Memorial Day is a week away, so in honor of the men and woman who gave their lives in service of their country, I’m going to highlight some of the nation’s more unusual memorials. It has been estimated that more than 1.3 million Americans have lost their lives during too many wars, and more than 1.5 million have been wounded. So here are ten lesser known memorials, each commemorating a different armed conflict:
Revolutionary War: Prison Ship Martyrs Monument – Brooklyn, New York.
Historians estimate that roughly 7,000 men fell in battle during the War for Independence. But nearly twice as many men and boys perished amid awful conditions aboard prisoner-of-war ships, many of them anchored alongside Brooklyn. Only one in ten are believed to have survived captivity. In 1908, a 148-foot-tall Doric column was constructed in their honor at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park.
War of 1812: Battle of New Orleans Memorial – Chalmette, Louisiana.
The final land battle of the war was fought AFTER a peace treaty had been signed. Unfortunately, the news hadn’t reached the armies. Some 2,000 British soldiers and a handful of U.S. soldiers perished. Today, a 70-foot-tall memorial looks over the site of the battlefield.
Mexican-American War: Army of Occupation Monument – Corpus Christi, Texas.
In Old Bayview Cemetery on the edge of downtown Corpus Christi, a simple granite marker honors the 69 members of General (and future president) Zachary Taylor’s “Army of Occupation” who died there over an eight-month span in 1845-46. It was erected by the Descendants of Mexican War Veterans (yep, there is such an organization) in 2004.
U.S. Civil War: The Treue der Union Monument – Comfort, Texas.
Erected in 1866, it means “Loyalty to the Union,” and it is dedicated to 35 Germans settlers who died at the Battle of Nueces on August 10, 1862. Well, actually the settlers were attacked by Confederates forces as they headed for Mexico, their long-term plan being to join the Union army.
Spanish-American War: Jacob Weisenberger statue – Yakima Washington.
Interestingly, a number of memorials to the conflict in Cuba are located in Washington state. Cannons from the Battle of Manila Bay can be found in the city of Shoreline, for instance, and a memorial to volunteer solders sits on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. But Yakima’s is a bronze statue of the commander of the First Battalion, which included Company E from North Yakima.
World War I: Littlefield Fountain – Austin, Texas.
Built in 1933 with money from a trust established by Major George W. Littlefield, it is a memorial for University of Texas students and alumni who died in what was then called The Great War. A Latin inscription upon it is translated as: “A short life hath been given by Nature unto man; but the remembrance of a life laid down in a good cause endureth forever.”
World War II: Pennsylvania World War II Memorial – Philadelphia.
More than 1,300 Pennsylvania Railroad employees lost their lives during the second World War. Their sacrifice is memorialized by a 39-foot-tall monument – most of it consisting of a bronze sculpture titled Angel of the Resurrection – on the main concourse of the 30th Street Station in Philly. On its black-granite base, all 1,307 names are inscribed in alphabetical order.
Korean War: Minnesota Korean War Memorial – St. Paul, Minnesota.
At the State Capitol Mall, a rather haunting sculpture shows a weary, young soldier approaching an archway and said to be “looking for his lost comrades.” The cut-out of the arch is in the shape of another soldier, representing the men who didn’t come home.
Vietnam War: Heck Park – Monroe, Michigan.
Norman Heck, Jr. was killed while serving in Vietnam. Today, Heck Park includes a pink granite memorial to all who served, a black granite memorial to all who served and died, and another to the one Monroe County soldier who is still missing in action. Sidewalks connect Captain Heck’s memorial to the others. There’s even a UH-1M Huey sitting atop a 30-foot pedestal.
Persian Gulf War: Desert Shield-Desert Storm Monument – Evansville, Indiana.
Ten years ago, the city erected what was believed to be the first modern war memorial depicting a woman in combat. Located across from the Civic Center Complex on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, it shows two soldiers in full combat gear – a male solder resting a rifle at his side and a female solder pulling a gas mask from her face.
So if ever you have the opportunity, visit one of these places. Memorials are meant to preserve memories.