Memorials, War

views updated May 29 2018

Memorials, War. Wars are commemorated by an immense variety of devices—obelisks, monoliths, marble temples, battlefields and battle markers, statues, cemeteries, tombs, memorial chapels and parks, plaques and walls bearing the names of the dead, place names, and “living memorials”—including hospitals, stadiums, and highways. War memorials are designed to consecrate great struggles that protect the nation's interests and preserve its existence.

Two aspects of every war affect the way memorials represent it: (1) whether it ended in victory or defeat; and (2) whether it was believed necessary or unnecessary, morally just or wrong. To four kinds of war—victories and defeats in good causes and bad—correspond four sets of memorials. The symbolic qualities of these memorials overlap, however, because they are determined by more than the wars they represent. Memorials adapt the realities of wars to the needs and concerns of the generation that commemorates them.

The Revolutionary War, first of America's just victories, was not widely commemorated by the generation that fought it. Throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many communities devised objects to mark the war, but almost all were obscure, and even the most notable—the Bunker Hill obelisk—was meagerly ornamented and conveyed no sense of the cause it symbolized. Commemorative restraint reflected a political culture that was antiauthoritarian, suspicious of standing armies, and associated military monuments with centralized state power. Most of the monuments that presently commemorate the Revolution were erected at the turn of twentieth century.

Civil War commemorations began as soon as the fighting stopped, but their scale was again limited. In the South, memories of a lost but noble cause took root, but a shattered economy and social system precluded extensive monument making. In the North, local cemeteries were embellished, bodies were exhumed to fill new military cemeteries, and many monuments appeared. However, the most familiar memorials—statues of anonymous soldiers—were erected on town squares and outside city halls during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By that time the last of the Civil War generation, along with its many resentments, was dying off and the memorials assumed new meaning. Northerners and Southerners respected each other's conception of the war as a just cause; each side embraced the other as it erected similar monuments to itself. The North's largest commemorative center, Gettysburg National Military Park, incorporated monuments to Southern soldiers; Southern cemeteries included honored places for Northern soldiers. The ideal of regional reconciliation was made visible and tangible in monuments to the Civil War dead.

World War I cost the United States less in life and treasure than did the Civil War, but its proclaimed achievement, saving the world for democracy, was greater, and so was its monument production. Massive numbers of monuments emerged right after the armistice, ranging all the way from plaques to statues of “doughboys” (common soldiers) at city halls and town squares to massive commemorative centers. America's fatalities—117,000—were relatively light, but its memorials were grand and somber.

Early twentieth‐century monument production in America was accelerated by a City Beautiful movement that used the Industrial Revolution's wealth to clear away its debris. Of the many objects chosen to beautify the city, war memorials were best suited because they symbolized the expanding power and reach of the state and the great wave of “Americanism” that inundated the society during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Nowhere is this confluence of statism and democratization better exemplified than in Newark, New Jersey's, Wars of America (1926)—a massive sculpture of forty‐two figures representing all wars from the Revolution to World War I. What distinguishes this monument is not its size and scope, but its depiction of young men being embraced by their mothers and fathers, wives and children, as they go off to fight. In Wars of America, civilians and soldiers are commemorated together. This same theme, the continuity of civil and military institutions, is manifested in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Dedicated in 1921 as a monument to World War I's common soldier, the Tomb ennobles the common people of a democratic society.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located in Arlington, Virginia, Military Cemetery. Military cemeteries are the most moving of all memorial forms because they embody the culture of modern democracy. Before the Civil War, soldiers were buried together in unmarked graves near the field on which they fell. During the Civil War, state governments built military cemeteries to provide the dead with “decent” (individual) resting places. However, only one of these cemeteries, Gettysburg's, became a prominent memorial site during the war; most, including thirteen federal cemeteries, were established too late to accommodate the great number killed. Not until World War I did field graves become the exception rather than the rule. Seventy percent of the World War I dead were returned directly to their families for private burial; the remainder were buried in overseas cemeteries. Almost half of these—some 14,000 men—rest in the Meuse‐Argonne cemetery's separately marked but identical graves, laid out without regard to rank in rectangular equality—a perfect democracy of the dead.

