History is the story of humanity written by the victors. Throughout the history of the human race, civilizations across the globe have been ravaged by the horrors and destruction of war. Hostile tension between nations boils over into full scale warfare, and brave souls along with innocent civilians are slaughtered by humanity’s increasingly efficient machines of war. The events have shaped the course of our progress, but have also resulted in unfathomable human tragedy.
Full scale wars conducted across the globe reached their fever pitch in the early half of the 20th century with two World Wars. Countries around the globe battled both with neighbors and across oceans in an attempt to achieve dominance for their respective ideologies. Following these incredibly costly ordeals, institutions such as the United Nations were created in order to prevent these massive conflicts from happening again. This has resulted in a trend of an overall decrease in the number of conflicts worldwide, but war continues to ravage many areas of the globe.
If there is one uplifting aspect of war, it is that it forces people to work together to reach a common goal. Once peace has been agreed between all parties, memorializing the lives of the fallen can take place. While humanity has an incredible ability to destroy, it also has the ability to leave lasting remembrances dedicated to the lost generations affected by war. These memorials continue to serve as a reminder to all of the horrors of war and the ultimate sacrifice given by so many.
12. National War Memorial – Ottawa, Canada
The National War Memorial in Ottawa was originally intended to honor those that gave their lives in service during World War I. After realizing the enormous sacrifice of soldiers in future wars, the Canadian government decided to expand the memorial to all Canadian veterans. Since being unveiled in 1939 after a worldwide design contest, the dates 1899-1902, 1939-1945, 1950-1953, and 2003-2013 were added in bronze numerals to commemorate further military involvement. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added in front of the original sculpture in 2000 and ceremonial guards continue to stand sentry over the monument. Last year, the monument was attacked by a lone gunman and Corporal Nathan Cirillo was fatally wounded.
11. India Gate – New Delhi, India
Originally named the All India War Memorial, the India Gate is an arch style monument in the center of the Indian capital of New Delhi. The monument was dedicated in 1931 to the 82,000 British Indian Army soldiers who died during World War I from 1914 to 1921. Built in the triumphal arch style and designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial has the names of more than 13,500 soldiers etched into the gate. In 1972, the India Gate was expanded with the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the flame of the immortal soldier, which is manned around the clock by the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces.
10. Hiroshima Peace Memorial – Hiroshima, Japan
On the morning of April 6, 1945, human history was forever changed with first detonation of an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Total casualties remain unknown, but anywhere from 90,000 to 170,000 people perished as a result of the detonation, fallout, and subsequent radiation sickness. It was the most indiscriminate killing in human history and was followed up three days later with another bombing on Nagasaki. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was built on the ground that was once a bustling city block, but was immediately level by the atomic blast. The Genbaku Dome remains the only structure standing after the detonation and has been preserved in its state since.
9. USS Arizona Memorial – Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USA
December 7, 1941 is a day that lives in infamy for many Americans that remember the lives lost in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that began the United States’ involvement in World War II. The USS Arizona was sunk during the attack and remains the resting place for 1,102 American marines and sailors that perished during the attack. The memorial was built in 1962 and is a bridge-like structure that straddles the wreck of the USS Arizona. The memorial is visited by over 2 million people annually despite being accessible only by boat.
8. Arc de Triomphe – Paris, France
Napoleon was one of the greatest conquerors in human history and waged warfare throughout his reign over France. Completed in 1836 and standing at over 50 meters in height, the Arc de Triomphe was the largest triumphal arch in the world for over 100 years until it was surpassed by Mexico City’s Monumento a la Revolucion. Designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1936, the Arc stands at the western end of the Champs-Elysses and honors those that fought in the Napoleonic Wars and French Revolution. The names of French generals and their victories are inscribed on the monument and following World War I a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added. The monument contains several relief sculptures depicting French heroism.
7. ANZAC War Memorial – Sydney, Australia
After a design competition was announced in 1929, Bruce Dellit’s design was chosen to memorialize the Australian Imperial Forces of World War I. Sculptures and relief on the structure were completed by Rayner Hoff, and the two men combined to create a stirring memorial to the lives lost. Standing in Sydney’s Hyde Park, the memorial’s interior contains 120,000 stars on white marble for the volunteers of New South Wales. The monument continues to be the focal point in Armistice Day remembrances.
6. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – Berlin, Germany
One block south of the famed Brandenburg Gate is one of the most stirring and controversial memorials in the world. The 19,000 square meter area is covered in 2,711 identical concrete slabs resembling coffins that are arranged in rows. In the Place of Information, the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims are listed. The Peter Eisenman design has been criticized for a multitude of reasons and has been the site of several attempts of defacement. In spite of the controversy, it is a stirring reminder of the depths of human cruelty.
5. Choeung Ek – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Following the overthrow of the Khmer Republic by the Khmer Rouge, the Cheoung Ek transformed from a quiet orchard into a site of one of humanity’s greatest atrocities. From 1975 to 1979, over 17,000 were transported from the S-21 prison to the killing fields of Choeung Ek. Most victims were bludgeoned to death in order to preserve precious resources like bullets. The remains of the dead were buried in 129 communal graves in the area. A 62-meter monument was constructed to commemorate the dead and the site has transformed back to a peaceful area after sustaining unimaginable horrors just a few decades ago.
4. Tjentiste War Memorial – Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Battle of the Sutjeska was known by many names including Case Black, Fall Schwarz, and the Fifth Offensive, and marked a turning point in Yugoslavia’s involvement in World War II. German forces unsuccessfully sought to capture Josef Broz Tito, but failed dramatically, allowing Tito to escape along with the majority of his forces. However, over 7,000 citizens were unable to escape with the army and were butchered by the Nazi forces. The abstract concrete monument dedicated to their memory features two crags standing in opposition amidst a dramatic mountainous backdrop. The craggy sculptures represent the fractured military plans of the Nazi army.
3. Vietnam Veterans Memorial – Washington DC, USA
The Vietnam War raged for nearly 20 years, and the United States’ involvement in the conflict lasted until Americans left the country in 1975. While casualties on all sides were heavy, the United States lost 58,220 soldiers and decided to honor them by having all of their names etched into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Standing in the Constitution Gardens of Washington, DC near the National Mall, the black marble memorial was completed in 1982 under the guidance of American architect Maya Lin. Lin’s beautiful memorial receives over 3 million visitors annually, while a traveling version of the monument visits various locations around the country.
2. The Motherland Calls – Volgograd, Russia
The Battle of Stalingrad lasted over five months before Soviet forces were able to mount forces and repel those of Nazi Germany. During the course of the battle, most of the city was reduced to rubble by continuous bombing runs from the Luftwaffe. Over 1.1 million Russians were killed during the course of the battle, and the Axis suffered in excess of 850,000 casualties. To commemorate the battle and the sacrifice of Russian soldiers, The Motherland Calls was designed by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich and engineer Nikolai Nikitin. At the time of its completion, it was the largest statue in the world and remains the largest statue in the world of a woman.
1. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme – Thiepval, France
Over one million soldiers perished during the multiple battles that made up the Battle of the Somme. French, British, and South African soldiers engaged forces from the German Empire in one of the largest stalemates in history. The Thiepval Memorial is dedicated to the 72,195 British and South African men who went missing in the multiple battles. The Sir Edward Lutyens design employs multiple interlocking arches of different sizes, and it remains the largest British battle memorial in the world. Sixteen stone laurel wreaths adorn the memorial to commemorate each of the individual battles that took place.
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