National Mall and Memorial Parks | DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER MEMORIAL

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C.

Formally dedicated on September 17, 2020, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is one of the newest memorials in Washington, D. C., that is managed by the National Park Service. It is part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, though it is not located on the Mall. In 2003, a law was passed forbidding the construction of any new memorials on the Mall, and while plans for an Eisenhower memorial began in 2000, it wasn’t approved and funded until long after the 2003 moratorium. As a result, a location off the Mall had to be secured. The Eisenhower Memorial is located on Independence Avenue between 4th and 6th Streets, SW, which is behind the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

As with the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the only other modern memorial on the Mall (actually on the Mall) dedicated to a president, the story of Dwight Eisenhower’s life and career are told through various statuary dotting the 4-acre memorial. At the west end is a sculpture by Sergey Eylanbekov of Eisenhower as a boy growing up in Abilene, Kansas, and a wall inscribed with an excerpt from his homecoming speech he gave on June 22, 1945. Memorial designer Frank Gehry wanted this to be front and center, but the Eisenhower Family would not have it, instead insisting that his accomplishments as a military leader and president be the most prominent aspects of the memorial.

Sculpture of Eisenhower as a boy, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Sculpture of Eisenhower as a boy, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Two other groups of statuary make up the centerpieces of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial (both also by Eylanbekov). Right of center is Eisenhower addressing troops of the 101st Airborne on the evening of June 5, 1944, the day before the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. Chiseled into the wall behind the sculpture is a scene of troop ships approaching the beaches of Normandy. On the backside of the concrete wall are excerpts of a speech Eisenhower gave at London’s Guildhall on June 12, 1945, a little over a month after the Germans surrendered but while the war with Japan was still ongoing.

Statuary of Eisenhower addressing troops the night before D-Day, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Statuary of Eisenhower addressing troops the night before D-Day, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Left of center is a sculpture of Eisenhower as president standing in front of his White House desk with his civilian and military advisors behind him. The concrete wall backdrop features a bas-relief carving of a map of the world, and above that on another block is a line from his second inaugural address given on January 21, 1957. Engraved on the backside of the wall are excerpts from his first inaugural address (January 20, 1953) and his farewell address as president (January 17, 1961).

Eisenhower as President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C.

Eisenhower as President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C.

What is supposed to be the most impressive feature of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is a stainless steel tapestry created by Tomas Osinski that stretches 447 feet from the west end to the east end of the memorial, forming a backdrop. It is made up of 600 3-foot by 15-foot panels that are welded together and suspended from a cable anchored to six enormous concrete columns. The original concept was to depict the Kansas landscape, whatever that may be, but ultimately the design is of the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France, during peace time, absent German fortifications. I’ve seen aerial photos of the tapestry lit up at night, and it looks pretty cool, but if you showed it to a million people, I doubt anyone would know what they were looking at. Viewing it up close from the memorial grounds during the day, it’s even harder to decipher. I first thought it was nothing more than a screen put up to block out the Department of Education building behind the memorial. Only when it was explained to me by a National Park Service volunteer who was on hand to answer questions did I know what it was, but even then it was impossible to picture from where I was standing, not to mention that during the day the design doesn’t really stand out. You’ve got to see it at night.

Stainless steel tapestry serves as the backdrop for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Stainless steel tapestry serves as the backdrop for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Close up view of the stainless steel tapestry backdrop for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Close up view of the stainless steel tapestry backdrop for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C., at night (photo by Amaury Laporte)

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C., at night (photo by Amaury Laporte)

There are two other concrete columns, one on each end of the memorial and closer to Independence Avenue. The original idea was to have a tapestry at each end as well, enclosing the memorial on the back and sides to form a C-shape. However, the east-end tapestry would have blocked the view of the Capitol Building, so the idea was dropped. The columns were left in the design for architectural balance. One is engraved with text about Eisenhower as president and adorned with a bas-relief sculpture with his likeness. The other column honors his promotion to Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces during the last years of World War II and his rank of a 5-star general, one of only five generals to obtain this rank.

Column of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C.

Column of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C.

Inscriptions and artwork on two columns of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C.

Inscriptions and artwork on two columns of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D. C.

On the east side of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial is a small Visitor Center which serves mainly as a book and souvenir store, though you can get a free park brochure. It is typically open from 10 AM to 6 PM. Rangers and park volunteers are on the memorial grounds from 9:30 AM to 5 PM to answer questions. The memorial grounds are open year-round, 24 hours a day.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Visitor Center in Washington, D. C.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Visitor Center in Washington, D. C.

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Last updated on May 4, 2022
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