The United States and World War II Europe: Memory and Memorials

Michigan State University

Study Abroad Program 2008

Dr. Jeff Charnley, Faculty Program Leader

Ms. Kelly Myers, AMS Graduate Student and Program Assistant


Holocaust Memorial Center Site Visit

19 May 2008

Farmington Hills, Michigan


On-campus Program

14-24 May 2007


[click on these small photos to go to the larger ones!]

alum window

MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel

Stained Glass Window

Alumni Chapel

alumni chapel3

Students listen to the national anthems of the WWII Allies.

Alumni Chapel Altar

Students analyze the memorial inscription on the pulpit in the chapel purchased with funds donated by the family of John P. Hays who died in WWII.

Alumni Chapel Inscription

Memorial inscription over the entrance to the Michigan State University Alumni Memorial Chapel

Guns and Roses

Group Photo at the Imperial War Museum in London

British Naval Guns in the background


16-21June 2008

Big Ben 08

Students have arrived in London with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background


London Classroom

Students in our University of London classroom in Birkbeck College near their dorm.


Miniver Rose

The "Miniver Rose" outside the Imperial War Museum in London

Mary and Roses

Student with more "Mrs. Miniver Roses"


Imperial War Museum wall

Students with a section of the Berlin Wall outside the Imperial War Museum in London

Evacuee and Students

A British evacuee from the Blitz in London shares his story with the students at the Imperial War Museum.


Trafalgar Lions

Students in Trafalgar Square on the Nelson Lions

Nearby on the steps of St. Martin in the Fields Church,CBS Radio Broadcaster Edward R. Morrow transmitted live about the German bombings of London in 1940.


Nelson lions2

More students and Lions!

Churchill Museum Exhibits

Students study exhibits at Winston Churchill's WWII Underground Headquarters before they enter the new Churchill Museum.

Churchill Museum 2

Students listen to a BBC radio broadcast from London during the Blitz and it includes one of Churchill's more powerful speeches. This is part of the WWII Underground Headquarters experience in London.

Spitfire Pilots

British Royal Air Force Spitfire Pilots during the Battle of Britain.

(Photo from the Churchill Museum in London)

"The Few"

St. Paul's

Program Assistant Kelly Myers outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Students are on her right.

Inside St. Paul's is the American Memorial Chapelfrom the British people in honor of the 28,000 American servicemen and women who were stationed in the UK and who died during WWII. Many were in the Army Air Corps. A book with all the names inscribed was given by General Dwight D. Eisenhower in honor of those who died.

Churchill exhibit

Students examine and touch an interactive exhibit at the Churchill Exhibit. To the right, is the result of their work on Churchill's famous speech about the

Battle of Britain pilots.

Churchill Speech

Part of the text of Churchill's speech


White cliffs

Students aboard their P&O Ferry at Dover enroute to Calais, France. The White Cliffs of Dover are in the background.


Dover, UK

22 June


Dover 2

The ferry arrives in Calais, France (21 miles from Dover) in two hours. The Channel was flat calm and the weather was superb! Off to Normandy ! A 5 hour motor coach ride took us to Normandy.

Pegasus Bridge

Our first place of study in the Normandy D-Day Invasion Area was at the Orne River Bridge, later called Pegasus Bridge after the Unit symbol of the British 6th Airborne Division that captured the bridge following a glider assault that proved to be almost perfect as it was planned.

Normandy, France

23-26 June

Horsa Glider

Students photograph a British Horsa Glider used in this operation.


Howard Memorial

Students examine the statue and landing site of British Major John Howard who led the successful bridge assault and capture. This is only about 50 meters from the bridge!

Gold Beach at Arromanches in Normandy

Gold Beach

Students on the cliffs overlooking Gold Beach at Arromanches. British and Free French forces attacked here. In the background are the remnants of the "Mulberry" Harbor constructed by the Allies after the beaches were secure. There were two Mulberry Harbors created, one at Omaha Beach and this one at Gold. The one at Omaha Beach was destroyed by a storm not long after D-Day. The Mulberry was made up of huge concrete barges towed from the UK and Scotland to France and sunk in the shallow water to create a needed harbor where one did not exist before. This harbor remained in operation until the end of the war with critical fuel, ammunition, and food supplies and heavy equipment coming through until war's end.


