We said good-bye to Charlemagne and piled into my friend Dan’s Volvo and headed west out of Aachen to Belgium and the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial. It was Saturday, May 26, 2012 and Memorial Day in Belgium. As American citizens living in Belgium, Dan and Kate are invited every year to attend the Memorial Day services. This year my wife and I were their guests.
The Henri-Chapelle American cemetery is 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Aachen, also 10 miles east of Liege, Belgium and also 10 miles southeast of Maastricht, Netherlands. Our drive from Aachen was less than 20 minutes.
There are about 8,000 members of the American military buried at Henri-Chapelle. Most of them died either during the push eastwards of the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) toward Aachen in September 1944 or in the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to February 1945. At one time there were more than 20,000 people buried here but many bodies were re-interred over the years beginning in 1947 and reburied back in the US.
The people of Belgium show their gratitude to the US for liberating them in 1944 by honoring those who died on Belgian soil during World War II. There are two other cemeteries nearby — one in Bastogne to the south near Luxembourg and one near Maastricht, Netherlands.
Click here for more information on Henri-Chapelle and other American cemeteries in Europe. Click here (the website is a pdf file which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) and here for more information on the First Infantry Division who fought at the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and the Siege of Aachen.
On Sunday we traveled to Nivelles to meet up with another high school classmate, which will be the subject of my next posting.