Describe battlefields you walked


December 1, 2010, 03:13 PM
Tell us about battlefields you've walked...

The idea for this thread came from reading the Sgt. York thread, where Al Thompson describes walking through the WW1 Meuse Argonne battlefield where Sgt. York outmanoevered, out-thought and out-shot German machinegunners.

Here is Al's description of this battlefield:
"I walked that battlefield in 1987 and by moving a short distance, SGT York could have indeed flanked the bad guys. It's a series of low, close and steep small hills on the edge of a valley. I thought the movie was pretty accurate about the terrain he faced."

Please describe the terrain of battlefields you walked that brought home to you the grit that is needed to prevail in battle.

Here's one that made such a powerful impression that I returned a second time:

At Gettysburg, on the second day of battle, the Greys advanced through a huge open field with but a few slight creases in the land, up a slight but constant incline toward the Blue's high ground lines. These men had camped the night before under protection of a deep forest which bordered the battlefield.

It was a hot dry July day. Reportedly many from the South were not well provisioned with water, some hadn't had breakfast. They advanced under withering fire, hot hungry and thirsty. A very few got within bayonet range of the Union line (the Angle). Most died.

This battlefield brought home that it is not enough to arm soldiers with rifles, ammo, etc.. At Gettysburg, if the Confederate generals has provisioned their men properly, the victory might have been theirs. That day, at a high point in the South's advance beyond the Mason-Dixon line, a quart of water per soldier might well have reshaped America.

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Fish Miner
December 1, 2010, 03:36 PM
I didnt walk, but I sat as the train weaved its way from Brussels to Paris. As I passed the fields of sheep, I kept wondering why there were so many small perfectly round ponds that the sheep were all around. When I passed an old concrete pill box I knew what I was seeing. The ponds were old craters from massive bombs. I was surprised how many pill boxes were still there. I think about it every time I see footage of our B-52's dropping ord in WWII.

Al Thompson
December 1, 2010, 03:39 PM
Twofifty, one thing battlefields can teach us is effective weapons employment and ranges. I've been to quite a few and will share more impressions later. :)

December 1, 2010, 03:39 PM
I think about it every time I see footage of our B-52's dropping ord in WWII.

The B-52 is old, but not quite THAT old.:rolleyes:

December 1, 2010, 04:01 PM
I didnt walk, but I sat as the train weaved its way from Brussels to Paris. As I passed the fields of sheep, I kept wondering why there were so many small perfectly round ponds that the sheep were all around. When I passed an old concrete pill box I knew what I was seeing. The ponds were old craters from massive bombs. I was surprised how many pill boxes were still there. I think about it every time I see footage of our B-52's dropping ord in WWII.
In that area they were likely B17's or B24's. Possibly British Lancaster's. I suppose some could be from B29's but those were almost entirely deployed in the Pacific campaign. B52's didn't enter the picture until post-war.

December 1, 2010, 04:09 PM
yep B-17s and B24s along with some other vintage stuff for WWll

B52 dropping 750 pounders will make you feel God is near....or the devil....depends on whose side you are on.

A stupid battle field with horrendous loss of life was LZ David in Cambodia. N Vietnamese army decided to attack the LZ which sat in the middle of what looked like a perfect large golf course green of 300+ acres. They attacked at night. 105s and 155s lowered their barrels and with Beehive rounds shot for effect. Flare bird and Night Hawk did their part as well.
33 Bad guys made it to the wire but everyone else was pretty much history. American casualties were few. As usual the battle was won and the war was declared over by the politicians; history says America lost.

December 1, 2010, 04:45 PM
I checked out Omaha Beach in Normandy back in the 1970s, along with some of the high ground overlooking it. It's a miracle American troops ever got off that beach. If it weren't for deception by the Allies, naval guns and bungling by the German High Command I doubt anyone landing there would have survived unless they were withdrawn back to the ships offshore at once.

As for Gettysburg, that battle broke the back of Lee's army. The Confederate assault was poorly planned and never should have taken place, especially where it went in. Longstreet opposed the whole thing but Lee was adamant the attack would take place. Turned out Longstreet was right, though some blamed him for the fiasco. It was Lee's show and it was a disaster.

December 1, 2010, 04:53 PM
in the early 70's I lived in Petersburg and later Fort Lee.

My brother and I walked all over that place.

The Crater is still visible.