World War I's techniques did not all transfer to World War II; in fact, World War II was undramatically commemorated. Arlington's Iwo Jima Memorial is probably the war's best‐known and most popular memorial in the United States, but it is atypical. The typical monument is utilitarian, created by attaching the adjective “memorial” to the names of auditoriums, schools, hospitals, community centers, sports arenas, highways, and other public places. The concept of the “living memorial” proved compatible with the muted idealism and restrained nationalism of the late 1940s and 1950s. Living memorials, indeed, desanctify war by melding memory of the hallowed dead with secular pursuits of everyday life.

Overseas, however, U.S. World War II commemorations outdid the traditional World War I pattern. Most of the American dead, as before, were returned to their families; but not all. More than 10,000 were interred in the Lorraine cemetery; 9,000, in the Normandy cemetery; and more than 7,000 in the Sicily‐Rome cemetery. At each place, marble walls were built in memory of the missing. At the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu lie the remains of 13,000 soldiers who died throughout the Pacific theater of war. The cemetery wall's 18,000 names include both the missing and the dead. The United States maintains twenty‐four cemeteries on foreign soil. Most of these are imposing in size and adorned with great monuments and statuary, but their most conspicuous feature is their immaculateness—itself an aspect of democratic culture. The impressively landscaped ground with its perfectly kept graves and regularly scrubbed stones dignifies the common soldier as it legitimates his death.

America's “bad victories,” unlike its good ones, were controversial at the time they were achieved and are ambivalently remembered. The Perry Peace Memorial on Lake Erie, Andrew Jackson's statue across from the White House in Lafayette Park, and the Battle of New Orleans site in Chalmette National Historical Park symbolize the War of 1812's high points, but are dissociated from its controversies and humiliating defeats. Baltimore's Battle Monument for the War of 1812—one of the nation's oldest war memorials—is far less notable than Fort McHenry, commemorated as the site that inspired The Star‐Spangled Banner. To the west, impressive monuments (including the Alamo and the San Jacinto Monument), are almost forgotten today. “Hiker” and “Rough Rider” statues and the memorial commemorating the sinking of the USS Maine (1898) in Havana, Cuba, were erected in the early decades of the twentieth century, but few Americans are familiar with these monuments or find them stirring.

One of America's several so‐called bad wars, the Vietnam War, ended in defeat; but defeat alone does not account for the new forms its memorials assumed. The most prominent, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., lists on its black marble walls all 58,000 war dead. It is the first national monument to elevate the individual above the cause. Later, public pressure forced the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts to identify the war on the monument's wall and to place on a nearby site a statue of soldiers with the American flag.

The new Vietnam monuments expressly affirm the ideal of gender and racial equality. The inclusion of a black soldier in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial statue symbolizes the many African‐American men who died, while the inclusion of a black nurse in a nearby Vietnam Women's Memorial statue represents the many African‐American women who served. Elsewhere in Washington stands the African‐American Civil War War Memorial commemorating black soldiers who fought to secure the Union. Across the Potomac River, in Arlington Cemetery, is the Memorial to Women in Military Service to America.

Nowhere are minorities more vividly recognized, however, than in the many memorials dedicated to the Korean War between the mid‐1980s and mid‐1990s. The Korean War Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington includes 19 stainless‐steel statues of white and black combat troops in action, and a 164‐foot wall of polished black granite with 2,400 faces of male and female, black and white support personnel. This structure, along with its local variants, is at once a return to and departure from the traditional genre. Its life‐size statues, all armed, repudiate the pacifist bias of many Vietnam War memorials, while it greatly extends the recognition of the nation's minorities. The will to commemorate the “forgotten war”—as the Korean War is popularly known—and broader efforts to incorporate forgotten people into the mainstream of American society are both manifestations of a late twentieth‐ century culture of inclusion.

At the turn of the twenty‐first century, the war memorial remains part of the symbolism of political order, its visitation part of the liturgy of public commitment. As much as any other form of commemoration, it is the vehicle by which the nation's legacy is sustained.


