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Posted on Oct 14, 2008 in War College

The American Battle Monuments Commission

By Carlo D'Este

Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial

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.

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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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5 Comments

  1. It is a comfort to know that such stellar work is done for those who
    gave their all..This was a very moving tribute to all involved.

  2. This gov. agency even helps (via administration) to rehab a French memorial to the WWI ace Frank Luke. I donated money to them and they got it to the
    group that repaired the small memorial located near where Frank Luke died in 1918.
    They do great work and on a shoestring.
    FYI: A British group gave some money to help on that repair also. It was nice to have the Brits contribute.
    When the memorial was rededicated a large crowd was present, some American, but many French. It was nice to see.

  3. YEARS AGO I VISITED THE EPINAL CEMETERY IN EASTERN
    FRANCE, NEAR NANCY, TO VISIT THE GRAVE OF MY BROTHER-
    IN-LAW, LT. CHARLES HOFFMAN, KILLED IN THE SOUTHERN
    FRENCH CAMPAIGN IN 1944. I WAS MOVED DEEPLY BY THE
    BEAUTY OF THE CEMETERY, THE MAJESTY OF THE
    ARCHITECTURE, AND THE HELPFULNESS OF THE STAFF. THE
    WHOLE EXPERIENCE REPRESENTED FAITHFULLY THE
    NOBILITY OF BOTH THE HONORED DEAD WHO LIE THERE AND
    THE CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY DIED. NEVER WAS I SO
    THANKFUL IN MY LIFE, INCLUDING APPRECIATION FOR OUR
    GOVERNMENT WHICH CARES ENOUGH TO CARE FOR THOSE
    WHO SERVED AND DIED AND “THE GLORY OF THEIR DEEDS.”

  4. This is a very fine piece that describes our work at the American Battle Monuments Commission. There is one error: our chairman is not General Tommy Franks but General Fred Franks, USA(Ret). I hope this comment does not appear to diminish my great appreciation for this fine article.

    Charles A. Krohn
    Deputy Director of Public Affairs
    American Battle Monuments Commission

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  1. The History of Memorial Day | Armchair General | Armchair General Magazine - We Put YOU in Command! - […] 26 federal memorials, monuments and markers located in 16 foreign countries (administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission). 218,000 …

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