We've rounded up some of the best places in the Hershey & Harrisburg Region to find military history and to honor those serving in our armed forces.
MEDIA: ABOUT THIS ROUND-UP
- This Round-Up is ideal for stories around the observation of Memorial Day and Veterans Day (Nov. 11) or places that pay tribute to those who have served in our armed services.
- The following attractions usually offer reduced or free admission to veterans on specific days of the year but we strongly encourage media to contact each location for specifics before writing or visiting.
- Dates of events and details may also vary year-to-year, so we recommend media contact each location directly prior to posting any dates or times for an event.
- Addendum includes brief background on history of Veteran's Day.
Posted May 2019 - The Hershey & Harrisburg Region has deep history related to the U.S. Military, Armed Services, and this country's long fight for freedom. We have highlighted a few of the top spots throughout our area that are perfect for giving pause and honoring the millions of Americans who have served our country.
Watch Video: Military History in PA's Hershey & Harrisburg Region (1:39 min.)
The National Civil War Museum – Harrisburg, PA
- As one of the largest museums in the world dedicated solely to the American Civil War, this site is unique in its approach of telling a complete story of this most troubled chapter in American history from the social, political, and personal perspectives of the day.
- This nationally-recognized museum, one of only eight museums in Pennsylvania currently affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., strives to preserve the history of the American Civil War and inspire lifelong learning.
- Since opening in 2001, its mission has been to serve as the destination of choice for students, families and historians who seek to experience and research the culture and history of the American Civil War.
- The NCWM attracts over 40,000 visitors annually and has welcomed guests from all 50 states and 27 countries to tour the museum.
- TripAdvisor users ranked this #2 for “Top Things to do in Harrisburg” (2019).
Hershey-Derry Township Historical Society & Museum – Hershey, PA
- This museum showcases the history of Hershey and Derry Township through artifacts dating back to the first settlers of this area.
- One of the most popular permanent displays is The Veterans Exhibit featuring the personal belongings of Major Richard D. “Dick” Winters (Jan. 21, 1918-Jan. 2, 2011), an officer of the United States Army and a decorated WWII veteran who commanded Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.
- Major Winters was featured in a number of books and was portrayed by English actor Damian Lewis in the 2001 HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.
- The museum is located at 40 Northeast Drive, Hershey, PA 17033. Tel: 717-520-0748, www.HersheyHistory.org.
- Lisa Maloy, Public Relations Director at email@example.com and 717-979-6002.
Lincoln Cemetery – Harrisburg, PA
- Recognizing the need for an African-American burial ground in the Harrisburg area, Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church purchased the ground the cemetery occupies in 1817, a year after the congregation was established.
- The location was formally named Lincoln Cemetery in 1827.
- In the years leading up to the Civil War, the congregation at Wesley Union was active in the Underground Railroad, which cut through the area.
- Lincoln Cemetery is the burial ground for several notable members of the Harrisburg community including African-American war correspondent T. Morris Chester and the abolitionist, educator, and newspaper publisher William Howard Day.
- The graves of numerous Civil War veterans lie here as well, including Harrisburg’s last surviving veteran Ephraim Slaughter who died in 1943 after serving in both the 37th regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops and the 3rd N.C. Colored Infantry.
- This cemetery is located at 30th Street & Booser Avenue, Penbrook, PA.
U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center – Carlisle, PA
- This is the premier facility for historical research on U.S. Army history dedicated to "Telling the Army story...one Soldier at a time."
- The expansive campus, located 22-miles west of Harrisburg, includes the Visitor & Education Center, the U.S. Army War College Library, U.S. Army Military History Institute, and Army Heritage Trail.
- The Army Heritage Trail (pictured above) is a mile-long walking path connecting military history through interactive and full-scale military exhibits including a Cobra helicopter, Civil War encampment cabins, WWI trench system and more.
- The trail is open dawn to dusk every day; exhibits on the trail are open during normal business hours, weather permitting.
- The Center includes interpretive and interactive exhibits and the research library & archive.
- The Visitor & Education Center is dedicated to educating visitors about the culture and experiences of American soldiers featuring special exhibits, an interpretive gallery, museum store, cafe, and multipurpose rooms for events, lectures and workshops.
- The main gallery features the exhibit, "The Soldier Experience," highlighting the history of the U.S. Army from the Spanish-American War to current missions as well as a changing gallery.
- TripAdvisor users ranked this #1 for “Top Things to do in Carlisle” (2019).
Indiantown Gap National Cemetery – Annville, PA
- Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, located 22-miles northeast of Harrisburg, is a 677-acre National Cemetery with over 44,000 interments administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration since 1976.
- Indiantown Gap derives its name from the various Native American communities that resided in the region including Susquehannocks, an Iroquois tribe first encountered by Europeans in the 17th century.
- In the 1930s the area became a training area for the U.S. Army and control of the facility was turned over to the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1998.
- In 1976, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania donated a section of Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation land to become a national cemetery for the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia.
- The elaborate Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial (pictured above) was designed to evoke "the ruins of a war-torn building centered in a land of solemnity" and was dedicated October 7, 2001 to honor all who serve the nation and veterans of all wars—past, present and future.
- This is the largest monument in any U.S. National cemetery with a combination open-air space and granite, stone, and concrete structure standing 107-feet high and 360-feet long.
Gettysburg National Military Park – Gettysburg, PA
- Just 40-miles south of Harrisburg is Gettysburg National Military Park where the famous Battle of Gettysburg was fought on July 1-3, 1863.
- Visitors can start their day at the Museum and Visitors Center which houses the nation’s largest oil painting, an in-the-round cyclorama painting that features Pickett's Charge.
- The museum also has the largest collection of Civil War relics in the world and a number of exhibits, plus guided battlefield tours featuring more than 1,000 monuments.
- The Pennsylvania State Memorial in Gettysburg (pictured above) is the largest of the state monuments on the battlefield and commemorates the 34,530 Pennsylvania soldiers who fought in the battle.
- The monument is located along Cemetery Ridge, the Union battle line on July 2, 1863.
ADDENDUM: Brief Background on Veteran's Day
- 1919: President Woodrow Wilson recognized November 11 as Armistice Day to mark the first anniversary of the armistice agreement between the Allied nations and Germany to end World War I.
- Nov. 11, 1919: President Wilson used with these words in his recognition of this day: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory."
- 1926: U.S. Congress adopted a resolution requesting President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations in observance of Nov. 11.
- May 13, 1938: The U.S. Congress approved an act of law recognizing Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, a legal federal holiday dedicated to the cause of world peace.
- 1938 - 1954: Armistice Day remained the official Federal Holiday until 1954.
- 1954: Following World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the law, striking the word "Armistice" in favor of "Veterans" to honor Americans of all wars.
- June 1, 1954: President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation recognizing "Veterans Day" as the official name for this federal holiday.