Jan C. Scruggs and and Joel L. Swerdlow , To Heal a Nation: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1985.
James M. Mayo , War Memorials as Political Landscape, 1988.
Wilbur Zelinsky , Nation into State, 1988.
George L. Mosse , Fallen Soldiers, 1990.
Edward T. Linenthal , Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, 1991.
Dean W. Holt , American Military Cemeteries, 1992.
John R. Gillis, ed., Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, 1994.
G. Kurt Piehler , Remembering War the American Way, 1995.
Lorett Treese , Valley Forge: Making and Remaking a National Symbol, 1995.

Barry Schwartz

War Memorials

views updated May 14 2018



Across Europe in the wake of the First World War, the erection of war memorials transformed the private grief of millions into public statements that expressed not the joy of victory but the burden of sorrow. Memorials facilitate identification with fallen soldiers and justify their sacrifices, and they allow participants in memorial ceremonies to transfer their own feelings onto the sculptors' creations. War memorials also provide a legacy for later conflicts.

Memorials were erected in profusion after the U.S. Civil War, the various colonial wars, and the conflicts surrounding German unification, such as the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871). But following World War I they were erected in nearly all the affected countries and recalled the omnipresence of the 1914–1918 tragedy. Only Russia, which had been transformed into the Soviet Union, suppressed memory of the war. It is remarkable to see the extent to which defeated and victorious countries alike shared the same frenzy for memorials, which moreover were quite similar in style, symbolism, and allegories. Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), artist and First World War veteran, designed in 1925 a project for a triumphal arch, much larger than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the better to honor his comrades. This fact, the Australian historian Ken Inglis notes, shows clearly that those who create memorials tend to forget and to invent as much as to remember. Memorials are products of their time, as are all intellectual and artistic products, ones in which death and grief occupy both public and private space.

For a lost generation, Armistice Day, first celebrated in 1919, was designed to unite through remembrance: unity of time, 11 November; unity of place, the war memorial; and unity of action, the commemorative ceremony. At the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of the fifth year of the war, 1918, the guns ceased fire, yielding a time of silence and sorrow. Therefore, the day of 11 November became a national holiday in some countries—in France, for example, in 1922—and was everywhere a day of remembrance. Perhaps most spectacular was the two minutes of absolute silence in Britain, observed everywhere from production lines in factories to city buses. In most countries, at eleven o'clock in the morning, people gathered around memorials, bedecked with flags, black crepe, and flowers, in a ceremony where the living honored the dead; there were speeches and invocations of a moral and civic pedagogy, a lesson in citizenship, and a plea never to allow war to return. Elements of this liturgy might conclude with fireworks and floodlights, banquets, or sporting events—in short, the social customs and events of the prewar period adapted both to commemorate the dead and to celebrate the living. Community memorials to fallen soldiers became no less sacred than religious sculptures in church parishes.


Monument aux morts is the French expression; the English war memorial expresses the larger concept that remembrance of the war dead is also remembrance of war itself. Although many Protestant nations involved in the war decided on "utilitarian" memorials such as scholarships, stadiums, libraries, clocks, fountains, swimming pools, and meeting places, the statue, usually erected at the center of some public square or space, remained the most common. Most towns had numerous memorials located in many different places. To obtain some idea of the extent of commemoration of the war in the 1920s, consider that there are some thirty-six thousand towns in France, for example, each with their own memorials. Every fallen soldier's name was engraved on a public monument but also in his former school, workplace, and parish church. Rooms in family homes were turned into altars, with photos and souvenirs.

For the community cenotaphs, in most cases, a stela of a kind commonly found in cemeteries was chosen. These memorials were cheaper and suited the public spirit of the times. Architects and marble workers were much in demand; funeral homes were busier than ever. Smart tradesmen offered catalogs selling palms, laurels, war crosses, even a relief of the poilu or the Tommy—informal terms for infantryman—to be affixed to the burial stone. Some commonly used inscriptions included enfants, They answered the call; morts; héros; Caduti per la patria; guerre; Fallen Heroes, 1914–1918; devoir; sacrifice; martyrs; mémoire. Exalted rhetoric such as the line from Horace, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, was used as well.

