Happy Fourth of July!

American independence is celebrated each year on July 4, and if you’re looking for some ideas of where to celebrate, either online or in person, this list will give you some great ideas!

Washington, DC

If you’re going to visit one place to celebrate American independence, you should definitely put Washington, DC at the top of your list. It’s our country’s capital, and has so many memorials, monuments, and locations important to America’s founding story. It’s a perfect spot for a family vacation, history bonanza, or politico fest, whatever your interests are!

US Capitol

The U. S. Capitol building is the seat of the legislative branch of government, and has played an important part in so much of America’s history. During the War of 1812, the building was burned by the British, and it served as a war hospital during the Civil War. Visitors can tour the building and learn about the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as American government, history, and culture.

United States Capitol (StreetView)
United States Capitol

Lincoln Memorial

While Lincoln wasn’t around at the founding of our country, he presided over the most fraught time in our country’s history and helped keep our Union strong. His memorial sits proudly at one end of the Mall, and is a must-see on the Fourth of July. If you’re lucky, you can score a seat on the steps and watch the amazing fireworks display, which are launched nearby at dusk.

Lincoln Memorial (StreetView)
Lincoln Memorial

National Archives

The National Archives building in downtown DC is home to America’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, so it’s a no-brainer to stop here on the Fourth of July. It’s a great place to learn about our history firsthand, see some of the most important documents of our country’s founding, and just maybe pretend you’re part of National Treasure.

National Archives (Google Maps)
National Archives

Philadelphia

Philadelphia played an important part in our country’s founding, including hosting the First and Second Continental Congresses and serving as a capital during and after the Revolution. There are many places with patriotic history any visitor would love to see on the 4th.

Independence Hall

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both debated and agreed to in Independence Hall. Visiting the site in July is especially educational, as it gives you a sense of what the men experienced as they debated in rooms locked for privacy during the heat of the Philadelphia summer without air conditioning.

Independence Hall (Birds Eye)
Independence Hall

Betsy Ross, tradition says, influenced the design of the American flag by talking to then-general George Washington about the design, leading to the five point star we know and love today. While the story may not be true, Betsy Ross is part of the American fabric, and visitors can tour her house; an appropriate way to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Betsy Ross House (StreetView)
Betsy Ross House

Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell was crafted in 1752, and was likely one of the many bells that rang to announce the country’s declaration of independence in 1776. It came back to fame in the 1830s, around the time it sustained its now-iconic crack, and has been known as a symbol of American freedom since. It is housed in its own pavilion, where visitors can get close to the bell–but they cannot touch it!

Liberty Bell Center (Google Maps)
Liberty Bell Center

Myrtle Beach, SC

If you’d rather have a relaxing, family-friendly holiday, there are few places better than Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s got amazing beaches, fun piers, lots of family entertainment, great dining, and outstanding fireworks. It’s an all-American vacation spot for sure!

Alligator Adventure

Yes, you can actually get face to face with live alligators at Alligator Adventure! This park calls itself the reptile capital of the world, and has plenty of alligators, as well as hyenas, exotic birds, and other reptiles to experience up close and personal. There are fireworks displays across the street here on the Fourth of July, so it’s a great place to be!

Aligator Adventure (Google Maps)
Aligator Adventure

Myrtle Beach Speedway

If you want to add a little speed to your vacation, Myrtle Beach is perfect. They have lots of NASCAR related venues, including Myrtle Beach Speedway. There are so many events from short track racing, trade shows, and even NASCAR experiences where you can go along for a ride on the track!

Myrtle Beach Speedway (Birds Eye)
Myrtle Beach Speedway

Family Kingdom Amusement Park

There are so many family friendly activities in Myrtle Beach, and the Family Kingdom Amusement Park is one of the best. It has a full-fledged amusement park, water park, arcades and more to stay entertained when you’re not at the miles of beach at Myrtle Beach.

Family Kingdom Amusement Park (Birds Eye)
Family Kingdom Amusement Park

Broadway at the Beach

This shopping center has fireworks displays twice a week all summer long, but their fireworks on Independence Day are out of this world! This is just one of many places you can catch an amazing fireworks display on the Fourth, because Myrtle Beach knows how to celebrate!

Broadway at the Beach (Google Maps)
Broadway at the Beach

This is just a short list of places and things to do on the Fourth of July. No matter where you are, as long as you’re with family or loved ones, you can celebrate America’s birthday in style.

This Month in History: July

We’re halfway through an eventful 2020, and looking back it feels like it’s been an eternity. But, there’s much more to remember than just the events of this year.

Let’s look back on some life-changing, breath-taking, and earth-shattering events that have made it into the history books.

Assassination of President Garfield

President James A. Garfield ran for president representing the relatively new Republican party, supporting purging corruption in the civil service and enhancing civil rights. Garfield was assassinated at a railroad station in Washington, D.C. by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881.

President Garfield Assassination Site (Google Maps)
President Garfield Assassination Site

Guiteau was delusional and vengeful after not receiving a political appointment. He was initially treated by doctors who did not practice hand sanitation. This likely led to the infection that killed him about ten weeks later, on September 19, 1881. Guiteau was convicted of murder and put to death in 1882.

Garfield was buried in Cleveland, Ohio, and there is a substantial monument and tomb marking his grave site.

Tomb of President James A. Garfield (Google Maps)
Tomb of President James A. Garfield

Signing of the Declaration of Independence

America celebrates Independence Day on July 4, because on that date in 1776, a few dozen men gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, declared independence from Great Britain. It was more than a year into the fighting for greater independence for the 13 colonies. It marked a turning point in the war, officially stating that the American colonies were sovereign, independent from, and not part of Great Britain.

