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Assuming its rightful place of honor on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial is an eloquent and moving tribute to "The Greatest Generation." Sixteen million Americans served in the armed forces—more than 400,000 gave their lives—and millions supported the war effort from home, all in the name of protecting that...
Assuming its rightful place of honor on the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial is an eloquent and moving tribute to "The Greatest Generation." Sixteen million Americans served in the armed forces—more than 400,000 gave their lives—and millions supported the war effort from home, all in the name of protecting that which we, as Americans, hold most dear: freedom.
The World War II Memorial, published in conjunction with the dedication of this long-overdue memorial, commemorates the everyday Americans who in countless ways rose up to defeat one of history's gravest threats to freedom.
Veterans—including George H.W. Bush, Sen. Daniel Inouye, former senators Bob Dole and George McGovern, Yogi Berra, and many, many others—contribute their own personal stories while leading historians look at the military campaigns of the war. The memorial's architect and its sculptor provide insights into how it symbolizes the fortitude and perseverance of a generation, and the exclusive photographs present the memorial through all stages of construction. Fittingly, this historic tribute falls in the 60th anniversary year of D-Day, a time when our nation once again reflects on its greatest sacrifice and greatest victory in the name of freedom. 100 color and 125 b/w photographs.
Douglas Brinkley is the Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans and author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War.
The World War II Memorial is a lasting symbol of national unity and the American spirit, and stands as a timeless reminder of service and sacrifice for generations to come. Representing the collective will of the American people to sacrifice for the ideals that shaped our foundation and guide our future, the World War II Memorial has assumed its deserving place in American history.
The WW II Memorial Site
The National Mall is America's village green, the place we gather to celebrate our heritage among the cherished icons to our nation's democratic ideals. Just as their forefathers fought to establish and then reunite our nation, the World War II generation fought to preserve freedom itself. The memorial rests on one of America's preeminent public spaces, the 7.4-acre Rainbow Pool site. One of eight locations considered, the Rainbow Pool site was deemed most worthy for America's commemoration of what most believe is the defining event of the 20th century. This historic location at the east end of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument was dedicated on Veterans Day 1995 with the sprinkling of soil from the nation's 14 overseas World War II cemeteries maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The prominent site is commensurate with the historical importance and lasting significance of World War II to America and the world. In the immediate vicinity are the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, Constitution Gardens, the District of Columbia World War I Memorial, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The design of the memorial is an inspiring testimony to the passion, optimism, courage, and heroism of the World War II generation of Americans. It creates a place of beauty that is a stage for remembrance and celebration of the principles and values fought for and defended in the Second Word War. The classical architecture complements the major monuments and memorials in the vicinity. Constructed around a restored Rainbow Pool, it creates a public forum that is distinct, memorable, evocative, and serene. The design is sensitive to its site and surroundings, preserving the open vista between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, and views across the memorial in all directions. Its vertical dimensions celebrate victory, yet remain modest in relation to the principal visual features of the Mall: the elms, the Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument, and the Mall itself.
The memorial is located on the center line of the National Mall. Adjacent to the Reflecting Pool and cradled within the elm walks, the memorial has both a distinctive north-south and east-west axis. The ceremonial entrance is located on 17th Street, immediately across from the Washington Monument grounds. Visitors can also enter the memorial from the elm walks through the arched pavilions on the north or south. Gently sloped ramps allow visitors access to the Memorial Plaza. All of the memorial entrances are fully accessible.
Granite was chosen for its aesthetic appeal and durability. More permanent than marble, it has been used for thousands of centuries. The two principal stones are Kershaw for the walls and vertical elements, and Green County for the main plaza paving stone. Two green stones-Rio Verde and Moss Green, were used for accent paving on the plaza. Academy Black and Mount Airy were used to reconstruct the Rainbow Pool. Mount Airy, is the original coping stone of the Lincoln Memorial's Reflecting Pool. There are more than 200 separate pieces of bronze sculpture for the memorial. Bronze is a traditional material used in memorials. It is warm in appearance, and looks better with age. A bluish-green patina was applied to the sculpture to create a 'cool' color relationship with the granite.
Centered at the ceremonial entrance on 17th Street, an announcement stone provides context for the purpose and location of the memorial.
HERE IN THE PRESENCE OF WASHINGTON AND LINCOLN, ONE THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY FATHER AND THE OTHER THE NINETEENTH CENTURY PRESERVER OF OUR NATION, WE HONOR THOSE TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICANS WHO TOOK UP THE STRUGGLE DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND MADE THE SACRIFICES TO PERPETUATE THE GIFT OUR FOREFATHERS ENTRUSTED TO US: A NATION CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY AND JUSTICE.
