Awesome. adj. Inspiring admiration; imposing; outstanding; very impressive.

An overused word, to be sure, but awesome perfectly describes the Maryland World War II Memorial. Stand at the center of this granite amphitheater near Annapolis, and you too will feel the awe inspired by the stately and timeless Memorial.

The Memorial Overlooks Annapolis

Dedicated in 1998, the World War II Memorial honors Maryland citizens who gave their lives during World War II. The dramatic Memorial stands in the Route 450 median on a hill overlooking the Severn River, Annapolis, and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Access to the Memorial is easy to spot as you approach Annapolis on Route 450 from points north or as you cross the Naval Academy Bridge heading away from town. There is ample parking at the site, and admission is free.

As you arrive, first pause at the imposing stone overlook to take in the view of the Severn River and Annapolis. Then take the walkway downhill into the open-air granite amphitheater enclosed by 48 rectangular stone columns. These columns represent the 48 states that made up the United States at the time of World War II.  Around the circle, twenty engraved plaques describe and commemorate World War II milestones.

Within the ring of columns, black stone panels display the engraved names of 6,454 Maryland military men and women who gave their lives in World War II.  Visiting the Memorial on a recent summer day, I slowly circled the quiet ring of columns and slabs. The hot sun reflected off the shiny black stone surfaces, endlessly etched with name after name of the deceased. The dense lists were a reminder that I’m extremely fortunate to have known my own father-in-law, Colonel Eliot Powell, who served in Patton’s Army and survived the War.

At the head of the ring of columns stands a taller granite obelisk topped by a lighted star. This stone pillar represents Maryland and the various armed services.  It is seven sided because Maryland is the nation’s seventh state.

Markers Honor Additional Sacrifices for our Freedom

Two smaller plazas nearby are etched with globe-sized maps showing the locations of key battles in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Nestled in the grass is a white stone memorial to those who gave their lives at Pearl Harbor, where the Japanese attack precipitated our country’s entry into the War.

In the shade of the lush landscaping stands a Blue Star Memorial marker, a tribute to all U.S. armed forces, whether surviving or lost in the line of duty. Route 301 through Annapolis is a designated Blue Star Memorial Highway, and the marker was installed here by the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland. Also close by is a marker in honor of American Prisoners of War and their sacrifices.

Another granite memorial to honor Gold Star families is currently in design for installation on the Memorial grounds. A groundbreaking ceremony for this memorial took place in August. Gold Star families are those American families who have lost loved ones in any recent U.S. war including WWII.

Visiting is Easy and Rewarding

One way to easily visit the WWII Memorial is to catch one of the Discover Annapolis Tours on the red trolleys operated by Towne Transport. Tours begin at the Annapolis Visitor Center on West Street and at the Visitor’s Information Booth at the Harbor Master's Building at 1 Dock Street (City Dock).

A memorial to history should be majestic, dramatic, and awe-inspiring. A memorial to fallen heroes should cause us to pause and consider their huge sacrifices that gave us the safety and freedom we enjoy today. A memorial to history seventy years in the past should inspire today’s citizens, young and old, to learn about those years of struggle and to work to prevent such global tragedies in the future. The Maryland World War II Memorial does all of this and more.  Let’s just say—it’s truly awesome.


Photos Courtesy of Ann Powell