Walking the Union left (Confederate right) where the Union finally turned Lee's flank and on to Appomattox, Union troops had to climb a 12 ft parapet, down into a trench (now about 4 feet deep was over 6 during the battle) move around chevro de frise (think christmas tress with 6' wood spikes driven through this was way before barbed wire/concertina wire) through a corn field (that was wild a farmer's crop in the middle of a battle field) where the pickets would harvest ears of corn while on duty, down into another trench with more cheval de frise up another dirt embankment to the parapet now and only now can they get to shoot at the folks that had been firing at them for most of a mile or so. Some dipstick general got troops there and took literally all day to re-enforce them (almost losing the position in the process), thankfully Lee had seen the handwriting on the wall (parapet actually) and had begun withdrawing already.

note wool uniforms, leather soled shoes, 9lb rifle 30 or so pounds of gear. It is March IIRC.

For a real horror story the Confederate attack on Fort Stedman is a classic case in how not to break a siege, particularly against a seriously numerically superior force, at one point there were something like 4 Union Regiments arrayed against about 1000 Confederate troops. And that's not counting the artillery once the Union figured out who was actually in Fort Stedman. The term is infladed position eg they were getting hit from all sides literally.

I stood on the parapets at Fort Stedman and it was a looong way back to the Confederate lines again open ground zilch cover.

while thinking about the I remember seeing the Union positions at Vicksburg.
It was even worse about a mile to the Confederate lines (all up hill, zilch cover).

Civil war battle fields always leave me really somber. It's not the casualties it is how did anyone survive?


December 1, 2010, 05:04 PM
I saw a lot of battlefields in Normandy, and elsewhere in Europe.... But the one that stuck with me most was Pointe du Hoc. ( )

I already knew the story of the battle there, but it wasn't until I was actually walking around it that I could begin to appreciate what those Rangers were up against.

Getting up those cliffs with germans shooting down at them is impressive enough, but then to secure and hold the ledges to get enough troops up, then push inland against heavily fortified concrete MG nests, bunkers, and a crapton of german troops....

I can barely imagine what a tough battle that must have been. And seeing it first-hand makes it even more astonishing that they were able to carry out their mission despite the battlefield being 100% in favor of the enemy.

It's just mind-blowing. Seeing it and walking around there really puts their story into perspective.

December 1, 2010, 05:08 PM
I climbed little round top at Gettysburg. I was not carrying anything but myself and I didn't have anyone shooting at me. It took me a good 2-4 minutes to get from the bottom to the top. That wasn't including the farmers field that you had to cross just to get to the bottom of the hill. Then I tried climbing through the trees on the other side and found that to be even more difficult. There never should have been an assault on that hill. It would have been a turkey shoot up until the union ran out of ammo. No wonder so many confederates died.

December 1, 2010, 05:20 PM
Little Bighorn (Custer's Last Stand)

Been there at least twice. Pretty neat. Well developed, but not Disney Land-ish yet. The Native American Park Service/Tour Guide/Host Person made a lot of racial jokes about white people. Worth stopping for a walk through.

The Alamo

Inexplicably wonderful. Everyone should visit that site.

December 1, 2010, 05:20 PM
I went to Gettysburg and Bull Run back in the 60s but I don't recall much now. I walked the Custer battlefield. Custer didn't have a prayer but was too much into himself to realize it. I toured the Alamo but that was a long time ago. I toured Vicksburg. What a place. Needed more than a few hours to do that tour. I flew over Da Nang. The surface of the ground looked like a golf ball.

Those ponds that were seen in France were most likely artillery craters from WW1....There are still alot of evidence of WW1 battlefields in France and Belgium....chris3

December 1, 2010, 05:36 PM
If you get a chance to see Pea Ridge battlefield it is a lesson in maneuver warfare. Van Dorn tires to 'zip' around the Union position (he's in a carriage the troops are on foot)

Part of the Union infantry literally stumbles across Van Dorn's troops and alert Curtis all is not well on his flank

Van Dorn's left no hits the now alerted Union forces and McCulloch and McIntosh were killed in action soon after the clash began, and Colonel Hébert was captured, he's down to zero senior officers on his left, Van Dorn spends the rest of the day not noticing his battalion is getting fire from about a company or so of infantry. Confederates finally 'take' Elkhorn Tavern, but don't advance on what's left of the Union center.

Sunrise, Confederates get a dose of the largest artillery zoo seen west of the Mississippi, Van Dorn departs in his carriage leaving the troops to face a, well zoo of artillery supported massed infantry.

