As with anywhere else in the world, copious quantities of blood have been soaked up by the lands of Southeast Asia in numerous conflicts, the most notable of which in relatively recent history are the conflicts of the Second World War, the Vietnam War and the various uprisings and wars of independence.

In memory of this there are many solemn war memorials, cemeteries and battle sites which can be found all over the region, places of pilgrimage for surviving veterans, relatives and descendants of the fallen, or those simply interested in history.


British Burma (now Myanmar), Singapore, Malaya (now Malaysia), and the American Philippines all rapidly fell to the Japanese onslaught in World War II.

In Singapore, the Kranji War Memorial is dedicated to the men and women of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Sri Lanka, Malaya and Holland, who died in the conquest and the adjacent cemetery. There is also a memorial to the Commonwealth soldiers who died during the Malayan Emergency and a First World War graveyard. Two of Singapore’s former Presidents are also laid to rest here.

The fate of many captured Commonwealth soldiers is explored in the memorial to the suffering endured by those forced to build the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, at the Bridge on the River Kwai, where British, Australian, Dutch and American prisoners died along with a great many Asian slave labourers.

In Myanmar, then Burma, the final destination of the railway, the memorial and cemetery at Thanbyuzayat marks the end of the line near Mawlamyine, while the Taukkyan War Cemetery is located just out of Yangon (Rangoon), and is a memorial to the Commonwealth and Burmese fallen who died during the Second World War.

At Imphal, in northern Myanmar, the Indian Army War Cemetery commemorates the sacrifice of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh combatants during the conflict, while another Commonwealth War Cemetery can be found at Kohima, close to the border with India.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Cenotaph commemorates the Commonwealth fallen of both World Wars and the Malayan Emergency, and is sited at Malaysia’s National Monument. In Malacca, the Warrior monument commemorates Chinese victims of the occupation.

In Sabah, Borneo, Labuan War Cemetery is sited on the island of the same name, and primarily commemorates the Australian Army and Air Force personnel who died as prisoners of war in Borneo and the Philippines and is also the site of the eventual Japanese surrender.

Also in Sabah, Sandakan Memorial Park and Kundasang War Memorials honour British and Australian POW’s, largely captured in Singapore who died during the terrible Sandakan death marches, and also pay homage to the brave locals who risked their lives to help.

In the Philippines, Manila’s American Cemetery and War Memorial has the largest number of graves of any US Second World War cemetery. Close to Manila, in Subic Bay, the Hellships Memorial testifies to the thousands of captured Allied soldiers who perished on the brutal ‘Hell ships’ which transported the captives as slaves throughout the Japanese Empire, with a great many dying on the journey.

At nearby Clark Air Base, the War Cemetery is under repair after the considerable damage inflicted during the colossal eruption of Mount Pinatubo, and houses American graves from several conflicts from the American-Spanish War, the Philippine Insurrection, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.

Also near here, the shrine at Mount Samat remembers the decisive battle of Bataan which broke the Americans in the Philippines, while out in Subic Bay, on Corregidor Island, the battle of the same name finally completed the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, and is today the site Pacific War Memorial, dedicated to the memory of American and Filipino soldiers.

The cruel brutality of the Bataan death march that followed, killed many American and Filipino soldiers and is commemorated all over the Philippines, most notably at the Battling Bastards of Bataan Memorial at Camp O’Donnell.

Other important Second World War memorials can be found in China, at Sai Wan, Stanley, and Happy Valley Cemeteries, in Hong Kong, and at the Cenotaph, where Remembrance Sunday and Anzac Day are commemorated annually.

In Beijing on Mainland China, the China Museum of the War of Chinese Peoples against Japanese Aggression, lays out the history of the Japanese conquest and the suffering of the Chinese, the first to feel the weight of Japanese imperial ambitions.


There are, perhaps unsurprisingly, no war memorials to the American dead in Vietnam, though this is due in large part to the repatriation policy of the American government, who since the first World War, have sought to bury all war dead, wherever possible, on American Soil and the main Memorial to the war is in Washington DC.

The war memorials that did exist in South Vietnam were largely destroyed by the victors, though a replica of the Long Tan cross commemorates the Australian and South Vietnamese combatants on the battle site.

In Dien Bien Phu, site of the French defeat in 1954, a memorial to the 10,000 French war dead is situated close to two Viet Minh cemeteries. The site also has a museum which features weaponry from the battle.

For the Vietnamese, their main memorial is situated in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi and commemorates the sacrifice of the men and women of the country during the war.

Hanoi’s Military History Museum has a display of weaponry of the era and displays which detail the entire struggle for Vietnamese freedom from the Chinese occupation, French colonial period, and through the war with America and beyond, and describes the conflicts from the Vietnamese perspective.

Also near Hanoi, the Friendship Village addresses the legacy of the use of Agent Orange, and was set up by an American Veteran to provide medical care for victims of the toxic weapons unleashed during the war.

In the south, Saigon’s War Remnants Museum provides an inevitably partial view of the war, but does contain a great deal of real scenes from the conflict in the form of films, photographs and documents, many of which can be harrowing to view.

Also in Saigon, the Ho Chi Minh Campaign Museum and Ho Chi Minh City Museum between them house a number of war equipment remnants. Nearby, at the site of Bien Hoa Air Base, the victory monument commemorates the base’s capture, while the Bien Hoa Museum displays several war machines.

There are a number of sites which featured in the war, such as the popular Cu Chi Tunnels near Saigon, though the site has been modified for tourism. The more authentic Vinh Moc tunnels at Quang Tri in the DMZ are worth the visit if you are in the vicinity.

In Hue, the Hue museum has a number of preserved tanks and other vehicles from the war, and a display to commemorate the Battle of Hue, though it conveniently overlooks the subsequent massacre.

In Danang, the Zone 5 Military Museum covers the history of Vietnamese resistance from the Chinese occupation to the present day and has a significant number of large weapons from the French and American wars.

To the south of Danang, the So’n My Memorial pays homage to the victims of the My Lai Massacre.

On Con Son Island, the Con Dao Prison was the site of both French and American brutality to its captured prisoners, and is famous for its inhuman ‘Tiger Cages’.

Over the border in Laos, the fascinating Pathet Lao caves at Vieng Xai are a window into the realities of life at communist headquarters. Near Phonsavan, two hilltop cemeteries commemorate the Lao and Vietnamese dead of America’s ‘Secret War’.

In Luang Prabang, the UXO Lao visitor centre describes the problem of unexploded bombs from the Vietnam War, which were dropped in Laos as part of the ‘Secret War’.