Our "Home" Base in Normandy--Bayeux


A group of students in Bayeux following their first nice dinner in France at a lovely restaurant in a 400 year old water mill in the center of the city. Bayeux Cathedral is in the background. British forces took Bayeux during the war. It is a good place for the group to stay because it is centrally located in the D-Day invasion area. We took day trips by bus to Utah and Omaha Beaches and inland to Carentan where the U.S. Paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions jumped and fought.

Carentan Memorial to the 101st Airborne


Group photo of students in front of the Carentan memorial to the 101st Airborne Division that liberated this key crossroads town a week after D-Day. Seven roads intersected in this important small city. The Germans had flooded the low lying areas around the town making the roads and bridges even more important to troop movements.


Graignes Memorial in Normandy

Graignes 1

Students at the Graignes Memorial where the German Waffen SS troops murdered more than 20 82nd Airborne wounded troops and their medical staff, the local priests and citizens who were caring for the US wounded troops in the church. The Germans destroyed the church and the town and were later prosecuted for the war crime committed here.

To read more details click on this web link



Students take notes on the inscriptions at the Graignes Memorial. The church was not rebuilt on this location and the U.S. veterans and their families reunited here with their local French protectors when a new memorial plaque was dedicated in 2002. It lists all the American troops and the local citizens killed in Graignes on that horrible day in June 1944.

Graignes Overlook Near the Memorial


Graignes is wonderfully remote from the main battle areas in Normandy near the beaches. Few Americans visit this site. As the photo illustrates above and in the larger linked image, it is a simple crossroads village situated on high ground overlooking fertile farm fields in the lower areas near the rivers and canals of this region. On the tiny curvy road to the top, the hedgerows (called "bocages" in French) brushed both sides of the coach as we moved toward the memorial. Studying some of these less well known but locally important and strategic sites helps the students understand more clearly just what the common soldiers encountered in Normandy.

Students at the Normandy Military Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.


Omaha Beach Group Photo

Group Photo near monuments at Omaha Beach in Normandy

Statue at Normandy Cemetery

"Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves" Statue at Normandy Military Cemetery .

Student studies a memorial left at the foot of the statue by a Texas school group a few minutes before our tour began here.


Patton memorial in Normandy

Students examine a French memorial to General George S. Patton at Avranches in Normandy. It was from this city that Patton and Third Army moved toward Paris in the summer of 1944 ending the campaign in Normandy.

Mont St. Michel

Group Photo of Students at Mont St. Michel in southern Normandy, the site of our 4 course group French dinner at a very special place..

Mont St. Michel

Students and Program Assistant Myers enroute to our dinner on the island that is the site of a walled medieval abbey .


Mont St. Michel

As we left the island following our dinner, this is how the abbey looked to the students at dusk!


Paris Group

Group photo outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Many of the students attended services on Sunday.


27-29 June

Jewish Quarter Memorial

Students analyze a WWII memorial in the Jewish Quarter of Paris.

Paris  Arc de Triomphe

Students enjoying Paris at the Arc de Triomphe,

Napoleon's Greatest War Memorial



Students analyze a newer WWII memorial at the French city of Epernay in the Champagne District.

This three sided obelisk memorialized those who served in the military, those who died in concentration camps, as well as local soldiers killed in combat during WWII. There were many local Jewish citizens who worked in the town and who were deported to concentration camps. Their names are listed on the base of the obelisk.

Happy Camper in Paris

A Happy Camper in Paris!


Epernay Memorial 1

Students view a special memorial within the obelisk--the cremated ashes of an important leader from Epernay who served in the Free French Forces and in the French Resistance and who died just a few years ago.

