The D.C. War Memorial reopened to the public on Thursday morning, just in time for Veterans Day. That’s incredibly appropriate, given that this memorial honors Washingtonians who fought and died in World War I. (We celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 because that war ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.)
Actually, the War Memorial’s ties to Veterans Day run even deeper: It was dedicated by President Herbert Hoover on Nov. 11, 1931, to the sound of John Philip Sousa’s Marine Band. The names of 499 Washington residents who gave their lives in the war -- out of 26,000 who served -- were inscribed around the base of the memorial.
Whether you call it the D.C. War Memorial or the World War I Memorial, this has long been my favorite spot on the Mall -- it’s a simple, domed Doric temple in the middle of a circle of trees, midway between the World War II and Korean War memorials. It lacks the hustle and bustle associated with the bigger, grander monuments nearby. Its small stature is due to its intended use as a bandstand -- not the most grandiose way to remember “The War to End All Wars,” but that’s part of its immense charm.
Until recently, the memorial’s cracked marble and slightly unkempt look made it feel like an abandoned ruin in the middle of the Mall. But now, after millions of dollars of restoration work, it is gleaming again, just in time for Veterans Day. That’s the perfect day to visit: Park rangers will offer hour-long tours of the memorial at 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m.
Looking for more ways to honor our troops and celebrate Veterans Day? See our list of events and military activities, which includes wreath-layings and performances by military bands.