American Military Cemetery Henri-Chapelle in Belgium
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Following the successful landing on the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944, the Allies
slowly but relentlessly fought their way inland to expand the beachhead. Then on 25
July, after a paralyzing air bombardment, the U.S. First Army launched the attack
southward to break out. Joining the assault a few days later, the U.S. Third Army on the
right flank thrust southward along the coast while the British and Canadians advanced on
the left flank.
When the breakout occurred, Allied planners had expected the enemy to withdraw
and reestablish a defense at the line of the Seine River to the northeast. Instead, the
Germans launched a powerful counterattack in an attempt to split the Allied forces and
isolate the U.S. Third Army. Resisting vigorously, Allied ground and air forces not only
stopped the attacking Germans but threatened them with complete encirclement. Thoroughly defeated after suffering great losses, the Germans beat a hasty retreat across the Seine
Rapid exploitation of this victory resulted in swift Allied advances far exceeding
expectations. On the left flank, the Canadian First Army drove along the coast reaching
the Netherlands frontier and liberating Ostend and Bruges early in September 1944, while the
British Second Army advanced rapidly through central Belgium liberating Brussels on 3
September and Antwerp the following day. The British Second Army then moved to join
with the Canadian First Army astride the Netherlands frontier.
In the center of the advance, the U.S. First Army freed Liege in eastern Belgium on September 8, 1944, and continued northeastward toward the Germany city of Aachen, while at
the same time liberating Luxembourg. On the right, the U.S. Third Army swept across
France to reach the Moselle River and make contact with the troops of the U.S. Seventh
Army advancing from the beaches of southern France, where they had landed on
August 15, 1944.
Patrols of the U.S. First Army crossed the German frontier in the Ardennes area on September 11, 1944. The next day, elements of the U.S. First Army crossed the frontier near
Aachen and moved eastward toward the Siegfried Line, where strong resistance was
encountered immediately. Almost simultaneously, progress slowed all along the
advancing Allied line as opposition stiffened. The retreating Germans had at last stabilized
its line of defense.
The Siegfried Line formed the core of resistance at the center of the German
defenses. To the south in front of the U.S. Third and Seventh Armies, and the French
First Army which extended Allied lines to the Swiss border, resistance was organized around heavily fortified cities forming strongpoints in front of the Siegfried Line. In the
north, the defenders utilized to advantage against the British and Canadians the barriers
formed by the extensive canal and river systems. On September 17, 1944, a valiant combined
airborne-ground assault in the Netherlands intended to outflank the north end of the
German line, achieved only partial success as it failed to sieze crossings of the lower
For the next three months, intensive fighting produced only limited gains against
fierce opposition. During this period, the principal Allied offensive effort was
concentrated in the center of the enemy line where some of the most bitter fighting of the
war occurred in the battle to capture the city of Aachen, the first large Germany city to be
captured by the Allies, and penetrate the Siegfried Line. Finally, encircled in mid-October after savage house-to-house fighting, Aachen fell on October 21, 1944. Meanwhile,
the U.S. Ninth Army organized at Brest in Brittany (France), moved into the lines on the right
flank of the U.S. First Army. To the south, the U.S. Third and Seventh Armies continued
to advance slowly, as the U.S. Seventh Army forced the Germans back into the Vosges
On November 4, 1944, the U.S. First Army began the difficult struggle through the dense
woods of the Hurtgen Forest. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Ninth Army was shifted to the
U.S. First Army’s left flank. Then, on 16 November preceded by a massive air
bombardment, the two armies attacked together opening a wide gap in the Siegfried Line.
By December 1, the Roer River line was reached. On the right, the city of Metz was
captured by the U.S. Third Army on November 22, although the last fort defending that
city did not surrender until December 13. The greatest territorial gains, however, came in
the south where the U.S. Seventh Army penetrated the Vosges Mountains to liberate the city of Strasbourg. 0n November 23, French troops on the extreme right flank liberated
The Canadian First Army finally cleared the Schelde estuary of the Germans and the
great port city of Antwerp became available on 28 November to supply the Allied armies.
Suddenly on December 16, 1944, the Allied advance was interrupted when the
Germans launched its final major counteroffensive of the war in the Ardennes, with a
second major assault on New Year’s Eve in Alsace to the south. After furious fighting in
bitterly cold weather these last German onslaughts were halted and the lost ground
regained. The Allies then developed their plan for final victory.
