Of all U.S. Marine fighting done on fanatically defended scraps of coral in the Central Pacific, the battle for Saipan was arguably the most decisive. Still grounded on a reef where it stalled during the 1944 invasion, the U.S. Sherman tank off Saipan's Oleai Beach (top right) offers one of the Pacific's most poignant reminders of wartime loss and subsequent friendship with Japan.

Living Legacy

History is a portal into foreign cultures. Europe and Pacific travelers are likely closer to that connection than they realize. The U.S. Sherman tank at Bastogne, Belgium's Place McAuliffe (top right) is a reminder of the epic American winter defense of the town, and victory in the Battle of the Bulge. "Tank turrets froze [and] had to be chipped free to regain traversing action," according to U.S. 6th Armored Division history. "Feet froze. Men became so cold they 'burned.' "

Part of the world-class Imperial War Museum Dux­ford (50 miles north of London, 011-44-122-383-5000), the American Air Museum's WWII collection (right center) includes fighters and bombers used by U.S. Army Air Forces.

Standing like silent time travelers, Japanese fortifications and weaponry, such as the dual-purpose guns (bottom right) on the Solomon Island of New Georgia, remain scattered across the Pacific. The guns were used against air and sea targets (hence their "dual-purpose" designation), occasionally at the expense of the U.S. Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, whose contributions in the Pacific and Atlantic wars are often unfairly overlooked.

Miraculously unscathed amid the nightly fires of the London Blitz, St. Paul's Cathedral (at right) became an international beacon of resiliency. "Surrounded by fire … it stood there in its enormous proportions - growing slowly clearer and clearer, the way objects take shape at dawn," wrote famed American war correspondent Ernie Pyle.