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National World War II Memorial

National World War II Memorial Review

This symmetrically designed monument honors the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces, the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort at home.

Highlights

An imposing circle of 56 granite pillars, each bearing a bronze wreath, represents the U.S. states and territories of 1941–45. Four bronze eagles, a bronze garland, and two 43-foot-tall arches inscribed with "Atlantic" and "Pacific" surround the large circular plaza. The roar of the water comes from the Rainbow Pool, here since the 1920s but newly renovated as the centerpiece of the memorial. There are also two fountains and two waterfalls.

The Field of Stars, a wall of 4,000 gold stars, commemorates the more than 400,000 Americans who lost their lives in the war.

Although the parklike setting and the place of honor between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial may seem appropriate, some people were critical when the site for the memorial was announced, because they felt it would interrupt the landscape between the two landmarks and because it uses some of the open space that had been the site of demonstrations and protests.

Bas-relief panels tell the story of how World War II affected Americans by depicting women in the military, V-J Day, medics, the bond drive, and more activities of the time. The 24 panels are divided evenly between the Atlantic front and the Pacific front.

Tips

Look for veterans. Perhaps the best part of visiting this memorial might be the last opportunities to see men and women who fought in World War II and are part of what former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation."

Computers at the National Park Service kiosk behind the Pacific side of the memorial contain information about soldiers who lost their lives in the war.

Kids might be bored here. You can engage their attention by asking them to look carefully at the bas-reliefs for a dog and a radio as large as today's big-screen televisions. Then try to find Kilroy, the cartoonlike character who appears to be looking over a ledge (Hint: He's in two places). The image and the phrase "Kilroy was here" were popular graffiti left by U.S. soldiers during the war.

    Contact Information

  • Address: 17th St. SW and Home Front Dr. SW, between Independence Ave. SW and Constitution Ave. NW The Mall, Washington, DC 20024 | Map It
  • Phone: 202/426–6841
  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: 24 hrs; staffed daily 9:30 am–11:30 pm
  • Website:
  • Metro Smithsonian.
  • Location: The Mall
Updated: 06-05-2013

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