World War II Memorial
District of Columbia
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Here we mark the price of freedom

The United States entered the Second World War in 1941 not to conquer, but to liberate a world fast falling to forces of tyranny. The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in uniform, of whom over 400,000 gave their lives. It also honors the many millions who supported the war effort on the home front and celebrates the American spirit, national unity, and victory. It recognizes the price paid by families. The blue star signifying a son or daughter in service was proudly displayed in windows nationwide. It was all too often replaced by a gold star signifying another casualty of war.

The war that changed the world also changed life at home. After 1945, education expanded through the G.I. Bill. Technology surged as industries retooled for peace. Women's rights and civil rights made new strides toward that great goal: liberty and justice for all.

OUR DEBT TO THE HEROIC MEN AND VALIANT WOMEN IN THE SERVICE OF OUR COUNTRY CAN NEVER BE REPAID. THEY HAVE EARNED OUR UNDYING GRATITUDE. AMERICA WILL NEVER FORGET THEIR SACRIFICES.

—President Harry Truman

"The Greatest Generation"

The memorial celebrates a generation of Americans who emerged from the Depression to fight and win the most devastating war in world history. Americans and their allies triumphed over tyranny. An unprecedented unity at home saw the nation become the world's breadbasket and industrial arsenal. In a spirit of sacrifice, Americans rationed at home and channeled the nation's might to help restore freedom to millions. The World War II Memorial reminds future generations that we must sometimes sacrifice for causes greater than ourselves. This war that changed the world was "fought across six of the world's seven continents and all of its oceans," British historian John Keegan wrote. "It killed 50 million human beings, left hundreds of millions of others wounded in mind and body..." and devastated great parts of the world. After the war, through the innovative Marshall Plan, the United States helped both its allies and former foes rebuild. America continued to play a strong leadership role in world arenas as peacetime life returned.

Arsenal of Democracy
Wreaths of oak and wheat on each of the memorial's pillars symbolize the nation's industrial and agricultural strength, both of which were essential to the success of the global war effort.

A Nation at War
On each side of the memorial's ceremonial entrance on 17th Street, 12 bas-relief sculptures recall scenes of America at war. In this scene a family gathers around its radio to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt ask Congress for a declaration of war after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.

Inscriptions at the base of the pavilion fountains mark key battles of the war.

Roll call of the nation: The 56 U.S. states, territories, and District of Columbia that united in a common cause are inscribed on these pillars. They alternate, to the right and left of the field of stars, based on when they entered the Union. Delaware was the first state.

The Freedom Wall's 4,000 gold stars commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives in the war.

All those who served received the WWII Victory Medal that also adorns the pavilion floors.

Twin Atlantic and Pacific pavilions symbolize a war fought across two oceans.

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Building the Memorial
In 1993 Congress authorized the American Battle Monuments Commission to establish a World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Selected in a national competition, Friedrich St. Florian designed the memorial. Funded mostly by private donations, it was begun in September 2001 and dedicated on May 29, 2004.

Ideals of Democracy
Placing the memorial between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial reflects the importance of World War II in preserving and internationalizing democratic ideals won under George Washington and defended under Abraham Lincoln. This memorial continues America's story of striving for freedom and individual rights.

The World War II Registry is a database of names of Americans in the war effort in uniform or on the home front. Access it through the memorial website www.wwiimemorial.com to enroll individuals. The website tells more about the memorial project.

About Your Visit An information station is near the memorial. Park rangers are present on site each day except December 25. The memorial may be secured for events celebrating National Independence Day.

Source: NPS Brochure (2011)


Establishment

World War II Memorial — May 29, 2004


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World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C. (Thomas B. Grooms, May 2004)



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Last Updated: 01-May-2021