World War II Memorial history

The National World War II Memorial is dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during the Second World War.

The idea of creating a World War II memorial came from a man who served during the war, the veteran Roger Durbin. The process began in 1987 when he contacted a member of the House of Representatives and presented his thoughts. After a total of six years, a decision was finally reached which approved of the construction of a new monument in memorial of The Second World War.

Memorial site

The planning and fund raising began quickly after the project had been approved. The US federal government provided a share of the total sum, but the major part of the memorial was funded by donations from individuals and organizations. The location for the new memorial was long under debate, and three sites were considered.

In the end, the site chosen was the one between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, at the site of the old Rainbow Pool. The pool was however not permanently removed, but incorporated into the new memorial.

The construction process went, not surprisingly, smoother than the decision making process. The ground was broken in September 2001 and the memorial stood completed later in April 2004.

Why visit the memorial ?

The beautiful World War II Memorial is full of symbolism. The center of the memorial is dominated by the Rainbow Pool, surrounded by a plaza and 56 pillars, symbolizing US states and regions.

Visitors will also find two smaller arches; the northern one symbolizes the Atlantic war scene and the southern one the Pacific. The insides of the arches are decorated with large bronze eagles and bronze wreaths. On the side towards the Washington Monument one will find two small walls on either side of the entrance. These walls are decorated with bronze reliefs depicting typical scenes from the war.

The Freedom Wall

One of the main features of the memorial can be found on the other side, the side facing the Lincoln memorial. There visitors can find the Freedom Wall. The wall is covered with 4048 gold stars, with each star representing 100 Americans who died during the war. The symbolic effect is quite dramatic.

Kilroy was here!

A minor detail, which many people who visit the site don’t even know exists, is that two “Kilroy was here”-doodles can be found on the memorial walls. The now famous sketch is believed to have been created by James J. Kilroy, an American shipyard inspector who was active during the Second World War.

He marked certain areas of the ship which he had inspected with a “Kilroy was here” chalk mark, as a way of knowing which areas had been inspected and which had not. When the ships later were put into function, thousands of American troops saw the markings in which the legend of “Kilroy” grew. It quickly spread and became an internal joke and a bonding sign between American troops.

Well hidden

The Kilroy-doodles can be quite hard to find. The easiest way to find one of them is to exit the memorial from the Pacific Arch, turn right and follow the narrow outer walkway along the columns. Just after the columns end there is a small service area.

The Kilroy can be seen near the ground on the granite headers, close to the service area near the Freedom Wall. They are placed in a tricky spot on purpose, so finding them isn’t easy.

World War II Memorial location

The World War II Memorial is located in eastern United States, in central Washington D.C. The memorial is situated on the famous National Mall at the former site of the Rainbow Pool, in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

For the exact location of the World War II Memorial, check out the location map to the right!

World War II Memorial Video

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