14 September 2020
10 Historical Battlefields You Can Visit in Microsoft Flight Simulator

To test out Microsoft’s New Flight Sim, we’ve flown to 10 of the most historic battlefields to find out if they’ve been faithfully recreated in the game.

If you’ve ever looked at a map of the earth, picked a random place to go with your finger, and imagined what it must be like to go visit those faraway lands, Microsoft Flight Simulator is just like that, except in a video game format.
Using a blend of Artificial Intelligence and Bing Maps data, the entire world has been entirely recreated in Microsoft Flight Simulator–whether it’s a famous landmark, the local military base where you’re stationed, or your childhood home, the world is yours to explore. So where do you even start?
To test out Microsoft’s New Flight Sim, we’ve flown to 10 of the most famous historic battlefields to find out if they’ve been faithfully recreated in the game.

1. Omaha Beach Invasion, Normandy, France

6 June 1944
Omaha beach is a 5-mile section of the coast of Normandy in Northern France, which faces the English Channel. Omaha was the codename given to one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day.
More than 4,000 Allied troops gave the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day, but their valiant efforts were the catalyst for the defeat of Nazi Germany on the Western Front.
Today, the beaches are still lined with ruins of German-built walls, bunkers, and pillboxes. However, these aspects of the Normandy coast have largely been replaced by beach resorts and residential areas.

Normandy Beach as seen in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Today you can see the Les Braves Memorial monument from the sky (far left), and see a clearing where the Normandy American Cemetery is located (far right).

2. The Battle of Dunkirk

26 May – 4 June 1940
As the Allies were losing the Battle of France on the Western Front, British and Allied forces needed to evacuate France.
In the outcome of the battle, Allied forces were able to evacuate about 85% of stranded troops from Northern France, across the English Channel. The docks were too damaged to be used, but the eastern and western sea walls were able to be used instead.
In the nine-day conflict, over 338,226 troops escaped, including 139,997 French, Belgian, and Polish troops.

3. Battle of the Bulge
16 December – 25th January 1945
Winston Churchill once called the Battle of the Bulge the “Greatest American Battle of the War.”
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Battle of the Ardennes, was Germany’s last major offensive push against the Allies in the Western Front, as the German Army successfully made a sneak attack on the Allies from the dense forests of Eastern Belgium. Allied air reconnaissance efforts had been hindered by the harsh snowy conditions and thick treeline, enabling Germany to travel undetected in the region.
The battle lasted six brutal weeks in bleak, frigid conditions, as US forces sustained the heaviest losses in any campaign of World War II. The allied forces ultimately prevailed as Gen. Patton and his Third Army overcame German forces at the Siege of Bastogne, forcing the Germans to retreat back over the Siegfried Line.

The Ardennes in Belgium, where the Battle of the Bulge took place. With these snowy conditions and thick vegetation, it’s no wonder that German forces were able to sneak past Allied reconnaissance in the dead of winter.

4. The Attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

7 December 1941
On a day that would live in infamy, Imperial Japanese Naval Forces attacked the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, causing American entry into the Second World War.
Today, Pearl Harbor serves as the headquarters for the United States Pacific Naval Fleet. An interesting feature of the harbor is Ford Island, which is a small islet in the center of the lagoon, used as a base for deep-sea operations.

An aerial view of the Pearl Harbor Lagoon, as seen in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Interestingly, the Flight Sim AI only partially recreated the dockyard.

5. The Battle of Wake Island

8-23 December 1941
Wake Island is a coral atoll located in the North Pacific. It is located 1,501 miles east of Guam, 2,298 miles west of Honolulu, and 1,991 miles to the southeast of Tokyo.
On December 8, 1941, US forces were attacked by Imperial Japanese bombers within hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On December 11, 1945, Wake Island also was the site of Japan’s first unsuccessful amphibious attack, as US Marines, Navy personnel, and civilians on the island sank two enemy destroyers and a transport ship in defense of the island. The island would fall to a second wave of Japanese attacks 12 days later.
Wake Island was surrendered to the US in 1945.
Today, Wake Island is administered by the US Air Force as a Pacific refueling stop. The island boasts a 9,800ft (1.85 miles) strategic runway, the longest of its kind in the Pacific.

Wake Island’s 9,800ft strategic runway as seen from the sky. The island’s motto is “Where America’s Day Really Begins” due to its position on the opposite side of the International Date Line.

6. Iwo Jima

19 February – 26 March 1945
The Battle of Iwo Jima was a major battle of the Pacific Theater in which the United States Marine Corps and Navy successfully captured Iwo Jima from the Imperial Japanese Army.
The American invasion, codenamed Operation Detachment, had the mission of capturing the island’s twin airfields to provide a support and staging position for B-29 bombers and short-range fighter planes in the Pacific.
Joe Rosenthal’s immortal photograph, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, was taken from the top of Mount Suribachi on the island’s southernmost tip on February 23, 1945.
However, the five-week battle would extend into March, leading to thousands of casualties on each side. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and Sailors for their valiant service, many posthumously.

“Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press

Iwo Jima was returned to Japan in 1968, and today the island has a military-only population.

The southern beach of Iwo Jima where US Marines and Naval Forces landed in 1945. Mount Suribachi (169m) can be seen from the air on the island’s southernmost Tip.

7. Battle of Midway

4-7 June 1942
The Battle of Midway was a significant naval battle that took place six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the battle, the US Navy defeated an attacking fleet of Japanese
Often regarded as the most decisive blow in the history of naval warfare, the Battle of Midway was the turning point for Allied victory in the WW2 Pacific Theater.
In the aftermath of the battle, the Imperial Japanese Naval fleet lost four of its main aircraft carriers, permanently hindering Japanese air superiority. Following Midway, the Japanese would cease all major offensives in the Pacific.

The Midway Atoll as seen from the air

8. Verdun, France

21 February – 18 December 1916
Verdun was the site of the longest-lasting battle of the First World War, which took place on the Western Front in France.
The battle took place for 302 days, the longest and most costly conflict of the Great War, with over 700k combined casualties between French and German forces.

Verdun, France as seen from the air in Microsoft Flight Simulator. The walled Citadel of Verdun can be seen in the bottom right-hand corner.

9. Battle of the Choi-Sin Reservoir

27 November – 13 December 1950
The Battle of Choisin, or “Changjin”, was a brutal 17-day battle between 30,000 UN troops and 120,000 Chinese forces.
The battle’s main focus was around the 78-mile road to the south of the reservoir, which served as the only possible retreat route for UN forces.
Fighting hostile forces in bitter cold and frozen terrain, the UN troops kept moving, and survivors were able to make a fighting withdrawal to safety in the port of Hungam.

The Choisin Reservoir as seen from the air in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Sub-zero temperatures, icy roads, and jagged mountainous terrain made every skirmish a nightmare for UN Forces.

10. Battle of Guam

8 – 10 December 1941
Guam is the southernmost isle of the Mariana Islands in the South Pacific, known for its beautiful rugged terrain and dense tropical forests. With an area of 225 square miles, it is the largest island in the Mariana chain.
The US initially captured Guam from Spanish control in 1898 during the Spanish-American War and built fortifications there. During World War I, Japan took control of the remaining islands in the Mariana Island chain, leaving Guam as the only US-controlled island in the region.
Following the attack of Pearl Harbor in World War II, Imperial Japan was quick to pounce on Guam as a strategic foothold against US forces in the Pacific Theater.
In the first Battle of Guam in 1941, the American garrison was defeated and occupied until the island was liberated by US forces in the Second Battle of Guam in 1944.

Today Guam is home to Andersen AFB, the only Pacific base capable of supporting heavy bombers. Image via Microsoft Flight Simulator.

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