By William Stamp
In Indianapolis, every statue has a story. Greek gods, ancient tombs and atomic bomb’s all play a role in the history of our city’s war memorials. Learn this history behind our city most popular monuments here:
1. Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Our tour begins in Monument Circle with the Soldier and Sailors Monument, an imposing obelisk in the heart of the city. The monument was dedicated in 1902 to those Hoosiers who fought for America in the armed conflicts of the 18th and 19th century, including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Made entirely from Indiana limestone, the 275 feet tall obelisk is adorned at the top by the bronze statue Victory, which weds the classical image of the Greek goddess Nike and the Roman goddess Libertas. An elevator will take you to the top of the monument, and the basement houses the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum.
2. Indiana World War Memorial
Less than a mile north, the Indiana World War Memorial is a magnificent, 201 foot tall building that dominates the landscape of the aptly named Indiana War Memorial Plaza. It’s dedicated to Hoosier veterans of the first World War and built from Indiana limestone. Construction on this monument began in 1921, but due to funding issues and project mismanagement it wasn’t actually finished until 1965.
The memorial’s design is based on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, a tomb for the Persian noble Mausolus, one of the original seven wonders of the world (and whose name the word mausoleum is based on). The memorial’s interior is a military museum which includes a collection of over 400 military flags, 300 of which are from the Civil War.
3. The American Legion Mall
A half-mile further north, and just before the Indianapolis Public Library, is the American Legion Mall. On one side is the national headquarters of the American Legion, and on the other side is the headquarters for the Legion’s Indiana branch.
The mall has small memorials for those killed in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, but its most striking feature of the mall is the Cenotaph, an empty tomb surrounded by four pillars inscribed with the name Corporal James B. Gresham of Evansville, Indiana, and the first American soldier to die in the first World War.
4. The USS Indianapolis National Memorial
Head a mile west to Indianapolis’s Canal Walk to see the USS Indianapolis National Memorial, which commemorates the sinking of the ship of the same name. The ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine after delivering Little Boy, the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. The USS Indianapolis’s mission was so secret that it was days before the Navy realized the ship was missing, and of the 1,195 crewman aboard only 316 survived.
Several prominent Indiana politicians have expressed support for a museum dedicated to the sailors’ heroism, but currently the memorial consists of a simple slab of black granite with an etching of the ship and the names of those who served
5. The Medal of Honor Memorial
Walking south along the Canal Walk for about a mile and you’ll find the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial on the south side of Military Park. The Medal of Honor memorial is a series of twenty-seven curved glass walls etched with the names of every person to ever receive the Medal of Honor. There are 3,410 names in all, spanning across fifteen different wars and military conflicts. Finally, the memorial has a thirty-minute narrative that tells the tales of some of those awarded the highest honor the military can bestow.