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United States Air Force Memorial

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

U.S. Air Force Memorial
United States Air Force
National Air Force Memorial - panoramio.jpg
The Air Force Memorial as seen at night
For the service and sacrifices of the men and women of the United States Air Force and its predecessor organizations, including the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps; the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps; the Division of Military Aeronautics, Secretary of War; the Army Air Service; the U.S. Army Air Corps; and the U.S. Army Air Forces[1]
Established 1992
Unveiled 14 October 2006; 11 years ago (2006-10-14)
Location 38°52′07″N 77°03′59″W / 38.868649°N 77.066259°W / 38.868649; -77.066259
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
Designed by James Ingo Freed (Pei Cobb Freed & Partners)
Integrity; Service; Excellence; Valor; Courage; Sacrifice
Statistics source: Air Force Association
Air Force Memorial Foundation

The United States Air Force Memorial honors the service of the personnel of the United States Air Force and its heritage organizations. The Memorial is located in Arlington County, Virginia, on the grounds of Fort Myer near The Pentagon, and adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, towards intersection of Columbia Pike and South Joyce Street. It was the last project of American architect James Ingo Freed (known for the design of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) with the firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners for the United States Air Force Memorial Foundation.

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Welcome to the United States Air Force Memorial. The memorial is one of many in the area which honors the men and women who served the US military. This one honors the more than 54.000 men and women who have died in combat while serving the Air Force and its predecessor organizations. The Air Force is one of four service arms in the US army, together with the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Coastal Guard. The story behind this memorial began in 1992, when the newly acknowledged Air Force Memorial Foundation suggested that a memorial in honor of the Air Force personnel should be built. The plans were authorized by the current president, Bill Clinton, in 1994 and a site for the memorial was chosen. The chosen site was however not the site where it stands today. Instead, the memorial was planned northeast of Arlington Cemetery, close to the Marine Corps Memorial of Iwo Jima. This was not appreciated by Marine Corps veterans, who thought that the new memorial was too close and disturbed the view over the Iwo Jima memorial. The conflict grew and resulted in several bills and appeals against the construction. Faced with the litigation costs and the opposition from the Marine Corps, the Air Force Memorial Foundation moved the site of the memorial to its current position, south of the cemetery. The construction of the memorial began in September 2004 and finished seven months later. The official dedication was held in 2006 under presence of the current president George W Bush, who himself previously served as an F-102 pilot, together with around 30.000 people in the audience. The memorial is dominated by three tall spires, ranging from 61 to 82 meters in height. The spire structures are made of stainless steel plates with high-strength concrete filling the lower 2/3rds of each spire while the upper third is hollow stainless steel. As you can see, the spires have a very modern elegant design. There is also a lot of though behind why the spires look they way they do. The spires symbolize a flying maneuver, known as a "bomb-burst", where the planes fly close to each other upwards and then splits in different directions. Imagine that there is a plane at the top of the spires with each spire representing the jet-stream caused by the planes, and I think you'll get the picture. Only three of the normal four contrails are depicted, as the absent fourth suggests the "missing man formation" traditionally used at Air Force funeral fly-overs. Next to the spires you can see four bronze statues of the Honor Guard, made by the renowned sculptor, Zenos Frudakis, and behind them a black granite inscription wall. The wall bears inspirational quotations regarding the Air Force's three core values; "integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do". The three spires not only represent the "bomb-burst" maneuver, but also these three core values. On the opposite side you can see a free-standing glass wall depicting four F-16s flying in a missing man formation. Behind the glass you will find the second inscription wall which bears the names of Air Force recipients of the Medal of Honor. If you walk to the center of the three spires and take a look at the ground, you will see an Air Force "star" embedded in the granite. The star has long been emblazoned on Air Force planes and it serves as the rank insignia of Air Force members. One of the main problems the designers of this memorial had was to make the medium of the Air Force visible. The Navy has the medium of water, which can always be shown in fountains and the Army has the medium of land, which also easily can be depicted. The Air Force however, has the medium of air, which is very difficult to show. When looking at the memorial, with its jet-stream symbolizing spires, I think we both can agree on that they have solved this task very well. The US Air Force Memorial with its spectacular design has become another one of the many loved memorials in the area.



In January 1992, the Air Force Memorial Foundation was incorporated to pursue the development of a memorial that would honor the people in the United States Air Force. In December 1993, President William Clinton signed Pub.L. 103–163 authorizing the Air Force Memorial. In 1994, the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission approved a site adjacent to Marshall Drive and State Route 110, down the hill from the Netherlands Carillon, known as Arlington Ridge. Fundraising and detailed designs began.

Because the site was near the Marine Corps War Memorial, which is just north of the Carillon, various Marine groups were briefed on the plans without voicing objections. However, on 30 July 1997, Congressman Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-NY), a Marine veteran, introduced a bill to prohibit the construction of any monument, memorial or other structure "within view" of the Marine Corps War Memorial. The Air Force Association organized support for the memorial on behalf of its membership and Air Force veterans, and the issue became a polarizing one between the services.

