Indianapolis has the distinction of being second to Washington, D.C., in building war memorials.
Indianapolis is more than just the storied Hoosiers and fabled Brickyard of the Indianapolis 500 race, especially when it comes to honoring U.S. veterans.
Washington, D.C., may be considered the cornerstone of veterans' memorials, but Indianapolis easily ranks second. The Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District located downtown contains two museums, three parks and 24 acres of monuments, statues, sculptures and fountains, ranking it second nationally in acreage and number of monuments dedicated to veterans. It is also home to the national and state headquarters of the American Legion.
According to Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin (USAF retired), "There's no other place like this in the country. Indianapolis has more acreage in the nation devoted to veterans." Almost 200,000 visit the memorials each year.
As executive director of the Indiana World War Memorial, Goodwin, a 37-year Air Force veteran, adds, "Indiana has provided, based on population, more service members (in all conflicts) than any other state. I've never seen another place where they treat veterans and honor them this well. The folks here are very down to earth ... and they're very patriotic."
The memorials, conveniently located within walking distance of the Indiana Convention Center, home of the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo, include the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the tallest memorial to Civil War veterans in the U.S.
The Indiana World War Memorial sits 210 feet above street level; this mausoleum-style limestone and marble memorial pays homage to Hoosiers killed during World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. A military museum in the basement allows visitors to follow the history of Indiana soldiers from the Battle of Tippecanoe through the most recent conflicts.
"Once we get them in the building, we've got them. The structure and architecture is amazing," says Goodwin.
The mall itself also includes memorials for World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as Veteran's Memorial Plaza. The USS Indianapolis Memorial recognizes those who died on the last U.S. ship to sink in World War II. Of the approximately 1,200 sailors on board, only 317 survived.
Goodwin notes that one of every 10 people has served in the military. "We try to educate the 90 percent about what the 10 percent did," he says.
For more information:
Indianapolis Historic Sites,
Indiana World War Memorial, 431 N. Meridian St.; 317/232-7615; www.in.gov/iwm/
Soldiers & Sailors Monument/Col. Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, 1 Monument Circle; 317/232-7615;
USS Indianapolis Memorial, Walnut St. & Senate Ave.;
Korean and Vietnam War Memorials, 700 N. Pennsylvania St.;
World War II Memorial, 700 N. Pennsylvania St.;