Winged Victory Monument (WWI)
The World War I Monument, “Winged Victory,” was the first of six war memorials/monuments on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, Washington. The classically styled 12-foot tall “Winged Victory,” in bronze, sits atop a 10-foot tall granite base at the entrance to the Washington State Capitol. The winged goddess “Nike” is centered behind a soldier, a sailor, a marine, and a Red Cross nurse. Twenty years in the making, on May 30, 1938, “Winged Victory” was unveiled in a dedication ceremony by Mrs. Charles V. Leach and Mrs. Cordelia Cater, both Gold Star Mothers. The monument stands in honor of the 67,106 men and women of Washington State who served in World War I.
Backstory and Context
On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. One month later to the day, on July 28, 1914, World War I began when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. On April 6, 1917, the U.S. entered the War. Fighting lasted until the Armistice of November 11, 1918, at the famed moment of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Seven months later and five years to the day of Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. Over the course of the war, 4 million U.S. men and women served, of which over 116,00 died.
In 1917 at the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War I the population of Washington State was 1,287,000. Washington State had a total of 67,106 men and women serve in “The Great War.” Although this number may appear small, it represents 5.2% of the state’s total population. “Winged Victory” was dedicated to the 67,106 men and women of Washington State who served in World War I and the 1,642 who lost their lives.
At wars end, The American Legion and The Veterans of Foreign Wars along with Governor Ernest Lister promoted legislation for a war monument at the State Capitol. In 1919, the Washington State Legislature approved funding of $100,000 for a World War I monument in Olympia, Washington on the Capitol Grounds. By 1928 the funding goal was met through a federal grant and the sale of state land. However, the project would take another ten years for Alonzo Victor Lewis to complete due to a number of setbacks and the death of his wife.
Alonzo Victor Lewis (1886-1946), of Seattle, initially studied at the Chicago Art Institute and was considered one of the premier Northwest sculptors of the time. His famous and controversial WWI “Doughboy” sculpture was finished five years before “Winged Victory.” To match the American Neoclassical architecture of the State Capital Campus the 12-foot tall winged Greek goddess of victory, “Nike,” was chosen to be the WWI monument centerpiece.
“She stands protectively behind the roughly life-sized figures of a sailor, soldier, and a marine (representing the three main forces of America’s World War I machine). Also included is a Red Cross nurse who follows the three men with a medicine kit slung over one shoulder. The four human figures appear to be marching away from the Capitol Group toward the distant horizon in the east. Winged Victory, or Nike, holds an olive branch in her right hand, extended over the heads of her 'chosen ones.' The bronze figures stand on an approximately 10-foot tall granite base, inscribed on four sides with words honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War.”4
The four cardinal inscriptions:
A bronze WA State Seal, 'To the memory of the citizens of the State of Washington who lost their lives in the service of the United States during the World War 1917 – 1918.’
'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.'
'Their sacrifice was to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world.'
'They fought to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy.'
2. Hobbs, Andy. 100 years later, Washington still feels impact from World War I. The Olympian (News). April 25, 2017. http://www.theolympian.com/news/local/article146759244.html.
3. Winged Victory Monument. WA State Legislature. Veteran's Memorials on Capitol Campus.
4 Washington State Dept Of Enterprise Services. Winged Victory monument.. https://des.wa.gov/services/facilities-leasing/capitol-campus/memorials-and-artwork/winged-victory-monument..
5. Meyer, G. J.. A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918. Edition Reprint edition. A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918, May 29, 2007.