US Air Force Memorial history

The United States Air Force Memorial is one of many in the area which honors the men and women who served the US military. This one honors the more than 54.000 men and women who have died in combat while serving the Air Force and its predecessor organizations. The Air Force is one of four service arms in the US army, together with the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Coastal Guard.

The memorial

The story behind this memorial began in 1992, when the newly acknowledged Air Force Memorial Foundation suggested that a memorial in honor of the Air Force personnel should be built.

The plans were authorized by the current president, Bill Clinton, in 1994 and a site for the memorial was chosen. The chosen site was however not the site where it stands today. Instead, the memorial was planned northeast of the Arlington National Cemetery, close to the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Voices for a new site

This was not appreciated by Marine Corps veterans, who thought that the new memorial was too close and disturbed the view over the Iwo Jima Memorial. The conflict grew and resulted in several bills and appeals against the construction. Faced with the litigation costs and the opposition from the Marine Corps, the Air Force Memorial Foundation moved the site of the memorial to its current position, south of the cemetery


The construction of the memorial began in September 2004 and finished seven months later. The official dedication was held in 2006 under presence of the then current president George W Bush, who himself previously served as an F-102 pilot, together with around 30.000 people in the audience.

Why visit US Air Force Memorial ?

The US Air Force Memorial is a beautiful piece, dominated by three tall spires, ranging from 61 to 82 meters in height. The spire structures are made ofstainless steel plates with high-strength concrete filling the lower 2/3rds of each spire while the upper third is hollow stainless steel.


The spires have a very modern elegant design. There is also a lot of though behind why the spires look they way they do. The spires symbolize a flying maneuver, known as a “bomb-burst”, where the planes fly close to each other upwards and then splits in different directions.

Imagine that there is a plane at the top of the spires with each spire representing the jet-stream caused by the planes. Only three of the normal four contrails are depicted, as the absent fourth suggests the “missing man formation” traditionally used at Air Force funeral fly-overs.

The Honor Guard

Next to the spires you can see four bronze statues of the Honor Guard, made by the renowned sculptor, Zenos Frudakis, and behind them a black granite inscription wall. The wall bears inspirational quotations regarding the Air Force’s three core values; “integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do”. The three spires not only represent the “bomb-burst” maneuver, but also these three core values.

On the opposite side, visitors can see a free-standing glass wall depicting four F-16s flying in a missing man formation. Behind the glass stands the second inscription wall which bears the names of Air Force recipients of the Medal of Honor.

The Air Force Star

In the center of the three spires is an Air Force “star” embedded in the granite. The star has long been emblazoned on Air Force planes and it serves as the rank insignia of Air Force members.

An elegant solution

One of the main problems the designers of this memorial had was to make the medium of the Air Force visible. The Navy has the medium of water, which can always be shown in fountains and the Army has the medium of land, which also easily can be depicted. The Air Force however, has the medium of air, which is very difficult to show.

When looking at the memorial, with its jet-stream symbolizing spires, one quickly realizes that they have solved this task to perfection. The US Air Force Memorial with its spectacular design has become another one of the many loved memorials in the area.

US Air Force Memorial location

The US Air Force Memorual is located in eastern United States, in Arlington County, near Washington D.C. The memorial lies at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Joyce Street, on the grounds near the Pentagon and the Arlington National Cemetery.

For the exact location of the US Air Force Memorial, check out the location map to the right!

US Air Force Memorial Video

Write A Comment