National Parkway Getaway: World War II Memorial

By Kinsey Schwab, Web Content Volunteer, Office of Communications

In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, take a virtual trip to the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, or plan a future trip.

World War II reliefs and Washington Monument at sunrise
The World War II Memorial is located at the heart of the National Mall within sight of many of the nation’s iconic national memorials.

NPS Photo

Commemorating one of the most honorable displays of American resolve and sacrifice, the World War II Memorial remembers and celebrates the members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America who served their country bravely during the Second World War and those on the home front who diligently supported war efforts.

The United States entered World War II in 1941 to liberate a world seen to be divided by tyranny and persecution. For four long years, the nation battled those opposed to freedom—a foundation of American history. Heavy sacrifices were made both at home and abroad. The World War II Memorial stands as monument to the immense sacrifices of the nation and salutes the heroic men and women who fought for peace and freedom.

Bronze relief of a World War II bomber scene
A series of bas-relief sculptures recalls scenes of America at war on the battlefield, military mobilization, and the home front.

NPS Photo

Dedicated on May 29, 2004, this tribute to the legacy of “The Greatest Generation” sits at the heart of the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Methodically designed by Friedrich St. Florian, the World War II Memorial uses symbolism and symmetry to artistically and physically manifest America’s valor and strength.

The memorial aims to promote both remembrance and learning. It is divided into Atlantic and Pacific war efforts, with 12 bronze bas-reliefs bronze bas-reliefs in each section. These imposing and visually stunning reliefs chronologically highlight the experience of the war on the home front and are placed in context with the battles waged on land, sea, and air. Throughout the memorial, quotes from notable political leaders, commanding officers, and intellectuals chronical the impressive effort Americans undertook to achieve victory and emphasize the dedication and sacrifice of all American citizens during this time. Encircling an impressive fountain are 56 granite columns representing the 48 states and eight territories at the time of World War II. A heavy rope binds the columns together, representing the unity that strengthened the nation during this time of great struggle.

Gold stars on a blue wall
The Freedom Wall

NPS Photo

Inspiring great reverence is the Freedom Wall—a wall adorned with 4,048 gold stars that sits to the west side of the memorial. Each star represents 100 Americans who gave everything they had for their country. It is here that the loss of more than 400,000 Americans in the second World War is felt most deeply. This area is visually and audibly isolated from the its surroundings—a separation much needed by those who grieve and honor the fallen.

The World War II Memorial is one of the most popular sites on the National Mall. The importance of this memorial is significant, for not only does it educate and honor the sacrifices made in the past, but also it recognizes the price paid by many American families and provides solace to those who have lost so much. The memorial’s beautiful and tranquil design evokes solemn remembrance and appreciation for the valiant efforts of the entire country’s fight against tyranny and oppression and reminds future generations of the continued relevance and honor in fighting for freedom and equality.

The National Park Getaways series helps people find new places to connect with nature, history, family, and friends. Explore more than 400 unique national parks across the country sharing the nation's diverse natural and cultural heritage and recreational opportunities.

Last updated: September 1, 2020