History’s wars are inherent contradictions. While no one can endorse a violent collision of warring philosophies, there’s no question that the sacrifices made in these conflicts are deserving of posterity and the achievements of the soldiers recognition—if for no other reason than to remember the human cost of engagement.
While you’re probably familiar with a lot of the major war memorials in the United States like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, Virginia, or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., there are a few lesser-known monuments and tributes that also serve to keep history alive. In honor of Veterans Day, these tributes should spend more time in the spotlight.
1. The African American Civil War Memorial // Washington, D.C.
The sacrifices Black soldiers made during the Civil War is the focus of this memorial, which honors the 175 regiments that made up the United States Colored Troops (USCT) that fought for the Union. Exactly 209,145 names are listed at the base of the sculpture. Titled The Spirit of Freedom, it stands 9 feet tall and depicts both Army and Navy service members. The site is opposite the African American Civil War Memorial Museum, where visitors can try on authentic uniforms.
2. The Seabees Memorial // Fort Myer, Virginia
The construction of military bases and paving of roadways falls to the Naval Construction Battalions, or CBs. Since World War II, their important work has allowed fighting forces to establish operations. The memorial, which depicts an absolute unit of a “Seabee” greeting a child, is located at the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery and is inscribed with their “Can Do” motto. It also bears the phrase “With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a bit longer.”
3. Go for Broke Monument // Los Angeles, California
Located in Little Tokyo, the semicircular Go for Broke Monument pays tribute to the Japanese-Americans who served in World War II—not only a noble act, but one made harder by the fact that many American soldiers and civilians alike were openly hostile toward the Japanese; the U.S. government even forced them into internment camps. More than 16,000 names appear on the memorial. “Go for Broke” was the motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a unit made up primarily of Japanese-Americans that was among the most decorated of the war. The 18,000 men earned 4000 Purple Hearts, 4000 Bronze Stars, 560 Silver Star Medals, 21 Medals of Honor, and seven Presidential Unit Citations.
4. Vietnam Women’s Memorial // Washington, D.C.
Located in the National Mall along with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, which casts a spotlight on the women who played crucial roles in that conflict. An estimated 265,000 women served during the war, including 11,000 who were in Vietnam. These doctors, nurses, air traffic controllers, and intelligence and communications officers provided crucial aid under the threat of injury or death behind the lines. A total of eight women are known to have died during the war, including seven members of the Army. Their names appear here.
5. The Argonne Cross Memorial // Arlington, Virginia
This simple, elegant memorial located at Arlington National Cemetery stands as a reminder of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (or Battle of the Argonne Forest) at the end of World War I, which resulted in 26,000 American casualties. A grove of 19 pine trees nearby symbolizes the site of the battle.
6. General William Jenkins Worth Monument // New York City, New York
Located in Manhattan’s Worth Square, this monument stands out for being one of the few to be an actual place of rest for the subject it honors. General William Jenkins Worth (1794-1849) saw action during the War of 1812 as well as the Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. The obelisk features the names of battle sites notable during Worth’s career.
7. East Coast Memorial // New York City, New York
In Battery Park and within sight of the Statue of Liberty sits the East Coast Memorial, which pays respects to the 4601 American servicemen declared missing in conflicts in the Atlantic during World War II. Near 19-foot-tall granite pylons sits an eagle, a wreath grasped in its talons. It was dedicated on May 23, 1963, by President John F. Kennedy.
8. Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial // Washington, D.C.
In Lady Bird Johnson Park sits the Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial, a strikingly different sculpture honoring those who perished during World War I and in other conflicts. A flock of seagulls ride the crest of a wave.
9. Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial // Washington, D.C.
At the base of Capitol Hill is one of the most ambitious memorials in the city. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is captured in bronze at several key moments throughout his life. He's seen above addressing soldiers just before the invasion of Normandy for D-Day on June 6, 1944; a separate scene depicts Eisenhower as president addressing constituents; a third of a young Eisenhower is near the entrance.
10. National Native American Veterans Memorial // Washington, D.C.
Unveiled in November 2020, this stainless-steel circle over a drum honors the American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians who served in every branch of the United States Military. (Native Americans have served in every major conflict since the Revolutionary War.) The design concept is by Harvey Pratt, a self-taught artist of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma whose work was selected by a group of jurors. Pratt is also a Vietnam veteran.
11. Paragould War Memorial // Paragould, Arkansas
You’ll find plenty of replica Statue of Liberty figures around the country, but the first outside of New York is residing in Paragould. Introduced on November 11, 1924, this mini-Liberty (she’s a comparatively tiny 7 feet tall) stands as a reminder of the 40 soldiers killed during World War I who hailed from Greene County.