For all the history buffs out there who want to learn about some of the world’s most important and infamous wars, seeing war artifacts up close is quite a remarkable experience. These are some of the biggest battles in history seen through their most amazing artifacts, which are all on display at museums around the world.
Battle: World War I
Where it can be seen: the Austrian Military Museum in Vienna (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum).
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and on June 28, 1914, he was assassinated while traveling in Sarajevo. While riding in his convertible, a group called the Black Hand, which were trying to free Bosnia from the Habsburg family rule, threw a bomb at the vehicle. The bomb bounced off the car, so a member of the group decided to shoot and kill Ferdinand.
This shot became known as “the shot that was heard around the world,” as it was considered to trigger the start of World War I.
Battle: World War II
Where it can be seen: the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
When it comes to artifacts of war, Chicago goes all the way. Their museum holds a German U-boat from World War II. These submarines were more than 200 feet in length, held 12 torpedoes and stayed submerged underwater for two hours at a time, which meant they were silent and deadly for foreign naval craft.
This U-505 was the first German warship captured by the U.S. Navy since the War of 1812. Taken in 1944, the submarine has been in the Lakeshore Drive museum since 1954.
Where it can be seen: England’s National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, just north of London.
During the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte made his way (with the French and the Spanish navies) to England with the plan to invade and conquer. But the British navy along the Cape of Trafalgar intervened.
Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s navy defeated Napoleon’s force, killing, wounding or capturing 15,000 of his men while losing only 458 of his own. Nelson himself was shot in the shoulder and killed. But he learned of England’s success before passing. Nelson’s wool coat, with the bullet hole and blood stains, can be seen in the museum.
Battle: Vietnam War
Where it can be seen: Hoa Lo Prison Museum, located at the same site where he was held captive.
Many may already know that in Vietnam, U.S. Navy pilot John McCain was shot down in Hanoi. McCain was held prisoner at the Hoa Lo Prison for more than five years. He was nicknamed “Hanoi Hilton,” where he and many other POWs were tortured, starved and kept in isolation.
McCain’s story was later told in ‘Faith of My Fathers,’ and went on to become a U.S. senator and a presidential candidate. He worked tirelessly to fight for POWs during his career before passing away in 2018.
Battle: World War II
Where it can be seen: Pearl Harbor as part of the Pacific National Monument.
The bombing in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, caused the docked USS Arizona battleship to sink, which killed 1,177 people. You can even see the sunken ship from an overhead observatory on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, but artifacts can also be found around the country.
At the University of Arizona, if you look up, you can see the campus bell tower has one of two original bells recovered from the shipwreck. It was originally meant to be melted, but alumni from the university helped salvage the bell and hang it proudly at the school. The University now rings the bell every time their football team wins.