The American Cemetery and Memorial Manila , 152 acres in area, is located on a prominent plateau, visible at a distance from the east, south and west. With a total of 17,206 graves, it has the largest number of graves of any cemetery for U.S. personnel killed during World War II and holds war dead from the Philippines and other allied nations.
The Memorial is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. It is the largest site administered by the Commission in the number of graves and of those missing whose names are recorded on the walls of the memorial.
Upon entering its gates, I was immediately struck by the tranquility and sublime beauty of the place. The pristine plaza with its circular fountain, the long central mall leading to the memorial, the lush greenery, and the distinct chapel were simply breathtaking. Truly, its architect left no stone unturned to create a fitting tribute to those who have lost their lives during the war.
The headstones are made of marble which are aligned in eleven plots forming a generally circular pattern, set among a wide variety of tropical trees and shrubbery.
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is not only the resting place of U.S. personnel who fought in the Pacific during World War II. Interred among the remains of heroic American soldiers are their equally courageous allies in combat such as the Australian soldiers, English soldiers, Canadian soldiers, and of course, the Philippine Scouts. However, it is the stories behind the names written on the 17,206 headstones and on the immaculate marble walls of the Memorial that truly inspire and leave a lot of lessons.
Also listed on the Memorial's fine walls are the names of the Missing - those who served during the war in the Pacific whose bodies remain unidentified or lost. The Memorial's hemi-cycle also has map rooms that display maps made of colorful mosaic that showcase important military campaigns and battles in the Pacific Islands during the second World War. I highly recommend that those who intend to visit the Memorial spend a good time looking at and reading information on the maps to have a better understanding of what happened during WWII.
The Memorial's focal point is the chapel, with a tower decorated by sculptures in relief. The sculptures represent, among other things, liberty, justice, and country. The chapel's doors were made of bronze while its walls were made of blue mosaic with texts set in gold.
Also in the chapel is a carillon, which rings every hour and half hour, between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. we were fortunate enough to hear its melodic toll during the tour, and we were told that at the end of the day, at around 5 pm., the carillon plays the National Anthems of the Philippines and the United States.
With the unrest and violence happening in the world, a visit to this memorial is a good way of reminding us of the beauty of peace and the consequences of war. It was both an enlightening and a poignant exploration of the largest American cemetery in the Pacific.
The author is Faculty & Coordinator, School of Business, University of South Asia