The war didn’t end for seven more years, but it has been celebrated as the national holiday for the United States ever since.

Congress Hall (StreetView)
Congress Hall

Fall of the Bastille

The Bastille in Paris, France, was originally built to be a fortress, but turned into a prison by the 1650s. As France descended into civil conflict in the 1780s, the Bastille became a symbol of the unjust power of the monarchy by the revolutionary leaders.

On July 14, 1789, a large crowd stormed the prison, ostensibly to free the prisoners, but leaders were in search of the gunpowder stored there. Since 1790, the day has been celebrated as France’s “national day”, much like Independence Day in the United States.

The prison was torn down during the revolutionary years, but has been replaced with the Place de la Bastille, with a large column in the center to commemorate the events of the July Revolution.

Place de la Bastille (Google Maps)
Place de la Bastille

Murder of Czar Nicholas and Family

Nicholas II was the last Czar of Russia. As World War I raged, domestic political and social upheaval tore the country apart. The country’s political structure collapsed and Czar Nicholas was forced to abdicate his throne. He and his family were forced into exile in Yekaterinburg. However, revolutionary leaders were not content as long as the symbol of the monarchy still lived, and the death of the Czar and his family were ordered.

He, his wife, and five children, along with close servants and friends, were shot to death on the night of July 17, 1918. Their bodies were dismembered and hidden to prevent supporters from finding them and turning them into martyrs and undermining the revolution.

Yekaterinburg (Google Maps)
Yekaterinburg

Apollo 11 Lands on the Moon

For as long as humans could look up, we have dreamed of being among the stars, but on July 16, 1969, three American astronauts left earth’s gravity and prepared to land on the moon.

On July 20, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin orbited the moon. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, with the world watching as the two men descended from the Eagle lunar module, and took “one small step for man, one small step for mankind.”

Kennedy Space Center (StreetView)
Kennedy Space Center

John Dillinger is Killed in a Police Chase

John Dillinger was a famous gangster and bank robber in the 1930s. He robbed banks in four states, killed one police office, and evaded police for years. In an effort to catch him, the Department of Justice created what evolved into the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In July 1934, word got to the federal agents that he was in Chicago, and on July 22, they tracked him to the Biograph Theater. When he exited the theater, he saw the officers, tried to flee, and was shot in the pursuit. As word of his death spread, crowds gathered to see the crime scene and even dip handkerchiefs and newspapers in the blood as souvenirs.

Biograph Theater (StreetView)
Biograph Theater

Korean War Armistice

After World War II, supervision of Korea was divided between the Soviet Union and the United States. War broke out over the division in 1950, and carried on for three difficult years. Both sides eventually began negotiations to end the war, and on July 27, 1953, they declared an armistice, or ceasefire, which had been negotiated at the border between North and South Korea at the 38th Parallel, in Panmunjom.

Technically, the war is still not declared over, and both sides live in a state of constant preparation in case the conflict heats up again, as it has threatened to dozens of times over the seven decades since the fighting stopped.

Truce Village, The (Google Maps)
Truce Village, The

These historical events show that any day can change the world, whether it’s for one person like John Dillinger, or the entire world as when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Every day holds the potential to change your world–so make the most of it!

Summer Getaways

Summer is in full swing, and it’s the time for family getaways and road trips across the country. Whether or not we’re driving cross country with the family camper or just looking at places on AirBnB, it’s fun to see new places.

Here’s a list of some of the coolest and most iconic destinations from East Coast to West.

Niagara Falls

Creating the border between Canada and the United States, the Niagara River runs along New York state and Ontario Canada. The river has a spectacular trio of waterfalls that have long been a famous natural attraction for visitors from around the world.

Visitors can see the falls from both the US and Canadian sides, as well as take a boat ride at the base of the falls, feeling and breathing in the beauty and wonder as you are splashed by the water falls.

Niagara Falls (Birds Eye)
Niagara Falls

New York City

New York City is the center of the world. There is something for everyone who comes to the city, from great eating to amazing sites to check out, shows to see and memories to make.

New York has a reputation for having the biggest and best of everything, and going to the Empire State Building is a great place to see it all for yourself. It is certainly worth the wait in line to see the city from the iconic  skyscraper.

Empire State Building (Birds Eye)
Empire State Building

Many people remember exactly where they were on September 11, 2001, and want to pay respect to those who died in the terrorist attack and the aftermath.

Those who do can visit One World Trade Center and see the memorial built to commemorate the day and the dead.

One World Trade Center (StreetView)
One World Trade Center

With all the hustle and bustle of the city, every tourist needs to take a break by visiting Central Park, the massive green space in the middle of the city. It provides both a respite and refresher for all who visit, a place of relative quiet in the middle of a city of more than eight million people.

Central Park (Google Maps)
Central Park

Washington, D.C.

Every family takes at least one summer trip to Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. It’s a wonderful place for families to visit, but any visitor will appreciate the history, architecture and culture that the city has to offer.

Of course everyone has to see the White House at least once, because it is where the President lives and works. While it’s rare to spot the President or his family, it is always fun to see the house, the grounds, and all the activity that goes on there.

The White House (StreetView)
The White House

The National Mall is an outdoor museum, with monuments and memorials to presidents, fallen soldiers, wars and other important events in American history. The Mall never closes, and most monuments and sites can be visited 24 hours a day.

