I visited the WWII National Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC about 12 years ago. Before I went, I honestly didn't know how I would react to it. When I first visited DC as a kid, I came away impressed by the size and grandeur of the US Capitol, the White House, the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial (among other sites). It all seemed larger-than-life to a young kid, and I grew up thinking that national monuments/memorials should be large and imposing.
Before I visited it, I knew the Memorial adhered to a modern aesthetic of memorial design. One that is less physically overwhelming to visitors, more open, likely to symbolically incorporate water into its design, etc. It all made me wonder. World War II Memorial in Washington, DC - Overhead View(Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division. Public Domain.)
The Memorial is located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. It is oval shaped, with its endpoints along a North-South axis. A series of 56 pillars, one for each state/territory/district that was part of the US during WWII (48 States, 7 Territories, District of Columbia) surround a central pool of water (Rainbow Pool) with fountains. At each closed end of the Memorial is a Pavilion - one for the Atlantic Ocean combat theater, one for the Pacific Ocean combat theater; the Pacific Pavilion is at the South-facing end. The Memorial's main entrance is at the midpoint of its East face, with the opposite face open to the Lincoln Memorial and its Reflecting Pool (due West).World War II Memorial in Washington, DC - Pool with Fountains View(Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division. Public Domain.)
Inside each of the Pavilions are four bronze Bald Eagle statues held aloft by four bronze columns. The eagles hold a laurel wreath, symbolic of victory.World War II Memorial in Washington, DC - Pavilion with Bald Eagles(Image Credit: National Park Service. Public Domain.)
My dad served in the US Merchant Marines (MM) during WWII, delivering war materiel in combat theaters around the world. Two of the ships he sailed on were sunk by enemy weapons - one by torpedo, one by mine. Knowing the important role served by the US Merchant Marines in the War - FDR called it the "Fourth Arm of Defense" - I was curious to see how the MM was incorporated into the WWII Memorial. I was happy to see it received respectful treatment - something that is not always the case!
Through the upcoming (2024) US commemorative coin program that is set to honor the "Greatest Generation," the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC is in line to receive surcharge funds that are to be used for its repair and ongoing maintenance. (Note: The "Greatest Generation" refers to those born in the US between 1901 and 1927 and lived through the Great Depression and World War II.)
Until then, I thought I'd offer up a few souvenir/commemorative pieces I have in my collection that are related to the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
First is a philatelic item vs. numismatic piece - an Event Cover postmarked on the day the Memorial was dedicated - May 29, 2004. It came in a blue, paper-wrapped, cardboard portfolio that also includes a card with brief information about the Memorial. I purchased mine from the Memorial's online gift shop a couple of years after the dedication ceremony.
Next, is a large (3") bronze medal; I purchased it as part of my online order for the Event Cover.
The obverse design presents a view down the interior southern side of the Memorial with a line of State/Territory/District pillars divided by the Pacific Pavilion. In the background is seen the Lincoln Memorial and its Reflecting Pool. The reverse design features a Bald Eagle at its center with its wings outstretched and piercing the ring it is perched within, In its lower segment, the ring includes the 13 stripes (symbolic of the original 13 States) found on the US Shield. The inscription, "A Memorial to the Spirit, Sacrifice & Commitment of the American People" encircles the central design elements.
Last up is a medal commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution for the Memorial's opening. I purchased mine in one of the Smithsonian Institution gift shops about a decade ago inside the National Museum of American History. (My guess is that if the SI is still selling the medal, it is asking for more than the $10.00 I paid for it.)
The obverse of the 1.75" bronze medal presents the same view as the large medal above. The medal's reverse is very different, rather than the large medal's Pavilion/Pillars design, it presents the emblems of the six services that were engaged in World War II: (from the top, left) Army, Navy, Air Force, Merchant Marines, Coast Guard and Marine Corps.
I wonder if any of the three coins slated for the 2024 "Greatest Generation" commemorative program will feature a design similar to one of those shown on the medals?
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, see: Commems Collection