The American Battle Monuments Commission
As of 2005 there were nearly 125,000 war dead that are interred in the various cemeteries administered by the ABMC.
The news in recent weeks coming out of Washington and Wall Street has ranged from dismal to downright alarming. The American public’s (indeed, much of the world’s) confidence in our free enterprise system has sunk to a low unprecedented since the great depression of the 1930s. Money, power and unprecedented greed has resulted in a fiscal crisis that is far from being resolved and may take us into even harder times and a black hole of uncharted waters.
In particular, confidence in our government and the way it spends taxpayers’ dollars has never been lower. Those charged with wisely spending those tax dollars seem in desperately short supply. However, there is one arm of the US government that is a remarkable exception. Unlike other bloated government agencies, it operates on a shoestring budget while performing a little known but vital function.
It is the American Battle Monuments Commission – the subject of this month’s article.
The ABMC is an independent agency of the Executive Branch of the Federal government and its small but effective staff are dedicated public servants. The Commission carries out is mission with a staff of 390 full-time civilian employees. The history of the ABMC dates to the years after World War I when, in 1923, Congress enacted legislation to create an agency to both honor American forces but also (initially) to find, identify and control military monuments and markers sited on foreign soil.
To insure ABMC had the necessary clout and prestige its first and longest serving chairman was none other than John J. Pershing, who served until his death in 1948. Other distinguished men have followed: Gen. George C. Marshall (1948-59), Gen. Jacob L. Devers, chairman until 1969, Gen. Mark W. Clark, who was succeeded by Gen. Andrew Goodpaster. The present chairman is Gen. Tommy Franks.
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