A relatively recent addition to the Mall is the World War II Memorial, which has been open since 2004.

National World War II Memorial (StreetView)
National World War II Memorial

Also on the mall, Smithsonian museums  are a favorite place for many families to go, even just to get out of the heat and humidity. One of the most popular museums is the National Air and Space Museum, with exhibitions including Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the Wright Flyer, the first plane to take flight.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Google Maps)
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Mount Rushmore

If you’re driving cross country, be sure to take a detour to South Dakota and see Mount Rushmore, the tourist attraction with the faces of four important presidents carved into the side of a mountain in the Black Hills. Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are joined by Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Mount Rushmore (StreetView)
Mount Rushmore

Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho is famous for its natural beauty amid the Rocky Mountains, with peaks and valleys, mountain meadows and streams. It also has stunning wildlife including bears, moose, deer and of course buffalo!

Yellowstone National Park (Google Maps)
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone sits on top of an active geothermal site, which contributes to the unique volcanic activity, including geysers, hot springs and other breathtaking features.

Old Faithful is a famous geyser, so named because it erupts on a  predictable schedule, allowing tourists to wait and see a beautify display of natural waterworks.

Old Faithful Geyser (Google Maps)
Old Faithful Geyser

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the most famous natural wonders in the United States and possibly the world. The canyon carved by the Colorado River extends nearly 300 miles and is more than a mile deep in many places.

Grand Canyon (Google Maps)
Grand Canyon

There are several great places to view it, and numerous tours, hikes and water activities visitors can do all along the canyon.

Grand Canyon - Rim Road (Google Maps)
Grand Canyon - Rim Road

Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada, is a city in the desert famous for it’s gambling, entertainment family friendly and not, and crazy vibe. Most people who visit don’t stray far from the Strip, a stretch of development downtown with hotels, casinos and entertainment for visitors.

Hotel attractions, beyond the gambling and night life, include talent the likes of Britney Spears Cirque de Soleil.

Las Vegas: The Strip - Google Earth (StreetView)
Las Vegas: The Strip - Google Earth

Those willing to leave the confines of the city can visit Area 51, the military site famous for it’s rumored alien sightings. Many people believe aliens have landed and continue to visit the area, and that the military conducts secret research on the intergalactic activities.

Area 51 (Google Maps)
Area 51

Disneyland

No summer vacation list would be complete without a mention of the magic that is Disney. Either at Disneyland or Disney World, the magic of Disney is something that everyone should experience at least once, and hopefully many times. Since 1955, Disneyland outside Los Angeles California has been making dreams come true for kids the world over.

Disney perfectly completes the list of great summer getaways. Vacations are what make summer memorable, whether it’s a short weekend getaway or an epic road trip. Hopefully this list will be a start to planning an epic summer adventure of your own.

Disneyland (Google Maps)
Disneyland
Disney World - Magic Kingdom (Google Maps)
Disney World - Magic Kingdom

This Month in History: June

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that we’re living in unprecedented times. But as big and life changing as things feel these days, we can look back through history and see that a few people can change history, and that living one’s best life is the most important thing they can do to change the world.

Massacre at Tienanmen Square

Months of student-led protests in Beijing resulted in a military crackdown and the deaths of hundreds or thousands of protesters and bystanders. Protesters were demonstrating in favor of increased transparency, democracy, and freedom of speech. After weeks of growing frustration, the government called in more than 300,000 soldiers to counter the protests on June 4, 1989.

Soldiers used force in several instances, including driving a tank into a group of protesters, firing on unarmed students and other acts of violence. The next day, a lone protester stood in Tienanmen Square, blocking a line of tanks,  and becoming the face of the protest.

Tiananmen Square (Google Maps)
Tiananmen Square

Robert F. Kennedy is Assassinated

Just a few years after the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kenned, Robert F. Kennedy was running for the Democratic nomination for president. He held an election night celebration at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968.

After the event, he and his security team were leaving the hotel through the kitchen when he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan. He died the next day. His assassination was one of many in the decade, contributing to the tumultuous and chaotic feeling of the 1960s politically and socially as people fought for change and looked for stability at the same time.

Ambassador Hotel (former) (Google Maps)
Ambassador Hotel (former)

Medgar Evers is Murdered in Mississippi

Medgar Evars was an African American civil rights activist in Mississippi. He worked for integrated education and for the NAACP. He was a target of white supremacists and anti-integration advocates. Threats were so serious that even his children were trained in how to respond to an attack.

On June 12, 1963, he was shot in his driveway. He died later that evening after achieving the dubious groundbreaking distinction of being the first African American admitted to an all-white hospital in Mississippi. He was buried on June 19 in Arlington Cemetery. His assassin was originally acquitted, but convicted in 1994.

Medgar Evers Murder (StreetView)
Medgar Evers Murder

Watergate Hotel Break-in

In the nighttime hours of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested inside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C. They were hired by people tied to the Nixon reelection campaign, and as the investigation went on, it was clear that President Nixon himself was deeply involved in illegal activities intended to help him win reelection.

The arrests led to a years-long investigation and the resignation of President Nixon to avoid impeachment and removal by the House of Representatives and Senate.

Watergate Hotel (Birds Eye)
Watergate Hotel

Napoleon is Defeated at Waterloo

Napoleon Bonaparte rose to prominence and eventual power after the mess of the French Revolution. Being Emperor of France wasn’t enough, and Napoleon spent a decade invading other European countries and acquiring more territory. He was pushed from power in 1814, but came back in 1815.

The major powers of Europe formed a coalition to defeat Napoleon, and on June 18, 1815, armies from England, Prussia, and other countries met Napoleon’s army and defeated them just outside the Belgian town of Waterloo. Napoleon abdicated days later, this time for good. Europe formed new alliances that maintained peace for decades and laid the groundwork for the alliances that would lead to World War I.

Lion hill of Waterloo (Google Maps)
Lion hill of Waterloo

Berlin Airlift Begins

After World War II, control over Germany was divided among the victors: United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR. The capitol Berlin was also divided. Because Berlin was deep inside the Soviet zone, it was difficult to keep the western side supplied.

In 1948, the USSR cut off all roads and train supply routes in an effort to gain total control over the city. Starting on June 26, 1948, the three allied countries airlifted in food and supplies to keep the city supplied. After more than a year, 2.3 million tons of supplies, and airplanes landing nearly every 30 seconds, the Soviets backed down and opened up the traditional supply routes.

The Berlin Airlift was the first of many tense conflicts between the USSR and the west during the Cold War.

Berlin airlift DC-4 at Tempelhof Airport (Google Maps)
Berlin airlift DC-4 at Tempelhof Airport

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

While all political assassinations are intended to cause chaos, likely no single assassination has had a greater impact on the world than the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the presumptive heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. He was killed on June 28, 1914, while traveling in a motorcade in Sarajevo by a young revolutionary. His death, and that of his wife Sophie, had global importance because they set of a chain of events that caused World War I, and the deaths of more than 40 million soldiers and civilians worldwide.

Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination (Google Maps)
Where WWI started - Franz Ferdinand assassination

These are just a few of so many important events in Junes past, and knowing people have experienced so many crazy, life-changing, and amazing moments, and the world keeps on going can give us confidence that we can survive and thrive during these trying times.

Remembering the D-Day Invasion at Normandy

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces began storming the beaches of Normandy, France, in an effort to liberate that country, and all of Europe, from Nazi control.

On the 76th anniversary of this pivotal operation, let’s take a look back and learn a little more about how this event helped the Allies win World War II.

Portsmouth Harbor, GB

Much of the invasion of northwest France originated in Portsmouth, Great Britain. Thousands of troops boarded boats on June 5, for the overnight ride across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy, France.

Evidence of the war still remains, including submerged  portions of Mulberry harbors, which were temporary harbors constructed to help bring material into France from Allied ships after they secured the beachhead.

Mulberry Harbor (Google Maps)
Mulberry Harbor

Omaha Beach

British, American, and Canadian troops each attacked different areas of the Normandy coast, and each section was given a code name. American troops landed at Omaha and Utah Beaches. Landing was tough in the cold, choppy water.

Fighting to take over the beach was intense here, as the area was the most heavily defended by German soldiers.

Omaha Beach (Google Maps)
Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach Memorial

On the beach, there is a memorial called “Les Braves” to honor the 2,400 brave soldiers who gave their lives to take Omaha Beach, and the more than 34,000 men who fought so hard to liberate France by coming up the beach on June 6.

Omaha Beach Memorial (StreetView)
Omaha Beach Memorial

Pointe du Hoc

Dividing Omaha and Utah beaches is Pointe du Hoc, which is a tall cliff jutting into the ocean. Because of its height and position, it was an excellent defensive position held by Germans, and had to be taken in order for the D-Day invasion to be a success.

American Army Rangers scaled the hundred foot cliffs under grave danger, and reached their objective of securing the batteries and guns. Over two days, more than 135 men were killed or wounded.

The bunkers have been turned into a museum, where visitors can see what it would have been like as a German soldier, and how terrifying climbing the cliffs would have been for the Rangers.

Pointe du Hoc (Google Maps)
Pointe du Hoc

Utah Beach and Museum

The other American landing site was at Utah Beach, where the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions parachuted in to help the men who came up the beach from the water.

A museum has been built on the beach to commemorate the attack, all that went into it, and the impact it had on helping to end the war.

Utah Beach Landing Museum (StreetView)
Utah Beach Landing Museum

Azeville Battery

Three kilometres. or just under two miles from Utah Beach, was the Azevile Battery, where the German troops blasted away at soldiers attempting to land on the beach.

It took three days to take out the battery, which is now a local museum.

Azeville Battery (StreetView)
Azeville Battery

Battle of Normandy Museum

Just a few miles inland from the coast is Bayeux, France, one of the first towns liberated as the Allies marched towards Berlin and the end of the war. The city has created a museum that displays a comprehensive telling of the invasion, from planning to execution to final outcomes.

It is an amazing place to learn about the battle, the war, who fought it, and who it was for.

Battle of Normandy Museum (StreetView)
Battle of Normandy Museum

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Thousands of allied soldiers died in Normandy, and their bodies could not be returned to their home countries. There is an American Cemetery in France where nearly ten thousand soldiers are buried and another 1,500 unidentified soldiers are honored.

It is an important stop on any visit to Normandy, to get a feel for the human cost of the invasion, and to honor the dead servicemen, and to leave with a complete understanding of the cost of war.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Google Maps)
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Statue of Major Richard Winters

There are many other memorials throughout Normandy, including a statue of Major Richard Winters, made famous in the HBO series Band of Brothers. He was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division of the American Army.

Major Richard Winters - Easy Company 101st Airborne (StreetView)
Major Richard Winters - Easy Company 101st Airborne

Memorial to John Steele

In Ste. Mere Eglise, there is a unique memorial to Private John Steele. Steele was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne who got caught up in a local cathedral, and hung on a pinnacle on the side of the church all night long. Amazingly, he survived the ordeal.

