Tag Archives: World War II

Fort Sumter National Monument

Overview

Located at the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, a group of defensive forts have gone through many permutations since the 1770s.  The most famous, the five-sided Fort Sumter was still unfinished (after 30 years of construction) when South Carolina became the first state to secede from the United States on December 20, 1860.  This led Major Robert Anderson to flee Fort Moultrie with 85 Union troops for Fort Sumter, which Confederates fired at on April 12, 1861, marking the first shot of the Civil War.  Fort Sumter is only accessible by ferry, but you can drive a car to the National Park Service (NPS) museum at Fort Moultrie, commemorated on the U.S. quarter-dollar coin minted in 2016.

Highlights

Museum, Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter, wildlife

Must-Do Activity

Fort Sumter was built upon a sandbar in Charleston Harbor, raised and leveled with 70,000 tons of granite brought down from New England.  A toll ferry takes visitors to the island from downtown Charleston or Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.   Dolphins, pelicans, and shore birds are commonly spotted on the 40-minute ferry ride to Fort Sumter.  Destroyed by the end of the Civil War, the fort today looks nothing like it did back then, having gone through multiple upgrades before it was deactivated in 1947.  At the site, the NPS displays cannons representing each era alongside interpretive signs.

Best Trail

A walk through Fort Moultrie explains its 170 years of military use before it became part of Fort Sumter National Monument in 1948.  Constructed on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina, Fort Moultrie was not yet finished when a British attack was repelled on June 28, 1776 at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.  After being destroyed during the Civil War, it saw new life during World War I with the placement of disappearing rifles and World War II with anti-aircraft guns. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Major Robert Anderson surrendered and lowered the U.S. flag on April 14, 1861, though there were no casualties during the bombardment.  After rifled cannons had reduced the fort’s walls to rubble, Major Anderson raised the exact same flag above Fort Sumter four years later to-the-date near the end of the Civil War. 

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fosu/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person to visit Fort Moultrie (or America the Beautiful pass); charge for passenger ferry to Fort Sumter but no NPS fee

Road Conditions

Free parking at Fort Moultrie, but pay parking for the ferry from Liberty Square in downtown Charleston or Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Fort Pulaski National Monument (Georgia)

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site (South Carolina)

Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

Explore More – Who was the famous Native American chief who died of scarlet fever as a prisoner at Fort Moutlrie in 1838?

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Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Overview

Across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon stands the palisade of Fort Vancouver National Historical Park.  From 1825 to 1860 it served as the Hudson’s Bay Company’s western headquarters, even after the U.S. took control of the territory from Great Britain in 1846.  Within walking distance, the National Park Service (NPS) also manages the free Pearson Air Museum at an active airport surrounded by the Vancouver National Historic Reserve.  A separate unit of the park, the McLoughlin House (free) is found in downtown Oregon City and focuses on the area’s significance as the terminus for the Oregon Trail.

Highlights

Reconstructed fort, period garden, Pearson Air Museum, McLoughlin House

Must-Do Activity

Today’s fort buildings are reconstructions, including the bakehouse, blacksmith shop, chief factor’s house, fur store, and bastion which are open to visitors with costumed reenactors inside happy to answer questions.

Best Trail

True to its past, Vancouver, Washington (not to be confused with the large city across the Canadian border) remains a major shipping center to this day.  Its waterfront is home to a sculpture honoring “Wendy the Welder” and the women who worked here during World War II.  Many structures are preserved in the surrounding Vancouver National Historic Reserve, including the Marshall House (tours for a fee). 

Instagram-worthy Photo

A garden designed to mimic one from 1845 is maintained just outside the fort’s palisade.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fova/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person (only to enter the fort itself) or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Access roads paved, but parking is a short walk from the fort.

Camping

Battleground Lake State Park has a campground 20 miles northwest of Vancouver, Washington.  There are many camping options across the Columbia River in Mount Hood National Forest.

Related Sites

Grand Portage National Monument (Minnesota)

Whitman Mission National Historic Site (Washington)

Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

Explore More – Before it became a unit of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in 2003, when was McLoughlin House named a National Historic Site in the “father of Oregon’s” honor (even though he was Canadian)?

Minidoka National Historic Site

Overview

One of the many things that makes this country great is its willingness to remember inglorious moments in its past, such as the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.  Most of the 13,000 Japanese-Americans imprisoned in central Idaho were from Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, including Bainbridge Island where a memorial stands today that is considered part of Minidoka National Historic Site.

