One of the things I love about living in the Washington, D.C. area is that you can say to yourself, "Hey, self, I'd like to go see the World War II Memorial tonight after the sun sets" and then fifteen minutes later, you can be there taking pictures of it. Or, more accurately, your neighbor can say that and when he says, "Want to come along?" you can say, "Um... lemme think about it for a mi... OK!!" Either way, it's awesome. Which is exactly what happened last week when my mother was visiting, so we tagged along.

I know this is a whole lotta photos for one post, but asking me to choose between them is like asking which of my children I'm going to leave at home when I get a chance to go downtown at night and take pictures (just kidding, that's not the same at all: the answer to that question is ALL OF THEM.)

Playing with shutter speed at the National WWII Memorial fountain:

Love the stars that happen at the base of each smaller fountain at longer exposures... I wish I could say I did that on purpose
I mean,
I did that on purpose.

The pillars surrounding the fountain each represents a state or U.S. territory that sent troops to the war. There are fifty-six of them:

In addition to the forty-eight states (in 1945) there are also pillars for the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii (these, obviously, weren't states back then), the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

There are two larger columns that anchor the memorial on each side. One represents the Pacific arena of the war and one represents the Atlantic arena of the war. I don't have a shot of this. I just think it's interesting.

During the war, a national icon, showing that the Americans had “been there,” sprung up across Europe and the Pacific, from troop transport ships to tanks, rural farmhouses to the Arc de Triomphe. The national joke, “KILROY WAS HERE”, was reported the invention of an American shipyard inspector, named J.J. Kilroy. While inspecting troop ships, instead of the typical chalk line, he would mark the rivets he had checked with his personal “KILROY WAS HERE” signature. Tens of thousands of servicemen saw his signature on ships heading to Europe and the Pacific theaters and servicemen started placing the slogan on just about everything. It quickly became such a popular soldier’s icon that it was said that “The outrageousness of the graffiti was not so much what it said, but where it turned up.” (via)

This "field of stars" contains 4,048 stars, each representing 100 men and women who lost their lives during the war:

The whole memorial sits directly in the sight line between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial (a huge source of controversy here back when they were selecting the site, but personally, I think it's a perfect place for it). Here's a view of the Washington Monument from inside the WWII Memorial.

Click to embiggen and you'll see why I've always felt that the Washington Monument at night always reminds me of an angry alien or some sort of horror movie monster. It's downright sinister looking.

And another:

If you turn ninety degrees, you'd also see the Lincoln Memorial. I don't have a shot of that either because my tripod is only six inches tall. You get what you pay for sometimes.

This random woman was posing for her husband/boyfriend/pimp/whatever. She was pretty much just asking the rest of us to take pictures too. So I did:

We also took advantage of the closeness of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which is just around the tidal basin from 17th Street. This is really a lovely and peaceful place at night. I never get tired of this one:

I think it's pretty well-known that FDR used a wheelchair for much of his later life. And it's probably also well-known that he was almost never photographed in his wheelchair - I think only three such photographs even exist. So when they opened the monument, this was a huge deal of controversy. This statue, suggested him sitting in his wheelchair (you can see castors on the back from the right angle), but his cape obscures the chair. The sculptor thought this was in keeping with how he chose to be photographed in his lifetime. In the 1930s and 40s, it was felt that reliance on a wheelchair could be stigmatized as weakness and so he did not appear in the chair in public. There was also a tacit agreement among the press that they not publish photos of him in his chair so most of the American public at the time wasn't even aware that he couldn't walk unaided. But when the monument opened in 1997, many felt that his disability should be celebrated - to tell the story of a source of strength. So there was a movement to change this statue and replace it with one that showed his wheelchair more prominently. Other disability advocates worried that protests about the memorial leaned toward making Roosevelt a hero because of his disability and therefore missed the whole point. It was an interesting dialogue during that time where both sides had valid points. Truly he was probably the first "disability rights" President and his recovery from Polio was a part of who he was. But who he was, was also the person who didn't appear in his wheelchair in public. I was actually involved in one of the protests where this song was performed. In the end, they added a second statue of him in a prominent place at the entrance to the memorial and left this one as it was.

FDR was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy so the whole memorial is built around the idea of water. Each of four "rooms" represents a different term in office and all of them contain waterfalls. The waterfalls become larger and more complex as you move through the rooms, which is symbolic of increasing complexity of his presidency and conflict in the world:

The only still water in the memorial is a pool meant to symbolize his death.

When the memorial first opened, you could wade into the fountains and climb on the rocks - it was even encouraged by the Park Service folks. It was really fun and I had a ball getting wet the first day it opened. Now you can't do that anymore. I finally looked up why and apparently, within a matter of days after opening, the National Park Service stopped people from entering the water because they couldn't get insurance unless they changed the practice. I guess the impending head injuries when someone slipped on a wet rock and fell were probably a good thing to avoid, but it's a shame nonetheless.

On the other side of the FDR Memorial, you look out over the tidal basin. The Washington Monument is featured prominently almost anywhere you go in the downtown area.

See? Creeeee-peeeee.

A slight turn to the right and you can also see the Jefferson Memorial across the tidal basin:

This is my favorite of all the memorials. I'm a big Jefferson fan - but that's another post.

Across the Potomac river, you can see Arlington -- I am loving these lights reflected in the water.

Of course this view reminded me of this song and then I spent the rest of the evening singing to myself "Or the Starbucks, or the Starbucks, or the Starbucks, or the Starbucks, or the Starbucks..."

I just ran out of pictures. Hope you've enjoyed this tour of Washington at night.