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Cambridge American Cemetery Welcome Screen

General Cemetery Tour

An overview of the cemetery from the history of its construction and design to the personal stories of those commemorated here.

The Cambridge American Cemetery, also known as the Madingley American Cemetery, commemorates the sacrifice of those who participated in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Strategic Air Campaign, and the lead up to the D-Day invasion.

3,812 of those who perished are interred at the cemetery while 5,127 are commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing. There are three sets of brothers and one Medal of Honor recipient buried in the cemetery. The cemetery was dedicated on July 16, 1956.

The Cambridge American Cemetery contains a visitor center with a permanent exhibition depicting the significance and main events of the build-up to the Normandy invasion.

The Visitor Building

The main entrance is at the southwest corner of the cemetery. Immediately inside this entrance is the visitor building and visitor center.

On the porch wall of the visitor building is a bronze tablet from the citizens of the English communities of Cheshunt and Waltham Cross. It honors the members of an American bomber crew who sacrificed themselves in order to avoid abandoning their disabled aircraft over these communities. You can speak with the cemetery staff inside the visitor building if you have  questions about the site or need assistance in locating a headstone or a name on the tablets of the missing.

The Visitor Center

To the rear of the visitor building is the new visitor center which was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014. This 4,000-square-foot center was designed by the architecture and engineering firm of Bland, Brown & Cole to resemble an aircraft hangar. 

Cemetery staff members are available at the front desk, located just past the entrance, to assist visitors and provide information.

The center contains a permanent exhibition providing historical context concerning those buried or memorialized at Cambridge American Cemetery and their comrades that were stationed in the region.

In the visitor center you will find a more in depth exploration of the campaigns of World War II, particularly those in which individuals commemorated in the Cambridge American Cemetery gave their lives.

A short film profiling several people commemorated at the Cambridge American Cemetery plays when prompted by the visitor. The permanent exhibit includes several interactive campaign timelines including the Battle of the Atlantic, Strategic Air Campaign and the build-up of American Forces in Great Britain.

The Flagpole

Just beyond the visitor building is a 72-foot flagpole on a tall platform whose base is inscribed with a quotation from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields: "TO YOU FROM FAILING HANDS WE THROW THE TORCH — BE YOURS TO HOLD HIGH." The two malls that frame the grave plots extend from the flagpole.

The landscape architects were Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Mass. John Charles Olmsted and his stepbrother Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. founded Olmsted Brothers. Their firm succeeded that of their father, Frederick Law Olmsted, which was the first landscape architecture firm in the nation and had been responsible for such high profile projects as New York City’s Central Park. The work of the Olmsted Brothers included roadways in Yosemite and Acadia national parks, as well as entire park systems in Portland, Ore., and Seattle.

The Tablets of the Missing

The Tablets of the Missing, 427 feet in length, are inscribed on a wall of Portland stone, a limestone quarried on the south coast of England. Recorded on the tablets are the names and selected details of 5,127 men and women who were missing in action, or lost or buried at sea. They come from every state of the Union and the District of Columbia. A bronze rosette beside a name shows that their remains were later recovered, identified and buried.

Along the wall are four statues designed by Wheeler Williams of New York, N.Y., who also designed “Commerce & Communications” at the Interstate Commerce Commission Building in Washington, D.C. The statues lining the Tablets of the Missing were carved by English craftsmen, and include a soldier, a sailor, an airman and a Coast Guardsman. The paving is of English York sandstone.

The Soldier Statue

The soldier statue is located at the westernmost statue on the tablets of the missing, closest to the flagpole.

The statue is wearing a M1 helmet as well as an M1 garand rifle. It is sporting a heavy woolen winter coat adorned with two grenades in addition to an ammunition cartridge belt. The buttons on its coat are also designed with the symbol of the U.S. Army. The statue is also wearing double buckle boots. Note the oak leaves behind the statue. Oak leaves symbolize power, authority and victory. 

The Sailor Statue

The sailor statue is the second statue from the flagpole, in between the airman statue and the soldier statue.

The sailor statue is wearing a M1 helmet, a life preserver and sailor pants. The statue is holding 40 mm rounds used on Navy ships for Bofor anti-aircraft guns. Note the statue is holding four rounds, enough for one clip.

The Airman Statue

The airman statue is the second statue closest to the memorial. It is flanked by the statue of the Coast Guardsman and the statue of the sailor.

The airman statue is standing next to a .50 cal. machine gun on its right and holding a unopened parachute in its left. Since the airmen faced freezing temperatures at high altitudes, the statue is sporting a fleece lined hat, fleece lined bomber jacket and fleece lined boots. Note the link of .50 cal. machine gun bullets by its boots.

The Coast Guardsman Statue

The statue of the Coast Guardsman is located on the easternmost end of the tablets of the missing, closest to the memorial. 

The statue is standing in front of a ship's wheel, holding one of the wheel's handles with its right hand and a rope attached to a fog-bell with its left. The fog-bell symbolizes the history of the U.S. Coast Guard. The statue is also wearing a life preserver an M1 helmet. 

Exterior Map of the United Kingdom

On the south exterior wall of the memorial building is a great map of the United Kingdom depicting locations in the U.K. where an American unit of battalion size or larger was stationed during World War II. The places where units of brigade size or larger were stationed are indicated by name. The map also shows the principle air and sea approach routes to Great Britain from the United States, and the invasion routes to North Africa in 1942 and to Normandy in 1944. It is embellished with the sculptured coats of arms of the United States and the United Kingdom.