Highlights

Guard tower, Honor Roll, barrack, mess hall, baseball field, root cellar

Must-Do Activity

The site in Jerome, Idaho is still under construction, with building underway on a new visitor center.  Currently, you can view a few displays at the bookstore in the Hermann House then walk the rest of the 1.6-mile interpretive trail.  There is also a portion of the museum at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument dedicated to Minidoka National Historic Site.

Best Trail

A 1.6-mile trail passes historic structures lined with many interpretive signs.  Highlights include the root cellar, baseball field, and a tarpaper mess hall. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

The guard tower on the North Side Canal stands near the Honor Roll, which was recreated to match one from the 1940s that listed Japanese-Americans serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/miin/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The main access road is paved, but some of the surrounding farm roads are dirt.  Currently, you park at the guard tower and walk to Hermann House, but there will likely be a paved parking lot at the future visitor center.

Camping

Bruneau Dunes State Park offers camping south of Interstate 90 and is a fun spot to visit with sandboards available for rental.

Related Sites

Manzanar National Historic Site (California)

Tule Lake National Monument (California)

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument (Idaho)

Explore More – Minidoka War Relocation Center was the seventh largest city in Idaho on March 1, 1943; what was its maximum population?

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books Set During World War II

Following up on our list of the Top 10 novels set during World War II, these are our favorite non-fiction works.  If you feel that we missed an important one, we invite you to walk into your local library and count how many shelves are filled by this subject.  The choices may betray our preference for pilots and air combat, which is perhaps why our first blog post covered Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.  Do not miss our other book recommendations under the Top 10 Lists tab.

10. God Is My Co-Pilot by Col. Robert L. Scott (1943)

One of the original “Flying Tigers” wrote his autobiography during the war.

9. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw (1998)

These short biographical sketches focus on the post-war lives of servicemen and women.

8. Going Solo by Roald Dahl (1986)

An autobiography of his time as a young pilot by the author of The BFG, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach.

7. In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton (2001)

The horrifying tale of the few survivors of a lone battleship torpedoed and sunk in the Pacific Ocean in 1945.

6. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Capt. Ted W. Lawson (1943)

A first-hand account of the lead-up and aftermath of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942.

5. Night by Elie Wiesel (1960)

The first in a trilogy tells the story of the author’s survival in a concentration camp.

4. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest by Stephen E. Ambrose (1992)

Better known as a TV miniseries, a book by the author of D-Day and Citizen Soldiers.

3. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

A 20th-century classic featuring writing that still elicits fear and dread in a reader.

2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)

This well-written biography of Louie Zamperini can be summed up in one word: unbelievable.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl  (1946)

This is one of the most inspiring books ever written and it starts with the author’s experience in a concentration camp.

Honorable Mentions

Soaring to Glory: A Tuskegee Airman’s Firsthand Account of World War II by Philip Handleman and Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr. (2019)

The latest in a growing library of books written about and by Tuskegee Airmen.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (2013)

The events described in one of the best non-fiction books ever written culminated in Germany before the war began.

7. The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman (2007)

A gripping story of the daring rescue of Allied airmen stranded on the Balkan Peninsula.

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Top 10 Novels Set During World War II

Since the world just commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we thought we would honor the Greatest Generation with a list of our favorite novels set during World War II, of which there are so many that some great ones did not make the cut.  In 2016, we were on hand for the ceremonies on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawai‘i and can imagine how moving it must have been to be there in Normandy.  We will soon release our list of the Top 10 non-fiction books set during World War II, but in the meantime check out our other book recommendations.

10. The Thin Red Line by James Jones (1962)

A story of the fight to take Guadalcanal from the author of From Here to Eternity.

9. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)

There are several good books about Japanese-American internment, but this is our favorite.

8. The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean (1957)

An action novel about a commando team that destroys an impenetrable fortress on a Greek island.

7. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015)

A fascinating glimpse into the lives of two sisters in occupied France.

6. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener (1947)

Imperialism and racism are the backdrop to all of these short stories.

5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008)

A fun yet sad story told through a series of letters from an island in the English Channel.

4. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk (1951)

Pulitzer Prize-winner based on the author’s experiences in the U.S. Navy.

3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)

A Gestapo interrogation is the center of this tale with a major plot twist.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)

Most World War II novels involve Death, but he is an actual character in this masterpiece.

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

These unforgettable characters stuck at an air base in Italy are both hysterical and poignant.

Honorable Mentions

City of Thieves by David Benioff (2008)

Two Russian prisoners attempt to secure a dozen eggs or face execution during the siege of Leningrad.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940)

This classic is set during the Spanish Civil War in the years leading up to WWII.

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