World War II Memorial Reinstalled Today After Decades of Neglect and Mystery

The final chapter in the long saga of the Wilson Building’s World War II Memorial has been reached: the fully restored Memorial has been reinstalled on the building’s ground floor.

After spending two decades broken and forgotten in a closet, then another five years languishing in a mystery status with no known identity, the Memorial’s original purpose was rediscovered in early 2016.

The memorial, measuring nearly 12 feet by 6 feet, honors the nearly 2,000 DC government employees who served during World War II. Their war service is especially poignant given that they could not vote neither for their Commander-in-Chief, nor for a representative or Senator in the Congress that declared and funded the War.

To visit the Memorial, enter the Wilson Building through the 13 ½ Street entrance, then take an immediate left.

This article describes the detective work it took to rediscover the Memorial’s history, and includes links to the original historical documents on which that work relied. The memorial’s historic timeline is included below.

Questions can be directed to Josh Gibson, Public Information Officer to the Council, at jgibson@dccouncil.us.

Timeline

  • August 10, 1942: The 3 federal Commissioners who ran DC authorized $200 be spent for a Memorial honoring the DC government employees fighting in the ongoing war.
  • October 22, 1942: The Memorial was installed.
  • November 17, 1959: The Commissioners authorized $175 to be spent to update the inscription on the Memorial to be updated from “those who are serving our country” to “those who served.”
  • 1997: The Memorial is removed from its original location, damaged, and stored in a closet. The top element, with the eagle graphic and inscription, goes missing.
  • 2010: Government employee Bill Rice mentions the missing plaque to WTOP reporter Mark Segraves, who begins asking around the Wilson Building. With the help of longtime Council employee Larry Cooper, he locates the damaged plaque in a closet opposite the Council Chamber
  • Veterans Day, 2010: Chairman Vincent Gray holds a press event, asking for the public’s help in identifying the mystery Memorial, with hopes of rededicating and reinstalling it by Veterans Day 2011.
  • Memorial Day, 2016: Chairman Phil Mendelson announces at a press event that the identity of the Memorial has been determined through archival and web research.
  • Veterans Day, 2016: Chairman Phil Mendelson, former Chairman Vincent Gray, and Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie unveil the restored Memorial.
  • December 11, 2016: The restored Memorial is reinstalled.