At the opposite end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, on the site where once stood the Rainbow Pool, now sits the World War II Memorial, a memorial of national significance that serves to honor Americans who served in the armed forces and who survived World War II. Opened by George W. Bush in 2004, this compact and open memorial sits in a relatively central space on the National Mall and offers yet another space for self-reflection and remembrance among all the surrounding tourist bustle.
The memorial consists of 56 granite pillars arranged in a semicircle around a plaza, with each pillar inscribed with the name of one of the 48 U.S. states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are two large arches at either end of the plaza, the northern arch inscribed with “Atlantic” and the southern one with “Pacific”, with the plaza itself giving way to a fountain lined pool. The walls include many reliefs of war-related scenes, as well as numerous historical quotes taken from the period. (Interestingly, the memorial also includes two inconspicuously located “Kilroy was here” engravings, acknowledging their symbolic role played among American troops).
On the west side of the plaza is the Freedom Wall, a block of granite set with 4084 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war, and with an inscription that reads “Here we mark the price of freedom”. Given its sunken level and central position, the memorial allows for views of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, whilst the ever moving water creates a space to sit down and quietly reflect on these terrible events that forever stained human history.
The World War II Memorial is by no means a grandiose memorial nor one that screams its ideals at you, but as with the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial it does the job of making you think about and to remember this period in the hopes that it never need be repeated.
Having now covered most of President’s Park and the East side of the National Mall, it was time to move on to the central Washington Monument and then see what I could see on the West side of this humongous green space before calling it quits on the day’s (lengthy and on foot) explorations.