Memorial Design
The National World War II Memorial design recognizes that the site itself pays special tribute to America's WWII generation. The memorial design creates a special place within the vast openness of the National Mall to commemorate the sacrifice and celebrate the victory of WWII, yet remains respectful and sensitive to its historic surroundings. The vistas from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial and the site's park-like setting are preserved, and the double row of elm trees that flank the memorial have been restored. Above all, the design creates a powerful sense of place that is distinct, memorable, evocative and serene.


The memorial plaza and Rainbow Pool are the principal design features of the memorial, unifying all other elements. Two flagpoles flying the American flag frame the ceremonial entrance at 17th Street. The bases of granite and bronze are adorned with the military service seals of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army Air Forces, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. Ceremonial steps and ramps lead from 17th Street into the plaza. A series of 24 bronze bas relief panels along the ceremonial entrance balustrades depict America's war years, at home and overseas. Announcements of the memorial are located at the 17th Street ceremonial entrance.

Curvilinear ramps at the north and south approaches provide access to the plaza for visitors walking along the existing east-west pathways between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. These ramps provide a gentle entry to the plaza. Granite benches follow the curvilinear rampart walls.


Two 43-foot pavilions serve as markers and entries on the north and south ends of the plaza. Bronze baldacchinos are an integral part of the pavilion design. Four bronze columns support four American eagles that hold a suspended victory laurel to memorialize the victory of the WWII generation. Inlayed on the floor of the pavilions are the WWII victory medal surrounded by the years "1941-1945" and the words "Victory on Land," "Victory at Sea," and "Victory in the Air." These sculptural elements celebrate the victory won in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters.


Fifty-six granite pillars celebrate the unprecedented unity of the nation during WWII. The pillars are connected by a bronze sculpted rope that symbolizes the bonding of the nation. Each state and territory from that period and the District of Columbia is represented by a pillar adorned with oak and wheat bronze wreaths and inscribed with its name; the pillars are arranged in the order of entry into the Union, alternating south to north across the plaza beginning adjacent to the Field of Gold Stars. The 17-foot pillars are open in the center for greater transparency, and ample space between each allows viewing into and across the memorial.

  Commemorative Area

Within a commemorative area at the western side of the memorial is recognized the sacrifice of America's WWII generation and the contribution of our allies. A field of 4,000 sculpted gold stars on the Freedom Wall commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives. During WWII, the gold star was the symbol of family sacrifice.

  Rainbow Pool and Waterworks

The historic waterworks of the Rainbow Pool are completely restored and contribute to the celebratory nature of the memorial. The design provides seating along the pool circumference for visitors. Semi-circular fountains at the base of the two memorial pavilions and waterfalls flanking the Freedom Wall complement the waterworks in the Rainbow Pool.


Two-thirds of the 7.4-acre memorial site is landscaping and water, allowing the memorial to nestle comfortably within its park-like setting. The ceremonial entrance has three large lawn panels between the monumental steps. The elm trees have been restored to their original splendor, and a replanting plan replaced unhealthy trees. A landscaped contemplative area is located at the northwestern corner of the site. Canopies of flowering trees augment re-seeded lawns.


The memorial is constructed of bronze and granite. Granite was chosen for its aesthetic appeal, superior strength, and durability. Water resistance was another important criterion. The two principal stones selected for the memorial are “Kershaw” for the vertical elements and “Green County” for the main plaza paving stone. “Kershaw” is quarried in South Carolina, while “Green County” is quarried in Georgia. Two green stones – “Rio Verde” and “Moss Green” – were used for accent paving on the plaza. Both are quarried in Brazil. "Academy Black" and "Mount Airy" were used to reconstruct the Rainbow Pool. “Mount Airy,” quarried in North Carolina, is the original coping stone of the Rainbow Pool. To enhance the aesthetic appearance of the water surface of the pool, an apron of “Academy Black,” quarried in California, were used for the vertical interior surfaces.


  • 4 bronze columns, 4 bronze eagles and 1 bronze laurel within each pavilion
  • 24 bronze bas relief sculptures along the ceremonial entrance (12 on each side)
  • 4,000 sculpted gold stars on the Freedom Wall
  • 112 bronze wreaths w/armatures (2 wreaths on each pillar, one on each side)
  • 56 bronze ropes between the pillars


  • Length (back of pavilion to back of pavilion): 384’
  • Width (back of basin behind Freedom Wall to bottom of ceremonial entrance): 279’
  • Plaza: 337’-10” long; 240’-2” wide; 6’ below grade
  • Rainbow Pool: 246’-9” long; 147’-8” wide
  • Ceremonial entrance: 148’-3” wide; 147’-8” long (curb to plaza)
  • 2 Pavilions: 43’ above grade; 23’ square
  • 56 Pillars: 17’ above grade; 4’4” wide; 3’ deep
  • Freedom Wall: 84’-8” wide; 9’ high from plaza floor; 41’-9” radius