Confederates are Done in the west, Van Dorn goes on to screw up things else where and Join Hooker in the General Hall of Shame for leaving a battlefield command, well , in the middle of the battle.

Pea Ridge is dominated by a knobby hill, which breaks the Leesville, Elk Horn Tavern battle space up some. At Leesville you can see what did in McCulloch he had been fighting Indians and Mexicans in Texas the general weapons in use were smoothbore. He rode out of the woods to reconnoiter the force in front of him. The Union was armed with rifles and every one in sight must have fired. Why his second in command did the same thing? no idea.
the Terrain is open field with little deflades all over the place it looks level but it is not. the Union cannon were parked in the deflades and were firing blind into the trees. They did some real morale damage to the Confederate troops. Because the Confederates were concentrating on Elkhorn Tavern the Union was able to bring up their artillery and concentrate on the Confederate center.

This is a battlefield with a lot of unusual circumstances. The union commander at Leesville had his troops on their bellys firing from cover. and his cannons hidden too. He knew he was outnumbered (a weird development for a Union officer) and was making what he thought to be a covered retirement. In fact he retired most of the Confederate Left. With the left rolled up the Union artillery was able to concentrate on the Elkhorn Tavern battle generating the largest artillery battle west of Mississippi during the Civil War. Oh final point Union won the battle.

artillery zoo here, from what I have read the Union artillery park , was a mixture of 12lb mountain howitzers, Revolutionary war 3 pounders, Mexician War 6 pounders some Napoleon 12 pounders and what ever else was rounded up by Missouri's State Militia.


I really enjoyed walking this battlefield it is probably better to walk it in March, July was a tad warm.

Erik M
December 1, 2010, 05:44 PM
There are few Civil War related sites around the area where I live. No major battles, just skirmishes over supply routes. The sites are fortified lookouts connected to long mountain trails. Some have replica cannon emplacements. Its always so silent that you can hear the wind blow through the trees. I visited Ft. Sumter when i was much younger. I would reccomend it to any history buff. My real desire is to visit the Arizona memorial in Hawaii.

December 1, 2010, 05:47 PM
I've walked Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and a few other "small" engagement sites (Grand Gulf in Missisippi, Horseshoe Bend, Ala (Andy Jackson v. N.A.), etc.) I was a big Civil War buff growing up, and it was fascinating to see these places in person, but the most eye-opening experience for me was at Anteitam (or Sharpsburg, depending where you grew up ;)) -- most notably Burnside's Bridge. I couldn't believe how close it was from the ridge where the Confederates took cover to the far side of the creek; how narrow the bridge actually was; and how far is was from the cover of the woods to the bridge on the Yankee side. I just couldn't imagine what it took to get across that bridge.

Also at Chalmette (Battle of New Orleans) -- the actual field of battle seems so small....

Side note about Antietam -- when I was there (about 15 years ago), alongside the bridge there was a really big tree right about where the contemporary photos showed a little tree -- does anyone know if it's the same one?

Marlin 45 carbine
December 1, 2010, 05:50 PM
Chickamauga. I went to the iron bridge where the battle began - where bodies (mostly Union) dammed up the river (large creek actually). it was overgrown mostly with thicket this was '88 IIRC. the iron showed dings and creases from cannon shells. there was only a faint trail to it - gave me the hebee-jeebees.

December 1, 2010, 05:59 PM
Marlin's post reminded me -- I was in Berlin not too long after the Wall came down and wandered quite a bit in the East section -- lots of building facades were still pockmarked by bullet and shell fragments -- weird.

December 1, 2010, 05:59 PM
(Petersburg)The Crater is still visible. My great-great grandfather was there with the 64th Georgia,CSA.There are few Civil War related sites around the area where I live. No major battles, just skirmishes Here too. I live right on top of the Forrest-Streight route. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest pursued Yankee Colonel Abel Streight aross Alabama and into Georgia in 1863. At "Battle Above the Clouds" aka Battle of Chattanooga(Tenn.) it is hard to believe yankees were able to overcome such formidable terrain and win. It is practically straight up and we had the high ground(another great-great grandfather was there with the 22nd and 25th Alabama CSA).

jim goose
December 1, 2010, 06:05 PM
I'd love to visit Galipoli one day.

I also regret not visiting Normandy 10-20 yrs ago when you could get a wlaking tour from men who fought the battles. Cannot remeber his name, but a german officer wrote a great book and spent his later yrs giving walking tours of where he took out dozen's of canadien tanks with a German anti aircraft gun.

