American military cemeteries in Europe
“Here Rests In Honored Glory A Comrade In Arms Known But To God.”
The U.S. has had a long tradition of honoring its veterans and those who have died serving in our great armed forces. Keeping history alive is important and engaging in activities that will keep the memories of our fallen heroes alive is the key to that effort. One thing that you can do is to visit the American cemeteries that are dotted across Western Europe. Though many soldiers were able to return home, there were just as many who perished in battle and were never able to go back.
There are 24 U.S. military cemeteries outside the United States. Many of the graveyards are actually built on or near the battlefields where U.S. military personnel actually fought and fell. Meticulously maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), a small federal agency mandated by Congress in 1923, these cemeteries are profoundly beautiful and meaningful places.
Of the 24 cemeteries on foreign soil maintained by the ABMC, 20 lie in Western Europe. Of those sites, there are a few that are within an hour to three-hour drive of the Kaiserslautern Military Community.
The Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial rests closest to the border of Germany near the quiet township of St. Avold, France. This cemetery’s 113 acres hold graves of 10,489 heroes, making it the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe. Most of the fallen are from the Seventh Army, who died while battling the German forces from Metz to the Rhein River. Among those honored here are 30 sets of brothers who rest side by side, 151 graves of “unknowns” and four graves marked with gold lettering depicting those whose ultimate sacrifice earned them the Medal of Honor.
The grounds of the Lorraine Cemetery are sure to overwhelm visitors at first glance. A sea of identical stone crosses overwhelms the landscape, all standing upright in perfect symmetry — a solemn yet inspired homage to warriors standing proud in ceremonial rank and file. There are many stories and monuments to be discovered at Lorraine. Visitors are certain to feel inspired by those who fought for freedom and did not live to tell their own tales, and by the striking beauty of monuments and landscapes that were created to honor them.
Luxembourg American Cemetery is located right outside of Luxembourg City. It is smaller than the Lorraine site at about 50 acres. 5,076 heroes rest peacefully, most of whom fought with Patton’s Third Army in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge). The legendary general himself, George S. Patton Jr. is buried here. The general’s headstone, a simple marble cross no more decorated than that of his troops, sits front and center. Patton’s gravesite is by far the celebrity of the Luxembourg Cemetery.
Among the graves are two Medal of Honor recipients and 22 sets of brothers resting side by side. Additionally, there are 101 unknown servicemen whose remains could not be identified, their headstones read: “Here Rests In Honored Glory A Comrade In Arms Known But To God.”
Luxembourg American Cemetery is an immaculate park framed by lush trees and filled with transverse paths, fountains and flowerbeds. The U.S. Third Army originally established the site as a temporary burial ground during the Battle of the Bulge. The cemetery later became permanent and some 80,000 visitors come here annually to pay their respects.
Ardennes American Cemetery is another well-rounded representation of the typical military cemeteries with impressive memorial buildings, chapels and heroic ambience.
This 90-acre park echoes the historic battles that were fought nearby. 5,329 warriors rest peacefully here —two-thirds of who were airmen battling the skies over Germany. Others were ground units who fought on these lands to counter Hitler’s last offensive. Those present at the American military hospital in nearby Liège became the first victims buried at the Ardennes cemetery after a Nazi rocket struck the facility. After the war, the cemetery became the central hub for identifying the bodies of unknown American servicemen. Among the rows of neatly marked plots are three Medal of Honor recipients (including famed bomber pilot Captain Darrell R. Lindsey), and there are 11 sets of brothers resting side by side. Ardennes also houses three gravesites in which the bodies of airmen buried together who could not be separately identified, their headstones read: “HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY TWO COMRADES IN ARMS.”
Netherlands American Cemetery certainly meets the pristine standards of a U.S. military cemetery. Landscaped in a rural setting, gently sloping paths lead through fields of white marbled headstones with striking monuments and engravings. The Netherlands American Cemetery is the only U.S military cemetery in Holland, as well as being the first of its kind to house U.S. soldiers who died on European soil. At every angle the grounds of Netherlands Cemetery leave visitors with thought-provoking views of our young heroes.
The layout is made up of 65 acres where 8,301 of our servicemembers lay resting. Most interred here fought for the liberation of Holland. This area saw fierce battles (Nijmegen, Arnhem, Eindhoven, Grave, Venlo) and attributed to many American dead. Among the fallen are six Medal of Honor recipients. One such hero, PFC Walter Wetzel, threw himself on two enemy grenades to save his buddies. Additionally, Netherlands cemetery exemplifies the sacrifice of many American families with 40 instances of brothers resting side by side. A testament to the grueling battles that took place here are the engraved names of 1,722 comrades whose remains have not been found or identified and are remembered on the Wall of the Missing.
There is one thing that makes the Netherlands Cemetery stand out from all others. Remarkably, 100 percent of the graves at Netherlands Cemetery have been “adopted” by local families. These families still feel so grateful for the protection offered by these U.S. warriors that, to this day, they treat these soldiers as if they were their own family. These caretakers also make a point of learning and researching as much as possible about the soldier so that they can feel that connection.
It is important to keep that connection alive. Touring through any one of these cemeteries, you’ll learn these were ordinary men who died liberating the field on which you stand, they died for the people of France, Belgium Luxembourg, Holland - they died for you. They lie before you; a reminder that freedom comes at a tremendous cost. It’s a history lesson - a lesson you will never forget.
All cemeteries are open to the public daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. except Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. A staff member is on duty in the visitor’s building to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites. For more information, visit http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries.php.