Luxembourg Group Photo

A group photo in Luxembourg City. The weather has been superb so far! In the background are buildings General Omar Bradley used as his headquarters for a time during the war.

Luxembourg and Belgium

The Battle of the Bulge Area of the Ardennes Offensive, Dec 1944-Jan 1945

30 June-1 July

Lux Dinner

Following a nice dinner at Le Beaujolais restaurant in Luxembourg, these students enjoyed the evening and the free band concert in the main city square.

Sherman in Bastogne

Students and local tourists in the main square in Bastogne, famous during the Battle of the Bulge for the 101st Airborne Division's defense of the city in spite of being surrounded by German forces. This Sherman tank, even though it has been restored and repainted, bears the scars of battle and was destroyed, most likely, by a German 88 mm tank gun.

Gen McAuliffe

General McAuliffe memorial near the tank in Bastogne city center where as the temporary commander of the 101st Airborne, he gave the Germans his famous reply to their ultimatum to surrender--"NUTS!"


In an exact reversal of roles from WWII, these young Americans are bringing home some Belgian chocolates purchased in local shops in Bastogne!

00KM Marker in Bastogne

Group photo of students at the final "Route of Liberty" Kilometer Marker numbered 1147 (712 miles) from the first 00 km marker at Utah Beach in Normandy.


Bastogne Museum

Students went to this museum outside Bastogne that had an interesting interpretive film about the Battle of the Ardennes and various exhibits of weapons, equipment and even things soldiers carried in their pockets during the battle. Many US soldiers had donated personal effects since the 60th anniversary of the battle in 2004 when many returned to the area in unit reunions and memorial ceremonies.


Important memorial near Bastogne given by the Belgian people to the United States in honor of those American soldiers who died liberating their nation from the Nazis. The Mardasson Memorial is in the shape of a star and includes a list of all the states and a summary of the Battle of the Bulge as well as a listing of major units that fought in the battle. Students surveyed the surrounding countryside from the top of this memorial.

flags at Bastogne

View of Bastogne city center from the

Mardasson Memorial looking back toward the town.

Hamm cemetery

Luxembourg American Military Cemetery

Location of the graves of General George Patton and many of his Third Army Soldiers who died during the Battle of the Bulge.

Lux Cemetery and Students

Students note a memorial inscription at the cemetery, words from Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Hamm Cemetery with flags

Panorama of the military cemtery at Hamm, Luxembourg where more than 5,000 U.S. soldiers are buried.

In Spring 2008, one of Professor Charnley's WRA 150 students, Ms. Kayla Newberry, interviewed the VFW Post Commander, Mr. Clarence Ralston of Gaylord,MI for an oral history paper assignment.

In that interview, Mr. Ralston indicated that his brother had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge and was buried in the same cemetery along with Gen. Patton. Prof. Charnley told the student that we would be studying at that cemetery in late June and that we would find his brother's grave there.

In a strange coincidence, one of our Study Abroad students this summer is also from Gaylord and both she and her father knew Mr. Ralston as well!

The photo to the right shows that student by the marker of Sgt. Elmer Ralston.

Elmer Ralston's grave

Student Elizabeth Kurkowski of Gaylord at the headstone of Sgt. Elmer Ralston.

The marker is located in the cemetery at:

Plot E Row 9 Grave 70

E. Ralston Marker

Marker of Elmer C. Raltson, Sergeant, 54th Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored Divison , Killed in Action 23 December 1944 and Awarded the Purple Heart Medal , from Gaylord, Michigan .

Patton's Grave

Student reads the inscription on the marker of General George S. Patton in Luxembourg.

Rhine River Cruise, Koblenz


Weimar, Germany

2-4 July


Rhine Cruise view

Rhine cruise dancing

Students enjoyed the German dinner and dancing on the Rhine River evening cruise. Music was provided by a German American Band from Texas that had played for about 20 years at Oktoberfest in Frankenmuth, Michigan! What a country!

Rhine cruise food

Students enjoying a dinner of Bratwurst and Wiener Schnitzel on the Rhine River Cruise.

