Photo by: Sharon Odegaard
Photo by: Sharon Odegaard

Pay your respects at the Luxembourg American Cemetery

by Sharon Odegaard
Stripes Europe

Walk through the gates of the Luxembourg American Cemetery and you are on hallowed ground. Rich, green lawns lie surrounded by woods of spruce, beech and oak trees. White crosses stand in memorial to the soldiers who gave their lives in World War II to defend this area of the world for freedom. The quiet here today is notable. You can stand among the graves, feeling the sun on your face and a light breeze, and it’s so serene. But it’s a place to remember when chaos reigned all around.

One of the major battles of World War II was fought in Luxembourg and neighboring Belgium. The Germans launched their last major offensive of the war on December 16, 1944, attacking the Allies along a front that stretched for 45 miles mostly north of Luxembourg City. Their goal was the port of Antwerp. The battle known as the Battle of the Bulge, or the Battle of the Ardennes saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Despite their advantage of surprise and their tremendous efforts, the Germans were unable to break through Allied lines. The most well-known scenes of American fighting involved the small town of Bastogne, about 45 miles from Luxembourg City, where the 101st Airborne held strong against the Germans. The “band of brothers” hunkered in their foxholes in the severe winter of 1944, short on food, ammunition, medical supplies and winter clothing. They were at last reinforced and relieved when General George Patton raced his army there and arrived with his tanks.

Patton then made his headquarters in Luxembourg City. This cemetery opened in late December 1944, while the battle still raged around it. In February 1945, the Americans at last drove the Germans back across the Siegfried Line and moved into Germany. When Patton was killed in a road accident a year later, his family requested that he be here among the men he served with in the army.


Photo by: Sharon Odegaard

In all, 5,075 Americans were killed in the Battle of the Bulge and the push across the Rhine now rest in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. One sad statistic is that 22 sets of brothers are here.

The cemetery’s website describes it beautifully: “The design is a softly curving fan shape consisting of nine sections interspersed with four fountains, majestic trees, and expansive rose and rhododendron beds. It is a befittingly tranquil final resting place for these Americans who gave their all.”

A chapel featuring a stained-glass window showing Army insignias provides a church setting for those who want to pay tribute to the men and women buried here. Outside, two pylons display maps of the Ardennes and Rhineland campaigns of late 1944 and early 1945 on one side. On the other side, names of 371 missing soldiers are inscribed. A visitor center offers information and brochures. You can look up the location of a specific grave, too.


Photo by: Sharon Odegaard

The Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial is run by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission. It is a place of honor for those who died in the stately forests and rolling hills of Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany. It’s a peaceful sanctuary where you are welcome to come and pay your respects to those who fought here and never made it back home.

The memorial is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day.

 

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