A Washington memorial to shared heroism

Queen Elizabeth II and park ranger in front of wall carved with quote about heroism (© Ron Edmonds/AP Images)
Queen Elizabeth II visits the World War II Memorial, May 2007. (© Ron Edmonds/AP Images)

Since the end of World War II, Americans continue to honor the sacrifices of those who lost their lives fighting for the peace, prosperity and stability enjoyed by much of the world today. In the United States, the principal memorial to this generation is a prominent feature on Washington’s National Mall.

Construction of the World War II Memorial, located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, began in September 2001. It opened to the public in April 2004.

Two pavilions on the north and south ends of the plaza are flanked by sculptural elements that celebrate victory in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of the war.

President Harry Truman’s 1945 message to the U.S. Congress (in the inscription at right) honored the Alliance and also paid tribute to those in the underground movements of occupied countries whose sacrifices contributed to the Allied victory.

Sixteen million Americans served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II; 405,399 of them died in the conflict.

Bas-relief panel showing men in helmets holding weapons (© Ron Edmonds/AP Images)
One of 24 bronze bas-relief panels flanking the memorial’s ceremonial entrance (© Ron Edmonds/AP Images)

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we proudly commemorate those heroic and honorable patriots who gave their all for the cause of freedom during some of history’s darkest hours,” President Trump said. On June 6, Trump will observe D-Day’s 75th anniversary at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Woman in wheelchair, park ranger and others looking up at planes (© Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)
Veteran Elizabeth Copp, 96, watches World War II aircraft fly over the World War II Memorial. (© Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)

The Allies included those who signed the January 1, 1942, Declaration of the United Nations, including the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and China. Twenty-two additional nations signed on the next day (see below) and another 21 by the end of the war. The peace sought at the conclusion of the war involved not only the Allied victors, but Germany, Japan, Italy and other nations as well.  As President Truman said to the U.N. General Assembly gathered in San Francisco in 1945: “If we do not want to die together in war, we must learn to live together in peace.”

Aerial view of visitors at World War II Memorial (© Evan Vucci/AP Images)
The memorial receives at least 4 million visitors every year. (© Evan Vucci/AP Images)

NOTE: The original 26 signatories were the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Poland, Union of South Africa, Yugoslavia.

By March 1945, Mexico, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Iraq, Brazil, Bolivia, Iran, Colombia, Liberia, France, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela, Uruguay, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon also had signed, in that order.

A version of this article was previously published on May 1, 2015.