Soviet styled memorial tower and statue at Buchenwald concentration camp about Weimar, Germany. The statue memorializes the inmate uprising taking over the camp just before the U.S. forces arrived here on 11 April 1944.

DDR memorial


Buchenwald entrance

Photo shows the main gate at Buchenwald. The time on the clock always shows 3:15 PM, the time of the arrival of U.S. forces and liberation. Called "The Bunker", in this building to the left are cells where the local Gestapo and the SS tortured prisoners.

Students touch the "Memorial to the Memorial", a modern metal memorial heated to 98.6 degrees temperature, body temperature, to symbolize a living memorial to the original old wooden memorial at this location camp internees built of local materials celebrating their liberation. The letters, "K.L.B" are the German letters for the words "Concentration Camp Buchenwald". This was the first large camp U.S. forces liberated during World War II.

Buchenwald Memorial to Memorial

Jewish Memorial at Buchenwald

Students write down the inscription at the Jewish Memorial at Buchewald.

Translated from Hebrew, it reads in English:

"So that the generation to come might know, the children, yet to be born, that they too may rise and declare to their children." (Psalm 78:6.)  

To read the memorial plaque in the "Little Camp" where Elie Wiesel and other Jews were imprisoned in dreadful conditions,click on this text to the photo link of the memorial.

Buchenwald post and cart

Implements of public punishment and torture at Buchenwald. The SS guards strung up prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs from the hooks on this tree trunk or forced them to pull this heavy steel cart loaded with rocks up and down the rough roads of the camp in full view of the other prisoners as a means of terror enforcing submission.

bear exhibit

Students look at the "Bear Exhibit" in the Zoo at Buchenwald. The zoo was where the SS guards and their families spent time in a park provided for them at Buchenwald. The shocking thing the students discovered was that this exhibit was located about 30 feet from the main fence at the concentration camp and about 100 feet from the crematorium! The whole camp was more than 5,000 acres in size.



This is the Crematorium at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The students were horrified by what they saw here.

candles in crematorium

Inside near the ovens, we lit six candles of remembrance (made in Israel) for all those murdered by the Nazis in this place. The proprietor of a grocery store in Paris in the Jewish Quarter gave us the candles when she heard what we were studying and when she found out that we would be going toBuchenwald.


The seat if the current German legislature, the Bundestag, was the site of fierce fighting between the Germans and the Soviet soldiers in the final battle for Berlin during World War II.

Berlin, Germany

5-10 July

Soviet War Memorial in Berlin

The students have just left the Soviet WWII memorial in Berlin. Thousands of Soviet soldiers died during the pitched battle for Berlin. In front of this memorial near the street are the first two Russian T34 tanks that entered Berlin.

km church

Taken on one of Berlin's busiest shopping streets, this photo shows the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a significant reminder of the destruction in Berlin from World War II.

To the right are some photos of students and their food choices in Berlin! They liked the prices here when compared to Paris and London where food was much more expensive..

Berlin bratBerlin food 2

Berlin food 3Berlinfood 4





Wannsee Bus

We took the S-Bahn outside of Berlin toward Potsdam to the Wannsee. We had to take a local bus to the Conference house where we had a self-guided tour of the exhibits there.

Wannsee House exterior

House of the Wannsee Conference where on 20 January 1942 Nazis like Reinhard Heydrich and Adolph Eichmann met with other officials to implement the mass killings of the Jews they called,"The Final Solution." Our students had studied what happend here during the on-campus phase of the program when they analyzed the HBO film, Conspiracy, and read a photocopy of the one surviving secret copy of the conference protocols.

Wannsee Protocol

Students study a copy of the Wannsee Protocol.

The exhibits translated the original German texts into various languages including English.




This ends our Study Abroad Program for 2008!

Thanks for your interest and support

for our work!


All photos and student writings are used with the permission of the students.

Webpage last updated on 9 July 2008. For questions or comments, please email Dr. Jeff Charnley at