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Top 10 World War II Sites in the 62 National Parks

The official end of World War II occurred on September 2, 1945 on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri (now docked at Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawai‘i).  To celebrate the 75th anniversary of this event we previously assembled our Top 10 National Park Service (NPS) units dedicated to the war.  This list ranks the best sites within our 62 National Parks.  Click here to see all our Top 10 lists, including our favorite WWII books and films.

For more information on visiting all 62 National Parks, check out our travel guidebook, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

10. Yosemite National Park (California)

The “U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital Yosemite National Park, California” opened in 1943.

9. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Soldiers were sent to recreate at the caverns from Hobbs Air Field, located 100 miles away.

8. Olympic National Park (Washington)

Two of the park’s coast guard and aircraft warning stations still exist.

7. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

In 1942, the U.S. military established a weapons testing range in the Tularosa Basin that still functions today.

6. Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Denali’s rugged terrain was a great place to test soldiers and equipment.

5. Redwood National Park (California)

The Klamath River Radar Station B-71 is a rare early-warning radar station.

4. Haleakalā National Park (Hawai‘i)

The numerous antennas atop Red Hill led locals to dub this WWII radar station “Haleakalā National Forest.”

3. Acadia National Park (Maine)

The park’s Big Moose Island was home to a U.S. Navy radio station during WWII.

2. National Park of American Samoa (American Samoa)

These islands hosted soldiers and provided essential communications operations in the Pacific.

…and finally, our #1 National Park dedicated to World War II:

1. Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

The 10th Mountain Division tested their mountaineering skills and equipment at Mt. Rainier.

Honorable Mention

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (Hawai‘i)

After Pearl Harbor, this federal land on the largest of the Hawaiian Islands held several military installations.

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Top 10 World War II National Park Sites

The official end of World War II occurred on September 2, 1945 on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri (now docked at Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawai‘i).  To celebrate the 75th anniversary of this event we have assembled our Top 10 National Park Service (NPS) units dedicated to the war.  There are more than you might think for a war fought predominantly overseas (including sites in our 62 National Parks, which we will rank in a separate list).  Click here to see all our Top 10 lists, including our favorite WWII books and films.

10. World War II Memorial (District of Columbia)

This large memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. opened in 2004.

9. Gateway National Recreation Area (New York-New Jersey)

Fort Hancock and Floyd Bennett Air Field were busy places during WWII.

8. American Memorial Park (Northern Marianas Islands)

This 133-acre park honors the 5,204 soldiers and civilians who gave their lives during the Marianas Campaign.

7. Fort Sumter National Monument (South Carolina)

Coastal fortifications from the 1940s are well-maintained on the Charleston Harbor islands.

6. Manhattan Project National Historical Park (New Mexico-Tennessee-Washington)

The Manhattan Project raced humanity into the atomic age and helped end the war.

5. War in the Pacific National Historical Park (Guam)

The battlefields on Guam represent the many sacrifices made while “island hopping” across the Pacific Theater.

4. Manzanar National Historic Site (California)

The shameful internment of thousands of Japanese Americans is remembered here and also at Idaho’s Minidoka National Historic Site (under development).

3. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

Racism in the military and American society is directly addressed at this excellent interpretive site.

2. Pearl Harbor National Memorial (Hawai‘i)

Take the ferry to the emotional USS Arizona Memorial and step aboard the battleship USS Missouri.

…and finally our #1 NPS site dedicated to World War II:

1. Rosie the Riveter/WWII Homefront National Historical Park (California)

An excellent museum interprets the work done by women and minorities to supply the war effort.

Honorable Mentions

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (Oregon-Washington)

Multiple WWII coastal fortifications are preserved in this park, as well as at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve in Washington.

Aleutian WWII National Historic Site (Alaska)

An affiliated site on the remote island of Unalaska interprets the fighting that took place in Alaska.

Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument (California)

Prior security clearance is required before visiting this site where 320 men died in a 1944 accident; for more local WWII history visit San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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Top 10 Civil War National Park Sites

At least 22 of the 419 units in the National Park Service (NPS) system deal directly with the Civil War and a few others are related (like Rock Creek Park and Fort Monroe National Monument).  This does not even take into account the multiple sites devoted to Abraham Lincoln.  While we have not been to all of them yet, this is our ranking of our favorite NPS sites dedicated to remembering the Civil War.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 lists, including our favorite Civil War books and films.

