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“Time will not dim the glory of their deeds*” the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

*quote by General John Pershing, American war hero who served during the First World War

From 1941-1945, the Philippines was a part of a greater battlefield that was the Pacific theater of the Second World War as the forces of Japan and of the United States clashed in a series of encounters aptly described as “hell on earth.” Countless lives were lost as a result, especially among the American troops who fought valiantly for their motherland.

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Once the war was over, the United States government drew up plans as to how to honor its fallen troops. A decision was made to put up a memorial ground on what was then the sprawling soon-to-be former military grounds of Fort McKinley (renamed a few years later to Fort Bonifacio) in the soon-to-be-independent US colony that was the Philippines. As soon as the Philippine government gave the green light, work began on what was to be the largest American war cemetery in terms of size. (it was, after all, 152 acres of land)

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Designed by an American architect named Gardener Dailey, this memorial complex was finished by 1960 and was dedicated on December 8th of that year. A total of 17,206 personnel (Americans as well as Filipinos) who died in the various battlefields in the Pacific theater of the war. Their remains were buried underneath the white headstone crosses (made of marble mostly from Italy while some came from the Philippines in Romblon which is a famed source for marble in the country) placed on curved plots of land, forming a semicircle of sorts around the memorial.

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unidentified remains buried in the cemetery grounds

But what is considered to be the main attraction in this complex is the Memorial Court. It’s a circular type of structure made of marble that surrounds a green open space with a tree and 2 flagpoles on it, each flagpole flying a flag of the United States and of the Philippines. Columned walls surround the memorial, each inscribe the names of the missing personnel who fought in World War II.

memorial complex

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on the top are the names of the battle sites where the American forces fought: Leyte Gulf, Peleliu, Guadalcanal to name a few

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At each end of each wing or hemicycle of the memorial stands a small room where one can view mosaic maps detailing the campaigns fought by the soldiers buried here, as well as those whose names found on the memorial walls.

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The center of the memorial is the chapel tower, with a sculpture façade designed by Boris Lorski showing St. George fighting a dragon, a symbolism for the American soldier. Inside the chapel is another Lorski-designed mosaic of a female figure scattering flowers as a symbolic tribute of gratitude to those who served the American motherland during the war.

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chapel

The chapel tower also serves as a tower for the carillion bells that one can hear playing at some point in time, amplifying the quiet and calm atmosphere one can experience inside the grounds, overlooking the frentic activities that is now overtaking the former military grounds of the greater Fort Bonifacio Area.

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In fact, it could be said that the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is not only a resting place for the departed but a quiet refuge of those living where not only can one get to appreciate history and be able to appreciate the efforts of the people who fought in this war, but also to appreciate the calmness of nature that man has been able to utilize properly. In its own right, it stands on its own merit, high and mighty with the skyscrapers surrounding it, as high and mighty as the people who fought and gave their lives for liberty, honor, and their country.

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Acknowledgements to the website of the American Battle Monuments Commission, the US agency who oversees the operation of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.

I also uploaded a gallery of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial here

 

© The Urban Roamer

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