World War II Memorial

Another post written by Lee about one of his solo Washington D.C. trips – Trace

   Tucked between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln memorial, as though it has always been there, is my favorite, the World War II memorial. It fits so well there it just seems like it’s been there forever, but it didn’t get started as an idea until 1987, construction didn’t begin until 2001 and it wasn’t opened to the public until 2004. 


I really love the location. For one thing, the main “floor” is sunk below ground level, by six feet, which means that when you stand at the western edge of it you are looking at the reflecting pool at almost eye height, with the Lincoln memorial in the background. That’s really cool.

Looking west across the plaza and the pool. In the center you can see the tiny Lincoln memorial in the distance.

On the east side of it at street level you can look down at the memorial and take it all in.  As you move towards and into it you are drawn in very effectively. It uses the 7.5 acre space really well. The main plaza has 56 17′ tall granite pillars in a semi circle around the floor and an arch on each end (north and south) of the oval. The pillars are for each state, plus DC, Alaska, Hawaii, the Phillipines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands. The north arch is for the Atlantic theater, and the south for the Pacific. There is also a pool that takes up most the plaza and is full of fountains. A ramp travels from either side of each half circle of pillars to the arch, which looks down on the plaza. 

The Pacific arch and half of the pillars


The Atlantic arch and pillars


Looking down one of the pillar ramps from an arch.  This is a very cool picture.  I have never been here and thought it was lovely.  Lee as usual did a great job capturing it with his pictures. – Trace



Another view of the pool and fountains, with the Atlantic arch and pillars in the background


Panorama of the plaza. On either side you can see the last three bas relief plaques, which give you an idea of their size and position relative to each other and the rest of the memorial.

The entrance, on the east side, is a series of terraced steps that gently drop you down. The center of those terraces is grassy and allows for people to sit, while on either side are really elegant ramps that take you down along a series of bas-reliefs that tell the story of the war in bronze plaques. The left ramp, which leads towards the Pacific arch, has scenes that begin with soon-to-be servicemen getting physical exams, taking the oath, and being issued military gear. The reliefs progress through several iconic scenes, including combat and burying the dead, ending in a homecoming scene. On the right, towards the Atlantic arch, there is a similar progression, but with scenes generally more typical of the European theatre. Some scenes take place in England, depicting the preparations for air and sea assaults. The final scene is American and Russian forces shaking hands when the western and eastern fronts met in Berlin. 

The west end of the memorial is the Freedom Wall with that fantastic view of the Lincoln memorial behind it. The wall has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war. In front of the wall lies the message “Here we mark the price of freedom”.

Wow that’s lovely.  Makes me want to shake the hand of the person who designed this memorial. – Trace


Looking back east from the wall of freedom towards the terraced entrance and the Washington monument.


At the entrance, you can see the first of the terraces behind this plaque.


The architect is Friedrich St. Florian. Now I know whose hand to shake. Also good for President GW Bush for making sure this was completed.   – Trace


Here are the plaques that run along the right side, towards the Atlantic arch…























I don’t know about you but that incredible detail makes me want to see it in person – Trace

Along the left side, towards the Pacific arch…


















Scattered around the plaza are also quotes…


















If you find yourself in DC and have never seen this memorial, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you visit. If possible, both during the day and the night. It’s really beautiful at night. 

In my next post I scoot my scooter back along the mall to the Hirshorn Sculpture garden!


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2 thoughts on “World War II Memorial

  1. This is an excellent post. I have visited this memorial, but I did not spend the time looking at it in this much detail. If I ever make it there again, I will! My dad was in WWII. On my visit, I did notice the bas-relief of the couple dancing. I took this to be dancing at a USO event – which is where my parents met. I almost posted that picture yesterday for Wordless Wednesday, but I didn’t as I wanted to add words. Thanks for your post, and I look forward to your next one.

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