Faces of Cambridge commemorates ‘Friendly Invasion’

WASHINGTON — As a way to bring the memory of the fallen American service members to life, staff at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in Cambridge, England, are hosting a program called the “Faces of Cambridge.”

The program, which coincides with Memorial Day weekend, marks the 75th anniversary of the “Friendly Invasion,” of the United Kingdom in 1942, when America troops began flooding into the U.K. during WWII.

The cemetery staff has collected more than 4,000 photographs of the nearly 9,000 American service members who are either buried at the cemetery or whose names are on the Walls of the Missing. The photos are being placed next to the headstone or next to the names on the Walls of the Missing as a way to put a face to the names of the fallen, said Timothy Nosal, who is with the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Britain became a staging area for American armed forces, which would push into Europe and eventually take down Nazi Germany. The English Channel was the only thing that separated Great Britain from occupied Europe. Also, the American forces were there to protect Great Britain.

According to a press release about the event, visitors can walk the hallowed grounds of the military cemetery and see the photos of the fallen Americans whose smiles are forever frozen in time–Americans who gave their lives in the fight to liberate Europe. Staff members are hoping this will be part of an ongoing effort.

“It is a legacy for the staff who will work here in the future. But most of all it is a legacy and a very small humbling ‘thank you’ to the American service men and women who earned our freedom and the lives we enjoy today,” said Les Turner, staff member who developed the program at this cemetery.

Faces of Margraten is a similar program that began a few years ago at the Netherland American Cemetery. But the Cambridge cemetery is completely done by the staff. The Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial is the only WWII American military cemetery in the U.K. The land for the cemetery was donated by the University of Cambridge.

Nosal said each of America’s overseas World War II cemeteries commemorate a specific aspect of World War II.

“Cambridge is designed to commemorate the American air war over Europe and the build ups for the invasion of North Africa and Normandy,” Nosal said.

He said that more than 3.5 million Americans passed through the U.K. during World War II.

The American Battle Monuments Commission is a small government agency that was created following World War I in 1923. The organization’s purpose is to commemorate where American armed forces served following the declaration of war in April of 1917.

“We initially began with creating a series of monuments and memorials, as well as eight permanent cemeteries in Europe focused on World War I,” Nosal said.

But after World War II the mission expanded.

“We then built the 14 cemeteries for WWII, as well as a series of monuments, memorials and markers that are spaced across the globe,” he said.

Nosal said Normandy is the most famous American cemetery because of the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” But he said it is not the largest one.

“Our largest cemetery is actually Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines where we have more than 17,000 burials. And what’s even more striking, there’s more than 36,200 names that are engraved on the Walls of the Missing out at Manila American Cemetery.”

He said the Manila American Cemetery commemorates the theater of WWII in the Southwest Pacific that was commanded by General Douglas MacArthur.

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