United States war memorials are erected as prominent ways of acknowledging and honoring those who have sacrificed their lives for their country. People visiting memorials can reflect on the lives lost and the need to avoid future conflicts. Explore particularly well-known American war memorials, along with some lesser-known sites that commemorate those who have played a role in preserving democracy through conflict.
Famous United States War Memorials
Though there are many war memorials within the United States, some are more visited than others. The most well-known war memorials in America include:
The United States Marine Corps War Memorial
Dedicated by President Dwight Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the United States Marine Corps War Memorial (USMC) is a military memorial statue located near the Arlington National Cemetery. This statue memorializes all personnel of the U.S. Marine Corps who have died defending the United States since 1775. This statue is also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial.
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, is a memorial cemetery for those Americans who died in wars, and for service members who were honorably discharged.
The National Memorial Arch
The National Memorial Arch is located in Pennsylvania's Valley Forge National Historical Park. This memorial was erected in honor of the officers and soldiers of the Continental Army.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknowns (also well known as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) is in Arlington, Virginia. It symbolizes the Americans who died in all U.S. wars with no identifiable remains to bury.
The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
The USS Arizona Memorial is in honor of the Americans who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. This memorial is in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located in Washington, D.C. It opened in 1982. This wall remembers those U.S. service members who died during the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam Women's Memorial
The Vietnam Women's Memorial is in memory of the women, mainly nurses, who actively served in the Vietnam War.
War Memorial Stadium
War Memorial Stadium is a memorial in Arkansas to celebrate our nation's victories in World War I and World War II. It also serves as a remembrance of the 4,634 Arkansans who died during those wars.
Spanish-American War Monument
The Spanish-American War Monument is located in Arlington, Virginia at the National Cemetery. This 50-foot tall column of Barre granite is a reminder of all those who died in the Spanish-American War. The monument is topped with a bronze eagle.
The Patriots Point War Dog Memorial
The Patriots Point War Dog Memorial is located on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. This memorial commemorates the contributions of trained military dogs that served in wars.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Korean War Veterans Memorial opened in 1995 in Washington, D.C. This memorial commemorates all of those who served the U.S. in the Korean War.
The Liberty Memorial
The Liberty Memorial is in Kansas City, Missouri. It serves as an important World War I memorial and museum.
The National D-Day Memorial
The National D-Day Memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia. It stands in remembrance of those who served and died in the Battle of Normandy.
The National World War II Memorial
The National World War II Memorial is in honor of those who served the United States in World War II. This memorial is located in Washington, D.C. It is positioned between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
The African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation and Museum
The African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, D.C. was erected to commemorate all African American troops who served in the Civil War.
Additional Memorials in the D.C. Area
The most famous D.C. memorials are not the only war memorials located in the District of Columbia and the surrounding area. Examples include:
- The World War I Memorial opened in Pershing Park in 2021. This long-awaited memorial commemorates the 4.7 million Americans who fought in World War I.
- The American Veterans Disabled for Life memorial pays tribute to veterans who became disabled through military service.
- The Lafayette Square Monument is located in Lafayette Park. It honors heroes of the American Revolution.
- The District of Columbia War Memorial at the National Mall remembers D.C.-area service members who served in World War I.
- The United States Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia was designed to honor all the men and women who served in the Air Force during both wartime and peace.
- The USS Maine Mast Memorial is located within Arlington National Cemetery and features the actual mast of the USS Maine, which was sunk in Cuba in 1898.
- The Military Women's Memorial is situated at the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. It honors and documents the service of women in the armed forces.
- The Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial in Fairfax, Virginia's Lady Bird Johnson Park is a memorial to sailors who died during World War I.
More War Memorials Throughout the U.S.
War memorials are scattered throughout the United States. Here are some memorials of note that are not quite as well-known as others.
- The Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial in La Jolla, California honors veterans from the Revolutionary War as well as veterans in the ongoing War on Terror.
- The Go For Broke National Education Center in Los Angeles, California is a memorial for Japanese-American service members of World War II.
- The Bob Hope Memorial in San Diego honors his legacy with the USO, providing much-needed entertainment during times of conflict to those serving overseas.
- The Revolutionary War Monument in Lexington, Massachusetts honors local militia members who died fighting the British on April 19, 1775. It is the oldest war memorial in America.
- The Armed Forces Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia is dedicated to veterans of all American conflicts and pays special homage to those who did not return.
- The American Merchant Mariners' Memorial is located in The Battery at New York Harbor. It pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of merchant seamen in conflict.
- The Brooklyn War Memorial honors the men and women from Brooklyn, New York who served in World War II.
- The Grosse Pointe War Memorial is on the Alger Estate in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. It is anchored by a memorial to locals who served and died in World War II.
- The Faces of War Memorial in Roswell, Georgia is a memorial to the service members who participated in the Vietnam War, as well as the people of Vietnam.
- The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is a memorial to Alabamians who served in any armed conflict on behalf of the United States.
The Purpose of U.S. War Memorials
United States war memorials are places where everyone can go to mourn, reflect and pay tribute. These memorials also serve the purpose of teaching others about the past and giving an insight into historical events that have shaped this country's history.
Memorials are also a symbolic cry for those who lost their lives, and a way of letting those who come after them learn something of which they might not otherwise be made aware. War memorials let people within a society know that, by serving their country, these honored men and women contributed to the nation with the very sacrifice of their lives. Memorials speak to those who view them as though the people they honor are saying, "Do not forget us."
Just as they don't all honor the same events, memorials are not all the same in appearance or design. These structures of remembrance can take on many forms. They usually feature one or more of the following:
- A room or rooms in a building
Discover More American War Memorials
This list of famous and lesser-known memorials doesn't include every single memorial in the country. There are numerous other war memorials throughout the United States, with plans for others underway. For example, the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial is expected to be completed in 2023. Most cities have memorials erected to war heroes who were from their specific region and fought in a particular war. If you look around your city or town, you might find a memorial with a war story behind it. Take the time to visit and pay tribute to those in whose honor it was erected.