I dont think Grnadad woud have been interested though. :)

December 1, 2010, 06:07 PM
The whole island was a battlefield. The last battle before the big one was deployed.
'69-'70 still a lot of bunkers, gun emplacements etc.
My houseboy there was 13 yrs. old when we invaded and had a lot of stories and carried the scar from being hit from friendly fire.
Started working as a houseboy for the Marines and had been one ever since.
Got to see the Ernie Pyle Monument on Ie Shima.
Suicide Cliff at the southern most end of the island was a little freaky, standing next to a Japaneese man my age and thinking that our fathers could have faced each other on that island.

December 1, 2010, 06:25 PM
I've been to Kwajalein Atoll.

There are still concrete bunkers out there the Japanese built with a secret recipe using saltwater. They are still HARD bunkers, virtually no deterioration. Roi-Namur is the more "historic" looking island, you can take a walk and almost feel/sense what the SHTF must have been like. If you look closely, there are still bits and peices to be found in the ground and shore line.

Richard Sorenson earned his Medal of Honor there by jumping on a Japanese grenade to save his buddies. A class act.

The lagoon is home to several ships, I've dove a few of them. One I never dove was the Prinz Eugen, a german criuser that made it through the a bomb tests, only to sink upside down in the lagoon; in a storm IIRC. There is a concrete supply ship aground at Carlos, it hasn't fared well, but it's interesting that the hull is concrete. Basically a quick built throwawy ship.

I've also been to Ascension in the South Atlantic, not a battle ground, but a manned camp for the RAF, Royal Navy, and US. Hiking through the hills is rough going, not much but rocks and acacia trees. Except for the mountain: cool, misty, and lush. The only place I've ever caught tuna off the beach.

I've still got a dogtag I found there, never could locate the family in North Carolina, and I've always wondered how the fellow fared through the war....

December 1, 2010, 06:41 PM
I've been on Corregidor, Wake Island, Pearl Harbor, Gaum, and Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. The two that stand out the most are Corregidor and Kwajalein.

Corregidor is a tourist attraction with guided tours and a must see if you go to the Philippines. Its amazing how peaceful it is now compared to its bloody violent past. It even has a hotel now but most people just stay long enough for the day tour. Me and my new wife stayed there for the weekend and were the only guests in the hotel. The entire Island staff was there to cater to us. We felt like we owned Corregidor.

The guns are still there and show a lot of battle damage. Some of the damage came from the Americans when they retook Corregidor. When the Americans closed in on the 6000 Japanese hiding in the Malinta Tunnel, they blew themselves up rather than surrender. A small group of Japanese soldiers surrendered about a year later to an American soldier taking out the trash. He turned around and----surprise! there they were.

I lived on Kwajalein Atoll for three years and saw what was left of the battles there. It use to be a Japanese sub and sea plane base but its now an Army missile range for ICBM missiles. I worked on a boat there so I got to go to several islands in the atoll and see ruins from the war.

Roi Namur Island was the comand for the Japanese and still has some destroyed gun batteries there. There is an undergound hospital also and it is so over grown you could walk two feet away and not see it. Now its used by the Marshallese for catching coconut crabs. There are also three bunkers with three foot thick steel reinforced concrete that have car sized chunks blown out of them and the chunck clear on the other side of the bunker. The Japanese command building is also full of bomb and bullet holes.

On Kwajalein Island there's a lot of American mortar shrapnel on the reef from a battle with the Japanese. I have a few of the bronze timer rings from them. There's also a lot of unexploded ordnance that keeps washing up or gets dug up and sometimes a skeleton is still found. One guy was digging in front of his quarters and found two cases of Japanese mortar rounds under his front porch.

In the lagoon there are a lot of Japanese ships sunk and a Japanese sub beached on the reef. The Nazi battle ship the Prinz Eugen is also capsized there with its stern sticking up out of the water. It didn't sink in the atomic bomb test so they towed it to Kwajalein and it got loose in a storm, blew across the lagoon, capsized and sank. I use to see it every day going to work.

One of the guys I worked with liked to dive on these ships and has a picture of a Japanese sailor's skeleton inside a ship with a bullet hole in his head and a rifle next to him. It appears he was trapped in a compartment when the ship went down and committed suicide. Other ships still have live torpedoes and other ordnance on board.

