The Foreign Burial of American War Dead
Lihons French National Cemetery            Pierre Vandervelden

"...I've a rendezvous with death
 at midnight in some flaming town."
Alan Seeger, 1916

Alan Seeger was an American poet graduated from Harvard University in 1910, and killed on the Fourth of July, 1916 in the Battle of the Somme as a member of the French Foreign Legion. His bones now rest in an ossuary and memorial in the French cemetery at Lihons. His war poetry, especially "I Have a Rendezvous with Death," spoke to the motivations of many Americans who entered wars either out of a sense of duty, adventure or justice, and even economic need or conscription. In the case of the two World Wars, they fought and died as members of American forces or those of other nations and organizations, especially as American enlistees in Canadian and Commonwealth forces with the implicit support of the American government. With whom they fought determined where and how they would be buried if killed. They remain at rest all over the world.

   France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Tunisia – More than 102,000 Americans killed in both World Wars are buried in a combined twenty American Cemeteries and Memorials administered by  the American Battle Monuments Commission. As in all ABMC cemeteries the dead are counted no matter their station in war, from the highest ranks to clerks and ambulance drivers.

 France, Belgium and the Netherlands, however, embrace a much smaller number of Americans buried in isolated graves, small town memorials and rural cemeteries. They range from those who fought with American forces but, for some reason, were not buried in American cemeteries, to individual Americans who were honored by a specific town for reasons related to the town’s fortunes in war.

Historisch Genootschap Oud Soetermeer

Airman John McCormick, for example, was shot down over Zoetermeer, NL in World War II, and was killed while working in the Dutch Resistance. He was buried (above) in 1945 in the courtyard of the town’s Dutch Reformed Church, and is still honored in ceremonies each year. All isolated burials in the three countries have the continuing attention of European groups or individuals, and it is probable that more can be found. In addition, members of American forces are said to be buried individually in the Scandinavian nations, but little is known about them with the exception of five American airmen buried in Denmark.

United Kingdom
- American casualties of the Revolutionary War were most certainly
moved from prison ships to burial in the marshlands of harbor cities like Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham, The War of 1812 brought more Americans to rest in those watery graves, but saw the beginning of record-keeping in more grounded locations that would be accessible into the 21st century. Americans with Commonwealth Forces in two World Wars are buried in small rural churchyards and large cemeteries. The American Cemetery at Brookwood, outside London. left, is part of a larger communal cemetery that also holds the graves of Americans killed in service of the Commonwealth Forces.(see below).

  Tripoli, Libya - The first Americans to be recorded as killed in war abroad were sailors of the USS Intrepid in an attempt to set fire to Tripolitan ships in the harbor on September 4, 1804 during the Barbary Wars. Commander Richard Somers and twelve others were killed when the Intrepid exploded prematurely. All are still buried near the harbor, and the town of Somers Point, New Jersey has been attempting to reclaim and return the body of its native son since the end of the 20th century.

   Canada and Mexico - Of those American casualties of the War of 1812 known to be
buried in Canada all are in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Deadman's Island in Halfiax Harbour, left, holds approximately 185 named Americans in the forested hill, and approximately ten more are buried at he Halifax naval base. Hundreds of Americans who came across the border to  join two world wars as members of Commonwealth Forces are buried in urban, rural and prairie cemeteries and churchyards. In Mexico, Americans are buried  in the American Cemetery in Mexico City, and two casualties of the Punitive Expedition  of 1916-1917 are buried in a ranch cemetery near Parral.

Sea Routes
- Though they were not always killed in war, a number of Americans casualties of naval operations in the mid-19th century were buried on land. It is probable that more can be found. The Christian Cemetery at Port Mahon, Menorca, Spain holds twenty sailors and one navy wife. The picture depicts the burial of a crew member of the USS Delaware on October 21,1843. Jim Maps Collection.

  The Pacific - The asymmetrical warfare of World War II, endless islands and
jungles, and the isolation of North Korea make the Pacific Basin the largest resting
place of remains that will probably never be found. But there are known burials and
aircraft crashes that are still open to investigation on the strength of new technologies and public resolve. Some unresolved burials are still controversial. It’s believed, for example, that most of the bodies buried in neat rows on the beach of Tarawa Atoll in November 1944, left, are still buried somewhere else on the island, perhaps beneath roads and construction since World War II. The Manila American Cemetery and memorial in the Philippines holds 17,202 Amerians, most killed in the Philippines and new Guinea. The Corozal American Cemetery and memorial in Panama is a resting place for more than 5,300 American veterans and others, none killed in the course of war.

Americans in Commonwealth Forces, World War I and World War II- History does not well record the enlistment of approximately 40,000 Americans in the British Commonwealth forces as they fought in two World Wars. Most were Americans, immigrants in America or husbands of Americans who entered the wars through Canada before the eventual participation in those wars by the United States. Their motivations ranged from conviction about the necessity of the war to adventure and financial reward. In retrospect, these Americans were valued participants in the history of the U.S. in war. Precursors of official American participation, they were quietly and implicitly encouraged in their actions, were able to retai American citizenship in most cases, and served with distinction, especially in the air forces of Britain and Canada. Approximately 3,000 were killed in conflict and are buried individually and with their comrades in forty-six nations on five continents.                                                

Private Arthur E. Davies of 218-10 Street, Brooklyn, New York was killed in service with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on November 19, 1918 and is buried in the Hamburg Cemetery, Germany.

Warrant Officer Wilford Clay Love of Stanfield, North Carolina died in Service of the Royal Canadian Air Force on December 7,1943. He is buried in the Kandy War Cemetery,Sri Lanka.

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