The town used his effigy to remember all those involved in the battle.

Ste Mère Eglise church - John Steele paratrooper (StreetView)
Ste Mère Eglise church - John Steele paratrooper

These are just a few of the many places people can visit, online or in real life, to witness, learn about, and honor the people who fought to liberate Normandy, France and Europe from the grip of the Nazis.

Best Places to Commemorate Memorial Day

Memorial Day in the United States, on the last Monday in May, is a holiday to commemorate those who died protecting the country while serving in the Armed Forces. American soldiers have fought for freedom on American soil and around the world. There are national cemeteries and memorials to honor the dead all across the US and around the world.

Let’s take a look at some of these hallowed places.

Arlington National Cemetery

General Robert E. Lee owned a considerable amount of land in Arlington County, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. At the start of the Civil War, the renowned general left his position in the US Army to lead Confederate troops. Towards the end of the Civil War, the Union Army ran out of places to bury fallen soldiers, so, in 1864, the Union government took Lee’s land and turned it into a cemetery.

Over time, the cemetery has become the most prominent national cemetery in the United States. It is the final resting place for more than 400,000 soldiers, their family members and important civilians. More than three million people visit the cemetery each year to pay their respects to the deceased and to learn more about their service.

Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery (Birds Eye)
Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most sacred places in Arlington Cemetery. Here lie unidentified remains from soldiers from several major wars.

It is guarded by members of the Old Guard of the Army 24 hours a day, every day of the year, rain or shine, heat or cold. It is an honor to “walk the mat” and the guards follow a detailed routine designed to honor the unidentified fallen service members. Due to the solemn nature of the Tomb, observers are expected to maintain silence, and those who violate the order will be reprimanded by the guard.

Tomb of the Unknowns (Google Maps)
Tomb of the Unknowns

Gettysburg National Cemetery

The Battle of Gettysburg witnessed some of the most brutal fighting of the Civil War. It took place from July 1-3, 1863. Both sides suffered massive casualties; about one third of soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle, and General Robert E. Lee suffered a massive defeat both in the field and to his reputation.

After the battle, President Abraham Lincoln and others gathered at the site to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. It was here, on November 4, 1863 that Lincoln gave the speech that later became known as the Gettysburg Address.

The battlefield has been turned into a national park, and visitors can drive through and learn about the battle, walking where soldiers walked and learning about those who died, and survived, the battle.

Gettysburg National Cemetery (Birds Eye)
Gettysburg National Cemetery

Pennsylvania State Memorial

Many states have created memorials within the park to honor their soldiers, and commemorate their sacrifice and bravery during the three days in July. Pennsylvania created the largest monument within the park, a large granite domed monument complete with a 7,500 pound statute of Winged Victory.

Pennsylvania State Memorial, Gettysburg (StreetView)
Pennsylvania State Memorial, Gettysburg

Antietam National Battlefield

Antietam National Battlefield is a National Park that commemorates a one-day battle outside Sharpsburg, West Virginia, that resulted in the highest single day of casualties in the Civil War. The battle took place on September 17, 1862, and left nearly 23,000 dead or wounded among the Union and Confederate Armies.

The Park includes a visitor center, a preserved battlefield, a field hospital museum, and a national cemetery.

Antietam National Battlefield (Google Maps)
Antietam National Battlefield

Pearl Harbor

While Europe had been involved in a massive war for two years, the United States managed to stay out of the fray until late 1941. On December 7, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, drawing the country into the war. Almost 2,500 soldiers were killed, and several ships were damaged, three irreversibly. Wreckage from ships still remains in the harbor.

Pearl Harbor (Google Maps)
Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona

The USS Arizona was damaged beyond repair, and sunk with more than a thousand sailors. It still “bleeds” oil to this day, from a leak in the hull. A memorial was created over the wreckage, careful to be respectful of the ship, which is a tomb to the men who died there.

USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial (Birds Eye)
USS Arizona (BB-39) Memorial

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Starting June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded German-held Normandy to help free France and end World War II. American forces played an integral role in the liberation of France, and about 10,000 American soldiers died or went missing during the action.

After the war, France turned a temporary American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer into the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where the remains of about 9,500 known soldiers are buried, as well as the names of 1,500 missing. The cemetery is a moving memorial to the fallen and their sacrifices for the freedom of others.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (Google Maps)
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

More than 17,000 American soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the Pacific theater of World War II are buried in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. These soldiers died fighting to free places like New Guinea and the Philippines from Japanese control.

Like in France, there is a memorial to the missing, which contains more than 36,000 names. The memorial and cemetery are in a beautiful and peaceful setting, with views of the lowlands, Laguna Bay, and mountains in the distance.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial (Google Maps)
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

These are some of the places dedicated to remembering and honoring those brave men and women who gave their all for Americans and freedom loving people around the world. It’s the least we can do on this special holiday, to take some time to learn about the wars they fought in and places where they have found their eternal rest.

This Month in History: May

The world is witnessing history unfold as the Corona Virus, or Covid-19, spreads throughout the world. It’s a stark reminder that history happens every day.

And while we cannot stop bad things from occurring on a global scale, we can look to history to see great events, and the individuals who play a role in them.

May 1: Empire State Building Officially Opens

When the Empire State Building opened in New York City on May, 1931, the city was in the midst of a “race into the sky” where multiple buildings were vying to be the tallest building in the city, and the world.

The Art Deco structure was the tallest building in the world until it was passed by the World Trade Center.

