A Brief History
On May 29, 2004, President George W. Bush dedicated the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. The memorial is between the Washington and Lincoln memorials, east of the Reflecting Pool.
The memorial is located on the former site of the Rainbow Pool, and covers 7.4 acres. The memorial incorporates a fountain, 2 arches (one marked “Atlantic” and the other marked “Pacific”) and 56 granite pillars (17 feet tall) inscribed with the name of each of the 48 states that existed at the time of the war plus Alaska (territory), Hawaii (territory), District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam. American Samoa and the Philippines. On the West side is The Freedom Wall adorned with 4048 stars, each star representing 100 Americans killed in the war (404,800). On the North and South sides are walls covered in bas relief artwork depicting war and home front scenes.
Legislation for the memorial came from Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, with Senate backing from Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. The government provided $16 million, and private donations added another $181 million. After 400 proposed designs were reviewed, the submission by Friedrich St. Florian was chosen, although modifications were made prior to construction.
Construction started in 2001, and in April of 2004 the memorial was opened to the public, with the dedication ceremony coming on May 29, 2004. Over 4 million visitors a year pay their respects at the memorial.
Of course, once again the adage that one cannot make everyone happy was proven. Some people protested the location of the memorial because it took up space that was previously open and had been used by protesters in the past. Others complained that the design was pompous and more the sort of thing Hitler or Mussolini would have built. Like it or not, the “Greatest Generation” finally got their World War II memorial before they all died, and a beautiful one it is. Cracked fact: Located on the memorial are 2 inscriptions of “Kilroy was here,” the most common graffiti of the war.
Other favorite American memorials include the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, The Viet Nam Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, all in Washington. (OK, Arlington as well.) Outside of the Washington, D.C. area are the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Question for students (and subscribers): Which ones are your favorites? What other ones should we have mentioned? Are there any needed that do not already exist? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Britton, Tamara L. World War II Memorial (SYMBOLS, LANDMARKS, AND MONUMENTS). Checkerboard Library, 2005.
Robins, Maureen Picard. World War II Memorial (War Memorials). Rourke Educational Media, 2009.
You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube.