The Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation, usually called the Civilian War Memorial is one of Singapore's most famous iconic landmarks of heritage. Built in memory of the civilians killed and massacred during the Japanese occupation of Singapore during World War II, the Civilian War Memorial sits on serene parkland in the midst of busy city traffic near Singapore's Padang and City Hall. Located within the War Memorial Park at Beach Road within the Central Area, Singapore's central business district, it is usually easy to spot in most backdrops encompassing the CBD landscape.
During the Japanese Empire's occupation of Singapore during the Pacific War (1942-1945), thousands of ethnic Chinese were killed in the Sook Ching massacre. In an effort to remove anti-Japanese elements in Singapore, Chinese men between the ages of 18 and 50 were to report to the Kempeitai, the Imperial Japanese Army military police. The death toll was reported to be 6,000 by the Japanese, but official estimates range between 25,000 and 50,000. On February 15, 1967, the Civilian War Memorial was officially unveiled by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who laid a wreath at the memorial. Every year on February 15 (Total Defence Day in Singapore, representing the 1942 surrender of Singapore to the Japanese), a memorial service is held at the Civilian War Memorial to remember the victims of the war.
The design itself was conceived by one of Singapore's most renown architects, Leong Swee Lim (1935-2002) of Swan and Maclaren Architects, whose design subsequently won first prize in an open design competition. The design of the structure has been one of Swee Lim's most famous and significant contributions towards the legacy of Singapore's architectural history. The architect's conception of the four identical pillars each 70m high, represents the shared experiences and unity of the four major races of Singapore - Chinese, Malay, Indian and other races.
Henceforth the memorial is essentially one of Singapore's iconic landmarks of heritage that truly embraces the virtues of a multi-racial and cultural city, whose unity is inevitably one of the pillars for Singapore's modern day success, harmony and prosperity. The memorial has also been affectionately described by some as resembling four giant chopsticks. Unseen to the eye, the remains of the unidentified war victims are buried beneath the monument and truly adds to the material significance of the structure whose history it represents.