Empire State Building (Birds Eye)
Empire State Building

May 4: National Guard Fires on Kent State Protestors

As the Vietnam War dragged on, American sentiment turned strongly against the war. In early May 1970, a series of increasingly violent protests on the campus of Kent State University culminated in a large protest on the Commons on May 4. The National Guard had been called out, and, for unknown reasons, the soldiers fired on the dispersing crowd, wounding nine and killing four students.

A photograph taken as a young woman knelt over a dead student’s body has become a symbol of the day’s events and of the anti-war protest movement overall.

Memorials for the fallen are important parts of the Commons, and of the university’s commemoration of the event.

Kent State (Google Maps)
Kent State

May 12: King George VI is Crowned in Westminster Abbey

King George VI became King of of the United Kingdom on December 11, 1936, but did not hold his coronation until May 12, 1937. He reluctantly stepped into the role of King when his brother, King Edward VIII, chose to abdicate the throne to be with Wallace Simpson.

George brought with him a vital sense of unification and patriotism that was critical as the country prepared to enter what would become World War II.

May 17: Founding of the New York Stock Exchange

On May 17, 1792, 24 men got together on Wall Street in New York City and signed an agreement to organize securities trading among them. The agreement held, and the organization grew into the New York Stock Exchange, the largest trading floor in the world, and has made the term “Wall Street” synonymous with wealth, prestige and power.

New York Stock Exchange (StreetView)
New York Stock Exchange

May 23: Bonnie and Clyde are Gunned Down

During the Depression, the tale of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and the Barrow gang captivated the nation; the idea of a gun-wielding criminal couple too much to resist. The gang was famous for robbing banks, gas stations, and country stores. They killed nine police officers and four civilians along the way.

In early 1934, the gang was pursued relentlessly by authorities. The gang was tracked to Gibsland, Louisiana, and in the morning of May 23, a posse ambushed them, shooting Bonnie and Clyde up to 50 times each. There is now a monument marking the place they were killed.

Bonnie & Clyde Ambush/Death site (StreetView)
Bonnie & Clyde Ambush/Death site

There is a museum in Gibsland, run by the son of one of the posse members.

Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum (StreetView)
Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum

May 29: Constantinople Falls to the Turks

If you know the song, you know the history: “Istanbul was Constantinople”, but you may not know the details. After more than a thousand years as the head of the Roman Empire, the city of Constantinople had been severely weakened, but was still an impenetrable fortress due to the 12-foot thick Theodosian walls built in the 5th Century.

However, by 1453, the advent of weapons technology and gunpowder proved too much, and the walls were breached on May 29 by Mehmet the Conqueror. After three days of brutal looting, Mehmet restored peace to the city. He made Constantinople his capitol and renamed it Istanbul, which is now the capitol of Turkey.

Portions of the walls still stand, reminding residents and visitors of the history and power of the ancient city.

Walls of Constantinople (Google Maps)
Walls of Constantinople

May 31: Johnstown, Pennsylvania Flood

Johnstown, Pennsylvania was an industrial town of more than 30,000 built on the Little Conemaugh River. In May 1889, the area was hit by a series of rain storms, including one 24 hour period that dumped 6-10 inches. The rain caused a dam about 14 miles upriver to break, sending a massive river of debris and rushing water that wiped out three towns and killed more than 2,200 people. 

It caused nearly half a billion dollars in damages (in today’s dollars), and led to legislation improving working and safety standards and requiring organizations to take increased responsibility for accidents. Clara Barton, a famous Civil War nurse who founded the Red Cross, led the volunteer relief effort. A memorial now exists at the site of the dam break, preserving parts of the dam and the river bed.

Johnstown Flood National Memorial (Birds Eye)
Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Everyone has the chance to make history, whether it’s in the newspaper or just changing the life of a friend, neighbor, or stranger for the better. We should all try to make the world around us a better place; we can certainly use it.

This Month in History: April

April is all about springtime, things being renewed and looking forward; but it’s still important to look back on important events in history.

Let’s look at some important events that took place in Aprils past.

Supreme Court Ruling on African American Voting Rights

On April 3, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their ruling in Smith v. Allwright, helping to reestablish African American voting rights. This ruling determined that states and political parties cannot discriminate against voters or potential voters based on race.

At the time, Texas and other states delegated management of political primaries to the parties, which sometimes chose to prohibit African Americans from voting in their primary elections. This decision is often considered the first of many steps to breaking down racist Jim Crow laws.

US Supreme Court (StreetView)
US Supreme Court

First Modern Olympic Games Open in Athens, Greece

In ancient Greece, city-states held an Olympiad every four years with athletic competitions including wrestling, running and the javelin toss. The tradition lasted about 1200 years ending around 400 AD. After a 1500 year hiatus, the games were restarted on April 6, 1896, in Athens.

The modern games brought back a tradition of friendly competition, athleticism and national pride. The 1886 games were held in the ancient Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, which had been used for competitive sports events anciently.

It was was excavated in 1869 and, after some renovations made it safe for use, was the stadium for several Olympic events.

Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaron) (Google Maps)
Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaron)

Official End of American Civil War

The Civil War was the bloodiest war fought on American soil, when the states fought over issues including slavery, sovereignty, and states’ rights for four years. On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to General Grant’s Union Army at Appomattox Court House. While skirmishes occurred for a few more months, removing Lee’s army from the war meant the South had no chance of victory, and the surrender has been commemorated as the official end of the Civil War.

