Cambridgeshire in England has many memorials to those killed during wars, the most magnificent of which is the American Cemetery at Madingley.
It contains almost 4,000 headstones, ordered like wheel spokes and stretching across 30 acres. Each of those simple, white crosses marks the final resting place of U.S. troops and airmen who died in WWII.
Some died in the Atlantic when their ships were sunk by the Germans as they were protecting convoys supplying Britain. Others died during bombing raids, flying out from local bases.
The cemetery was officially dedicated 60 years ago this summer, although it was originally used in 1943 as a temporary burial ground. The land used to build the cemetery was donated by Cambridge University. After the war, it was decided to make it a permanent place of interment for U.S. troops.
Besides the graves, there is the Wall of the Missing. It contains the names of 5,127 missing troops, most of which were lost during the Battle of the Atlantic or in the air raids over northwest Europe.
The memorial building illustrates those conflicts. The tall teak doors are covered with relief models of military equipment from WWII. They open into a chapel and a large map on the wall that shows the air raids that were based in East Anglia and the convoy routes across the North Atlantic.
Most recently, they have opened a visitor center with exhibits about some of the people buried in the cemetery.
In 1994, the cemetery hosted one of its largest memorials.
Speaking at the event, then-Prime Minister of the UK John Major said, “For a while, every 30th person in Britain was an American serviceman. In the European theater more than 150,000 Americans, including 57,000 airmen, lost their lives… All their lives were cruelly cut short and to them, all of us owe a debt too deep to pay.”
Bill Clinton was also invited the attend the ceremony as a guest of honor, in his speech he made the following observation: “The United States gave to England an infusion of arms and men and material. The British gave our troops the feeling that they were not so far from home after all. The British gave us inspiration, the Americans gave in return hope.” He finished by adding, “At every level Yanks and Brits worked together like family.”
To learn more about the Madingley Cemetery, visit the American Battle Monuments Commission at www.abmc.gov. The cemetery is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm.