This post covers the facts about the WW2 Memorial in Washington, DC, with tips on how to get here, guided tours and what you will see.
- 13 Design Facts
- Plan Your Visit
- Guided Tours and Talks
- Memorial Registry
- Other DC Memorials
- Free Tours by Foot
WWII MEMORIAL DESIGN EXPLAINED
The WWII Memorial was dedicated in 2004 at the site of the Rainbow Pool, which was incorporated into the memorial design as the fountain you see in the center.
The memorial is divided into two sides (north and south) that represent the Atlantic and Pacific fronts.
You will find the names of battles, quotes from presidents and generals, and scenes from each front throughout the memorial.
The Atlantic and Pacific arches also act as entrances to walk into the memorial.
Inside each arch, you will find 4 American bald eagles, each holding garland in their beaks, which holds a laurel wreath.
The laurel wreath is the symbol of victory and peace.
Directly beneath the wreath is a large medallion depicting Nike, the Roman Goddess of Victory.
She is standing on the helmet of Mars, the God of War, and she is holding parts of a broken sword in both hands.
World War 2 veterans will recognize this image as it's the same image that adorned the only universal medal earned by each member of the U.S. Armed Forces during WW2.
The symbols in these 2 entrances leave no doubt to the visitor that this memorial is dedicated to the total victory by U.S. and Allied Forces.
Surrounding the fountain are 56 columns that list U.S. states, commonwealths, and territories that sent men and women to serve under the U.S. flag during WWII.
Each column has two wreaths, one inside and one outside.
One wreath consists of oak leaves, representing industrial might. The other consists of wheat, representing the agricultural might of the United States.
Freedom Wall and the Gold Stars
The Freedom Wall, an arched wall containing thousands of gold stars, is where we "mark the price of Freedom" and honor the 416,800 American servicemen who died in uniform during WWII.
The gold stars come from a military tradition in the USA where military families hang small flags in the windows of their homes to note that a family member was serving in uniform.
If that member paid the ultimate sacrifice, then the blue star would be replaced with a gold star.
There are 4,048 Gold Stars with each star representing approximately 100 U.S. service members who perished in uniform during the war.
The Order of the States
The order of the states and territories is not immediately obvious.
They are arranged in order that they became part of the United States and alternate from side to side, starting with Delaware and Pennsylvania, the 1st two states to ratify the U.S. Constitution, on either side of the Freedom Wall.
Kilroy Was Here
One of the many hidden secrets of the WWII Memorial is a depiction of Kilroy hidden on the memorial (actually it is hidden twice!).
You'll have to take one of our tours to find him :).
The World War 2 Memorial is a 7 acre (3 hectares) memorial located on the National Mall and is dedicated to those who served in uniform and at the homefront during the war.
Like most memorials in DC, the World War 2 National Memorial is open 24 hours a day.
However, NPS Rangers are on staff to answer questions and provide interpretive tours of the memorial from 9:30 am until 10:00 pm (22:00) every day except for Christmas Day.
The memorial is particularly beautiful lit up at night and is one of the top things to do at night in DC.
The memorials on-site computer registry is available during Ranger hours only. Read more about honoring WW2 veterans here.
Most visitors come as part of a visit to the National Mall and spend between 20-30 minutes here, though you could easily spend more time here.
How to Get Here
The World War 2 Memorial is located on the west side of the National Mall (map), in between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
If you are considering a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket while in DC, then note that all companies stop at this memorial as well as other types of bus tours.
Nearest Metro Station
The closest Metro station is the Smithsonian Metro Station (Blue-Orange-Silver).
It’s about a 13-minute walk (directions) from the Metro station to the memorial.
If you are new to DC's subway, then read our guide on navigating the Metro system.
If Metro's Red Line is most convenient for you, you could exit at Farragut North Metro Station. From there, it's about a 20-min walk to the memorial.
Take the 17th Street exit and head down the hill (southbound). The WWII Memorial will be on your right once you reach the National Mall.
DC Circulator Bus
Alternatively, you could take the DC Circulator Bus, which has a National Mall route. The bus is free and makes stops at various memorials and monuments.
However, the bus doesn't have a stop at the WW2 Memorial. You would need to get off at either the Washington Monument or the MLK Memorial stops.
Both stops require just a 5-minute walk.
There is very limited street parking nearby. Parking can be found all along Ohio Drive just to the south of the Lincoln Memorial (see the green lines below).
Just be patient, as visitors are coming and going frequently, so you will eventually get a spot there.
Alternatively, you could park along Constitution Ave NW outside of rush hour. All spots are paid and limited to 3 hours, so pay attention to signage.
You can also pay for a space in a garage ahead of time through a service called SpotHero.
Due to its central location on the National Mall, the World War 2 Memorial is nearby several other popular attractions.
- Washington Monument
- MLK Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Be sure to read our guide to all memorials and monuments in Washington, DC.
There is no shortage of private companies that offer tours that include the WWII Memorial, including us, DC by Foot.
The memorial is a stop on 3 of our most popular walking tours.
- National Mall Tour
- National Mall and Tidal Basin Tour
- Memorials and Moonlight Tour
The memorial is also a part of our anytime GPS-led audio tour of the National Mall.
National Park Ranger Talks
Park Rangers, as well as volunteers, provide daily “interpretive programs” on the hour every hour from 10 a.m. until 10:30 pm (22:30). These talks are free.
Unlike the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, there are no names listed at the WWII Memorial. Instead, those men killed in action are honored with the gold stars.
However, at the Ranger Station on the southern side of the memorial, you will find computer screens. These are only accessible during the day.
Here you can search for a veteran of WWII and they will provide you with information about this person and a photo if they have one.
The online WWII Memorial Registry lists Americans who contributed to the war effort, both an official list documented by government databases and an unofficial registry of anyone who helped win the war.
Any person can submit any name to the Registry of Remembrances as a "thank you" for their efforts during the war.
You may encounter an Honor Flight during your visit. Honor Flights started as a way to honor WWII veterans with a chance to visit DC, though they are now open to veterans of other wars as well.
It may be a single group from a small community or a day (usually a Saturday or Sunday) where dozen of Honor Flights are visiting the memorial.
On days when there are many attendees, you'll see greeters in 1940s garb, wreath layings, Honor Guards, and on occasion, Bob Dole!
For more information on what Honor Flights may be visiting and other ways to honor veterans, visit their website.