The battlefield has been turned into a national park, so everyone can learn more about the end of the war.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Google Maps)
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Lee surrendered to Grant at the McLean House, which is now a museum site.

McLean House - Civil War surrender site (StreetView)
McLean House - Civil War surrender site

Start of the American Civil War at Fort Sumter

When Confederate troops in Charleston started firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, on April 12, 1861, it signaled the start of the Civil War. In the months leading up to the battle, tensions were high between the federal military who held the fort and the Confederate troops in Charleston, South Carolina, who were part of the states who seceded from the Union. After little more than a day of fighting, the federal troops surrendered. The Battle of Fort Sumter was over, and the Civil War had begun.

You can visit the island fort in Charleston Harbor, and even learn about the lone soldier who died as a result of the battle, who haunts the fort to this day.

Fort Sumter (Google Maps)
Fort Sumter

Paul Revere’s Midnight Run

After years of conflict, war between Britain and her American colonies seemed inevitable by early 1775. Paul Revere and others in Boston waited to see British troop movements and warn surrounding cities, with the plan to hang lanterns in the Old North Church steeple. The famous “one if by land and two if by sea” was their signal.

On April 18, troops moved out, and the signal went up. Revere slipped out of Boston and was able to warn the residents of Concord, Massachusetts to hide their weapon supplies before the British arrived. The next day, April 19, the first battles of the Revolutionary War took place in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.

You can visit the Old North Church in Boston. It’s part of the “Freedom Trail”, a red trail painted throughout the city to provide a free walking tour of the city’s amazing history.

Old North Church Boston (Google Maps)
Old North Church Boston

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Nazis persecuted Jews across Europe, including in Warsaw, Poland. In the early part of the war, Jews were forced to live in specific neighborhoods, called ghettos. As the war dragged on, the Nazis rounded up Jews and sent them to concentration camps. On April 19, 1943, the Nazis started rounding up the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, but they were met with a coordinated revolt. Between 100 and 300 Nazi soldiers were killed, and an estimated 13,000 Jews died in the revolt, fighting or as victims of the violence during the weeks-long siege.

Parts of the wall still remain, and are preserved as a monument to what happened, and that it should not be allowed to happen ever again.

Section of the Warsaw Ghetto wall (Google Maps)
Section of the Warsaw Ghetto wall

There is also a memorial monument to honor those who died in the revolt.

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes (StreetView)
Monument to the Ghetto Heroes

William Shakespeare is Born

On April 23, 1564, the world gained one of it’s most talented and prolific playwrights. William Shakespeare was born that day in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was baptized on April 26 in the local church, so it’s assumed he was born on the 23rd, because babies at that time were baptized a few days after their birth.

Shakespeare's Birthplace (StreetView)
Shakespeare's Birthplace

Over his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote at least 39 plays, 154 sonnets, and other writings. Many of his plays were performed at the Globe Theater, which later burned down. It was rebuilt in 1997, and is a major tourist attraction in London, performing Shakespeare’s works in honor of The Bard.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Birds Eye)
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Rodney King Riots

On March 3, 1991, four Los Angeles police officers brutally beat Rodney King after he evaded arrest in a residential area of San Fernando.

Location of the Rodney King Beating (Birds Eye)
Location of the Rodney King Beating

The beating, caught on camera, led to the officers being prosecuted, but on April 29, 1992, three were acquitted and the fourth was not convicted. Hours after the verdicts were announced, the city erupted in violent riots. Over the next six days, 63 people were killed, more than 2,000 were injured, and more than $1 billion in damage to property was sustained across the city.

These are just some of the important, influential and remarkable things that have taken place in history. As we know now more than ever, history is continually being made, and things that happen today will be remembered and retold for generations.

Beautiful Places Around the World We Can Enjoy from Our Living Room

While most of us are practicing social distancing, now is a good time to take a virtual tour of some of the most beautiful natural wonders around the world.

Mystic Falls, Yellowstone

Mystic Falls in Yellowstone National Park is just one of hundreds of breathtaking sites to see in the park. It is a 70-foot waterfall that can be reached by a short 1.2 mile hike in the Upper Geyser Basin. The waterfall cascades down the mountain canyon, providing a beautiful and calming view for those who reach the destination.

For those hiking in real life, take the clockwise route to take advantage of the easier slope and to enjoy a dramatic reveal of the falls when you reach your destination.

Mystic Falls (StreetView)
Mystic Falls

Uluru, Australia

Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock by non-indigenous Australians, is a massive rock formation that juts up nearly 3,000 feet from the surrounding area. It is sacred to the Aboriginal people, and is one of Australia’s most famous landmarks. The formation is nearly five miles around, and is a great tourist destination.

Visitors will be in awe of the rock’s beauty and how it appears to glow red at sunrise and sunset, and change colors throughout the day.

Uluru / Ayers Rock (Google Maps)
Uluru / Ayers Rock

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia

Flowing from the Zambezi River is Victoria Falls, named in honor of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. The waterfall is considered the largest in the world because of its combined width and height, though it is neither the single widest or tallest waterfall.

The waterfall is dramatic because of the vast plateau that extends for hundreds of miles in every direction. The falls rest on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and serves as a symbol of how nature’s beauty cannot be contained to any one country.

Victoria Falls (Google Maps)
Victoria Falls

Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon in the southern United States is one of the largest, and most breathtaking, canyons in the world. It has been carved by the Colorado River over two billion years, and visitors are impressed that the small, muddy river has created something so vast and beautiful.

Visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park can hike into the valleys and walk along crests and ridges to take pictures of some of the most impressive views of nature’s slow and steady progress.

