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Reykjavík rejects request for a WWII memorial by Höfði house

By Staff

  • Höfði house The site of the 1986 Reykjavík Summit. Photo/Anton Brink

Reykjavík City Council has rejected a request by the American Battle Monument Commission to build a World War II memorial in downtown Reykjavík. The commission had filed a request to erect a memorial near Höfði house, a historical building which was the site of the 1986 Reykjavík Summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. The city argues that a war memorial should be located at a number of other sites in Reykjavík which have direct historical connections to WWII. 

Commemorating Icelandic-US contributions to freedom and peace
A delegation from the Battle Monument Commission, which is an independent agency of the US government which administers US military cemeteries, memorials and monuments, visited Iceland in March to search for suitable sites for a memorial to the US military presence in Iceland in WWII. The commission argued that the Höfði site was symbolically important, as it was the site of the 1986 Summit, which historians agree marks the beginning of the end of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US. The site symbolized the contributions which the US and Iceland had made to peace and freedom in the world. 

Read more: New lighthouse and viewpoint to be added on Reykjavík North Coast scenic and sculpture walk

The commission had suggested the memorial could be placed on the Reykjavík north shore sculpture walk, a walking and biking path which runs past Höfði House, along the north coast of Reykjavík. 

Not the best site

Partnership sculpture

Partnership Commemorating the 50 year anniversary of diplomatic relations between Iceland and the US. Photo/Reykjavík Art Museum

The city planning commission rejected the request, arguing that the area in question was undergoing significant changes and re-design as a number of new sculptures will be placed along the walk in coming years. A new lighthouse is also planned for the site. The planning commission suggested the Battle Monument Commission should identify a location which had historical significance 

Read more: A quick guide to the Reykjavík Sculpture and shore walk

The sculpture walk already has a monument to the friendship of Iceland and the US, a bronze sculpture called "Partnership" by Pétur Bjarnason. The sculpture was unveiled in 1992 to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Iceland and the US. It has a sister sculpture in Miami Florida.

Iceland played a key strategic role in the war. The US had a large military presence in Reykjavík during the war: In the summer of 1942 more than 40.000 US troops were stationed in Reykjavík.

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