The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) developed worksheets for the maps, and execution was completed by the English artist David Kindersley of Cambridge. Kindersley had apprenticed under Eric Gill, the sculptor of Prospero and Ariel at the BBC Broadcasting House in London, setting up his own workshop in 1936. He developed skill at lettering on slate and combining lettering with heraldry. Many of the street designs in England, and in Cambridge in particular, use fonts designed by Kindersley.

The Memorial

The memorial building is constructed from Portland Stone, as are St. Paul’s Cathedral and many other monumental buildings in London. It is 85 feet long, 30 feet wide and 28 feet high. On the north face of the memorial are five pylons, each inscribed with one of the years, 1941 to 1945, during which the United States participated in World War II. Above these pylons runs the inscription: GRANT UNTO THEM O LORD ETERNAL REST. Below the bronze rope railing on the north face balcony is inscribed: IN GRATEFUL TRIBUTE TO THEIR SACRIFICE AND IN PROUD MEMORY OF THEIR VALOR.

The entrance to the memorial building at the west end is framed by two pylons. The main entrance doors are of teakwood. They bear bronze representations of military equipment and naval vessels. 

The Museum Room and Map

The interior of the memorial building is separated into a large museum room and a small devotional chapel at the far end. The outstanding feature of the museum room is its impressive map “The Mastery of the Atlantic – The Great Air Assault.” The map was designed by the American artist Herbert Gute (a water color artist and book illustrator who taught at the Yale School of Fine Arts) from data prepared by ABMC. It indicates the principal sea routes across the Atlantic and the types of naval and commercial craft which bore men and munitions to Europe from the United States. It also represents the aircraft which operated in the anti-submarine campaign. The U.S. and Royal Air Forces Strategic Air Campaigns over Europe are also depicted. Symbolic air lanes indicate routes from both England and Italy to various targets. The nature of these targets – military, industrial, and transportation – are explained in the legend. The map is 30 feet long and 18 feet high.

The wall bearing the map is of Portland stone. On the map, the lower land elevations are indicated in polished Portland stone, while the higher elevations are in polished Hauteville marble, Lunel Clair marble and Lunel Fonce marble, respectively. This unusual work of art was also executed by David Kindersley’s workshop. Below the map are seven plates, six of which feature maps depicting the progress of the war against Japan. The seventh, a bronze plaque in the center, bears a description of the operations portrayed by the great map.

The Chapel

The seals of the War and Navy departments and  principal decorations awarded by U.S. Armed Services are depicted in glass panels beside and above the main door to the memorial.

Other windows of the memorial contain stained-glass replicas of the seals of the states  arranged from left to right in the order in which they entered the Union. Above these are the seals of the United States (obverse and reverse), the District of Columbia, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Over the teakwood screen to the chapel within the memorial building is the following inscription in bronze characters: INTO THY HANDS O LORD.

The words FAITH and HOPE in bronze letters are set into the altar rail in the chapel. A cloth of mail is spread over the Portland stone altar on which rests a large bronze cross. To the right of the cross rests the Tablets of Moses. Flanking the altar are two large ornamental candelabra, also embellished with mosaic.

A mosaic by Francis Scott Bradford (an American muralist, popular during the 1930s, who developed a style of allegorical and figure paintings) depicts the Archangel trumpeting the arrival of the Resurrection, and the Last Judgment covers the wall above the altar. It continues across the entire ceiling of the memorial with pictures of ghostly aircraft, accompanied by mourning angels, making their final flight. The deep blue of the ceiling denotes the depth of infinity, while the lighter colors reflect the light of Heaven breaking through the earthly layers of the sky. The lighter nimbus surrounding each of the single-engine, twin-engine and four-engine aircraft separates them from earthly forces while they carry the souls of the men who perished in the skies.

The ship and aircraft depicted above the altar memorialize the members of the naval and air forces who are buried or commemorated at the cemetery. The cross and Star of David symbolize those who are buried beneath the ground. Mourning angels and an inscription from the 23rd Psalm are also featured in the design.

The North Entrance

The north entrance of the Cambridge American Cemetery is located off of Cambridge Road, on the northwest corner of the cemetery. The entrance contains limited parking and is not handicap accessible.

Lined by Japanese pagoda trees, the cemetery's western mall runs northward from the flagpole to the northern entrance to reveal a beautiful view of the English countryside.

The Visitor Center

To the rear of the visitor building is the new visitor center which was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014. This 4,000-square-foot center was designed by the architecture and engineering firm of Bland, Brown & Cole to resemble an aircraft hangar. 

Cemetery staff members are available at the front desk, located just past the entrance, to assist visitors and provide information.

The center contains a permanent exhibition providing historical context concerning those buried or memorialized at Cambridge American Cemetery and their comrades that were stationed in the region.

In the visitor center you will find a more in depth exploration of the campaigns of World War II, particularly those in which individuals commemorated in the Cambridge American Cemetery gave their lives.

A short film profiling several people commemorated at the Cambridge American Cemetery plays when prompted by the visitor. The permanent exhibit includes several interactive campaign timelines including the Battle of the Atlantic, Strategic Air Campaign and the build-up of American Forces in Great Britain.