The first step of the plan was to clear the enemy from west of the Rhine. The
subsequent step was to invade Germany itself. During February and March, with the aid
and assistance of fighters and medium bombers, the first step was successfully completed
and heavy losses were inflicted on the Germans. Because of those losses, the subsequent
crossing of the Rhine did not meet with the violent opposition that had been anticipated.
Working together, Allied ground and air forces swept victoriously across Germany,
bringing the war in Europe to a conclusion on May 8, 1945.
The Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery
and Memorial lies 2 miles northwest of
the village of Henri-Chapelle which is on the main highway from Liege, Belgium to
Aachen, Germany (18 miles/29 km from
Liege or 10 miles/16 km from Aachen).
It can be reached by train from Paris
(Gare du Nord 5 ½ hours), from Brussels
(2 hours) and Liege, Belgium, or from
Germany via Aachen, to Welkenraedt,
Belgium, where taxicab service to the cemetery, 4 ½ miles distant, is available. To reach
the cemetery by automobile, follow N-3 from Liege or Aachen to the road fork in Henri-Chapelle, thence northwest on N-18 to the cemetery; or, from Margraten follow Aachen
highway east approximately 1 mile/1.6 km, then turn right on Aubel Road 7.5 miles/12
km to Hagelstein, thence left on N-18 to the cemetery or by AutoRoute E-5, Liege or
Aachen to the Battice exit and then turn right onto N-3 to Henri-Chapelle.
The cemetery is open daily to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm except December 25
and January 1. It is open on host country holidays. When the cemetery is open to the
public, a staff member is on duty in the Visitors’ Building to answer questions and escort
relatives to grave and memorial sites.
The 57 acre cemetery lies on the crest of a ridge affording an excellent view to the east
and west. The memorial is visible from Highway N-3 several miles away. Highway N-18 separates the overlook to the northwest from the rest of the cemetery.
The site was liberated on September 12, 1944, by troops of the U.S. 1st Infantry
Division. A temporary cemetery was established on September 28, 1944, two or three hundred yards to the north of the present site which was selected because of its more
Here rest 7,989 of US military Dead, most of whom gave their lives in
the repulse of the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes or during the advance into,
and cross Germany during the fall and winter of 1944 and the spring of 1945. Others
were lost in air operations over the region. The cemetery and memorial were completed
Henri-Chapelle Military Cemetery - Christmas 2006
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
Architects for the cemetery and memorial were Holabird, Root and Burgee of Chicago,
Illinois. The landscape architect was Franz Lipp of Chicago.
To the west of Highway N-18 where it crosses the reservation is the overlook area with
its flagstaff. From the west end of this area a wide view is afforded over the broad valley
of the Berwinne streamlet (which lies in the sector of advance of the U.S. 1st Infantry
Division) and the ridges beyond. The roadway on the overlook is lined with linden trees.
East of the highway is the memorial; there are parking areas at both the north and
the south ends. Beyond the memorial is the graves area. Located in the south end of the
memorial is the Visitors’ Room and Museum.
The memorial consists of the chapel (north
end) and the combined Visitors’ and
Museum building (south end) connected by
a colonnade of 12 pairs of rectangular
pylons. East of the colonnade is a wide
terrace with ramps leading down to the
graves area. The exterior of the memorial
is of Massangis limestone from the Cote
d’Or region of France. The colonnade,
chapel and museum room are paved with
gray St. Gothard granite from Switzerland.
Cemetery seen from the Colonnade
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
On the 48 faces of the 24 pylons and the 4 faces of the engaged pylons at the ends of the
colonnade are engraved the seals of the wartime 48 States, 3 territories and the District of
Columbia. The obverse of the Great Seal of the United States, in bronze, is set into the
floor at the intersection of the axes. The names and particulars of 450 of the Missing of
the United States Army and Army Air Forces are engraved on the 48 faces of the
columns. The engaged end pylons bear this inscription in English, French and Flemish:
HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY
AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES
These Dead, who gave their lives in United States' service, came from 42 States, the
District of Columbia and England. In the soffit of the colonnade are 13 stars of golden
At the entrance to the chapel, on the east side, is the dedicatory inscription:
IN PROUD REMEMBRANCE
OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF HER SONS
AND IN HUMBLE TRIBUTE TO THEIR SACRIFICES
THIS MEMORIAL HAS BEEN ERECTED BY
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The doors of the chapel are bronze with polished panels.
