Remembrance and Honor: War Memorials Around the World Posted November 16, 2018
June 6th, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France and began the effort that would culminate in winning the Second World War. In the United States, we honor the memory of the brave souls who have lost their lives in combat, both in WWII and other conflicts, with a host of memorials and reflection sites: Arlington National Cemetery; the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; and the World War I, II, and Vietnam War Memorials barely scratch the surface.
But the U.S. is far from the only country to honor the sacrifices made in wartime—memorials to the fallen are scattered across the globe in places of great significance. On many of our tours, we visit these sobering sites to lend some historical context to our explorations. Below are a few of the war memorials around the world that we visit.
On our Provincial French Countryside tour, we take a day to visit the very places where Allied forces overcame overwhelming odds to alter the course of World War II 75 years ago. We visit Pointe du Hoc, where American Rangers scaled towering cliffs to establish a beachhead; Utah Beach, westernmost of the landing beaches; and Ste-Mère-Eglise, where the 82nd Airborne Division successfully parachuted on June 5, 1944. We end the day at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in Colleville. It’s a particularly moving site; row upon endless row of white marble crosses and Stars of David honor the nearly 10,000 American troops who lie here.
On our Discovering Eastern Europe tour, we tour the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. With its three main concentration camps and 45 satellite camps spread across southern Poland, Auschwitz has become a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust. The camps have been preserved as they were during the war, including the prison blocks, gas chambers, and crematoria, to give visitors an idea of the conditions under which so many victims lived. We visit the actual concentration camps of Auschwitz I, used mainly to hold prisoners, and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, one of the main sites of the Nazis’ “Final Solution.” Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Nazis during World War II, and more than a million people – the vast majority of them Jews – died here between 1940, when it was built, and 1945, when it was liberated.
On our Classic Germany tour we visit two sobering Second World War sites—Dachau, site of Germany’s first concentration camp, and Nuremburg, where the post-war tribunals took place. Today, Dachau stands as a memorial to the more than 40,000 lives lost within its walls, while the Nuremburg Palace of Justice includes a museum detailing the Nuremberg Trials and still houses several working courtrooms. The most famous of these is Courtroom 600, where German leaders were prosecuted and sentenced for their crimes committed during World War II.
Along our drive from Belgium into Luxembourg on European Tapestry, we take a poignant excursion to Bastogne, where we visit two sites honoring the 77,000 American troops killed or injured in the Battle of the Bulge, the deadliest battle of WWII for U.S. armed forces. Here in the Ardennes, the deeply forested region flanking Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, we visit the Mardasson Memorial which commemorates those who died here. In December 1944, during one of Europe’s coldest winters on record, the Germans launched a major offensive along a stretch of the Allied front, pushing 50 miles into Allied territory and creating the so-called “bulge.” More than one million men locked in combat for six bloody weeks, with the outnumbered Americans encircled here at Bastogne refusing to surrender; the Allied victory, though costly indeed, stopped the German advance and took an irrecoverable toll on the Germans’ remaining military might. We also tour the adjacent Bastogne War Museum, which provides a dramatic look at the war through personal testimony, artifacts, and interactive exhibits and displays.
Kanchanaburi Cemetery of the Allied Prisoners of War
When thinking of World War II, Southeast Asia isn’t the first region that comes to mind. But on our Treasures of Thailand tour, we stop at two moving sites dedicated to the memory of Allied POWs in Thailand. The first is the Kanchanaburi Cemetery of the Allied Prisoners of War, burial site of the prisoners who perished as forced laborers on the construction of the Burma Railway (aka the “Death Railway”). More than 12,000 Allied POWs, including 133 Americans, died during its construction. The next day, we witness another poignant scene from the Death Railway: Hellfire Pass in the Tenasserim Hills. It was here during World War II that both Allied prisoners of war and civilian laborers had only hand tools to cut through the largest rocks on the entire railway route. Named for the look of the emaciated prisoners working by torchlight (as they often worked more than 18 hours per day), the 250-foot-long, 80-foot-deep pass took six weeks to complete. An unknown number of laborers perished during the completion of Hellfire Pass from disease, abuse, and exposure; and we visit the museum and memorial to the deceased that now stands here.
Hiroshima: City of Peace
The post-tour extension to our Insider’s Japan tour takes us to the city of Hiroshima, which was devastated in 1945 when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in military action. Today, the city has been rebuilt from the ashes, and features a number of memorials, reminders, and sites of reflection. Among those we visit: Peace Memorial Park, home to several memorials dedicated to those that perished during the bombing; and Peace Memorial Museum, displaying photos and belongings left behind by victims of the attacks.
Hoa Lo Prison
On both our Journey through Vietnam and Southeast Asia Odyssey tours, we visit the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, often called the “Hanoi Hilton.” Throughout the Vietnam War, and for many years thereafter, the North Vietnamese Army controlled the prison and held American soldiers captive in order to torture and interrogate them. Though the prison was torn down in the 1990s, the gatehouse remains as a museum, one of whose pieces is the flight suit that POW John McCain wore while in combat.
While we travel the world and enjoy the hospitality and comforts of other cultures, we visit these memorials to remember the brave people who gave their lives for our freedom. They are sobering visits, but important ones.
Photo sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7