Grand Canyon (Google Maps)
Grand Canyon

Lake Como

Lake Como in Italy is famous for being a vacation spot for the rich and famous, but it’s no wonder people flock to its shores, because it is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on Earth. The lake was formed by glacier activity, and the mountain lake retains some feel of ancient, more peaceful times.

Villas and small villages dot the lake’s perimeter, adding to the quaint, delicate feel of the region that immediately invites visitors to relax, settle in and become part of the surroundings.

View of Lake Como from Castello di Vezio (StreetView)
View of Lake Como from Castello di Vezio

Mount Everest

No list of Earth’s amazing locations would be complete without a mention of Mount Everest, the largest mountain in the world, nestled in the beautiful Himalayan mountain range. It peaks at nearly 9,000 feet, making it as remote as you can get on the surface of the Earth.

In the last century, climbing the mountain has become a goal of endurance climbers, celebrities, and people looking to break down barriers; but most of us just look at the icy wonder in amazement and appreciate the pristine beauty of the tallest peak in the world.

Mount Everest (Google Maps)
Mount Everest

These are just a few of the beautiful places on Earth that we can all enjoy from indoors, and soon we’ll be out and about enjoying the beautiful scenery closer to home.

Mob Sites Around New York

The mafia is a big part of New York history and culture. For years, it seemed that in some parts of the city, you could hardly eat your pasta or walk down the street without running into a mafia don or witnessing a mob hit.

Even today, around every corner, there’s a story about a hit, a hangout or a takedown. Let’s look at a few.

Park Central Hotel

The Park Central Hotel in midtown Manhattan is famous for not one but two mafia murders. One of the first famous New York gangsters, Arnold Rothstein, was shot there on November 4, 1928 during a meeting. His murder was not exactly mob-related, but was payback for an outstanding gambling debt.

Nearly thirty years later, Albert Anastasia was assassinated in the hotel’s barber shop, on October 25, 1957, likely an attempt by an underling to take over the family. Neither man’s killers were ever definitively identified or brought to justice.

The hotel has been partially converted to high-end condos, but guests can still stay at the hotel.

Park Central Hotel (StreetView)
Park Central Hotel

Triangle Social Club

Vincent “The Chin” Gigante started his life of crime early, and played a pivotal role in the power shift that created the Genovese crime family, which he took over in the early 1980s. He held court at the Triangle Social Club during his rise to power, and the place retained its reputation as a mafia hangout for years. It was recently turned into a high-end tea shop, which is quite a change of pace from its earlier reputation.

Gigante was followed for years by the police and FBI, and so he developed a reputation as “The Oddfather”, walking around his Greenwich neighborhood in a bathrobe and slippers, faking a mental illness to avoid arrest. Eventually, he was prosecuted for gang-related crimes and died in prison.

Triangle Social Club (StreetView)
Triangle Social Club

Sparks Steakhouse

Being a member of the mafia is dangerous work, and you face as much risk from inside your family as outside. Mafia members often kill each other to gain power and control within the family.

On December 16, 1985, Paul Castellano, head of the Gambino crime family, was gunned down at Sparks Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan, along with an underboss, on orders from John Gotti. Gotti brazenly watched the murder from across the street in a car, and is rumored to have driven slowly by the bodies as he left the scene.

The steakhouse is still in business, and known for great food, not just the bold murders.

Site of the Steakhouse Massacre (StreetView)
Site of the Steakhouse Massacre

Ravenite Social Club

John Gotti took over the Gambino rime family after murdering Frank Castellano, and was a very public figure, unlike most other mafiosos. He gained a reputation as a “Dapper Don” for his flamboyant style and “Teflon Don” for beating multiple prosecutions. In spite of his outgoing reputation, he was very careful to avoid being seen or heard committing illegal acts.

He was eventually taken down by the FBI because they were able to wiretap the apartment that he kept above his tightly controlled headquarters, the Ravenite Social Club.

Former Headquarters of the Gambino Crime Family (StreetView)
Former Headquarters of the Gambino Crime Family

Gotti and his family lived in a nice but not flashy home in Howard Beach, New York until he was arrested and convicted on murder, racketeering, conspiracy, gambling, and other charges. He died in prison on June 10, 2002 of throat cancer.

John Gotti's Former Home (StreetView)
John Gotti's Former Home

Columbus Circle

Joseph Colombo was the head of the Colombo crime family in the 1960s. In an ill-fated attempt to gain public favor for Italians (and by extension reduce prosecutions of the mob) Colombo founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League. During a rally at Columbus Circle on June 28, 1971, Colombo was shot three times and paralyzed, likely on orders by Joe Gallo, a rogue member of his own crime family. Several years later, he died of a heart attack.

Columbus Circle (Birds Eye)
Columbus Circle

Umberto’s Clam House

A few weeks after the Columbus Park shooting, on April 7, 1972, Joe Gallo and his family went to Umberto’s Clam House for a very late celebratory dinner, when a member of the family recognized him and secretly left to find associates to get revenge on Gallo. The associates opened fire in the restaurant and Gallo was shot at least three times. Witnesses claim he moved to the exit in order to draw the shooting away from his family. He died later that day.

Mobster Joe Gallo's Assassination Site (StreetView)
Mobster Joe Gallo's Assassination Site

The Five Families of the mafia have worked out agreements to minimize assassinations and keep inter-family conflict at a minimum, so headline killings and crime sprees are less common these days. Hopefully, this article is as close as you ever come to a real life mafia crime scene.