On this day in history, April 29, 2004, World War II Memorial opens in Washington, D.C.: ‘Stirs memories’


The World War II Memorial opened at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on this day in history, April 29, 2004. 

The memorial’s purpose to “honor the service of the 16 million members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, the support of countless millions on the home front, and the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 Americans,” says the National Park Service’s website. 

In 1997, the design created by Austrian-born architect Friedrich St. Florian was selected out of more than 400 entries, said the website. 

“He remembered the challenge of protecting the view between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, as the new memorial would be placed between the two, as well as encompassing the Rainbow Pool, which rests at the west end of the Reflecting Pool,” it added. 

To solve this issue, St. Florian designed the memorial so that it was a “plaza sunken into the ground, with earth berms on the side,” the architect himself said, according to the site.

“I looked up and I said, ‘I think we have a winning design!’” 

Construction on the memorial began in September 2001. 

The memorial features 24 bronze bas-relief panels at its entrance, depicting scenes associated with the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of the war. 

Artist Ray Kaskey sculpted the bas-relief panels.

“His work depicts both home front and battle scenes highlighting that sacrifice and determination,” the site says of St. Florian’s design.

Scenes and themes portrayed include battles, submarines, paratroopers, the role of women in the war effort and agriculture. 

“To many, these panels stir memories as they tell the story of America’s experience in the war,” said the National Parks Service website.

The memorial also features a granite column for each state and U.S. territory that was part of the United States during World War II, as well as an “impressive pool with water shooting high in the air,” that site continues.

Additionally, the memorial has two “victory pavilions,” quotes from leaders during the war and a wall of 4,048 gold stars — each one representing roughly 100 American lives lost during the war.

While the memorial opened to the public in April 2004, it was not formally dedicated until Memorial Day weekend the following month, the site also notes.

The National Mall played host to a “grand reunion” of World War II veterans, said the National Parks Service, and on May 29, 2004, the World War II Memorial was officially dedicated to “The Greatest Generation.” 

There is a special activity that visitors can participate in when visiting the memorial.

the World War II Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day.

“Be sure to look for the memorial’s two tough-to-find inscriptions of ‘Kilroy was here,’ another powerful American symbol from World War II,” Washington.org shares.

“The saying represents the presence of U.S. soldiers, and was scribbled (with an accompanying doodle) at numerous locations during the war,” it adds.

Today, the World War II Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

For those who cannot visit the memorial in person, a virtual tour is available at www.worldwariimemorialfriends.org.