American history was changed forever in December 1941, when Japanese airplanes launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403 soldiers and civilians in the area. The US navy took a critical hit that morning and miraculously survived the invasion with just enough resources to gather their strength and fight back.
With this attack on US soil, not only the Hawaiian Islands were affected by the hostile interactions. In fact, people all across the US learned about the events with shock and during the following days, thousands of young men voluntarily signed up to join the military. The attack on Pearl Harbor was the crucial event to decide the United States’ active involvement in World War II.
Today, there are several memorial spaces right in Pearl City that commemorate the events and fallen heroes of December 1941. Guests from across the globe visit Pearl Harbor every year to pay their respects and learn about American history right where it was made. But there are lesser known monuments across the sea, e.g. the memorial plaque installed in the San Diego Marina by the Pearl Harbors Survivors’ association. The most impressive mainland memorial may be in Des Moines, Iowa. As a number of other places on the US mainland, this was the home of many patriots who enlisted as volunteers to fight for their country.
The main purpose of the Iowa memorial is to remind the posterity of the reasons for involvement in World War two, as well as educate the public on backgrounds and main battles of the war. In January 1991, the Iowa Pearl Harbor Veterans’ Association started the process of funding and building the memorial on the grounds of the capitol. Less than a year later, in November 1991 the memorial was dedicated and opened to the public. The “Memorial Plaza” consists of three elements: The “Freedom Flame”, the “Freedom Walk” and the “Wall of Memories”. Even today, this monument is managed and maintained by the Veterans’ Association.
The most striking piece of the Plaza is the Freedom Flame, a tall steel sculpture of a flame. At night, a perpendicular beam of light shines up from the Freedom Flame, to be seen from up to a mile away. Around the base of the Flame, a map shows the five major locations of US involvement in their fight for freedom. With a seventy feet diameter this map helps visitors realize, that WW II really was a worldwide struggle, with US men and women fighting battles on many fronts.
The Freedom Walk leads up to the Flame. This 100ft walk has all the major events, which lead to the US involvement in WWII. Part of the Freedom Walk is the Pearl Harbor Monument, commemorating the most crucial day in this line of events. Victims as well as survivors of the attacks on Pearl Harbor are honored. The names of Iowa Veterans are inscribed on the granite monument, right there in front of the state capitol building.
The Wall of Memories is the backdrop of the Freedom Flame: a semicircular wall, 65 feet long, inscribed with memorabilia from World War II which demonstrate the impact the war had on servicemen and people back home. Letters, cartoons, newspaper articles and more make up the collection of reminders. In the center of the Wall, the faces of nine men from Iowa, who received the Medal of Honor, can be seen.
The Memorial Plaza of Iowa is a must-see for visitors interested to educate themselves and their families on the impact World War II had on military and civilians across the US.