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“Celebrating our love affair with WWII”

National World War II Memorial
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War Memorials and Arlington National Cemetery Tour
Ranked #20 of 472 things to do in Washington DC
Certificate of Excellence
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Reviewed June 30, 2009

Americans (at least those not old enough to have been personally and directly affected by it, myself included) love WWII - conquering the evils of Hitler and rising like a phoenix from the ashes of Pearl Harbor to thwart imperialist advances in the Pacific and SE Asia. This love is fed and sustained by the great films of and about the era; the portrayals of heroism and feats of derring do. This memorial, while a nice space with some fine touches, seems to celebrate our love affair with "the good war" more than it appears to commemorate those who participated in one of history's most vicious conflicts.

Upon first seeing the memorial, I was impressed in spite ot the contrast to its surroundings - the sleek elegance of the Washington Monument, the calm serenity of the reflecting pools, the stark austerity of the Vietnam Memorial, the strength of presence of the Lincoln Memorial. (I withhold judgement on the Korean War Memorial, as I don't quite get it). As I think back on my visit, though, my memories are a little more bleak. I'm left with the overbearing images of patriotism and sensation of victory almost contradicting the message at the base of the flanking flagpoles, "Americans came to liberate, not to conquer."

I recommend seeing it with a little hesitation not only because it's right in the middle of everything and unavoidable, but because there are some fine touches such as the bronze placards depicting important images and some decent water features. I can't help but feel, though, that we can and should have done better than this.

1  Thank AndybinLondon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed June 26, 2009

I remember when they first built this Memorial, all the backlash in the news about how ugly and ostentatious it was. It seemed like a love it or hate it kind of thing, so I was expecting one of those two reactions. After seeing the memorial in person, I can kind of see both sides, but it was worth stopping by when we were on the mall.

The memorial is a bit of a hodgepodge, with a fountain area surrounded by an open courtyard, with walkways leading through stone archways on the outside and a reflecting pool at the back. It is very expansive, and takes a bit of time to walk around, depending on how much you want to see. Every piece has a reason for being there and a meaning to it, but without the pamphlet we got at the information kiosk, it wasn't all intuitive.

There were definite pros and cons to the WWII memorial. On a day with temps in the 90s, this area seemed to be the hottest place we were at all day. Not sure if that's just the openness of it, or the stonework absorbing the heat maybe, but it was pretty palpable. Another downside is the number of children splashing around in the fountain - with steps leading down to the water's edge, kids were tempted to jump in or at least dip their feet in, which seemed a bit disrespectful.

On the plus side, the memorial did make me think a little bit more about a war that happened long before I was born. Ironically, with all the big structures at the memorial, I thought the most poignant was the wall of gold stars, with each one representing 100 lives lost. There were a lot of veterans present when we were there, and generally they seemed impressed, sharing stories, etc. I figure that's more important than my opinion either way.

I never saw the National Mall before the WWII Memorial was built, so I can't comment on it disrupting the flow of the mall, or the other complaints from when it was built. I can maybe see how a more simple and elegant memorial might have been a good alternative, but there is still a lot to see, learn and reflect on at the existing memorial. Like I said, it wasn't the best or most moving memorial in DC, but it was worth a stop.

Thank Cyclone05
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 18, 2009

I had been so excited when I first saw the pictures of this new memorial. It seemed so perfect to honor those who had fought in this most important of wars. So it was with excitement that I looked forward to seeing it for myself. I walked in on the Pacific side, 2nd level and looked out over this huge space dedicated to the men and women to whom we owe so much.

We had visited many of the battlefields in Europe and this seemed to equal the memorials there in many ways. It was similar to the circular memorial at Omaha Cemetery, but the addition of the water fountains and the two levels improved it. I walked down the ramp and past each of the states on that side remembering how each state sent soldiers, gave iron or farm goods or citizens to help in the factories. This war was all encompassing and to have each state represent those men and women who had served was very moving. By the time I reached the fountain level the feeling was powerful. I was so grateful to the men and women that I knew personally who had sacrificed so much. Some, like my father served in the Pacific, fighting for islands, building airfields and there were his battle areas listed on the fountain-New Guinea, Philippines, Guam. Some like my father in law served stateside protecting our own borders. Others I have talked to had landed on Normandy beaches and had traveled by foot or in tanks across Europe and there were their battlefields- St Lo, Battle of the Bulge, Remagen. I thought of my mother at home going to school, the only men there were in Med school, the rest were gone, her brother and best friend among them. I thought of another woman I was working with who joined and served in Hawaii. I felt each of their stories magnified by millions others like them.

I loved the bas reliefs sharing a piece of what the war was like from induction to training, to the battlefield to the celebration back home.

This is placed as it says between the Washington Memorial (to the man who best symbolizes our 18th century beginnings of the nation) and the Lincoln Memorial (to the man who best symbolizes our 19th century struggle to survive as a nation). The WWII memorial symbolizes the 20th century's great fight to keep freedom strong.

This memorial does not even begin to tell the whole story. But it epitomizes the common hopes and dreams of that generation, those who gave their lives, those who came home to build a nation, and this story does not belong to just one man or one state, it belongs to all of us.

2  Thank Kbecjeans
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 4, 2008

This memorial is a success on many levels. It is a beautiful relaxing space. It celebrates every state,albeit in a peculiar choice for positioning. It recognizes the loss of life and the historical significance. It identifies the theatres of the war and the significant individual battles. Just fantastic!

1  Thank tcwings
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 9, 2008

The memorial is the worst sort of generic mismash. What on earth do the states have to do with the war? It is a compromise by a committee, rather than an artistic creation. If you took the name off, no one would have any idea what it was memorializing. It is a nice public space, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the war.

5  Thank local51
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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