10. Antietam National Battlefield (Maryland)

9. Pea Ridge National Military Park (Arkansas)

8. Manassas National Battlefield Park (Virginia)

7. Shiloh National Military Park (Tennessee-Mississippi)

6. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Virginia)

5. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (Tennessee-Georgia)

4. Fort Sumter National Monument (South Carolina)

3. Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

2. Andersonville National Historic Site (Georgia)

…and finally, our #1 NPS site dedicated to the Civil War:

1. Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)

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Honorable Mentions

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (West Virginia-Maryland-Virginia)

Pecos National Historical Park (New Mexico)

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Top 10 World War II Films

The end of World War II occurred with the unofficial surrender of Japan 75 years ago on August 14, 1945.  To celebrate this anniversary we are listing the best movies set during World War II.  More than any other conflict in history, this war inspired the creation of countless films, many based on books we listed in our previous Top 10 lists.  The overwhelming numbers made it very difficult to narrow down our list, which could have easily included 30+ entries (including Academy Award-winning Life Is Beautiful-1997, The English Patient-1996, and Schindler’s List-1993.  These choices are simply our preferences and we would be interested to read your comments on your favorite films.

10. Red Tails (2012)

This was not the best written script, but it does show great dogfights and honors the Tuskegee Airmen.

9. Dunkirk (2017)

Three storylines of different duration are blended in this visually stunning tale of the evacuation of British soldiers from France in 1940.

8. The Imitation Game (2014)

The secret work of Alan Turing in decoding German messages was essential to the outcome of the war.

7. Pearl Harbor (2001)

This very long movie was uneven, but had impressive visuals of the December 7, 1941 surprise attack and subsequent Doolittle Raid.

6. Flags of Our Fathers ()

This gripping story of the attack on Iwo Jima was directed by Clint Eastwood in conjunction with Letters from Iwo Jima.

5. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

This film is worth including simply for its excellent depiction of the D-Day landings.

4. Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Set during the Siege of Stalingrad, it tells the story of an interesting cat and mouse game between opposing snipers.

3. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

A long, slow, and brilliant film about POWs constructing a bridge for their Japanese captors.

2. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Not all heroes carried guns, as this real-life medic on Okinawa proved.

1. Unbroken (2014)

This biopic recounts the unbelievable struggles of Olympian and soldier Louie Zamperini.

Honorable Mentions

Band of Brothers (2001)

This HBO mini-series was based on the true stories of the men of Easy Company, 101st Airborne.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Entirely fictional and extremely entertaining, this is a modern reimagining of a 1940s comic book hero.

Snow Falling on Cedars (1999)

The internment of Japanese-Americans was a dark spot in American history (and is remembered at two National Park Service sites).

Top 10 Civil War Novels

This summer, we are covering the many National Park Service (NPS) sites dedicated to remembering the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history with the greatest outcome (freedom for the country’s enslaved people).  We previously listed our Top 10 films about the war and you may recognize some of the same titles in our Top 10 Civil War novels (click here to see all our Top 10 lists).

10. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (1997)

Just try not to picture Jude Law and Nicole Kidman while reading this novel, unless you haven’t seen the movie yet.

9. Civil War Stories by Ambrose Bierce (1891)

Before he went on to become a famous San Francisco newspaperman, Bierce served in the Union army.

8. Shiloh by Shelby Foote (1952)

A novelization of the bloody Tennessee battle by a leading historian featured prominently in Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War.

7. Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor (1955)

Andersonville was an infamous prison camp and is now a National Park Service site.

6. Confederates by Thomas Keneally (1979)

The Battle of Antietam is the setting for the climax of this novel by the author of Schindler’s List.

5. The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara (1998)

Picks up where his father’s (and our #1) novel leaves off after Gettysburg.

4. The March by E.L. Doctorow (2005)

Join Sherman’s march from Georgia to North Carolina alongside a fascinating cast of characters.

3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1936)

The origin of two legendary characters of the silver screen: Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler.

2. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1894)

A classic that you might have been forced to read in grade school, but is worth a reread.

…and finally our #1 novel about the American Civil War:

1. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1975)

This book about Gettysburg also made it to #1 on our Top 10 Novels set in a National Park list.

Honorable Mentions

Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)

This story of slavery is not about the Civil War, but it may have helped start it.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1891)

Some of Whitman’s best poems were inspired by his time as a nurse during the war.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

The Civil War provides the backdrop for Louisa May Alcott’s masterpiece.

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