Two flagpoles frame the entrance. The bases of granite and bronze contain the seals of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army Air Forces, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. Inscribed on the granite bench that encircles the flagpole bases are the words:
AMERICANS CAME TO LIBERATE, NOT TO CONQUER, TO RESTORE FREEDOM AND TO END TYRANNY
Ceremonial steps and ramps lead from 17th Street into the lowered plaza. A series of bronze bas-relief panels along the ceremonial entrance balustrades depict America's war years, at home and overseas. There are 24 separate panels: 12 on the north depict the Atlantic Front, while 12 on the south portray the Pacific Front. The unifying theme of the panels is the transformation of America caused by the country's total immersion in World War II. They depict the all-out mobilization of America's agricultural, industrial, and military resources that transformed the country into the arsenal of democracy as well as the breadbasket of the world. These raised panels evoke the human drama of war and bring a literal, storytelling dimension to the memorial. The unity of purpose unique to this time in America is captured by placing the visual emphasis on the individual with a style of sculpture that dates back to ancient times. All details, scenes, and equipment are subordinate to the human figure. Atlantic Front panels include: Lend Lease, Enlistment, Women in the Military, Rosie the Riveter/Aircraft Construction, Battle of the Atlantic, Air War/B-17, Paratroopers, Normandy Beach Landing, Tanks in Combat, Medics in the Field, Battle of the Bulge, and Russians Meet Americans at the Elbe. Pacific Front panels include: Pearl Harbor, Bond Drive, Embarkation, Shipbuilding, Agriculture, Submarine Warfare, Navy in Action, Amphibious Landing, Jungle Warfare, Field Burial, Liberation, and V-J Day. At the base of the ceremonial entrance, two inscriptions describe the magnitude and toll of America's war effort.
WOMEN WHO STEPPED UP WERE MEASURED AS CITIZENS OF THE NATION, NOT AS WOMEN ... THIS WAS A PEOPLE'S WAR, AND EVERYONE WAS IN IT. -Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby
* * *
THEY FOUGHT TOGETHER AS BROTHERS-IN-ARMS. THEY DIED TOGETHER AND NOW THEY SLEEP SIDE BY SIDE. TO THEM WE HAVE A SOLEMN OBLIGATION. -Admiral Chester A. Nimitz
and Rainbow Pool
The Memorial Plaza and Rainbow Pool are the principal design features of the memorial, unifying all other elements. The plaza is lowered six feet below the level of the Reflecting Pool to give the memorial its own sense of place and to preserve the Mall vistas. The layout of the plaza is an oval with paving stones of gray and light green that form a visually distinctive radial pattern. Seating for visitors is provided on benches along the rampart walls and around the coping of the Rainbow Pool. The historic waterworks of the Rainbow Pool have been restored and contribute to the celebratory nature of the memorial. Semicircular fountains at the base of the two memorial pavilions and waterfalls flanking the Freedom Wall complement the waterworks in the Rainbow Pool. The dancing water throughout the memorial creates a sense of light and life.
On the Plaza's corners and rampart walls, inscriptions recall the words of America's political and military leaders during the war. They evoke the spirit, courage, and sacrifice of Americans overseas and at home, and pay tribute to our allies.
DECEMBER 7, 1941, A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY ... NO MATTER HOW LONG IT MAY TAKE US TO OVERCOME THIS PREMEDITATED INVASION, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, IN THEIR RIGHTEOUS MIGHT, WILL WIN THROUGH TO ABSOLUTE VICTORY. -President Franklin D. Roosevelt
* * *
THEY HAVE GIVEN THEIR SONS TO THE MILITARY SERVICES. THEY HAVE STOKED THE FURNACES AND HURRIED THE FACTORY WHEELS. THEY HAVE MADE THE PLANES AND WELDED THE TANKS, RIVETED THE SHIPS AND ROLLED THE SHELLS. -President Franklin D. Roosevelt
BATTLE OF MIDWAY JUNE 4-7, 1942
THEY HAD NO RIGHT TO WIN. YET THEY DID, AND IN DOING SO THEY CHANGED THE COURSE OF A WAR ... EVEN AGAINST THE GREATEST OF ODDS, THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE HUMAN SPIRIT- A MAGIC BLEND OF SKILL, FAITH AND VALOR-THAT CAN LIFT MEN FROM CERTAIN DEFEAT TO INCREDIBLE VICTORY. -Walter Lord, Author
* * *
D-DAY JUNE 6, 1944
YOU ARE ABOUT TO EMBARK UPON THE GREAT CRUSADE, TOWARD WHICH WE HAVE STRIVEN THESE MANY MONTHS. THE EYES OF THE WORLD ARE UPON YOU ... I HAVE FULL CONFIDENCE IN YOUR COURAGE, DEVOTION TO DUTY AND SKILL IN BATTLE. -General Dwight D. Eisenhower
* * *
WE ARE DETERMINED THAT BEFORE THE SUN SETS ON THIS TERRIBLE STRUGGLE OUR FLAGWILL BE RECOGNIZED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD AS A SYMBOL OF FREEDOM ON THE ONE HAND AND OF OVERWHELMING FORCE ON THE OTHER. -General George C. Marshall
* * *
THE WAR'S END
TODAY THE GUNS ARE SILENT. A GREAT TRAGEDY HAS ENDED. A GREAT VICTORY HAS BEEN WON. THE SKIES NO LONGER RAIN DEATH-THE SEAS BEAR ONLY COMMERCE-MEN EVERYWHERE WALK UPRIGHT IN THE SUNLIGHT. THE ENTIRE WORLD IS QUIETLY AT PEACE. -General Douglas MacArthur
OUR DEBT TO THE HEROIC MEN AND VALIANT WOMEN IN THE SERVICE OF OUR COUNTRY CAN NEVER BE REPAID. THEY HAVE EARNED OUR UNDYING GRATITUDE. AMERICA WILL NEVER FORGET THEIR SACRIFICES. -President Harry S Truman
* * *
THE HEROISM OF OUR OWN TROOPS ... WAS MATCHED BY THAT OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE NATIONS THAT FOUGHT BY OUR SIDE ... THEY ABSORBED THE BLOWS ... AND THEY SHARED TO THE FULL IN THE ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION OF THE ENEMY. -President Harry S Truman
The Memorial at Night
Many visitors will see the memorial at night. It is illuminated with hundreds of light fixtures, all computer-controlled to alter the overall lighting effect. Memorial lighting creates a secure and dramatic environment for nighttime visitors, focusing the most intense light inside the memorial pavilions. From a distance, the memorial appears as a soft glow, allowing the image of the Washington Monument to appear clearly within the Reflecting Pool.