After World War I, pacifist movements flourished to such an extent that one wonders why so few memorials show it. In France, at most a dozen monuments bear the inscription "Que maudite soit la guerre" (What a Curse Is War). State interference may be ruled out. Everywhere memorials were put up spontaneously under the auspices of veterans or their families, which essentially meant, after 1918, by the whole of society. In France, where separation of church and state meant that religious decorations could not appear on public buildings, memorials were nevertheless often decorated with a crucifix, even outside of cemeteries. The unfathomable magnitude of grief shaped the massive response to loss, but implicitly there was still a powerful message in the war memorial movement: that war of this murderous kind must never happen again.

The lists of the fallen soldiers, a second element of the inscriptions, completed the funereal monument. Alphabetical order was usual and it reinforced the uniformity found in military cemeteries. Rank was not usually recognized; the equality of death came first. To cite names was of major importance, for names recall individuals and bring them back to life for a moment. To engrave the names, to read them, sometimes to physically touch them, as is seen in some photographs dating to the 1920s, was a way to individualize the dead as opposed to the anonymous unreality of mass slaughter.

The sculptures represent the tragedy of death, of courage, of the stoic and sometimes the martyr. Statues of poilus (French soldiers), Tommies (British soldiers), Diggers (Australian soldiers)—the warmth of these nicknames is significant—multiplied, memorializing men of a particular place and time. German and Austrian statues were more classical in form but no less powerful in their invocation of nobility. Brave, defiant, and even brash poses show that these men were viewed as heroes even if defeated. Uniforms and weapons were sculpted with accuracy. Standing on their pedestals, they are determined to pursue for eternity the exemplary fight for which they gave their lives. Their war is clean and aseptic, stripped of mud, lice, and blood, like tin soldiers. Yet these memorials are empty tombs, and such cenotaphs swiftly remind the beholder that they were erected on the backs of dead men like so many posthumous symbols of honor. Often, on battlefields or in large cities, generals have their own monuments; the troops are remembered collectively by a single memorial.

No matter what the iconographic impulse, there is always underneath the art a sense that death is intolerable. The dead can be exalted, but death cannot be glorified. This is one reason why these memorials usually deny death by depicting soldiers forever living, resurrected in bronze.

Memorials, especially in France but also in Italy, Germany, and Bohemia, honor both soldiers and the war's civilians, whose material and psychological support was so crucial. Finally and above all, they express sorrow. To borrow a term from French philologist Georges Dumézil (1898–1986), the war sculptures might be said to represent the three facets of war efforts—that people had to believe, to work, and to fight in order to carry on with the war. Memorials illustrate as much in stone and in bronze. At their summit, one finds a rooster, a lion, St. George, an eagle representing the nation; a soldier stands in the middle, while at the foot of the monument civilians, old people, women, and children contemplate the soldier or go about their daily chores, whether farming (still the most common activity), or factory work, or educating children. Although memorials were meant to glorify the courage of those who fought the war, they are first of all repositories of sorrow, grief, and public recognition of sacrifice on a monumental scale.

Some of the language used in these monuments was religious; other monuments drew on Romantic or classical notation. On memorials, as with stained glasses in churches, the Christian soldier joins the sacrifice of Christ in a representation—an Imitatio Christi. When the soldier is delivered to her, the new Virgin Mary holds him in her arms and the memorials become a statement of the terrible losses millions of mothers suffered during the conflict.


Although commemorations celebrated the soldiers above all, other victims of the war, by contrast, were excluded or marginalized in commemorative sites. The suffering of noncombatants, of prisoners of war, and of occupied populations was for the most part denied or forgotten. Victims who were not heroes did not easily fit in the commemorative language of the day. How do we acknowledge hunger, cold, forced labor, rape, the fate of hostages, of civilians who simply got in the way? Remembrance could not cope with all of this until the Holocaust of World War II transformed the commemorative landscape.

European war memorials were thus symptomatic both of cultural demobilization and its impossibility, something that was underscored after the Second World War. Only tablets, and occasionally sculpture, recalled the dead combatants of that war; this was also true of the wars of decolonization. An exception would be the Soviet Union, where gigantic memorials were raised to the "great patriotic war." Since the 1970s, however, everything has changed, with a new efflorescence of memorials that bring to light repressed memories, especially of the Jewish Holocaust. Contemporary artists try to render in their works and monuments the general obsession with disappearance, the burial (or the impossibility of it) that became the fate of those in the First, then in the Second World War.

