From 1939 to 1945, the greatest global war was fought between 100 million people from 30 different countries. Marked by deplorable mass deaths of civilians, it was responsible for over 50 million human fatalities, making it the deadliest conflict in the history of civilization. The alliances of the Allies & Axis, created a good vs. evil scenario that the world had never seen before. Memorials and museums span across the world, as Battle locations occurred across four of the major continents.
USS Arizona Memorial – Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, United States
On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy infamously executed a surprise attack on the United States at the Pearl Harbor naval base. The attacks precipitated the entrance of the United States into World War II. The sunken remains of one of targeted ships are on display here and are visited by 2 million people annually.
Anne Frank House – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Many Jewish citizens were forced into hiding during World War II, with none more famous than Anne Frank. Opened in 1960, the museum preserves the hiding places of the Frank family and is one of most visited museums in Europe.
Kehlsteinhaus – Berchtesgaden, Germany
High atop a mountain summit with breathtaking views of the valley, lies the extravagant “Eagle’s Nest” of the third Reich. Used sparingly during the War, the building gained prominence in the years to come because of its location and affluence. Given to Adolf Hitler as a 50th birthday present, the Kehlsteinhaus gained notoriety in the HBO series Band of Brothers.
Ghetto Heroes Square – Krakow, Poland
In March 1941, Germany locked up over 20,000 Polish-Jewish citizens into the small recently built ghetto. Standing in the former center of the ghetto, lies the Ghetto Heroes Square, in which over-sized bronze chairs stand in memory of the victims. Each chair represents 1,000 victims.
Bletchley Park – Milton Keynes, England
England’s central location for codebreaking is 50 miles northwest of London. Famous codebreaker Alan Turing and other mathematicians tirelessly spent their days here deciphering German code. Bletchley Park one of the most important intelligence efforts of the war, and essentially shortened the war by several years.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park – Hiroshima, Japan
The park is located at the location of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. The ominous untouched ruins of the Genbaku dome are located across from the park and serve as a ceremonial, yet sacred reminder of the catastrophe.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum – Oświęcim, Poland
KL Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps. Over 1 million men, women and children lost their lives in the camp. Several original buildings still exist, along with the railway that was used to bring prisoners into the camp. Radtip: Respect the history and leave the selfie-stick at home.
John Frost Bridge – Arnhem, Netherlands
Operation Market Garden was a failed Allied military advance of the Western Front of the war. The Battle of Arnhem however, led by Lt-Colonel John Frost, was a success and prevented the Germans from sending in reinforcements. The bridge was depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far, starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine & Robert Redford.
Flakturm IV – Hamburg, Germany
Throughout Germany, flak towers were used by the Luftwaffe to defend against attacking Allied forces. The massive concrete structure also served as a bomb-shelter for German residents during the war. Additional towers can be found in Berlin and Austria.
Alamein Memorial – El Alamein, Egypt
Two separate battles occurred in the small village of El Alamein during the North African campaign. The second battle being one of the first victories for the Allied forces.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial – Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France
The most iconic military cemetery in the world gained immense notoriety from the film Saving Private Ryan. Over nine thousand identical gravestones are line symmetrically lined overlooking the landing beaches of the Normandy Invasion.
Guadalcanal American Memorial – Guadalcanal – Solomon Islands
The Guadalcanal Campaign was fought in 1942 & 1943, on and around the island of Guadalcanal. Part of the Pacific Theater, it marked one of the first Allied attacks against the Empire of Japan.
Katyn War Cemetery – Katyn, Poland
The Katyn Massacre is not as commonly known as some of the other atrocities of the war, but it’s of equal importance. Soviet secret police under orders from Joseph Stalin killed over 20,000 Polish citizens in Russia’s invasion of Poland. Mass burial sites are marked with iron slabs.
Chuuk Lagoon, Chuuk State – Federated States of Micronesia
Chuuk State was Japan’s equivalent to Pearl Harbor, with a heavy amount of their fleet stationed on the Island. During Operation Hailstone, American forces attacked the Japanese, and left “the biggest graveyard of ships in the world”. Divers can see the remnants of the fleet throughout the lagoon, including a submarine that participated in the Pearl Harbor bombing.
Mamayev Kurgan – Volograd, Russia
Honoring the Battle of Stalingrad, the “Motherland Statue” reigns high above they city of Volgograd. The statue is currently the tallest sculpture of a woman in the world.
Dunkirk Memorial – Dunkirk, France
Operation Dynamo was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. Over 700 civilian and private boats were used to assist the military in the removal of over 350,000 allied soldiers.
Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory – Krakow, Poland
One of the most important heroes of World War II, Schindler saved the lives of over 1,200 Jews through his enamelware factory. Upon his burial, Schindler was buried on Mt. Zion, making him the only member of the Nazis to receive this honor. Schindler’s factory still stands today, and is a small museum in Krakow.
Cabinet War Rooms – London, England
This underground complex was British Headquarters during the war. Also known as the Churchill War Rooms, this museum is located in the heart of a London, a stone’s throw from 10 Downing Street.
Kokoda Track – Owen Stanley Range, Papua New Guinea
Japanese and Australian forces fought a series of battles in the Territory of Papua in 1942. The track (or trail), was used heavily in the war, and now serves as a popular hiking location.
Les Braves – Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
Located on the Omaha Beach shore, Les Braves honors the Allied forces that helped liberate France after crossing the English Channel. Commissioned in 2004, the memorial represents hope, freedom and brotherhood.