Old krow
December 1, 2010, 06:54 PM
I've been to several so far. Some of the ones that made a significant impression on me (all of them made an impression in some way) were; Pearl Harbor, Vicksburg, MS, while not specifically to see a battle ground, and The American Cemetery and Memorial in Luxembourg.

Everything about Pearl Harbor is rich in history of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. From the harbor you can see the memorials, including the USS Arizona. While I have the deepest admiration for all that were there, the one that really stuck out to me was the USS Nevada.

The USS Nevada was struck by a torpedo and managed to get underway about a half an hour later around 0840. She was steaming (although slowly, she was after all wounded) through the channel toward the Navy Yard and was struck numerous times by Japanese dive bombers opening up her forecastle, causing numerous fires, and making the leaks even worse. After taking significant damage trying to leave, it became evident that if she sank she would have blocked the channel for all of the ships trying to leave. The crew beached her so that other ships would be able to pass through the channel. The memorial is at Hospital Point.

I was fortunate enough to be alive while some of the elders in my family were. One of them is still alive. One of my uncles was there during the attack. I was later shown the Purple Heart that he received and the telegram from the Department of War concerning his injury. I've been there several times so far. I found a hotel that still sells the newspaper from that day. I was younger the first time that I went there, and it was a very humbling experience. It was no longer the place that Ben "what's-his-face" was in a cheesy love story about, it became very real place where a lot of very brave people lost their lives.

Over the years I have had the chance to go to what is listed above, Bastogne, The Victory Arches, Vicksburg MS, many of the forts along the Gulf Coast, Nagasaki Japan, The German Cemetery (beside American Cemetery in Luxembourg, Blakely State, Germany, England, one of the German POW camps in Southern Miss, New Orleans, and a few more that I am sure I am forgetting.

Tim the student
December 1, 2010, 07:12 PM
I've been to Normandy, and seen the beaches, as well as other notable towns. I don't even know how to begin to describe it. It is amazing our forefathers (and maybe some of us here actually) did what they did.

As part of that trip, I've seen where John Steele got hung up on the church steeple at STE Mere. That was of particular interest to me because I spent a lot of my time in the Army in 3/505.

It is also nice that the French there remember the sacrifices made. They don't fit the stereotype at all.

My own battlefields were primarily in palm groves, and in dirty nasty towns. I fought in and around Baqubah Iraq.

December 1, 2010, 07:17 PM
I once walked thru the A SHAU

December 1, 2010, 07:24 PM
Pearl Harbor.
I vacationed in Hawaii in 1987 and made it a point to visit the Arizona Memorial.
A very somber experience ... a place of utter horror and death in the midst of beauty and paradise.
I tried to imagine in my mind, while I was there .... what it must have been like there, on December 7th, 1941.
A fail, really. You can watch the films, the documentaries... but you can't really imagine it.

December 1, 2010, 07:35 PM
The ones I know best are Trenton (December 26, 1776), Princeton (January 3, 1777) and Monmouth (June 28, 1778), all within 45 minutes from where I live. Trenton has been built over, though the Old Barracks was standing at the time and the layout of the streets is the same. A few years ago I walked Princeton Battlefield around 8AM on January 3, the approximate time the battle started. In 1997 I partcipated as a Continental infantryman in the annual Battle of Monmouth reeanactment, on a hot day-the actual battle was fought in 90 degree heat. After 12 rounds of blanks my Charleville musket became very unfcomfortable to touch. Not big battles by Civil War standards but those who died there ended up just as dead, and Trenton and Princeton were
turning points in the Revolution.

December 1, 2010, 07:37 PM
I'm missing something here.
The "High Water Mark" occured during the famed "Picketts Charge" that took place on the afternoon of the THIRD day of the Gettysburg battle.
I have walked the Gettysburg and the Antiteam sites numerous times.

December 1, 2010, 07:43 PM
I have visited the Alamo in San Antonio,Tx.a couple of times. I was surprized on my first visit in 1978 to find it was DOWNTOWN and not out on the prairie like in the movies.

December 1, 2010, 07:50 PM
I visited the American Memorial at Normandy a couple years ago and walked down to the beach. It was a beautiful day and there wasn't a soul in sight for miles aside from my friend and me. It was indeed strange how peaceful everything looked. Between the beach and the top of the hill, the ground was completely covered in green. You'd never believe how many men died there.

Thinking about it now, I actually don't think I could envision a better resting place.

December 1, 2010, 07:53 PM
Interesting, but off topic for THR.

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