The World War II Memorial

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11854

World War I, "The Great War," was "the war to end all wars." Until World War II, that is. The WW II Memorial pays beautiful tribute to the people, states, and territories who fought in that ugly time!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • World War II engulfed many nations, but why are only 48 states displayed at the World War II Memorial?

World War II Memorial

You have just two more stops to make before your tour of Washington, D.C., is complete.

If you missed or need to review the previous stops, you can find those lessons in the right-hand sidebar under Related Lessons.

During this lesson, you will tour the World War II Memorial and discover the history of how it came to be.

It took years to make the World War II Memorial a reality. In 1987, A World War II veteran, Roger Durbin, began petitioning Congress for a national memorial to honor those who served during the Second World War.

For years, Congress turned the idea down, and it wasn't until 1993 that President Bill Clinton signed the World War II Memorial Act into law, which allowed for the creation of a national World War II Memorial.

Like many of the buildings and memorials in Washington, D.C., a contest was opened to the public to see who could develop the best design for the memorial. Over 400 American architects submitted ideas for the memorial, and in 1997, an elaborate design by Friedrich St.Florian was selected.

The centerpiece of St.Florian's design was a large fountain. The fountain was surrounded by sculptures and images that honored both the Pacific and European theaters of the war. It was decided that this design would be placed between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.

This location is significant because it is a prominent place that receives a lot of traffic in the heart of the National Mall.

Construction on the memorial began in 2001 and was completed in 2004.

The finished project consists of a ring of 56 granite pillars. Each pillar is 17 feet tall and displays the name of a state or U.S. territory that fought in World War II. There are 48 states, the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory, the Hawaii Territory, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You may have noticed that Alaska and Hawaii are not included as states. This is because, during World War II, the United States only consisted of 48 states. Alaska and Hawaii were not admitted as states until after the war.

Between the pillars, on opposite sides of the memorial, are two arches. One arch reads, "Pacific," and the other arch reads, "Atlantic." These arches symbolize the conflict that took place in Asia and in Europe.

Throughout the memorial, there is also imagery that depicts the entire process a soldier went through in World War II, from the physical exam required to join the military to the triumphant return home from war.

Perhaps the most moving part of the memorial is the Freedom Wall, located on the west side of the memorial. The wall reads, "Here we mark the price of freedom." This statement is surrounded by 4,048 stars. Each star represents 100 Americans who died during World War II.

World War II Memorial Wall of Freedom

Image by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain, via Wikipedia Commons, was released into the public domain by the United States Navy with the ID 040526-N-0295M-035.

There are so many components to the World War II Memorial, each giving tribute to a different aspect of the war.

When you are ready, move on to the Got It? section to tour the World War II Memorial and take in all of its parts.

Consider exploring the Elephango lesson in the right-hand sidebar under Additional Resources to learn more about the president mentioned in this lesson.

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