World War II was a pivotal period for many countries. For the United States, it represented a time—some would say the last time—when the entire country was united in a singular cause. The World War II Memorial represents this unity by lining an oval-shaped base with 56 pillars representing the US states and territories that defended the country: the 48 states (at the time) along with the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
These pillars form the ends of the memorial’s oval, with 43-foot arches acting as midpoints for the curves. Each side represents a different WWII campaign, with the north being “Atlantic” and the south “Pacific.” In the center of the memorial is a 246-foot-wide, shallow, fountain-laden pool. The walls of the memorial are inscribed with scenes depicting each stage of a soldier in the war, from troops being issued uniforms right through a handshake agreement of peace. The Freedom Wall is found on the western side, complete with 4,048 gold stars: one for every 100 Americans who died during the war.
A more playful detail is the two obscure “Kilroy was here” messages found behind the service gates on either side. This is a nod to the popular graffiti doodle at the time, which was co-opted by World War II troops and found scribbled in many European locations. It became a kind of secret rallying cry for the people in war-torn areas.
Visiting the World War II Memorial
The World War II Memorial is located 1750 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20245. The World War II Memorial is open 24 hours. Park Rangers are available from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. The memorial is closed on December 25. Admission is free. Closest Metro is Smithonian served by the orange, blue and silver lines). For more information on the World War II museum, and for searching the World War II Registry visit the website of the memorial.
For information on all Washington D.C. memorials consider The Unofficial Guide to Washington D.C. by Eve Zibart, Renee Sklarew, and Len Testa.