The interior is rectangular in shape and of somewhat austere design. The altar of
Belgian blue and French vert d’Issorie marble bears the inscription (from St. John X, 28):
I GAVE UNTO THEM ETERNAL LIFE
AND THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH
The wall behind the altar is of Belgian blue marble with white veinings. The south wall
is of French green d’Issorie marble. Hung along the west wall are flags of the Air Force,
Armor, Christian Chapel, Jewish Chapel, Engineers, Field Artillery, Infantry and Navy
Infantry Battalion. Engraved on the same wall beneath the flags is this inscription from
Cardinal Newman’s prayer:
O LORD SUPPORT US ALL THE DAY LONG
UNTIL THE SHADOWS LENGTHEN AND OUR WORK IS DONE
THEN IN THY MERCY GRANT US A SAFE LODGING
AND A HOLY REST AND PEACE AT THE LAST
The pews are of walnut and were fabricated in Holland. The cross and the pews were
intentionally designed to be off-center (with offcenter lighting) thus balancing each other.
THE MUSEUM ROOM
At the opposite (south) end of the colonnade is the combined Museum and Visitors’
Room; the doors, similar to those of the chapel, are of dark bronze with polished panels
inset. Built into the west interior wall, of English Portland Whitbed stone, is a map
portraying the military operations in northwestern Europe from the landing in Normandy
until the end of the war. This map is of Swedish black granite; the geographical and
military data are indicated by means of inlaid mosaic, engraved and colored chases,
anodyzed aluminum, bronze, etc. Amplifying the map are inscriptions in English, French
and Flemish, of which this is the English version:
ON 6 JUNE 1944, PRECEDED BY AIRBORNE UNITS AND COVERED BY NAVAL
AND AIR BOMBARDMENT, UNITED STATES AND BRITISH
COMMONWEALTH FORCES LANDED ON THE COAST OF NORMANDY.
PUSHING SOUTHWARD THEY ESTABLISHED A BEACHHEAD SOME 20 MILES
IN DEPTH. ON 25 JULY, IN THE WAKE OF A PARALYZING AIR
BOMBARDMENT BY THE U.S. EIGHTH AND NINTH AIR FORCES AND THE
ROYAL AIR FORCE, THE U.S. FIRST ARMY BROKE OUT OF THE BEACHHEAD
WEST OF ST. LO. ON 1 AUGUST IT WAS JOINED BY THE U.S. THIRD ARMY
TOGETHER THEY REPULSED A POWERFUL COUNTERATTACK TOWARDS
AVRANCHES. CRUSHED BETWEEN THE AMERICANS ON THE SOUTH AND
WEST AND THE BRITISH ON THE NORTH, AND ATTACKED CONTINUOUSLY
BY THE U.S. AND BRITISH AIR FORCES THE ENEMY RETREATED ACROSS
SUSTAINED BY THE HERCULEAN ACHIEVEMENTS OF ARMY AND
NAVY SUPPLY PERSONNEL, THE ALLIED GROUND AND AIR FORCES
PURSUED VIGOROUSLY. BY MID-SEPTEMBER THE U.S. NINTH ARMY HAD
LIBERATED BREST. THE FIRST ARMY HAD SWEPT THROUGH FRANCE,
BELGIUM, AND LUXEMBOURG AND WAS STANDING ON THE THRESHOLD
OF GERMANY, THE THIRD ARMY HAD REACHED THE MOSELLE AND HAD
JOINED FORCES WITH THE U.S. SEVENTH AND FRENCH FIRST ARMIES
ADVANCING NORTHWARD FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN. ON THE LEFT
FLANK, BRITISH AND CANADIAN TROOPS HAD ENTERED THE
NETHERLANDS. ON 17 SEPTEMBER THE IX TROOP CARRIER COMMAND
AND THE ROYAL AIR FORCE DROPPED THREE AIRBORNE DIVISIONS IN THE
EINDHOVEN-ARNHEM AREA IN A BOLD BUT UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPT TO
SEIZE THE CROSSINGS OF THE LOWER RHINE.
