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Hallowed Grounds

PBS, 2009, 56 minutes, $24.99

This documentary pays tribute to America’s 24 overseas military cemeteries and the nearly 125,000 soldiers interred in them. The film opens with a sobering explanation of the burial grounds’ origins: Before World War I, America had repatriated the remains of its soldiers killed in foreign wars. But in the bloody aftermath of World War I, due to the sheer number of casualties, the American Graves Registration Service gave next of kin the option of having their lost loved ones buried where they had fallen.

In 1923 Congress created the American Battle Monuments Commission [] to establish and maintain permanent burial grounds on foreign soil. These “hallowed grounds” of the film’s title span eight countries, from the World War I fields of Meuse-Argonne and the Somme to the World War II battle sites of Normandy, Sicily and the Philippines. The filmmakers relate stories of individual sacrifice and extol the efforts of the architects, landscapers and artisans who created these “powerful symbols of America’s commitment to peace around the world.”


Originally published in the January 2010 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here