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France: Lorraine cemetery largest WWII American gravesite in Europe

In the rolling hills of eastern France lie the remains of 10,489 Americans who gave their lives for their country.

Beneath a perfectly manicured lawn between twin waving American flags, they rest at the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial.

The cemetery, on the outskirts of St.-Avold, is one of 24 cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission. It is the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe. Only the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, with 14,246 World War I casualties, is larger. The cemetery with the most war dead administered by the ABMC is Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, with 17,201 servicemembers who perished in WWII.

The ABMC cemeteries have much in common — the graves, a memorial, walls of the missing, a chapel and a visitors center.

The Lorraine cemetery is no different. You drive through a park to the visitors’ center, and then it is a short walk to the memorial.

From here you have a stunning view of the cemetery, with its gleaming white crosses and Stars of David.

The memorial is a 67-foot-high limestone tower. It is adorned with the great seal of the United States on its western facade. On the other side a figure of St. Nabor, a Roman soldier martyred by execution in 303, looks down on the graves.

The chapel features a statue of a young man flanked by King David, Emperor Constantine, King Arthur and George Washington. The ensemble represents the eternal struggle for freedom. On the wall to the left are large maps of WWII military operations in Western Europe. The opposite wall displays maps of operations around the globe during that conflict.

Flanking the memorial are the walls of the missing. Inscribed here are 444 names of servicemembers whose bodies were not found. If you see a rosette next to a name, it means the remains have been recovered.

The graves area is divided into nine plots separated by walking paths. The Latin crosses and Stars of David are of white marble. Each gravestone is inscribed with the name, rank, unit, home state and date of death of the fallen. Some of the crosses read simply “Here Rests in Honored Glory a Comrade in Arms Unknown but to God.”

There are 30 sets of brothers buried here, and four Medal of Honor recipients: Andrew Miller, Fredrick Murphy, Ruben Rivers and David Waybur.

Among them are servicemembers from every U.S. state, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as from Canada, the United Kingdom and Panama.

All those buried here had their own stories, but one of the more interesting ones is that of Leonora Lindsley.

She joined the Rochambelles, an international all-female ambulance unit formed by a wealthy American widow. When the women were barred by the State Department from going overseas, she joined the American Red Cross to serve in Europe. She later rejoined the Rochambelles and was killed in a freak road accident.

At the far end of the cemetery is an overlook that offers a view of the memorial and the graves of the men and women who sacrificed their lives in war for the United States.

abrams.mike@stripes.com

DIRECTIONS: The Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial is on the outskirts of St.-Avold, France, just across the border from Germany, and not far from the Kaiserslautern military community. Take autobahn A6 to the border where it becomes French autoroute A4. Stay on A4 to the second exit that says St.-Avold. There are signs to the cemetery, which is on highway N-33. GPS coordinates: N49°07.302 E6°42.872

INFORMATION: Find information about American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries and monuments at abmc.gov.

COSTS: Entrance and parking are free. There is a 75 euro cent road toll in France.

TIMES: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

FOOD: There is no place to eat at the cemetery but there are restaurants in St.-Avold.

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