The National World War II Memorial honors all 16 million people who served as part of the American armed forces, including the more than 400,000 who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The memorial sits along the central vista of the National Mall, at the east end of the Reflecting Pool. It contains 56 granite columns that symbolize unity among the 48 states, seven federal territories and the District of Columbia. The Freedom Wall of 4,048 Gold Stars pays tribute to American lives lost at war, while dozens of battle names and military campaign destinations are also on display. Two 43-foot tall structures highlight America’s victory on the Atlantic and Pacific fronts during World War II. According to the National Park Service, 4.4 million people visit the memorial each year, including many World War II veterans as part of the Honor Flight Network.
World War II veteran Roger Durbin proposed the memorial to Rep. Marcy Kaptur from Ohio in 1987, and the World War II Memorial Act was eventually approved in 1993. Fundraising began in 1994, with total donations reaching $197 million. The location was settled upon in 1995, and a nationwide design competition saw Friedrich St. Florian’s proposal selected in 1997. Construction began in 2001 and was completed in 2004. On May 29 of that year, a reunion of veterans was held on the National Mall, followed by a dedication by President George W. Bush, whose father and former president was among the 16 million to serve in the Second World War.
The World War II Memorial is free and open to the public 24 hours a day. Park Rangers are on duty to answer questions from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. Interpretive programs are provided every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The most convenient way to reach the World War II Memorial is by Metrobus or Metro. There are two Metro stations close by: Smithsonian and Federal Triangle, both located on the Orange and Blue lines. As for the bus, take either the 32, 34 or 36 Metrobus routes. If traveling by car, visitor parking is available along Ohio Drive, as well as limited handicapped parking. However, note that street parking is scarce nearby.
The World War II Memorial is located at the center of the National Mall, making all of the other monuments and memorials easily accessible. At the other end of the Reflecting Pool lies the Lincoln Memorial, flanked by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Constitution Gardens. The FDR Memorial and Jefferson Memorial are to the immediate south, while the White House is within close walking distance. It is also in proximity to the Holocaust Museum, East Potomac Park and the Southwest Waterfront.
- The memorial includes two engravings of “Kilroy was here,” a symbol that represents the presence of American soldiers during WWII.
- The monument’s plaza is 337 feet, 10 inches long and 240 feet, two inches wide.
- The groundbreaking of the memorial took place in the same September as the 9/11 attacks.
- The memorial was opened to the public a month before its dedication, on April 29, 2004.
- The World War II Memorial Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.