The National World War II Memorial is located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Located at the east end of the Reflecting Pool, the memorial is open to all, at any time of the day or night. From 9:30 AM to 10 PM, park rangers are available to answer visitors’ questions. The National World War II Monument was created to honor the 16 million men and women who served in the military during that time. Of these, over 400,000 gave their lives.
History of the Memorial
In 1987, Roger Durbin approached Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) with an idea for a World War II memorial. As a result, HR 3742 was submitted to the House of Representatives on December 10 of that year. The resolution proposed a World War II memorial, to be built by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Unfortunately, the bill did not come up for a vote during that session, so it couldn’t be passed. Representative Kaptur tried again in 1989 and 1991, but the bill still didn’t pass. Finally, the bill was submitted for a fourth time on January 27, 1993. This time, it passed the House and the Senate before being signed into law on May 25, 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
To get the memorial built, fundraising had to be done. A direct mail campaign was set up by the Memorial Advisory Board to raise money from the American public. Millions of dollars arrived from individual Americans, and veterans’ groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars also donated to the memorial. In addition, the United States government gave $16 million toward the effort. Altogether, $197 million was raised to build the memorial.
Ultimately, the memorial was built near the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument. At the time, the decision was controversial because it blocked the direct view between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Normally, the selection process would take years to complete as the site went through the approval process. Since President George H.W. Bush was concerned that some World War II veterans would pass away before it could be completed, the memorial was pushed through quickly and Congress blocked lawsuits over the location.
The World War II Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Dedication
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy took Pearl Harbor by surprise in an unprecedented attack on the United States. It destroyed much of the Pacific Fleet. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to officially declare war against Japan. For Americans of that generation, his words were unforgettable.
Today, a portion of President Roosevelt’s speech is engraved on the Pacific side of the World War II Memorial. It includes his famous quote referring to December 7, 1941 as “a date which will live in infamy.” Above the quote is an image of a typical American family. Each member of the family is listening closely to the radio as President Roosevelt’s speech was delivered. In its simplicity, it reminds America of the men, survivors and casualties, who sacrificed at Pearl Harbor. Across the country, the impact of the president’s words had an immediate effect and enlistment skyrocketed. Before the was was over, over 400,000 service members would make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Today, the World War II Memorial is a reminder of the people who served in the war. Pearl Harbor catalyzed a massive war effort that ultimately led to the Allied victory in World War II. While the war was long and bloody, it showed the fighting spirit, dedication, and patriotism of the millions of men and women who served in the American armed forces.