by Thomas H. Conner
“No soldier could ask for a sweeter resting place than on the field of glory where he fell. The land he died to save vies with the one which gave him birth in paying tribute to his memory, and the kindly hands which so often come to spread flowers upon his earthly coverlet express in their gentle task a personal affection.”―General John J. Pershing
To remember and honor the memory of the American soldiers who fought and died in foreign wars during the past hundred years, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) was established. Since the agency was founded in 1923, its sole purpose has been to commemorate the soldiers’ service and the causes for which their lives were given. The twenty-five overseas cemeteries honoring 139,000 combat dead and the memorials honoring the 60,314 fallen soldiers with no known graves are among the most beautiful and meticulously maintained shrines in the world.
In the first comprehensive study of the ABMC, Thomas H. Conner traces how the agency came to be created by Congress in the aftermath of World War I, how the cemeteries and monuments the agency built were designed and their locations chosen, and how the commemorative sites have become important “outposts of remembrance” on foreign soil. War and Remembrance powerfully demonstrates that these monuments―living sites that embody the role Americans played in the defense of freedom far from their own shores―assist in understanding the interconnections of memory and history and serve as an inspiration to later generations.
This book is a thorough history of the development of the American Battle Monuments Commission, from the end of the Great War (or as we now call it, World War I) and on through the Second World War. It tells about the upkeep today of the 26 overseas American cemeteries honoring 139,000 combat dead, and memorializing even more thousands with no known graves. Extensive notes, Selected Bibliography, and an index are included.
I was especially interested in details of Lorraine American Cemetery at St. Avold, France, where a young uncle is buried.
Also the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines where his brother is memorialized.
This will be a worthy read and you have done a service.
Thank you. Next Wednesday’s post is about an older book, written before most of the overseas cemeteries were even open, but it describes in detail the care given to the whole terrible business of retrieving battle casualties.
Joy, Great information. Thank you.
“Outposts of remembrance” is such an apt phrase to describe the memorials. It really resonates with me.
We’ve visited three overseas cemeteries–Normandy and Lorraine in France, and Cambridge in England. We were overcome with solemness at all three, although we know only one young American buried in one of them.
I can only imagine what that experience would have been like.
Thank you, Sharon. Companion story for next Wednesday.