I hope each and every one of you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and remembered to thank the soldiers in your life.
Ryan and I were privileged to take part in a ceremony that was an amazing part of history and an honor to behold as part of our Memorial Day. Ryan was asked to participate in the Memorial Day ceremony at the Hamm Memorial Cemetery in Luxembourg. The place that General Patton is buried along with the fallen heros of The Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944.
So we hoped in the car dressed in our best and made our way to Luxembourg.
Here is Ryan and his colleagues chosen to participate in this ceremony walking into the Hamm Memorial Cemetery. This cemetery was established as a temporary burial plot on December 29th, 1944 and was then opened as a permanent American cemetery on December 16, 1949.
When you first enter the cemetery there is a large monument chapel in the center of a circular walkway and on either side of it are walls that say,
“HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES.”
Below are listed the names of the 371 soldiers listed missing in action during this campaign.
In my research of the cemetery I came across this passage which I found an interesting and fun bit of history.
“A great proportion of these inscriptions was carved by a one armed German sculptor. This man, a strong, cheerful individual in his early forties had lost his right forearm on the Russian front. While in hospital, learning that his subsequent pension would have been greater if he has lost his arm above the elbow, he prevailed upon a complacent doctor to remove the injured arm near the shoulder. After demobilization, the man acquired a short leather sleeve affair, resembling a flower pot with a small hammer stuck into the drainhole. donning this contrivance at the work site and driving it with a lunge of his right shoulder, the man worked as swiftly and as accurately as did his colleagues, who, incidentally, worked in harmony with him despite their French nationality.”
On the other side of each wall are maps depicting the movements of troops over the area. Beside the map is written this in explanation…
“ON 16 DECEMBER 1944 THE ENEMY MADE ITS LAST CONCERTED EFFORT TO STAVE OFF DEFEAT BY UNLEASHING THREE ARMIES ON A NARROW FRONT. PREPARED IN GREATEST SECRECY AND LAUNCHED UNDER COVER OF FOG AND RAIN, ITS ATTACK IN THE ARDENNES WAS INITIALLY SUCCESSFUL. BREAKING THROUGH ON A 45-MILE FRONT, ITS FORCES PENETRATED OVER 60 MILES, BUT AMERICAN SOLDIERS, FIGHTING VALIANTLY, HELD THE CRITICAL SHOULDERS OF THE SALIENT. REACTING PROMPTLY AND DECISIVELY, THE ALLIES RUSHED ALL AVAILABLE RESERVES TO THE SCENE. A FURIOUS STRUGGLE DEVELOPED AT ST. VITH WHERE THE ENEMY ADVANCE WAS STUBBORNLY DELAYED. AT BASTOGNE, ALTHOUGH SURROUNDED FOR FIVE DAYS, AMERICAN TROOPS, WITH THE HELP OF SUPPLIES DROPPED BY IX TROOP CARRIER COMMAND AIRCRAFT, MAINTAINED THEIR DEFENSE. ON 22 DECEMBER THE THIRD ARMY COUNTERATTACKED THE SOUTHERN FLANK OF THE PENETRATION. THE NEXT DAY THE SKIES CLEARED AND THE EIGHTH AND NINTH FORCES PLUNGED INTO THE BATTLE. THE THIRD ARMY CONTINUED ITS ADVANCE THROUGH BITTERLY COLD WEATHER, REACHING BASTOGNE ON 26 DECEMBER. THE FIRST ARMY’S COUNTERATTACK CAME ON 3 JANUARY 1946; ON THE 16TH THE TWO ARMIES MET AT HOUFFALIZE. THE SALIENT WAS REDUCED BY 25 JANUARY.
IN FEBRUARY THE THIRD ARMY FORCED ITS WAY THROUGH THE SIEGFRIED LINE, CAPTURED TRIER, AND BY 5 MARCH HAD ESTABLISHED BRIDGEHEADS ARCROSS THE KYLL. THE NEXT DAY IT LAUNCHED ITS ATTACK NORTH OF THE MOSELLE. PRECEDED BY AIRCRAFT OF THE NINTH AIR FORCE, ITS GROUND TROOPS SWEPT FORWARD TO JOIN THE FIRST ARMY ON THE RHINE. THEM, ON 13 MARCH, AMERICAN FORCES SOUTH OF THE MOSELLE ADVANCED; THOSE WEST OF KOBLENZ SWUNG TO THE SOUTHEAST TO JOIN THIS ASSAULT. HAVING CLEARED THE WEST BANK BY 21 MARCH, THE THIRD ARMY RUSHED ACROSS THE RHINE AT OPPENHEIM THE NEXT NIGHT.
Here is a close up of the area of the map which Ryan and I call our home. The very top yellow circle is Bitburg, which is where we live. The yellow circle in the middle of the map is Trier, which we have many a picture of. Last but not least, at the bottom of the picture is the Hamm Memorial Cemetery. Just to give you an idea of distance, Bitburg is roughly 40 minutes from the cemetery.
