The Netherlands Carillon adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery was a gift from the people of the Netherlands to the people of the United States of America in 1954. The gift was made to thank the United States for its aid during and after World War II. First installed at a nearby site in 1954, the 49-bell carillon was moved to the present tower (designed by ir J.W.C Boks) in 1960. A 50th bell was added following Dutch- and American-sponsored renovations in 1995, and dedicated on May 5, the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.
The total weight of the bells is 28 metric tons, the largest being 5,800 kg. The bells are constructed of a bronze alloy of approximately four-fifths copper and one-fifth tin. Each bell carries an emblem signifying a group within Dutch society. The smallest bells represent the youth of the Netherlands. The verses cast on the bells were composed by the Dutch poet, Ben van Eysselsteijn.
The bell tower is an open steel structure reinforced by steel plates. It is 40 meters tall, with the glass-enclosed playing console and observatory about 25 meters from the ground. It stands on a quartzite plaza 93 feet square and is enclosed by a low lava stone wall. Two bronze lions, designed by Dutch sculptor Paul Koning, guard the plaza steps. A rectangular staircase leads to an observatory platform from which a small circular staircase winds up to the playing cabin.
Thousands of tulips are planted on the surrounding grounds. Nearby is the United States Marine Corps War Memorial. The carillon is administered as part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway complex in Arlington Ridge Park. The carillon itself symbolizes the friendship between the people of the Netherlands and those of the United States, a friendship characterized by a common allegiance to the principles of freedom, justice, and democracy which has weathered temporary differences.
The Netherlands Carillon plays Westminster Chimes on the hour and plays American patriotic music twice daily. Special songs are played on May 5 (Dutch Liberation Day), July 4 (U.S. Independence Day), September 2 (V-J Day), and Thanksgiving Day. Concerts and recitals are performed on the carillon throughout the summer.