Two 43-foot-tall pavilions on the north and south ends of the plaza commemorate the victory of democracy over tyranny and serve as markers and entries to the plaza. The south pavilion commemorates the Pacific theater of war, and the north pavilion the Atlantic theater. A vertical split in the piers of the pavilions received a semi-columnar treatment similar to that of the memorial's pillars, giving them a family-like resemblance as well as increased transparency. Bronze baldacchinos (a sculptural canopy) are an integral part of the pavilions's design. Four bronze columns support four American eagles that hold a suspended bronze laurel, the traditional symbol of victory. Inlayed on the floor of the arches is a bronze World War II victory medal surrounded by these words, also inlayed in bronze:
1941-1945 VICTORY ON LAND VICTORY AT SEA
VICTORY IN THE AIR
At the base of the Atlantic and Pacific pavilions, along the fountain copings, are inscribed theaters of war and the names of battles and places that resonate as chronicles of a global war. On the Atlantic side of the memorial plaza, the following are inscribed on the upper and lower copings of the fountain:
NORTH AFRICA SOUTHERN EUROPE WESTERN EUROPE CENTRAL EUROPE
BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC * MURMANSK RUN * TUNISIA * SICILY SALERNO ANZIO ROME PO VALLEY * NORMANDY * ST.LO * AIR WAR IN EUROPE * ALSACE * RHINELAND * HUERTGEN FOREST * BATTLE OFTHE BULGE * REMAGEN BRIDGE * GERMANY
* * * On the fountain copings on the Pacific side of the plaza are inscribed:
CHINA * BURMA * INDIA SOUTHWEST PACIFIC CENTRAL PACIFIC NORTH PACIFIC
PEARL HARBOR * WAKE ISLAND * BATAAN CORREGIDOR * CORAL SEA * MIDWAY * GUADALCANAL * NEW GUINEA * BUNA * TARAWA * KWAJALEIN * ATTU * SAIPAN TINIAN GUAM * PHILIPPINE SEA * PELELIU * LEYTE GULF * LUZON * MANILA * IWO JIMA * OKINAWA * JAPAN
Pillars, Ropes and Wreaths
Fifty-six granite pillars embrace the memorial plaza in semicircular colonnades, 14 on each side of the Atlantic pavilion and 14 on each side of the Pacific pavilion. The 17-foot pillars are open in the center for greater transparency, and ample space between each allows viewing into and across the memorial. Individually, the pillars represent the 48 states, seven territories and the District of Columbia that made up the United States during the war. They are arranged in order of precedence of entry into the union, with the name of each state, territory, or district inscribed on both sides of the pillar. Collectively, the pillars celebrate the unprecedented unity of the nation during the Second World War and the bonding of the nation. The symbolism of "bonding" is visually reinforced by bronze, intertwined ropes that appear in the balustrade between the pillars. Oak and wheat wreaths hang on opposite sides of each pillar. The oak, a symbol of strength used in military ornamentation, represents the military and industrial might the United States brought to bear in World War II. The wheat represents agricultural power and the nation's role during the war as the breadbasket of democracy.
A commemorative area at the western side of the memorial recognizes the ultimate sacrifice of America's servicemen and women.
Excerpted from The World War II Memorial Copyright © 2004 by New Voyage Communications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted February 9, 2009
My dad is 87 years old and a WWII Veteran. He resides in NJ and I have wanated to have him come visit me in Maryland so I could take him to see the WWII Memorial. I know it would mean so much to him but because of his and my mom's deteriorating health he has not been able to thus far. The book was a Christmas gift and he has spent countless hours reminiscing and reading it. The pictures are beautiful and the descriptions are detailed. It was a true gift!! I'd recommend it to anyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 20, 2004
This stunning volume gives you several excellent essays from noted authors about the war itself from battlefield to homefront, plus a history of the conception, controversies and construction of the memorial itself. It also features stories from soldiers and citizens about their war experiences. Especially moving is the testimony of a woman who lost two older brothers at D-Day as a 15 year old school girl.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.