World War 2 Memorial

The World War II Memorial on the National Mall is open. I’m on my way there now. Pictures at 11.

Update, 10:56pm: Photos here.

Update, 11:40pm, some impressions: The National WWII Memorial sits at the Eastern end of the Reflecting Pool, where the Rainbow Pool used to be, between Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. It is large, wide, oval, and sunken six feet below grade, so that the Reflecting Pool cascades into the Memorial fountain. Two huge pillars flank the Memorial, representing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war, consisting of four columns, beneath which bronze eagles lift victory laurels.

Lining the oval are several smaller pillars, each one representing a state or territory which fought in the war. The ordering of the pillars was a source of confusion initially: the Philippines, for example, was on the side of the Atlantic pillar, and Florida on the Pacific side. A park ranger cleared up the issue, explaining that the pillars are arranged in the order that they joined the Union, starting with Delaware and Pennsylvania, then alternating between north and south through the sequence, with no connection to the position of the Atlantic and Pacific pillars. Binding the states and territories is a twist of bronze rope.

The south face of the Memorial is dominated by the Field of Stars, a huge wall covered with 4,000 gold stars, each representing 100 deaths in the war, before which is a plaque: “Here we mark the price of freedom.” (I’m a bit leery of the slightly impersonal “assembly line” coldness of assigning a hundred lives to a star, but when one realizes that Iraq from March 2003 till today would be just eight stars — eight in a year, compared to four thousand in five — well, that’s humbling.)

Bush-dislikers will really dislike this memorial stone, but don’t get into a tizzy over it. Chester Arthur’s name is on the Washington Monument, Warren G. Harding’s name is on Lincoln Memorial, and Nixon is on the Moon. We don’t note our memorials for the names that are on them; these memorials represent far bigger things than the incumbents at their construction.

Mga kapwa-Pinoy, ito’y para sa iyo. And any US Marines out there, this one is for you.

(And one more thing, any DC TV news junkies know who this guy is and what network he’s from? He looked familiar, but I couldn’t find him on any of tonight’s newscasts.)