In the center of the complex is a chapel. It rises 50 feet in white Valore stone from the Jura Mountain region of central France. On the west side (which you can see in the first picture) is the carved seal of the United States. Under it is written,
“1941-1945 IN PROUD REMEMBERANCE OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF HER SONS AND IN HUMBLE TRIBUTE TO THEIR SACRIFICES THIS MEMORIAL HAS BEEN ERECTED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”
On the opposite side (which is the second picture…) is a carving of the coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Below is a translation of the above inscription in French.
Above the chapel entrance is a 23 foot sculpture of the Angel of Peace carved in Swedish Orchid Red granite. He has his right hand raised in blessing and is holding a laurel branch in his left hand. Above is a dove against a cloud. He was carved in place, hewn in about four week’s time by an elderly Italian sculptor and his two nephews. The block of New Orchid Red granite was so hard that chisels were blunted after every few strokes and it was necessary to lower them to the ground, where a field forge was operated continuously to dress the instruments.
Beneath the angel is carved…
“HERE IS ENSHRINED THE MEMORY OF VALOR AND SACRIFICE”
Inside the chapel is a small prayer area with an alter that has the inscription…
“I GIVE UNTO THEM ETERNAL LIFE AND THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH.”
Up the center is a stained glass window with all of the divisions represented in The Battle of the Bulge.
The ceiling of the chapel is mosaic. In the center is a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, there are also four angels from which emanate the sun’s rays. At the feet of the angels is a running inscription encircling the ceiling:
“IN PROUD AND GRATEFUL MEMORY OF THOSE MEN OF THE ARMED SERVICES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WHO IN THIS REGION AND IN THE SKIES ABOVE IT ENDURED ALL AND GAVE ALL THAT JUSTICE AMONG NATIONS MIGHT PREVAIL AND THAT MANKIND MIGHT ENJOY FREEDOM AND INHERIT PEACE.”
It is quite a beautiful and humbling sight to behold…
After we had looked around the main memorial site Ryan was called over to the staging area for his part of the ceremony and I took my seat. In no time war veterans and dignitaries began to arrive…
Mr.Claude Wiseler, Minister for the Civil Service and Administrative Reform, Minister of Civil Engineering gave an opening address and benediction.
After a few speakers a Brigadier General spoke.
Then war vets presented colors.
The Air Force Honor Guard then had the honor of presenting the colors and anchoring them in the field.
A short time later we witnessed the presenting of the wreaths which has been a tradition since the cemetery was opened. This is the presentation of the Luxembourg wreath and the American wreath… the first two out of five. Presented by the Luxembourg army and the Marines.
This is the Air Force Honor Guard placing the colors on the field.
I was then fortunate enough to get The Missing Man Formation on video along with an explanation of why it is used.
Here is Ryan participating in part of the ceremony. He hates this picture but as it is only one of two I was able to get, it’s staying in.
Here they are lining up… The Air Force had the honor of laying wreaths on the graves sponsored by dignitaries from the area and high ranking government officials from our own country. I could not, however, get any pictures of that part of the ceremony due to the crowd but it was a site to behold!
My dashing husband!
This is the 21 gun cannon salute given by the Army from the base of the burial ground. It was so loud that I could feel it in my chest and feel the vibrations in my feet. It is followed by the traditional TAPS with answering call.
I turned around and glanced at Ryan. I simply could not resist snapping a quick picture of him saluting during TAPS while standing with the dignitaries he carried his wreath for.
Several vehicles that were actually in service during The Battle of the Bulge were on display.
Here is a medical transport.
This is a vista I have seen in pictures a thousand times… to be there in person was quite an experience.
There was also a jeep from the battle.
When we got to the bottom of the burial grounds, we found that Col. Roberson had arranged for the military members to meet some of the Veterans of the war that actually fought with the men buried on these grounds. Ryan says it was an amazing honor to shake hands with these men and to hear their stories.
The Air Force members that presented then posed for a picture…
… with one of the cannons used in the 21 gun salute.
Isn’t he so handsome?
Here is the fountain that graces the center of the grounds.
I got a moment to pose with the cannons as well.
On Memorial day hundreds of volunteers come out early in the morning and place: the Luxembourg flag, the American flag, and a single red rose on each grave…
My husband looking out over the graves of his predecessors…
Us on the grounds of the Hamm Memorial Cemetery.
There are 5,076 American military dead who lost their lives in the service of their country buried in this cemetery. These brave men came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. There are 22 places in this cemetery where brothers rest side by side.
Among those interred in the cemetery are 101 unknown soldiers whose remains could not be identified. The headstones of these men are inscribed:
“HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY
A COMRADE IN ARMS
KNOWN BUT TO GOD.”
White marble shafts surmounted by a Star of David mark the graves of 118 of the Jewish faith, and white marble crosses mark all the others.
This wreath is the one Ryan carried and laid down at the foot of this cross.
In the front of the burial ground lies the grave of General Patton.
We feel incredibly honored to have taken part in this ceremony which not only let us step, if for only a moment, into the past, but which gave us an overwhelming sense of gratitude to our predecessors and to our county…
I guess you could say that this weekend we got ReBlued!
Until we meet again,