I thought that the US government takes care of Normandy and places like that. How is American War Memorials Overseas different?
The U.S. Federal government, via the American Battle Monuments Commission, beautifully cares for 24 overseas cemeteries and 25 memorials, including the Normandy American Cemetery. However, there are thousands of other sites honoring Americans that the American Battle Monuments Commission has neither the authority nor the resources to care for. American War Memorials Overseas documents, promotes, and preserves those sites that the US government has no authority over.
How do other countries manage Private Memorials?
Private War Memorials are generally documented and maintained by private foundations.
In the United Kingdom, the War Memorials Trust is the charity organization that assists people and organizations in maintaining thousands of British war memorials. They provide expertise and grants, and cooperate with local organizations to safeguard the future of these memorials. British war memorials are documented by the UK National Inventory of War Memorials, that has a database of memorials containing over 56,000 entries.
In France, the Souvenir Français is the volunteer organization that has cared for French War Memorials across the globe since 1887. With an annual budget of 4 million Euros and a vast network of volunteers in a regional organization, they maintain the monuments and gravesites, conserve the collective memory, and educate the public on the history of the memorials.
On the sites of many major battles, a local organization manages the many memorials associated with the fighting in the area. A good example of this is the CRIBA (Center of Research and Information on the Battle of the Ardennes), which is a Belgian nonprofit group that documents, promotes, and maintains hundreds of war memorials commemorating various actions during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-45.
Government and national agencies that oversee military cemeteries overseas do not concern themselves with private war memorials. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, that manages the overseas military cemeteries for the British Commonwealth, does not take care of private war memorials. The American Battle Monuments Commission, that manages the overseas military cemeteries for the United States of America, has neither the authority nor the funding to maintain private war memorials. The German War Graves Commission cares for the gravesites of several million gravesites of German war victims in more than 100 countries. However, they do not concern themselves with private war memorials.
American war Memorials Overseas fills a critical and neglected role, documenting, promoting, and preserving all war memorials honoring Americans overseas
Why do you have so few monuments in your database. Surely there are more than this worldwide?
Indeed there are! We know of over one thousand overseas war memorials honoring Americans. We are adding them to our database as rapidly as possible. Each addition requires considerable research to insure our information is accurate and as complete as possibe. If you have a question about a specific memorial that you don't see in our database, please contact us.
What is an American war memorial overseas?
An American war memorial overseas is any permanent object put in place in an overseas location to commemorate Americans involved in or affected by a conflict or war in that area. These war memorials can be put in place by military units or veterans organizations to remember their fallen compatriots.
They can be erected by family members to commemorate their loved ones or mark the spot where they fell.
They can be installed by local organizations to recall the historical events in the area or as appreciation to their liberators. They can be constructed by the host nation as an official appreciation of the contributions of the United States of American and her citizens.
American war memorials overseas include isolated burial sites of American combatants, combat vehicles, monuments, markers, plaques, commemorative objects, and museums.
Why are so many overseas war memorials honoring Americans so poorly maintained?
Except for the 22 overseas federal monuments maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the US government does not have responsibility for the maintenance of overseas war memorials. In some cases, a sponsoring organization pays for monument maintenance. However, if there is no sponsoring organization or if the local town does not take an interest, these monuments can fall into disrepair.
Why are there American service members buried overseas outside of our military cemeteries?
After each World War, the next of kin of Americans who were killed overseas could choose what to do with the remains of their loved ones. The remains could be repatriated for burial in a cemetery in the United States, they could be buried overseas in an ABMC cemetery, or they could remain where they lay. While about 61 percent of the remains were returned to the U.S. and 39 percent were buried in ABMC cemeteries, several hundred families chose not to disturb the remains. These isolated graves can be found in town cemeteries, the war cemeteries of our allies, or even in the fields where they fell throughout Europe.
Some next of kin elected to repatriate their loved ones’ remains not to a cemetery in the United States, but to a cemetery overseas. In many cases the family members were recent immigrants to America who retained strong ties to their homeland and thus elected a burial in their family plot. Or, the service member married locally and the wife elected to bury him in her homeland.
Some service members were killed outside of the dates officially recognized by the US Army and the American Battle Monuments Commission as the conflict dates and thus were not eligible for burial in an ABMC cemetery. For example, thousands of Americans volunteered to fight and help in France well before the US entered World War I. Those killed outside of the official dates for overseas internment are buried in local cemeteries, in French or British military cemeteries, or in the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial.
There are many American veterans who chose to remain overseas after the wars and then died years later as expatriates and were buried locally. These individuals are not War Dead and are not considered to be Isolated Burials. They are not in our memorial database.