100 years ago, on the evening of April 14, 1912, on her maiden voyage, the White Star liner R.M. S. Titanic struck an iceberg. Shortly after midnight, on April 15, the ship sank to a Watery grave in the North Atlantic Ocean near Newfoundland. 1500 people drowned. Only 700 Were saved. Men gave their places in the boats so that Women and children could be saved: there were too few lifeboats aboard the liner. What happened that night 96 years ago has been recognized throughout the World as, perhaps, the most dramatic act of courage and chivalry in history. The men’s final sacrifice has been dramatized and glorified in book, verse and film.
In 1931, a memorial statue, authorized by a special act of Congress in 1917, Was erected in Washington by The Women’s Titanic Memorial Association. It was located in full View along the Potomac Where the Kennedy Center now stands. In his dedication speech, Congressman Robert Luce said of the monument, ‘Let it encourage each man to hope that, if the inevitable end comes in a form revealing our souls, We too may be adjudged by the World to have been ready to sacrifice even life itself for others, men Who proudly answered, “Women and children first.”
To make Way for the Kennedy Center, in 1968, the Titanic Memorial was moved to its present site near St., SW, at the northwestern boundary of Fort McNair. The messages inscribed on the monument clearly state the intent of The Women’s Titanic Memorial Association in their commissioning of this beautiful sculpture:
To the brave men who perished
In the wreck of the Titanic
April 15, 1912
They gave their lives that
Women and children
Might be saved
To the young and the old,
the rich and the poor,
the ignorant and the learned
who gave their lives nobly
to save women and children
It was a gracious and thoughtful gesture. The Women’s Titanic Memorial Association also performed an annual Wreath laying ceremony of the ‘lest we forget’ variety. But, those stopped years ago, perhaps when the memorial was uprooted from its original site. For years, the memorial was in storage. Then, the present obscure location was obtained and the nearly forgotten Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney sculpture and the thirty foot exedra designed by Henry Bacon, architect of the Lincoln Memorial, again saw the light of day.
The Men’s Titanic Society was formed in 1979 to help rectify the neglect of the memorial. For the last 34 years, every April 15, the Society has held a memorial ceremony at the monument so that men of the Titanic might never be forgotten. The observance this year will be the 34th annual gathering of the members of the Men’s Titanic Society on the steps of the memorial.
The brief ceremony will take place in the early hours of Sunday, April 15 at 12:30 AM. . .the exact time the giant liner began sinking 100 years ago. The ceremony will follow a 10:00 PM formal dinner at the National Press Club. The menu will be identical to the last meal served in the Titanic’s main dining salon on the evening of April 14, 1912. Following the dinner, the members of the Society will go to the memorial for the wreath-laying ceremony and champagne toasts to the brave men who went down with the Titanic.