“Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force:
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.
We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
These were the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, on 6 June 1944.
That was the day of the Normandy landings, better known today as D-Day.
War site trips are excellent opportunities to not only understand what took places on those sites but to also experience them and pay respects for the fallen.
For us at Expat Club, these trips are very special. Every single one of the war site trips we host has proven to be an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience.
These experience generate great conversations and meaningful connections amongst our travels which motivates us every day to continue delivering these programs.
Here are 6 war sites we believe are a must for every traveller.
The First World War has scarred Belgium like no other conflict. Ypres was the epicentre of the terrible fighting in West Flanders, a battle that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
The In Flanders Field Museum provides excellent historical context and information about the war and the events that took place in Ypres. You can visit various battlefield landmarks such as Essex Farm, where John McRae wrote the famous poem “In Flanders Fields.”
The Last Post is an important ceremony you can’t miss. It’s an opportunity to pay your respects to the fallen, in a ceremony held every evening since 1928.
Verdun and Meuse-Argonne
Such was the bloodshed that took place in the town north of France that historians dub it the Capital of WWI (of Capital of the Great War).
At Verdun, you will be able to visit the final resting place of over 14,000 American soldiers, who died mostly in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial. The is the largest U.S cemetery in Europe.
The Trench of the Bayonets is one of the memorials at Verdun that makes a big impression of visitors. The same can be said about the Douaumont Ossuary, which houses the remains of over 130.000 unidentified French and German soldiers.
Arras and Vimy Ridge
A significant achievement during World War I, the Battle of Arras marked the longest advance by British forces at that point in the conflict.
Vimy Ridge was a part of the Battle of Arras, and it’s a particularly special site for Canadians. All four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought and captured the ridge, a critical point of protection for the First and Third Armies against the German forces.
Thus, the Vimy memorial is a point of interest. At Arras, the main point of interest is the Wellington Tunnels. This underground network of tunnels built by the New Zealand Tunneling company saved the lives of many during the 9th April assault.
6 June of the year 1944 will always be remembered as one of the most important days in history when tens of thousands of allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy.
Many movies have reenacted the various events and battlefields of this day along the main 5 beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah. The Normandy landings were fierce, and the battles took the lives of many brave soldiers.
There are significant landmarks along these beaches today. The Mémorial de Caen, the Pegasus Bridge, and St Mere Eglise are amongst the most renowned points of interest related to D-Day.
D-Day would be the beginning of the end of WWII, but the fighting was far from over. In December 1944 the German army started an offensive military operation straight through the Belgian Ardennes, which became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
At the city of Bastogne, German forces encountered the American 101st Airborne Division, which tenaciously held this offensive. These events were featured in the award-winning HBO series Band of Brothers.
The Bastogne War Museum is an essential stop, as well as the American star-shaped Mardasson Memorial. Schumannseck Luxembourg, the Bois Jacques with foxholes, Foy, Noville, and the Recogne German Cemetery are also important points of interest.
Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau
Very few things can prepare you for a visit to the concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. And yet, we firmly believe this is a place everyone should visit at one point in their lives.
“One cannot understand the modern world without a thorough knowledge of the history of the Nazi German concentration camp, Auschwitz,” says the museum and memorial’s official website. And with good reason.
The horrific events that took place here must always be remembered and taught to future generations. For many of us, it’s a profoundly humbling experience which always makes us ponder “how was this possible? how could it have happened?“