Commemorating America’s fallen service members through interpretation: a look back at 16 years of developing visitor centers at ABMC cemeteries
On Dec. 11, 2023, ABMC dedicated its 10th visitor center at Netherlands American Cemetery, in Margraten, Netherlands. As the Commission celebrates this milestone and concludes its centennial year, we thought we would offer a look back at 16 years of creating unique visitor centers at ABMC sites.
ABMC's unique exhibit spaces not only honor the service and sacrifice of America's fallen service members during both World Wars. They also provide interpretation of American military and commemorative history through immersive, high quality and award-winning visitor centers. Do you recognize these visitor centers?
ABMC’s first visitor center, the award-winning Normandy American Cemetery visitor center opened in 2007. The exhibit was completely redesigned in 2019 for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings. Using many rare and iconic artifacts, it tells the story of the events of June 6, 1944, and the ensuing Normandy Campaign up to the liberation of Paris in August of 1944.
Opened in conjunction with the 70th Anniversaries of the Anzio landings and the liberation of Rome in 2014, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery visitor center tells the story of the American operations in Italy during World War II. The center features artifacts and images to explain the complex nature of the Italian campaign. Major events covered include the landings in Sicily, the follow-on landings at Anzio and Salerno, the battles in the Apennines and the historic fights at Monte Cassino and Monte Belvedere, and the hard fighting up to Rome.
Also opened in 2014, this visitor center at Cambridge American Cemetery interprets the story of the Air War over Europe during World War II. The exhibits include the importance of the role of United Kingdom in the planning, build-up and execution for Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy, and the close relationship of the U.S. armed forces with the civilian population of the United Kingdom.
Renovated and re-opened by ABMC in 2014 on the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings, the visitor center at Pointe Du Hoc Ranger Monument serves as a gateway to the site where the 2nd Ranger Battalion made their epic assault of the cliffs on the flank of the Allied landings. The exhibits are currently being redesigned to incorporate more interpretation on the historic importance of the site outdoors to reach a greater number of visitors and improve the overall experience at this site.
Dedicated on Memorial Day 2017, the visitor center at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery tells the story of America’s largest campaign in World War I and the sacrifices made by the American Expeditionary Forces during the war. Located within the existing visitor building, whose reception room has been restored to its original appearance, this visitor center includes original artifacts to illustrate the weapons used and items carried by the soldiers.
Located in the town of Waregem, the visitor center at Flanders Field American Cemetery tells the story of the American divisions that fought alongside British and Belgian forces in Flanders. Inaugurated in 2017, its exhibits highlight the diverse makeup of the American Expeditionary Forces and tell the little-known story of the four American divisions that fought in Flanders under British command, building a special relationship between the United States and Belgium which still flourishes today.
The award-winning visitor center exhibit at Chateau-Thierry American Monument opened in 2018, in commemoration of the centennial of World War I. Located under the imposing memorial on Hill 204 overlooking the Marne River, this visitor center tells the story of America’s neutrality at the beginning of World War I and its ultimate decision to enter the war on the side of the Allies.
Opened in 2019, this visitor center at Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery, on the outskirts of Paris, focuses on the story of the Americans who volunteered to serve in the French Air Service before America entered World War I. Situated in the original caretaker’s cottage adjacent to the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial, its exhibits tell the story of the creation of the squadron and the birth of American combat aviation.
Completed in 2019, the award-winning visitor center exhibit at Manila American Cemetery, Philippines, tells the long and complex history of the American presence in the Philippines, with an emphasis on the War in the Pacific during World War II. Laid out chronologically, the exhibits begin with the Spanish-American War of 1898 and quickly bring the visitor up to the 1940s. Artifacts, images and videos tell the story of the Japanese expansion across the Pacific and, specifically, the Philippines. They highlight the heroic struggles of the Philippine forces, American units, guerilla units and civilian internees. Personal stories of those who are interred or memorialized at this cemetery are told.
Dedicated on Dec. 11, 2023, the Netherlands American Cemetery visitor center tells the story of the vital campaigns and nearby battles which resulted in the loss of thousands of American lives. The sequential narrative tells of the historic events and related personal stories of American service members who are buried or memorialized at the site, touching on their hardship, challenges, and triumphs. To date, this is ABMC’s newest visitor center.
Continue discovering ABMC’s visitor centers in our Commemorative Sites Booklet.