One of the most important landmarks in Washington D.C. is located in one of the most prominent locations in the city.
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting WW2 Memorial facts.
1. It commemorates Americans who served during WW2
As the name of the Memorial suggests, it was constructed to commemorate the Americans who lost their lives trying to defend the freedom of the nation overseas during World War II.
This includes both the armed forces and civilians. World War II was a horrific event that cost the lives of millions of people, so it’s remarkable that a memorial had only been constructed decades after the war had ended.
The Memorial was finally completed on April 29, 2004, and inaugurated a month later by President George W. Bush on May 29, 2004. it is one of the most popular landmarks and tourist attractions in Washington D.C. today with nearly 5 million yearly visitors.
2. It’s located between 2 other famous Washington D.C. landmarks
The Memorial is located right in the heart of the National Mall, a landscaped park in the capital which is part of the “National Mall and Memorial Parks.” This National Park is one of the most popular places in the city and features multiple landmarks and Memorials.
The WW2 Memorial is situated between 2 of the most famous and iconic landmarks in the area, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, on the eastern end of the equally famous reflecting pool.
This is just one of the multiple locations that were suggested during the planning phase of the Memorial. The two other ones that almost made it were the Constitution Gardens, situated right next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest Washington D.C.
3. The pool of the Memorial was originally part of another reflecting pool
The Memorial was designed around a pool which takes up a lot of the 7.4-acre (3 hectares) area it was built on. One of the most remarkable WW2 Memorial facts is that this pool used to be part of another landmark before!
This landmark was called the “Rainbow Pool” and was dedicated in the year 1924. It got its name because of the perfect rainbow created by the 124 nozzles of its fountain.
Part of the Rainbow Pool has now been integrated into the pool of the WW2 Memorial, which has dimensions of 246′ 9″ x 147′ 8″ (75.2 × 45 meters).
4. Its design represents the U.S. States and territories
The winning design was picked out of 400 submissions during an architectural competition in 1997. The winner of this competition was Austrian-American architect Friedrich St. Florian who was 64 at the time.
His design consists of 56 pillars which are arranged in a semi-circle around the pool and which represent:
- The 48 U.S. states of 1945.
- The District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory, and the Territory of Hawaii.
- The Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There are also 2 triumphal arches on the northern and southern sides of the Memorial which represent the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
The plaza of the Memorial is 337′ 10″ (102.97 meters) long and 240′ 2″ (73.2 meters) wide. The entire area lowers to about 6 feet (1.8 meters) below ground level.
5. The Memorial features 2 engravings of a popular WW2 meme
One of the most amazing WW2 Memorial facts is that there are 2 engravings that initially look like acts of vandalism, but actually have a very significant meaning.
During World War II, a meme referred to as “Kilroy Was Here” became extremely popular and ended up as being a symbol for American soldiers. It represented their presence and most probably gave the soldiers a boost when seeing it.
The British had their own version called “Mr. Chad” and the Australians called their “Foo Was Here.” Kilroy, which appears as a bald-headed man who is peeking over a wall, is added twice to the walls of the Memorial!
6. The two walls feature bas reliefs with actual pictures of the war
Even though Kilroy was an important figure during World War II for the soldiers, the most important events of the war are depicted on the walls on both sides of the Memorial.
The imagery appears as bas reliefs and depicts soldiers who are preparing for war, taking their oath, and who are being handed their military equipment. These depictions change into combat, burying the dead, and end with a homecoming scene for the lucky survivors.
Both walls depict similar scenes but one is focused on the Pacific, while the wall near the Atlantic arch depicts scenes from the European battleground.
7. There’s an additional wall with a particular number of stars
One of the most important elements of the entire Memorial is a wall referred to as the “Freedom Wall.” This wall is located on the western end of the plaza near the reflecting pool.
It’s the centerpiece of the Memorial as it features a total of 4,048 gold stars which each represent 100 American soldiers and civilians who died during this tragic event in human history.
The inscription in front of the wall reads: “Here we mark the price of freedom.”
8. It took 4 attempts to get a bill for building the Memorial to be approved
The first time that the idea to build a Memorial to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died during WW2 came about was in the year 1987, 4 decades after it happened.
A bill referred to as the “World War II Memorial Act” was introduced and presented in the House of Representatives the same year, but wasn’t voted on. The same thing happened in 1989 and 1991, and it wasn’t until January 27, 1993, that the bill was passed and became law when President Bill Clinton signed it on May 25, 1993.
It would still take over a decade more before the Memorial was finally inaugurated in 2004.
9. Nearly $200 million was raised to build the Memorial
With the bill becoming Public Law 103-32, the only thing left apart from finding a fitting design was to raise funds for the WW2 Memorial to be constructed.
Individual Americans alone donated millions of dollars to support the project, and veterans’ groups such as the “American Legion” and the “Veterans of Foreign Wars” to name a few did the same.
A contribution of $16 million USD along with a serious corporate fundraising effort brought the total raised money to a staggering $197 million USD!
The massive construction project eventually started in September of the year 2001.
10. Not everybody has been a fan of its location and design
Not everybody agreed with the location of the Memorial, which was constructed right in between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Memorial, causing the view to be interrupted.
Critics of the design mentioned that this “pompous style” was also favored by the likes of Hitler and Mussolini and only has the “emotional impact of a slab of granite.’
Regardless of whether or not the design matches the idea behind it, the WW2 Memorial is a place to remember and honor the brave Americans who fought evil and thereby saved freedom!