Milwaukee County War Memorial

Hidden Meaning in WMC Mosaic

War Memorial Center


WMC Mosaic artist Edmund D. Lewandowski

The War Memorial Center (WMC) has been recognized as one of the most beautiful and most impressive buildings in the entire Milwaukee area. Every year approximately 140,000 visitors pass through its doors.

Last year, as a result of our Youth Education Program, we also had 2,000 young people visit us. Some questions they asked are readily explained by most adults, like “What is an eternal flame?” or “What is the reflecting pool?” However, one of the questions most frequently asked has a very complex answer:

“What is the meaning of the roman numerals on the front of the building?”

The beautiful (and mysterious?) mosaic design was created by artist Edmund D. Lewandowski in 1959 to add to the historical significance as well as the general aura of the facility. The WMC was originally intended to honor those who fought in WWII, however, by the time it was actually completed in 1957 the Korean War had also started and ended. It was determined that the design of the WMC should also include that conflict. Therefore, the tile mosaic actually has two separate meanings. It shows the start of WWII, 1941 (MCMXLI) and the end 1945 (MCMXLV) and the start of the Korean War 1950 (MCML) and the end 1953 (MCMLIII), in roman numerals.

The Ring of Honor

To carry this theme of identifying the years of our conflicts, in 2015 we created the Ring of Honor in Veterans Courtyard. All of the conflicts in which American veterans have fought since WWI, to include their start and end years, are listed in the circle that surrounds the Reflecting Pool and the Eternal Flame. Our intent is to show the almost non-stop series of conflicts in which our troops have fought in the past 100 years.

Of course, we hope and pray that we never have to add any additional wars. However, one of the unfortunate truisms in our history is that only the dead have seen the end of war. But we can hope.

Now you can see the true beauty of Lewandowski’s creative genius and our efforts to carry his vision throughout the facility. These are just a few of the features on the campus that makes our War Memorial Center the unique facility it is. Come see us soon!

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