PROGRESS DURING THE NEXT THREE MONTHS WAS SLOW, THE
FIGHTING BITTER AS OPPOSITION STIFFENED. THE OPENING OF THE PORT
OF ANTWERP ON 28 NOVEMBER MATERIALLY EASED THE LOGISTICAL
BURDEN. THE FIRST AND NINTH ARMIES BROKE THROUGH THE SIEGFRIED
LINE AND CAPTURED AACHEN. METZ FELL AS THE THIRD ARMY PUSHED
TO THE SAAR. ON ITS RIGHT, THE SEVENTH ARMY AIDED BY THE FIRST
TACTICAL AIR FORCE DROVE TO THE RHINE AT STRASBOURG, WHILE
FRENCH TROOPS FREED MULHOUSE THEN, IN THE ARDENNES, ON 16
DECEMBER, THE ENEMY LAUNCHED HIS FINAL MAJOR
COUNTEROFFENSIVE. PROMPT TACTICAL COUNTERMEASURES AND THE
SUPERB FIGHTING QUALITIES OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS AND AIRMEN
FINALLY HALTED THIS DRIVE. A CONCURRENT OFFENSIVE LAUNCHED
BETWEEN SAARBRUCKEN AND COLMAR MET THE SAME FATE.
DURING FEBRUARY AND MARCH THE WEST BANK OF THE RHINE WAS
CLEARED IN A SERIES OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL OPERATIONS. ON 7 MARCH
AMERICAN FORCES SEIZED THE ONE REMAINING UNDEMOLISHED BRIDGE
AT REMAGEN. A SURPRISE CROSSING WAS EFFECTED AT OPPENHEIM ON
22 MARCH. THEN, IN THE NEXT TWO DAYS ALLIED TROOPS SPEARHEADED
BY A MASSIVE AIRBORNE ATTACK MADE THEIR MAJOR ASSAULT
CROSSING NEAR WESEL. PUSHING RAPIDLY EASTWARD U.S. FORCES
ENCIRCLED THE ENTIRE RUHR VALLEY IN A GIGANTIC DOUBLE
ENVELOPMENT WITH AIR AND GROUND FORCES OPERATING AS A TEAM,
THE ALLIES SWEPT ACROSS GERMANY TO MEET THE ADVANCING TROOPS
OF THE USSR AT THE ELBE AND FORCE THE COMPLETE SURRENDER OF
THE ENEMY ON 8 MAY 1945, 337 DAYS AFTER THE INITIAL LANDINGS IN
On the south wall is a somewhat smaller map, of materials similar to the other,
entitled “Aachen and the Advance to the Roer”; it illustrates the military operations in
this region. Accompanying this map is an inscribed text, also in three languages, the
English version reading as follows:
ON 12 SEPTEMBER 1944 THE U.S. FIRST ARMY CROSSED THE GERMAN
FRONTIER NEAR AACHEN. HERE THE BROAD, SWEEPING ADVANCE
ACROSS FRANCE AND BELGIUM WAS SLOWED BY THE STRONGLY
FORTIFIED SIEGFRIED LINE. STRUGGLING FORWARD AGAINST
INCREASING RESISTANCE, INFANTRY AND ARMORED FORCES BROKE
THROUGH TO STOLBERG, EAST OF AACHEN. PROGRESS WAS SLOW, THE
FIGHTING OBSTINATE, AS OUR TROOPS FORCED THEIR WAY INTO
HURTGEN FOREST TO SHEVENHUTTE AND BEYOND LAMMERSDORF,
THREATENING THE ROER RIVER DAMS.
ON 2 OCTOBER THE FIRST ARMY LAUNCHED AN ATTACK NORTH OF
AACHEN. AFTER SIX DAYS OF HEAVY FIGHTING, AIDED BY FIGHTERS AND
MEDIUM BOMBERS OF THE NINTH AIR FORCE, OUR GROUND FORCES HAD
PUSHED THROUGH THE SIEGFRIED LINE AND TURNED SOUTHWARD
TOWARDS WURSELEN, UNITS TO THE EAST THEN JOINED THE ASSAULT.
WHEN THE GARRISON IN AACHEN REFUSED A SURRENDER ULTIMATUM,
U.S. FORCES LAUNCHED A MASSIVE AIR AND ARTILLERY BOMBARDMENT
AGAINST THEM; FURIOUS FIGHTING MARKED THE ENEMY’S DETERMINED
EFFORT TO REINFORCE THE AREA. BY 16 OCTOBER THE CITY HAD BEEN
ENCIRCLED; SUCCESSIVE ATTEMPTS TO RELIEVE THE GARRISON WERE
FIRMLY REPULSED. ON 21 OCTOBER AACHEN SURRENDERED, THE FIRST
LARGE GERMAN CITY TO FALL INTO ALLIED HANDS.
