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War Memorials in Washington DC

Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Photo © InSapphoWeTrust, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

One of the most visited war memorials is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Constitution Avenue between 21st and 23rd Streets, 202/426-6841, 24 hours, free). This moving memorial honors U.S. service members who fought and died in the Vietnam War and also those who are missing in action. There are three parts to the memorial, the Three Soldiers Statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

[pullquote align=”right”]There is a path along the base of the wall so visitors can walk along it, read names, and if desired, make pencil rubbings of a particular name.[/pullquote]The focal point of the memorial is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall completed in 1982, which is actually two 246-foot walls that are sunken into the ground and have the names of more than 58,000 service members who died in the war etched into them in chronological order. (The exact number changes each year as names are added.) When visitors look at the wall, they can see their reflections next to the etched names, symbolically linking the past and present. There is a path along the base of the wall so visitors can walk along it, read names, and if desired, make pencil rubbings of a particular name.

The memorial is at the west end of the National Mall, adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial in West Potomac Park. It is open to the public 24 hours a day, and park staff conduct free daily interpretive tours on the hour 10am-11pm.

Map of The National Mall in Washington DC
The National Mall

National World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial (17th Street between Constitution and Independence Avenues, 202/619-7222, 24 hours, free) honors the more than 400,000 people who died in World War II, the 16 million people who served the United States during the war in the armed forces, and the millions of people who provided support from home. The memorial contains 56 pillars and two triumphal arches arranged in a semicircle around a fountain and plaza. A Freedom Wall sits on the west side of the memorial bearing more than 4,000 gold stars on it, each representing 100 Americans who lost their lives in the war. An inscription in front of the wall reads, “Here we mark the price of freedom.” The memorial opened to the public in 2004 and is administered by the National Park Service. It is on the east end of the Reflecting Pool, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The beautiful and haunting Korean War Veterans Memorial (17th Street SW, 202/426-6841, 24 hours, free) is also in West Potomac Park, southeast of the Lincoln Memorial. Erected in 1995, it is dedicated to service members who served in the Korean War. The memorial was designed in the shape of a triangle intersecting a circle with walls depicting images of land, sea, and air troops who supported the war. The focal point, however, is 19 larger than life-size stainless steel statues designed by Frank Gaylord within the walled triangle. The seven-foot-tall figures represent a patrol squad with members from each branch of the armed forces making their way through the harsh Korean terrain represented by strips of granite and bushes. The figures are dressed in full combat gear and look incredibly lifelike. The memorial is lit up at night, and when the figures are reflected on the surrounding wall, there appear to be 38 soldiers, which represents the 38th parallel dividing the two Koreas.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Virginia & Maryland.