War tourism

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War tourism is recreational travel to war zones for purposes of sightseeing and superficial voyeurism. War tourist is also a pejorative term to describe thrill seeking in dangerous and forbidden places.

Early warfare[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Pitched battle.

Until the 19th century the majority of battles were of short duration, many lasting a part of a day. The first modern war correspondent is said to be Dutch painter Willem van de Velde, who in 1653 took to sea in a small boat to observe a naval battle between the Dutch and the English, of which he made many sketches on the spot.

In the mid-19th century, Thomas Cook organized tours of British travelers to American Civil War battlefields. John Mason Cook led the excursion which included tours of several Civil War battlefields. During the Crimean War a few years earlier, tourists led by Mark Twain visited the wrecked city of Sebastopol - he even scolded his travel mates for walking off with souvenir shrapnel.

Prince Menshikov invited the ladies of Sevastopol to watch the battle of Alma from a nearby hill.

Frances Isabella Duberly travelled with her husband to the Crimea in 1854 and stayed with him throughout his time there, despite the protests of commanders such as Lord Lucan. As the only woman at the front-lines, she was of course the center of much attention. She was told of planned attacks ahead of time, giving her the opportunity to be in a good position to witness them.

First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas (the name used by Confederate forces), was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the city of Manassas. It was the first major land battle of the American Civil War.

Expecting an easy Union victory, the wealthy elite of nearby Washington, including congressmen and their families, had come to picnic and watch the battle. When the Union army was driven back in a running disorder, the roads back to Washington were blocked by panicked civilians attempting to flee in their carriages.

Modern warfare[edit]

Advances in modern warfare such as indirect fire mean fewer pitched battles and more meeting engagement. There has been no proof of war tourism in modern warfare but the idea has gained currency in a number of media reports, none of which have actually interviewed or found a tourist who have visited active combat areas as a tourist. However, the Norwegian semi-autobigraphical novel Turisten (The Tourist) published in 2007 by the author Erik Bakken Olafsen treats the theme war tourism extensively. (The book has not been translated into English yet.)

There have been a number of tourists caught up in war torn regions, many who visit active war zones like Israel, Lebanon, Myanmar, Algeria, Colombia and other regions at war. There are many freelance journalists who describe themselves humorously as "war tourists" (P.J. O'Rourke is the most famous) and mercenaries who have pretended to be tourists to avoid discovery as in Michael Hoare's attempt to take over the Seychelles disguised as "The Royal Order of Frothblowers".

During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon crisis, for example, Beirut was full of tourists who were forced to leave when fighting with Israel broke out. Tourists have also been targeted in Kenya, the Philippines and other regions due to their media value and damage to the country's tourist industry. It could be argued that continued tourism to these regions is war tourism, even though active combat is free from tourist access.

The initial myth of modern war tourism was actually started by a collection of stories by P.J. O'Rourke. His mocking and cynical view of journalism in conflict areas entitled 'Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World's Worst Places and Asks, "What's Funny About This" planted the idea that maybe journalists are after all tourists on an expense account.

The PBS TV show Frontline used the phrase war tourism to describe a practice in Iraq of US troops going on daylight patrols and returning in the evening to heavily defended large bases.

A book on this topic is Dark Tourism (Tourism, Leisure & Recreation) by Malcolm Foley and John Lennon. The authors explore the idea that people are attracted to regions and sites where "inhuman acts" have occurred. They claim that motivation is driven by media coverage and a desire to see for themselves, and that there is a symbiotic relationship between the attraction and the visitor, whether it be a death camp or site of a celebrity's death. Much of their focus is on ancient sites where "acts of inhumanity are celebrated as heritage sites in Britain (for example, the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle) and the Berlin Wall"

War tourism is also confused with "Battlefield tourism": the visiting of sites which have a relevance to historic battles no longer active, such as the German WW2 fortification, the Atlantic Wall, the Western Front or the Maginot Line in France.

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