THE U.S. NINTH ARMY THEN MOVED INTO POSITION ON THE LEFT OF
THE FIRST ARMY. ON 16 NOVEMBER, FOLLOWING A DEVASTATING
BOMBING BY THE EIGHTH AND NINTH AIR FORCES, OUR ARMIES
LAUNCHED AN OFFENSIVE TOWARDS THE ROER. THE ATTACK ADVANCED
SLOWLY EASTWARD AGAINST DETERMINED RESISTANCE AND FURIOUS
COUNTERATTACKS. THE NATURAL BARRIER OF THE HURTGEN FOREST,
NOW GREATLY STRENGTHENED BY INGENIOUS FORTIFICATIONS,
PRESENTED A SERIOUS DELAYING OBSTACLE.
NOT IN YEARS HAD EUROPEAN WEATHER BEEN SO UNFAVORABLE
FOR MILITARY OPERATIONS BUT BY 15 DECEMBER FIRST ARMY UNITS
HAD REACHED THE ROER FROM DUREN NORTHWARD. ATTACKS
THROUGH THE HURTGEN FOREST WERE STILL IN PROGRESS WHEN, IN THE
ARDENNES, ON 16 DECEMBER, THE ENEMY LOOSED HIS LAST GREAT
COUNTEROFFENSIVE OF THE WAR. THE FIRST ARMY MOVED INSTANTLY
TO MEET THE THREAT, SUSPENDING OFFENSIVE ACTION IN THE HURTGEN
FOREST AREA UNTIL AFTER THE VICTORIOUS CONCLUSION OF THE
ARDENNES CAMPAIGN ON 25 JANUARY 1945.
The maps were designed by Sante Graziani of Worcester, Massachusetts, from
information furnished by the American Battle Monuments Commission. They were
fabricated by Enrico Pandolfini of Pietrasanta, Italy. Under the map of military
operations in Northwestern Europe is a stand of white Carrara marble bearing the two
sets of key maps, “The War Against Germany” and “The War Against Japan”.
THE GRAVES AREA
East of the colonnade a terrace affords a prospect over the burial area. Immediately in
front is the bronze statue of the Archangel bestowing the laurel branch upon the heroic Dead for whom he makes special commendation to the Almighty. This was designed by
Donal Hord of San Diego, California, and cast by Battaglia of Milan, Italy.
The graves area is divided into 8 plots, lettered “A” to “H”; these are separated by the broad axial mall and by longitudinal grass paths. The 7,989 headstones are arranged
in broad sweeping curves upon the gently sloping lawn. These Dead came from 49
States, and from the District of Columbia, Panama and England. Among the graves are
33 instances in which 2 brothers rest side by side, and one instance of 3 brothers; also
there are headstones marking the tombs of 94 Unknowns.
The central mall terminates in a wall-enclosed flag pole plaza, backed by a copse of
oak and spruce trees. On the wall is the inscription:
IN HONORED MEMORY OF THOSE
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY
Wall with the inscription: "IN HONORED MEMORY OF THOSE
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY"
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
The Visitors’ Room is in the south end of the memorial and can be reached either from
the colonnade or from the south parking area and a door at the south end of the memorial.
It contains the superintendent’s office, restroom facilities and a comfortably furnished
area where visitors may rest, obtain information, sign the register and pause to refresh
themselves. Whenever the cemetery is open to the public, a staff member is available to
provide information on specific burial and memorialization locations in any of the
Commission’s cemeteries, accommodations in the vicinity, best means and routes of
travel, local history and other items that may be of interest.
The memorial is set within a framework of Box hedges (Buxus sempervirens), which has
been extended to form a border to the paths which lead to the graves area.
In the lawns at each end of the memorial are groups of weeping willows (Salix
babylonia); flanking the memorial north and south of the grass terrace on which it stands,
are groups of Sperbian Spruce (Picea omorika) and Norway Spruce (Picea excelsa)
mixed with Hawthorns (Crataegus oxyacantha).
Along the paved approach to the memorial are large beds of pink Polyantha roses
and adjoining the colonnade itself are to be found other massifs of white roses.
Within the graves areas Birch (Betula alba and B. nigra), Hornbean (Carpinus
getulus), and YEW (Taxus baccata) have been planted and free growing Box has been
massed in- groups against the surrounding walls. Beyond the wall also are groups of
Rhododendron ponticum and shrubby Chestnut (Aesculus parviflora) and a number
(Picture Courtesy of Rick Demas)
American Battle Monuments Commission (abmc.gov)