ABMC's centennial marked at Omaha Beach
'Time will not dim the glory of their deeds'. These were the prophetic words uttered by General John J. Pershing, the first chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission, a hundred years ago. Since its establishment in 1923, the agency converted this message into a creed. Arguably the most renowned of the ABMC's sites, Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial hosted a luminary event to mark the agency's 100th anniversary #abmc.
At the end of WWI, America mourned her war dead: approximately 116,000 men had fallen in Europe. It was the dawn of a new era in which paying tribute to individual sacrifice was not being reserved anymore only to the most notable of the casualties. The common soldier was worthy to receive the same recognition for his deeds and ultimate sacrifice as the highest-ranking officer. Generals Walker, Roosevelt, and McNair's graves stand testimony to that - quite literally - at Colleville s/ Mer (and there are many similar examples to be found at other ABMC sites).
From Pershing to Marshall and on
By establishing the American Battle Monuments Commission on March 4th, 1923, the US Government was acknowledging the need to create permanent cemeteries and memorials overseas as a way to commemorate the missing and those dead whose families had chosen not to repatriate (approximately 40% of the total number of deaths). Under the leadership of its first chairman, General of the Armies John J. Pershing, the ABMC constructed 8 cemeteries and 13 memorials throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately, the Second World War was yet to take a far greater toll on the United States. The country lost almost half a million citizens during the conflict. Thus, when the war was finally over, there were hundreds of temporary cemeteries either in Europe or in the Pacific (in Normandy alone there were 10 such cemeteries). When General Pershing passed away in 1948, the responsibility and honor to continue his work were bestowed upon General Marshall. The commemorative plan called for the closing of all temporary gravesites and the construction of 14 permanent overseas military cemeteries, 12 monuments as well as 3 memorials in the United States. Today, the commission maintains a total of 26 cemeteries and 32 memorials located in 17 countries (four of the memorials being in the US) paying tribute to men and women who lost their lives in the Mexican-American War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War. What renders these cemeteries unique - especially in the context of two World Wars during which the American forces were deeply segregated - is the fact that all interments were completed without any regard to rank, position, race, ethnicity, sex or religion.
ABMC centennial marked at Normandy
In Normandy, the commission maintains two memorial-cemeteries. One is located atop the bluffs overlooking Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach #omahabeach #dday #ddaystory. It is known as Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial #normandycemetery #collevillesurmercemetery. The other is close to Mont Saint Michel and the frontier with Brittany hence its name: Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial.
The cemetery is one of the most iconic sights in Normandy and represents the highlight of any D-Day tour . Check out our tour offer! It includes guided tours of the American D-Day beaches conceived as half-day or full-day formulas.
On March 4, 2023, a hundred years to the day since the creation of the ABMC, luminary events were organized at Colleville s/ Mer and Saint James. Candles were placed on each of the 13,000+ headstones (of the two cemeteries combined) in a special remembrance service. Throughout the year other ceremonies will be organized by the ABMC to mark this historic milestone.
Don't miss the documentary produced by the ABMC for this occasion: