This year’s Memorial Day will be celebrated in the United States with solemn ceremonies marked by recognition of the sacrifices of American women and men in uniform at innumerable memorials located throughout the country. These memorials are everyday reminders which really only come into sharp focus, however, on that one special day at the end of May. Less in one’s consciousness, if indeed one is even aware of them, are the many memorials to deceased American service members in foreign countries which deserve attention.
It would be well therefore to contemplate on our Memorial Day the whereabouts and nature of memorials abroad. One can even start next door, in Mexico. In Mexico City at the National Cemetery is a small monument at the site over the graves of 750 of our unidentified personnel killed in the War of 1847. Inscribed on the monument are the words, ”To the Honored Memory Of 750 Americans, Known But To God, Whose Bones, Collected By Their Country’s Order, Are Buried Here.”
Going south to the Republic of Panama, just north of Panama City, is the Corozal American Cemetery in which is located an obelisk dedicated to those, among others, served in the Armed Forces to protect the canal as well as in its construction at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
From the North American continent one can go West and East to find memorials to our dead in many locations, some in unusual places. There is the Honolulu Memorial which records the names of the missing in three conflicts, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. There is also a memorial on the island Saipan erected in tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the liberation of the Marianas from 1941 to 1945.
In the Philippine Islands there is a memorial at the Manila Cemetery which contains 17,206 graves, the most of our military dead of World War II. Then there are the co-located memorials at the site of the former Cabanatuan prisoner of war camp to those who lost their lives in captivity. Aside from that memorial is the West Point Monument which pays homage to the 170 American and 6 Filipino graduates of the United States Military Academy who died in the defense of the islands in the early part of World War II.
Among the least known memorials are the ones on the islands of Guadalcanal and the Papua Marker on Papua, New Guinea in the U.S. Chancellery in Papua. The memorials commemorate the lives lost in the desperate fighting in the Pacific during the early years of World War II.
Going to the other side of the world one finds memorials not only to World War II but World War I as well. The World War I memorials are located principally at cemeteries in France. These include the Somme, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne, Suresne (outside Paris), and St. Mihiel Cemeteries. In addition there are monuments at Bellicourt, Brest, Cantigny, Chateau-Thierry, Tours, Sommepy, Montsec, and Montfaucon. The next most memorials are to be found in Belgium where American soldiers also served. They include the one at Waregem where the Flanders Field Cemetery is located and the Audenarde and Kemmel monuments located at Audenarde and Ypres respectively. Elsewhere there are the small Brookwood Cemetery located in Surrey, England and the Naval Monument at Gibraltar.
Probably the best known and most widely visited World War II memorials are located in Normandy at the site of the 1944 invasion of France. These include not only at the Normandy Cemetery but the Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument (pictured above) and the Utah Beach Monument. Elsewhere in France are those located at American cemeteries in Brittany, at St, Avold – the Lorraine Cemetery, at the Rhone Cemetery, and at the town of Epinal. In Belgium there are memorial sites at the cemeteries at Henri-Chapelle and outside Liege – the Ardennes Cemetery. A well visited memorial is in Luxembourg near Luxembourg City at the cemetery where General George S. Patton, Jr. is buried. Elsewhere, in England there is the memorial at Cambridge especially dedicated to the dead of the U.S. Army Air Force. In the Netherlands there is the cemetery near the village of Margraten. In Italy, there are two cemeteries with memorials, one in the north at Florence and the other south of Rome at Anzio. Finally there is the North Africa Cemetery with its chapel and memorial court located near the site of the ancient city of Carthage, Tunisia. Those laid to rest there had served not only in Africa but also in the Persian Gulf.
These memorials, monuments, and cemeteries are under the jurisdiction of the American Battle Monuments Commission established by Congress in March 1923 to administer sites sacred to the United States dead in World War I. Its mandate was widely expanded after World War II and the commission has offices in the United States, the Philippines, Paris, and Rome.
As we commemorate our war dead at sites in the United States this Memorial Day let us also remember that worldwide, there are also memorials to our dead and missing which even today exist on land and will forever be a part of the United States of America.
Editor’s note: Brig. General (Ret.) Raymond E. Bell, Jr., PhD, is a writer noted for his breadth of publications that includes more than 300 pieces covering a wide variety of World War II historical events and current military subjects. Raymond Bell, Jr. graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1957. Learn firsthand about his background and upbringing as son of U.S. Army Major General Raymond Bell, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1927 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHxujFdJsK0