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Visit War Memorials on a Cruise

Battlefield and War Memorial Sites Around the World

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Many countries celebrate Veterans Day and other days of significant battles, the beginning of a war, or the end of a war.

November 11 is the day we commemorate Veterans Day, a time set aside to honor those who have served in the armed services. This day was originally called Armistice Day, chosen because fighting between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I ceased on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. After World War II, President Eisenhower expanded the observance of Armistice Day to honor all veterans and renamed it Veterans Day.

I have toured many war memorials and battlefield sites around the world. Let's think about all the veterans who have served their countries and been honored by these sites and cemeteries.

Normandy, France

American Cemetery at Normandy, France
American Cemetery at Normandy, France © Linda Garrison
The beaches and American Cemetery at Normandy, France stand out to me, primarily because of the peaceful environment today, which is in stark contrast to the way the beaches were in June 1944 during the D-Day invasion and subsequent battles.

Arnhem and Operation Market Garden

Arnhem and "A Bridge Too Far"
Arnhem © Linda Garrison
Arnhem in the Netherlands is the site of one of the Allies' worst battles during World War II. Over 17,000 Allied troops killed, wounded, or captured during Operation Market Garden. Visitors can see the visit the Airborne Museum Hartenstein and the Oosterbeek War Cemetery where over 1700 Allied soldiers are buried.

Central Museum of Armed Forces in Moscow

World War II tanks at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow
Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow © Linda Garrison
The Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow is also called the Museum of the Soviet Army. It has a huge collection of Soviet war memorabilia and can be seen on a cruise of Russian waterways between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The exhibits of the many Great War (World War II) battles was interesting and eye-opening.

North Africa American Cemetery

North Africa American Cemetery
North Africa American Cemetery © Linda Garrison

Western Mediterranean cruises often include a stopover at Tunis, which is near the ancient site of Carthage. Also nearby is the North Africa American Cemetery, which is owned and maintained by the U.S. Government, like the one at Normandy. Over 2,800 American soldiers who died fighting in North Africa are interred at this site.

Vietnam War Sites in Ho Chi Minh City

Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam
Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam © Linda Garrison

Several sites related to the Vietnam War are of to interest Americans visiting Vietnam. Those visiting Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) can see many sites linked to this war such as the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels. One note -- the museum was fascinating, but disturbing since it was definitely had an anti-American presentation.

Vietnam War Sites - Da Nang and China Beach

China Beach near Da Nang, Vietnam
China Beach near Da Nang, Vietnam © Linda Garrison
Da Nang was the site of a huge air force base used by American and South Vietnamese troops during the Vietnam War. It was also famous as the home of "China Beach", the nickname for My Ke beach near the city. This beach was used for R&R for American troops and was the name of a 1988-1991 popular American television series about the Vietnam War. Cruise ships sometimes dock at Chang May, so guests have the chance to ride through the Vietnamese countryside on the way to Da Nang.

Iwo Jima - WWII Battlefield in the South Pacific

Iwo Jima, Japan
Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima © Linda Garrison
One of the worst battles of the Pacific was fought in February and March 1945 on the island of Iwo Jima. After 35 days of bitter fighting, 5 Marines and a Navy corpsman raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi. A re-creation of this event was used in the famous Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, DC.

The U.S. military planned to used the island as an airfield and staging area during the remainder of the war, but the huge loss of life caused many to question whether the battle was worth the losses. Today the island is a Japanese military facility, but hulks of old ships still remain in the surf.

Saipan - WW II Battle of Saipan

Japanese WWII bunker on the island of Saipan
Japanese WWII bunker on the island of Saipan © Linda Garrison
The Battle of Saipan was fought in the summer of 1944 on this small island in the Northern Marianas group.  The Americans captured the island, and it was used as an airfield for the B-29 bombers flight to Japan. Although over 3,000 American soldiers were killed and 13,000 wounded; 29,000 Japanese soldiers and 20,000 Saipan civilians died. Many of the Japanese soldiers committed suicide by jumping off the Bonzai cliff into the ocean rather than be captured.

Nagasaki and the Atomic Bomb

Peace Statue in Nagasaki, Japan
Peace Statue in Nagasaki © Linda Garrison
Nagasaki was once the only Japanese city open to the West, and it was an important seaport for 300 years. Of course, it is remembered as the second city where Americans dropped the atomic bomb, ending World War II quickly. The Atomic Bomb Museum is an impressive reminder of this event.

Gallipoli - World War I Battle in Turkey

Helles Memorial on Gallipoli Peninsula
Helles Memorial on Gallipoli Peninsula © Linda Garrison
During World War I, British and French troops fought the Turkish Ottoman on the Gallipoli Peninsula for 11 months. The British were led by Winston Churchill, but the Turks won the long battle, with both sides taking heavy losses. One rising star on the Turkish side was Ataturk, who later became the founder of modern Turkey.

Large numbers of British troops who died were from Australia and New Zealand, and April 25 (date of the first British landings) is still celebrated as ANZAC Memorial Day.
Many travelers think of cruising as only fun, surf, and beaches. However, those who love world history (and there's been a lot of wars in the world) can combine their interest in military history with a cruise of Europe, Asia, or Africa.

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