, Downtown Manhattan, Wall Street Area, Lower Manhattan, John F. Kennedy

“Diving Eagle” has a ferocious gaze.

The East Coast Memorial was conserved in 1997. Discover this and other sights in Lower Manhattan when you are part of our Downtown Manhattan Walking Tour. This is where New York, as Nieuw Amsterdam under the Dutch, began. Take the Tour; Know More!

ALL PHOTOS AND TEXT, EXCEPT CREDITED QUOTES, © THE AUTHOR 2019

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