Pictures and text by Samantha Curtis
Upon entering the memorial, the title of the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial is engraved into the wall of the front gate, the main entrance to the area. Along the wall, on the left hand side of the entrance is a plaque explaining the war, construction, and organization of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Across from the plaque, to the left side of the entrance is the visitors' building. On the wall of the visitors building is bronze plaque, hidden by a column, which is a special dedication from British Communities. Inside the Visitors' Building are pictures from the first burials 1944-45. On the walls are historic paintings of London and typed letters from President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth, both dated July 1956. Information about some of the men and women whose names are engraved in the Tablets of the Missing can be found in the blue screen displayed inside the visitor's building.
At the top of the hill, a flag pole proudly displays the American Flag. Inscribed at the base of the flag pole is a quote, "To You from Failing Hands We Throw the Torch - Be Yours to Hold It High!" The area to the right of the flag pole is a long reflecting pool which leads to a large indoor museum memorial room connected to a small devotional chapel. Alongside the reflecting pool is a long wall to the right measuring 427 feet long, The Tablets of the Missing has 5,127 names engraved of those who where lost or buried at sea or of those whose remains were never found or positively identified. The wall is devided into four sections and each section is represented by a statue of servicemen, the soldier, the Coast Guardsman, the Airmen, and the sailor.
The Memorial and Chapel embodies most of the architectural designs that unify the United States and the United Kingdom. A map of the United Kingdom on the south exterior wall shows the air and sea routes and locations of American battalions stationed throughout the United Kingdom. The inscription states: These and many other sites were lent by the people of the United Kingdom to the Armed forces of the United States of America in order that they might prepare and support their great military assaults 1941-1945. The main entrance doors to the Memorial are of teakwood with bronze models of military equipment and naval vessels. The windows beside the doors depict the seals of the War and Navy Departments and the principle decorations awarded by the United States Armed Services. Throughout the windows of the Memorial are stained glass replicas of the seals of the States of the Union, the United States, The district of Columbia, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Inside the memorial, there is a wall displaying a 30 feet long and 18 feet high designed map which provides a visual of principal sea routs taken across the Atlantic from the United States to Europe. It also depicts the air assaults by U.S. and Royal Air Forces throughout Europe. Below the wall map titled, "The Mastery of the Atlantic - The Great Air Assault", are seven plates, six of them display key maps recording the development of the wars against Germany and Japan. This bronze plaque is the seventh plate and lies in the center describing the operations portrayed by the map. There is a mosaic ceiling that extends from the entrance of the memorial to the back wall of the chapel.
Outside, the north face of the memorial has five pylons, each inscribed with the date of the five years the United States participated in World War II, 1941-1945. There are 3,811 headstones in the fan-shaped graves area which are arranged in seven curved grave plots, A-G and in seven rows of concentric arcs. The headstones with the Stars of David are for the people who professed the Jewish Faith. The Latin Crosses where placed as the headstone for people of other Christian Faith and for the twenty-four headstones that mark the remains of the "Unknowns." When the remains of the "unknown" could not be separately identified the headstone may represent two or three servicemen. Although buried together, bronze tablets over the graves record their names.