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Steeped in American and Texas history, Galveston Island offers veterans and history buffs alike a chance to discover remnants of its military significance.
From Texas’s own fight for independence to the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries, the contributions of the men and women from Galveston County to the great state of Texas and the country cannot be understated.
pictured: Galveston Naval Museum
Check out the Galveston Naval Museum at Seawolf Park for a quick brush-up on naval history. Here, you can take a self-guided tour through the USS Cavalla Submarine & USS Stewart Destroyer Escort.
Steel shortages during World War I led the United States to build experimental concrete ships, the largest of which was the SS Selma. Today, the ship is partially submerged in Galveston Bay. Built in Mobile, Alabama, the ship was launched the same day Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending World War I. As a result, the 7,500-ton ship never served during the war but instead was placed into service as an oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico.
If exploring the ship channel by boat, pack a fishing pole as it is a very popular fishing spot. The S.S. SELMA is visible from Seawolf Park so be sure to add it to your must-see list while exploring the park’s other marine treasures.
On August 31, 2022, Battleship Texas made her way from San Jacinto to Galveston to undergo extensive repairs. For the next year, the 110-year-old USS Texas Battleship will be drydocked in Galveston, giving island visitors a rare opportunity to marvel at her glory. Here are some of the best ways to catch a glimpse of the USS Texas during your visit to Galveston Island.
The freedom walk tour is offered year-round and transports visitors back to June 19, 1865. Re-trace the steps of General Gordon Granger, union soldiers and the U.S.-colored troops as they spread the news of freedom to enslaved African Americans two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
In Galveston, even the island’s luxury resorts have interesting stories to tell. The San Luis Resort owes its breathtaking view of the Gulf of Mexico to the military bunker on which it is built. The resort’s foundation was built on top of Fort Crockett, a former government reservation originally built as a defense installation to protect the city and harbor of Galveston.
Fort Crockett’s four batteries are still visible today, one of them is home to a public park located on Seawall Boulevard across from the San Luis Resort. An interesting quick stop, bring your camera and plan on spending about 15 minutes taking in the view!
Etched into the zeitgeist forever is the phrase, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas.” Texans (especially Galvestonians) are famously proud of their state’s and nation’s military history. Galveston has a plethora of places to honor the fallen ranging from large extravagant monuments to subtle nods to military heroes.
A 74 feet tall monument was the first to honor the heroes of the Texas Revolution towers in the middle of Broadway Avenue—a major thoroughfare on the island. The Texas Heroes Monument features four columns depicting patriotism, courage, honor and devotion adorned with a 22 feet tall statue called “Lady
Victory” perched on top, with her outstretched arm pointing in the direction of the Battle of San Jacinto.
The monument was unveiled on San Jacinto Day back in 1900 and was commissioned by Galveston philanthropist Henry Rosenberg. A great place to view the monument is across the street at the southeast corner of 25th Street and Broadway at the Texas Heroes Monument Square.
Located in the median of Broadway Avenue and 23rd in Galveston, Texas—this monument honors all World War II veterans and somberly displays the names of Galveston County service members who “Gave All” in defense of their country. This is an easy spot to drive by on the way to the Historic Downtown District of Galveston.
A Korean War memorial installed at One Moody Plaza features a monument of a lone soldier carrying an M1 Garand rifle and black polished granite panels memorializing the names of 52 men from Galveston who served and died during the Korean War. The monument is walkable from the Historic Downtown District.
The Vietnam Memorial for Deceased Veterans of Galveston County, Texas at Moody Gardens contains twenty-five black marble pylons with each face containing the name, rank, service, date of birth and date of death in Vietnam. The pylons are planted into the ground like the sands of Galveston Island and the Gulf of Mexico along with the Texas, American, and Missing in Action Flags.
While exploring downtown, be sure to stop by Post Office Street. Memorialized on the corner near where he once played Taps every evening, is a bronze statue of Marine Corps veteran Guy Taylor. Taylor served in the Korean War and was credited with saving the lives of two fellow service members in battle. He passed away in 2017 but a statue stands in his honor. Some nights at sunset if you’re lucky you will hear someone pick up the bugle and carry on the tradition in Taylor’s honor.
Also located on the corner of 21st and Post Office Street is a sidewalk mural that depicts different branches of service. The mural features 8-foot-by-8-foot stripes honoring the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard.
Galveston’s connection to military history goes beyond historical sites, it is also home to many veterans and veteran’s organizations that open their doors to more than just prior and active service members. Stop by the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars after your day of touring Galveston’s military history for food, drinks and camaraderie. The VFW hosts legendary Tuesday burger nights and Friday steak nights. Both the VFW and the American Legion boast some of the cheapest drinks on the island.
Where the Texas Coast begins.
by Dr. Hal Needham
by Visit Galveston
by Visit Galveston
by Visit Galveston
by J.R. Shaw
by Nicky Omohundro