The Foreign Burial of American War Dead

     "We were occupied, twice, and we were liberated. They came from
          overseas to liberate us, and you must never forget this effort that they
                                                          -- Guide de Langhe, Secretary of Waregem, Belgium, 2009

Belgian citizens enter Flanders Field on Memorial Day, 2009.

                The Caretakers

As an example:

The World War I ABMC cemetery Flanders Field has been in the care of the people of the region of Waregem, Belgium since June 1916. In the 21st century, it remains in the civil and political conscience of the town, its businesses, schools and institutions.

On the American Memorial Day each year Waregem joins in the cerem
onies in honor of the 368 who rest within its immaculate grounds.

In all but a few known cases, those American war dead buried abroad are cared for by someone.

Almost all who are buried in American Battle Monument Commission cemeteries worldwide have been adopted by nearby families and residents. At minimum, they pay annual attention to the environment of the grave. Many go far beyond that, and some form relationships with the American families of those they care for.

Most other burials and cemeteries have the attention of historians and organizations intended for that purpose.



"I think it's a big injustice. We treated them abysmally, foodwise and other treatments. We made them work at the quarries."

- Englishman Ron Joy, advocate for the American Cemetery ar Dartmoor Prison, England, 2009.

"In those days it was quite a burden" as they had to pay something and had to tend to the grave, keeping in mind that there was a shortage of just about everything."

- Robin Huijnen, the Netherlands, of his family's  1945 adoption of an American grave at Margraten American Cemetery, 2010.

Always there is some person or persons from Maestricht, Margraten, Heeren or some other near-by town binging a tribute of flowers and prayers to an American grave.

Edwin P. Booth after a visit to his son's grave at Margraten, 1947.

I visit the cemetery every week to greet those who have fallen so valiantly in defending us, and I am really grieved not to be able to strew all their graves with flowers.

Pardon me for writing this; I am but expressing all my feelings.

- Frenchwoman Veuve A. Jale  writing in Stars and Stripes,November 29, 1918

Yesterday 107 school children of the village of Opijnen placed flowers on the graves of the eight airmen. Dutchmen and Americans, as the attached program indicates, participated in the offer of thanks to the valiant Americans.

- Letter to relatives of American airmen buried in Opijnen, Netherlands, 1963

   The Companion Book

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ABMC – The families of those killed in two world wars were given the option of leaving their loved one buried abroad, or returning them for burial in the United States. Approximately 40% of those killed in both wars were left abroad and buried in cemeteries of The American Battle Monuments Commission. It’s database is searchable by name.

AOMDA, Belgium – The American Overseas Memorial Day Association, Belgium plays a leading role in memorial to Americans buried in three ABMC cemeteries, and researches Americans buried in eight known isolated graves across Belgium. Each is visited with a ceremony on the American Memorial Day weekend.

AOMDA, France – The American Overseas Memorial Day Association, France can trace its origins to Benjamin Franklin’s time as U.S. ambassador to France. In addition to those Americans buried in the American Battle Monument Commission’s cemeteries, it assists Memorial Day tributes to ninety American casualties of both world wars buried in isolated graves across across France.

Canada – The city of Halifax, Nova Scotia supports Deadman's Island, a cemetery of approximately 185 Amerians imprisoned there in the War of 1812.


The Commonwealth Graves Commission, based in London,overseas the graves of approximately 3,600 Americans who served in two world wars with the Commonwealth Forces. Its database is searchable by name, and sometimes describes the circumstances in which the soldier was killed, and offers other information.

England – All known American burials from the War of 1812 are accounted for by historians in Plymouth and Princetown, England who also advocate for their conservation. They are assisted by the U.S. group the Daughters of the War of 1812, and honored on all American Memorial Days.

Lafayette Escadrille Memorial – Several hundred Americans flew under French command in World War I. Most entered what was variously called the Lafayette or American Escadrille through the French Foreign Legion. At the end of the war, French and American interests worked together to create the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial in a suburb of Paris. Sixty-eight Americans are buried in the Memorial’s crypts, and are honored with solemn ceremonies each American Memorial Day.

Libya – The locations of graves of thirteen American officers and sailors killed in 1804 are known in some cases and speculated upon in others. One of those buried in a location approximately known has the continuing focus of the people of his hometown, Somers Point, New Jersey, who want to bring his body home.

Russia – “Detroit’s Own” Polar Bear Memorial Day Association researches and advocates for approximately thirty Americans of the North Russian Expeditionary Force in World War I who are still missing near Archangel, Russia. Most were residents of the Detroit area.

SpainThe Madrid Council of the Navy League of the United States advocates for the continued maintenance of a mid-nineteenth century naval cemetery at Menorca Island.

In addition, the graves of individual American war dead are tended in the Netherlands, Denmark and Mexico. An attempt to find the graves of those once officially buried then lost in the Pacific is ongoing. The graves of a number of American Civil War veterans known to be buried in Australia are tended by organizations in that country.

Twenty-five war dogs born in the United States   served with distinction in the battle for Guam in World War II. They are buried and honored at the U.S. Naval Base at Orote Point.

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