Although memorials change over time, the brutal reality of grief remains. New media intervene in recent commemorations. After the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States, the Internet became a place for remembrance and grief, with pictures and biographies of the victims, virtual ex-votos multiplied ad infinitum by online visitors. The same phenomenon was observed in Spain after the attack of 11 March 2004. In Australia, France, and Britain, the names of victims of World War I also appear online. In Israel, on Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron), the names of soldiers who died for the nation scroll across television screens. An immense tower to replace the World Trade Center, as designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, will evoke elements of the Statue of the Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. With names, photographs, architectural symbolism—through whatever medium—these "monuments to the dead" are meant to bring life back to those who died in war or more recent postnational violence.

And yet virtually all war memorials have a quixotic element to them. They were constructed so that the dead would not be forgotten. And yet that is precisely what happens, and perhaps must happen, as war retreats into history. The dead are forgotten; "never again" fades into a cliché, resurrected the next time war erupts, and contemporaries cry once more "never again." War memorials are thus irrepressible expressions of collective and personal grief, marking the European landscape. If there is an icon of twentieth-century Europe, it is the monument to war and to its millions of victims.

See alsoWar Neuroses; World War I; World War II.


Inglis, Ken. "War Memorials, 10 Questions for Historians." Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, no. 167 (July 1992).

Prost, Antoine. "Monuments to the Dead" and "Verdun." In Realms of Memory, 3 vols., edited by Pierre Nora, English edition edited by Lawrence D. Kritzman and translated by Arthur Goldhammer, vol. 2, 307-330; vol. 3, 370–404. New York, 1996–1998.

Winter, Jay. Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History. Cambridge, U.K., 1995.

——. Remembering War: The Great War between Memory and History in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, Conn., 2006.

Winter, Jay, and Emmanuel Sivan, eds. War and Remembrance in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, U.K., 1999.

Annette Becker

War Memorials

views updated May 23 2018

War Memorials

Perhaps more than any other human endeavor, war engenders the passionate commitment to permanently emplace the nature of heroism, the meaning of martial sacrifice, and the ideal of patriotism on the American landscape and in the national consciousness. The term war memorial traditionally engenders images of heroic monuments: the Minuteman at Concord Bridge, dedicated on July 4, 1837, the majestic Robert E. Lee monument at Gettysburg, or any one of the thousands of Civil War monuments erected during the feverish memorial activity of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in both the North and South. Or one thinks of the Marine Corps Memorial in northern Virginia, with the iconic image of battle-tested Marines straining to raise the flag on Mount Surabachi. All such monuments are war memorials, but the memorial vocabulary of Americans at war finds expression in many forms besides monuments.

Memorial Day itself, born in reaction to the massive casualties of the Civil War, is part of the American patriotic calendar, a day that seeks to respond to the personal and cultural question regarding the meaning of martial sacrifice. In the realms of art, literature, music, and film, there is a rich history of the struggle to represent war. There are, for example, over one thousand paintings of "Custer's Last Stand," many of them images that, for a considerable time, cemented in culture the heroic image of General George Armstrong Custer and the Christ-like sacrifice of the Seventh Cavalry on the banks of the Little Bighorn in June 1876. Edward Zwick's celebrated 1989 film, Glory, is a memorial testimony to the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, made up of black troops and white officers. Glory follows the Fifty-Fourth from their formation through their heroic but unsuccessful assault on Fort Wagner, near Charleston, in July 1863. It spurred the formation of black Civil War reenactors, some of them descendants of men who fought with the Fifty-Fourth, and it sought to restore to public consciousness the contributions of black troops to the northern war effort, contributions forgotten almost immediately after the war, when black Americans as history makers were written out of the nation's story.

Relics of war—flags, bullets, swords, uniforms, guns, and cannon, for example—are often treated as sacred artifacts, transformed by their participation in the battles through which the nation took shape. Certainly one of the nation's most sacred artifacts is the USS Arizona, sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. It is a tomb and a historic site, the center of memory of the Pacific War in American culture.

There are also war memorials that speak not to the drama of war but to the impact of war. The National Museum of American History's exhibition Toward a More Perfect Union, for example, told the story of the internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II, and the National Park Service has welcomed an internment site, permanently emplacing an uncomfortable memory in our historic consciousness. There are also indigestible memories of the impact of war. The fierce controversy surrounding the ill-fated Enola Gay exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in 1995 demonstrated how a museum exhibition can engender controversy when the orthodox, redemptive story of the dropping of the atomic bomb is challenged.

Conspicuous by their presence on the landscape are American battlefields, often the subjects of contestation, as Americans argue passionately over the meaning of these places. Is the Washita the site of a battle or a massacre? How should Americans share the means of memorial production at the Little Bighorn, which is no longer a shrine to Custer and the Seventh Cavalry, but a place where different American stories are told side by side? Should the Angle at Gettysburg be the focus of anniversary ceremonies, or does that particular power point emphasize too much the glory of battle and ignore President Abraham Lincoln's enduring challenge enunciated in the Gettysburg Address?

Martial memorial space extends to American military cemeteries overseas, many of them constructed by the American Battle Monuments Commission founded in 1923, in the midst of controversy about bringing American war dead home to be buried. Many of these have become pilgrimage sites for veterans, their families, and other Americans who, in the age-old manner of pilgrims, wish to make a physical and spiritual journey to a place of power.

A number of significant war memorials have been created in the last two decades of the twentieth-century, a period of intense memorialization. The U.S. Holocaust Museum, which opened in 1993, not only tells the story of the rise of National Socialism and the destruction of Jews and many others, it also portrays the reaction of American GI's to the concentration camps on the western front. It tells a controversial story of the United States as "complicit bystander" to the Holocaust. This significant memory of World War II, told adjacent to the memorial center of the nation, the Mall in Washington, D.C., will soon be augmented by the first national memorial to World War II, scheduled to open on the Mall in the early twenty-first century.

Perhaps the most significant war memorial of the recent past is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, erected on the Washington Mall in 1982. For some veterans it represents a "black gash of shame." For others, it is a neutral monument that seeks to heal the bitter cultural divisions brought about by the war. Others think that it forgot as much as it remembered and that it transformed Americans into victims of, rather than participants in or co-perpetrators of, the war. Soon those who came transformed the monument into a "people's memorial," taking rubbings of the names on the wall and leaving thousands of items behind, many of which now make up a memorial archive of material culture. And while it is a memorial distinctly different in style from traditional monuments of war, it is a memorial that has provided a site of reconciliation, refuge, and solace for others.

See alsoHolocaust; Journeysand Journeying; Pilgrimage.


Hass, Kristin. Carried to the Wall: American Memory andthe Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 1998.

Marling, Karal Ann, and John Wetenhall. Iwo Jima:Monuments, Memories, and the American Hero. 1991.

Linenthal, Edward T. Sacred Ground: Americans andTheir Battlefields. 2nd ed. 1993.

Piehler, G. Kurt. Remembering War the American Way. 1995.

Edward T. Linenthal

War Memorials

views updated Jun 08 2018


WAR MEMORIALS. The American national identity remains inexorably intertwined with the commemoration and memory of past wars. Most earlier war memorials sparked as much controversy over their purpose

and cost as later ones such as the Vietnam Veterans (1982) and World War II (construction began in 2002). Monument styles changed dramatically over two hundred years. Before the Civil War, simple stone shafts predominated, including the Bunker Hill Monument (1842) and the mass gravestone at the Mexican War cemetery in Mexico City (1851). After the Civil War, European-trained sculptors created beaux-arts edifices and statues at battlefield parks like the ones at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. The late-nineteenth-century City Beautiful movement convinced city governments to purchase elaborate war monuments, such as the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis, Indiana (1902). Most of the twentieth century saw "useful" memorials such as the stadium at Soldier Field in Chicago (1925), where Gold Star Mothers talked City Hall into changing the name from Grant Park Municipal Stadium. A B-17 Flying Fortress bomber airplane named The Memphis Belle, residing in Memphis, Tennessee, since 1946, helped to popularize preserved military equipment. The American Battle Monuments Commission, established in 1923, oversees twenty-seven monuments worldwide commemorating twentieth-century American wars.


Mayo, James M. War Memorials As Political Landscape: The American Experience and Beyond. New York: Praeger, 1988.

Piehler, G. Kurt. Remembering War the American Way. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995.


See alsoVietnam War Memorial .