A Guide to American War and Military Memorials

Throughout human history, wars have been fought over many different types of circumstances. Some cultures have commemorated their victories with monuments or other types of permanent structures. In many cases, the monuments or memorials serve to pay homage to the lives lost in the service of the military branch or country that fought in the war. America has been involved in many wars and conflicts in their short history, and the memorials erected are as varied and glorious as the wars themselves.

Arlington National Cemetery

In June 1864, 200 acres in northern Virginia were designated to be a military cemetery. The land overlooked the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D.C. To date, over 300,000 people have been buried at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). Being the second largest of 130 national cemeteries, ANC is arguably the most famous. This could be in part due to the different types of people buried there, from former presidents to military members who have died in the service of the nation. Also at ANC is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which holds the unidentified remains of three military members killed in World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Located on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents the lives lost in every conflict America has been involved in. War is a hellish experience, and the fact is that some military members who die or go missing will never be recovered. The Tomb is for all of them and their families, attempting to give some closure to those that are left behind. Created after World War I, the Tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by members of the Honor Guard stationed nearby at Fort Myer.

Liberty Memorial (WWI)

The Liberty Memorial is located in Kansas City, Missouri, and was built to honor the lives of the Americans who died in the Great War; World War I. Completed in 1926, this location also houses the National World War I Museum. The building is designed in a classical Egyptian style, resembling an ancient tomb. The memorial serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when tyranny is allowed to fester unchecked.

National World War II Memorial

This memorial is located right in the heart of downtown Washington D.C. Adjacent to the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and White House; this is an impressive sight to behold. Honoring the more than 16 million military members who served in WWII, the memorial has a section for the part of the war that took place in the Pacific Ocean and the other half that happened in Europe. Officially opened in 2004, the memorial is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

USS Arizona Memorial

Located at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the USS Arizona was a battleship that was sunk during the December 7 th 1941 attack by Japan. Over 1100 Navy sailors were killed aboard the ship, and almost all of them still rest inside the ship. The memorial was built directly over the hull of the sunken ship, and is accessible only by boat. The memorial visitor center is located on land adjacent to the memorial, and every president since Franklin Roosevelt has made a trip to the site.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The memorial is located in West Potomac Park in downtown Washington D.C., near the Lincoln Memorial. It commemorates all who served in the Korean War, especially those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. Completed in 1995, it was dedicated on the 42 nd anniversary of the armistice treaty that ended the war. Listed on the National Register of historic places since it was built, it is maintained by the National Park Service.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

This memorial is also located in downtown D.C., adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is unique in that it lists the names of every service member that died during the war. It also serves to honor all who fought in the Vietnam War and is actually comprised of three separate parts; the Three Soldiers Statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was completed in 1982 and is maintained by the National Park Service.

Vietnam Women’s Memorial

Aside from the main Vietnam Veterans Memorial, there exists a specific memorial to honor the women who served in the Vietnam War. Most of the women were nurses, and the memorial underscores the critical role that women had during the conflict. The statue itself is of three women assisting a wounded soldier. Located in Washington D.C., adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it was dedicated in 1993.

Three Soldiers Memorial

The memorial is a bronze statue depicting three soldiers from the Vietnam War, and is located adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. It was originally designed to complement the Vietnam Memorial wall where the names of the dead are listed. The soldiers in the statue are all standing and are outfitted as soldiers would have been in the war, right down to the weapons they are carrying. The statue was opened in 1984 on Veteran’s Day, and is maintained by the National Park Service.

Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial

This memorial serves as a tribute to the Americans that have lost their lives in the two current wars; Afghanistan and Iraq. Located in the suburb of Northwood in Irvine, California, this is the only known memorial to list every American casualty for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is some speculation that it may also be the only memorial built to commemorate the lives lost while the wars are still going on. It is the newest memorial in this guide, and was dedicated in November of 2010.

Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial)

The Marine Corps Memorial was not built to honor a certain conflict or war, but rather the Marine lives lost in every war since 1775. Located outside the gates of Arlington National Cemetery, the memorial is a massive sculpture. It was designed after a famous photo taken during the Battle for Iwo Jima during World War II, when a group of Marines heroically raised the American flag on the island. The memorial was dedicated in 1954, and features an actual American flag flying from the top of the statue.

United States Air Force Memorial

The USAF Memorial was built to honor the members of the US Air Force as well as the entities that came before it, such as the Army Air Corps. It is located in Arlington Virginia in Fort Myer, adjacent to the Pentagon and directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. It was designed by James Freed, who also designed the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The memorial features three sweeping spires to represent jets in flight, and was dedicated in 2006 after a 14 year effort.

United States Navy Memorial

The Navy memorial is located in Washington D.C. and honors all who have served or still serve in every seafaring service in America; the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and of course, the US Navy. Closely associated with the memorial is the US Navy Museum, which is located adjacent to the memorial in downtown D.C. Formally dedicated in 1991, the memorial also houses a wall inscribed with famous sayings from the Navy’s history, ranging from John Paul Jones in 1779 to Neil Armstrong in 1969.

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