On 16 September 1997, the Friends of Iwo Jima and Solomon filed for a Temporary Restraining Order against the construction of the Air Force Memorial, which was dismissed on 15 June 1998. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit then dismissed the appeal of that decision on 7 May 1999. Faced with the cost of litigation and the opposition of prominent Marine veterans in Congress, the Foundation agreed to move the Memorial to its present site, at the east end of Columbia Pike, on the grounds of Fort Myer just south of Arlington National Cemetery.[2]

On 28 December 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Defense Authorization Bill, which included a rider directing the Department of Defense to make available to the Air Force Memorial Foundation up to 3 acres (12,000 m2) of the Naval Annex property for use as the location for the memorial. Formal groundbreaking of the site was held in September 2004. Construction of the spires began in February 2006 and was completed in 7 months.

The memorial was dedicated on 14 October 2006, with approximately 30,000 people attending. The keynote address was delivered by President Bush, a former F-102 Delta Dagger pilot with the Texas Air National Guard. The first official ceremony at the memorial was held the next day when Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne laid a memorial wreath beneath the spires for fallen airmen.[3]

To all who have climbed sunward and chased the shouting wind, America stops to say: your service and your sacrifice will be remembered forever, and honored in this place by the citizens of a free and grateful nation.

— President George W. Bush at acceptance ceremony.[4]

In April 2017, the day-to-day operations of the Air Force Memorial were transferred to the Air Force District of Washington. The Air Force Memorial Foundation, the organization created to plan for and build the Memorial, continues today as an affiliate of the Air Force Association.


Thunderbirds performing their signature "bomb burst" maneuver
Thunderbirds performing their signature "bomb burst" maneuver
The view of the USAF Memorial from Washington, D.C.

The three memorial spires range from 201 feet (61 m) to 270 feet (82 m) high and appear to be soaring; its array of stainless steel arcs against the sky evoke the image of "contrails of the Air Force Thunderbirds as they peel back in a precision 'bomb burst' maneuver." Only three of the four contrails are depicted, at 120 degrees from each other, as the absent fourth suggests the missing man formation traditionally used at Air Force funeral fly-overs.[5]

The spire structure consists of stainless steel plates with high-strength concrete filling the lower 2/3 of each spire. The upper third is hollow stainless steel.[6] At the transition between concrete and hollow steel portions, dampers provide aerodynamic stability and dissipate wind sway energy. Each damper consists of a lead ball weighing about a ton that is allowed to roll inside a steel box. The structural design of the spires was completed by the Arup engineering consultancy.

The pedestrian approach to the spires is from the west. South of the approach, before the inscription wall, stand four 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) bronze statues representing the United States Air Force Honor Guard, sculpted by Zenos Frudakis. To the north, a stone plaza leads you to the glass contemplation wall, a free-standing glass panel with the images of four F-16s flying in a Missing man formation engraved on both sides of the 5-ply panel. Except for the information kiosks outside the administration building, it is the only part of the memorial that depicts aircraft. The north inscription wall is visible through it.[7]

The two inscription walls are located at each end of the central lawn. The walls are 56 feet (17 m) in length, 10 feet (3.0 m) in height and one foot thick. Both walls are made of polished, highly-reflective monolithic Jet Mist granite and both include a two and a half inch outer inscription panel made from Absolute Black granite. The north wall bears the names of Air Force recipients of the Medal of Honor, and the south wall bears inspirational quotations regarding core values, particularly the Air Force's three core values: "integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do".[8]

One name has been removed from the Medal of Honor Recipients, under the header of "Peacetime". This name listed was that of Colonel William "Billy" Mitchell, and it was removed due to a clerical error in actual Medal of Honor recipients in a Congressional Report published in 1979. His name was included on the wall at the memorial in error and has since been removed. The removal is quite visible, with the name being cut out of the stone, and a new stone filler in its place above the name of Charles Lindbergh. ″There is some debate as to whether William Mitchell was in fact awarded the Medal of Honor or the Congressional Gold Medal. The act cited directs that "a gold medal" be struck and presented in recognition of Mitchell's pioneer service and foresight. It does not, however, specify which medal was to be awarded. In July 1945 the War Department had recommended to Congress that special gold medals be voted by Congress in cases of outstanding leadership and that the Medal of Honor be reserved for awarding only gallantry in action. Major General William "Billy" Mitchell was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which was announced using the identical citation and approved date as listed for the award above. It seems apparent that the intention was to award the Gold Medal rather than the Medal of Honor. However, for some unknown reason, when the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs published its report, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979) compiling all Medal of Honor Recipient citations, William Mitchell and his citation were included. This website takes its Medal of Honor citations from that report, and that is why Mitchell's citation is included here - although the "gold medal" authorized above is most likely the Congressional Gold Medal, rather than the Medal of Honor." [9]


In addition to hosting over 350,000 visitors throughout the year, the Air Force Memorial is host to more than 300 military ceremonies, weddings, funerals, and other special events. During the summer, the United States Air Force Band hosts concerts every Friday night.

See also


  1. ^ "About the Memorial". Air Force Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on 2 November 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  2. ^ "Air Force Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  3. ^ Dudney, Robert (November 2006). "The Magnificent Memorial". Air Force Magazine, Journal of the Air Force Association.
  4. ^ Air Force Magazine
  5. ^ United States Air Force Memorial description by the architectural firm that designed it, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
  6. ^ Fisher, Christina. "The Air Force Memorial". Reed Business Information. Archived from the original on 15 March 2007. Retrieved 15 October 2006.
  7. ^ "Air Force Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Air Force Memorial Foundation". Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  9. ^ History, U.S. Army Center of Military. "Medal of Honor Recipients - Authorized by Special Acts of Congress".

External links

This page was last edited on 7 October 2018, at 23:04
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