Members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee broke with the
veterans group pushing for a silver dollar to commemorative the U.S.
Army Infantry, recommending an obverse that does not have the
Meeting in Washington, D.C., May 25, the panel narrowly
recommended a design for the 2012 United States Army Infantry
commemorative silver dollar showing an energetic World War II platoon
leader waving his unit into combat for the obverse and overwhelmingly
selected a reverse showing the coveted Combat Infantry Badge.
That reverse is one of three that had the backing of the National
Infantry Foundation, the Georgia-based group that had lobbied for the
coins and could make $3.5 million from their sales.
But the foundation had not endorsed the CCAC’s choice for the obverse.
It wanted the coins to show either a modern infantryman charging
or a view of three contemporary infantrymen moving toward combat.
Instead the committee liked the energy of a design showing three
soldiers with one giving the “Follow Me” order that the veterans had
called essential to the coin.
Under a balloting scheme that allows each member give up to three
points to every design, the backed design drew 14 points out of a
possible 27 points. The second most popular design was one that showed
a single charging infantryman, which received 13 points.
The veterans’ preferred designs got 10 points and six points, respectively.
CCAC Chairperson Gary Marks noted that the committee’s choice
“just barely” got enough points under the scoring system to be
considered backed by the plan.
“I really like” the selected design, he said. “This design really
speaks to me.”
The recommendations puts the CCAC at odds with the Commission of
Fine Arts, which endorsed designs that the veterans wanted. It
selected the charging modern soldier for the obverse and the
Infantry’s insignia, a pair of crossed rifles for the reverse. (See
related article, Page 5.)
The recommendations from both coin review panels will now go to
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who will make the decision as
to which designs will go on the coin.
Gold medal designs
The CCAC did agree with the CFA on which designs should be
selected for a gold congressional medal to honor Japanese Americans
who fought with the U.S. Army in World War II.
The CCAC gave 24 out of a possible 24 points to an obverse design
showing a line of Japanese American soldiers against a fluttering
American flag and a color guard of the soldiers. Marks noted that it
was a rare vote by the panel to give the maximum points to any design.
For the reverse, the CCAC favored a design showing the three
patches of Army units being honored. It got 21 of a possible 24 points.
A motion to add more stars to the fluttering flag on the obverse
failed for lack of a second, but the committee did recommend that the
phrase “Act of Congress 2010” be added to either side of the medal.
An emotional account by a Japanese-American veteran of what the
selected obverse depicted clearly impressed the committee. University
of Maryland history professor Michael A. Ross called it “one of the
cooler moments on this committee.” He enlisted the veterans to speak
to his classes and was photographed with them.
Typically the Treasury Secretary and the coin reviewing committees
give great weight to the wishes of the organization seeking a coin or
medal. That may make the silver dollar coin recommendations especially interesting.
The National Infantry Foundation representatives had stressed that
they wanted the soldier on the obverse to be a contemporary soldier,
not a World War II infantryman like the famous “Follow Me” statue at
the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga.
“We like the more modern symbol,” Ben Williams, executive director
of the National Infantry Foundation, told the CCAC. “The ‘Follow Me’
statue is one thing that every soldier at Fort Benning has seen. It’s
truly an iconic image.”
“These warriors deserve the very best coin possible to honor their
service,” said Michael Olson, a CCAC member from Pella, Iowa, and a
Army National Guard officer. He wanted strongly to add the words
“Follow Me” to the winning design.
“ ’Follow Me’ is to the Army what ‘Semper Fi’ is to the Marines,”
Others on the panel said they didn’t believe the words were
necessary. The symbolism of the raised hand beckoning the troops
onward was better than words, they told Olson.
“Whatever design is picked I think it’s important to show
aggressive action,” Olson said.
On that, the panel seemed to agree.
The members said they found the World War II soldiers better drawn
and more expressive than the contemporary soldiers.
New Jersey lawyer Donald Scarinci, pleaded for the veterans to
reconsider their rejection of a design showing a soldier leading three
men in silhouette across a fluttering American flag. “This is a work
of art,” he said, saying that most of the designs were “just another soldier.”
But his plea had little impact on the committee, which did not
seem impressed by the silhouettes used on the designs.
Heidi Wastsweet, a Seattle sculptor, strongly supported the
charging infantryman, which came in only one point behind the backed
obverse. “I really like this. It’s very dynamic,” she said.
She criticized the hands and facial expression of some of the
soldiers on the design, warning that Mint artist needed to make the
hands of their subjects larger and be more careful about the
proportions of their bodies.
No one on the panel seemed happy with a design showing three
soldiers, two of whose feet had disappeared apparently into water.
Marks said that design would assure the Mint would receive more of
the criticism it got with the 2003 Illinois State quarter dollar that
showed Abraham Lincoln’s legs cut off. ■