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

Berlin Wall Group Photo in London

Michigan State University

Study Abroad Program 2009

Dr. Jeff Charnley

Faculty Program Leader

Ms. Kelly Myers

AMS Graduate Student and Program Assistant

Normandy Military Cemetery


On Campus Phase

11-21 May 2009

Holocaust Memorial Center

Holocaust Memorial Center Site Visit

18 May 2009

Farmington Hills, Michigan

Star of David

MSU Alumni Chapel

MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel

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

Alumni Chapel


MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel

Stained Glass Window

Hayes Pulpit

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.

Sub window

It is likely that this MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel stained glass window is the only one in the world to show a WWII Submarine next to Noah's Ark!




14-21 June 2009

Big Ben Group Photo 09

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




Thames Cruise

Sunday evening students enjoyed a cruise on the Thames River from Westminster to the Tower of London and return.

Churchill's Hq 1

Monday afternoon, the students studied at Churchill 's Underground Headquarters near 10 Downing Street. This was the actual location where Churchill and his War Cabinet ran the British war effort. Connected is the new Churchill Museum.


Churchill's HQ 2

This photo shows the communcations room in Churchill's Headquarters. Students listened to a digital recording of the history of the underground HQ as they toured the interior rooms.


Churchill Museum 1

Students enroute to the Churchill Museum.

Student at Churchill Museum exhibit 1

Students study exhibits at the new Churchill Museum. It is very interactive and state of the art!

Student at Churchill Museum 2

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 Cathedral

Inside St. Paul's is the American Memorial Chapel from 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.

Fireman's Memorial in London

This memorial near St. Paul's is to commemorate the efforts of the London's Firefighters during the World War II Blitz. Their efforts were critical in saving St. Paul's that was in the center of an area that was swept up in a firestorm during the German bombings of the city.

Millenium Bridge

These students are midway across the Millenium Bridge over the Thames River near St. Paul's.

Group at Bridge

They've crossed the Thames River successfully!

Globe Theater

We passed by the reconstructed Globe Theater of William Shakespeare enroute to our tour of the H.M.S. Belfast.

Belfast Bow 1

This is the bow of the battle cruiser, H.M.S. Belfast, that provided critical firepower support for the Normandy invasion on D-Day.


Stern Group on Belfast

These students are on the stern of the Belfast with the Tower Bridge in the background.

On London Bus going to Elephant and Castle

These students are in the back of the London Double Decker Red Bus heading for a day of study at the Imperial War Museum.

Bus to Imperial War Museum

This photo shows the rest of our group!


Imperial War Museum in London Exterior View

This is the Imperial War Museum, one of the great military museums in the world. The 15 inch guns in front are from two British battleships that saw much action in World War II.

Tamzine and Students in London

Inside the museum, these students have examined The Tamzine, the smallest vessel (a 14 ft. sailboat), that ferried Allied troops from the beaches at Dunkirk to safety during the evacuation. For a more complete information about the boat follow this link.

Monty's Tank in North Africa

This is the US tank nicknamed "Monty, that Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery used as his command vehicle when he faced General Erwin Rommel in the North African Campaign. For more info follow this link.

Besides all the large weapons exhibits in the main entry of the Imperial War Museum, students also found interesting and took detailed notes on the special exhibits including: The Blitz Experience, The 1940s House, The Holocaust, The British Home Front and The Children's War, and The Secret War that told of spies and codebreaking. With this much to see and study we ended the day just before closing time!

Sherman TankSpitfire

A US made Sherman Tank above and to the right above is the famous British Spitfire, the fighter that helped Britain win the Battle of Britain in the skies over the UK. Below is a later model of the US P-51 Mustang. Both fighters had versions of the famous Rolls-Royce Merlin Engines.

P-51 Mustang Fighter


Entrance to the British Library

This photo shows our upper level students entering the British Library for a day of research for their AL 400 course. Students had to register as a researcher with the library staff and demonstrate that they had a specific topic and had already done some research in indentifying primary sources at the British Library. All were well prepared for this research and they received their researcher card.

British Library Newton Statue Group Photo

Student group in front of the modern sculptured entitled "Newton" outside the British Library.

Their interesting research topics include: the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler on 20 July 1944, the role of the Danish Resistance in WWII, how ethnic Germans within Yugoslavia were treated toward the end of the war, what the British and American troops did for recreation and relaxation in Britain during the war, British and American poets of World War II, the rationing of silk items for war production and the invention of the new fabrics using nylon and rayon, and finally, Nazi doctors and human research experiments conducted on twins in concentration camps.


Chinatown London

This group had a nice dinner at the Golden Harvest Restaurant in Chinatown in London.


We left London early Sunday morning by motor coach and arrived in Dover before noon. Students found quite a change of pace of daily life between London and Dover!




Dover, UK

21 June

Downtown Dover 09

This group is in Dover city center. Dover Castle is in the background center.

Kelly Myers in Dover

Program Assistant Kelly Myers enjoys the nice day in Dover.

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

White Cliffs 2009 2Students enjoyed the beautiful weather on the channel crossing as both these photos show.

White Cliffs 3


Bus in Calais

Students arrived in the port of Calais, France and board our motorcoach as we head for our 4 hour drive to Normandy.

Normandy Bridge over the Seine

This photo shows our crossing of a new modern bridge over the Seine River near Le Harvre into Normandy.


Normandy, France

22-26 June

Pegasus Bridge

Our first place of study in the Normandy D-Day Invasion Area was at the Orne River Canal Bridge, later called Pegasus Bridge after the Unit symbol of the British 6th Airborne Division that captured the bridge following a glider assault a few minutes after midnight on 6 June 1944 and that proved to be almost perfect as it was planned .



Horsa Glider

Students examine a reconstructed heavy glider called a Horsa Glider of the British. These were used effectively at Pegasus Bridge.

John Howard Statue 1.

These photos show students analyzing a modern statue honoring the commander of the Pegasus Bridge operation,

British Major John Howard

John Howard 2


Hotel Dinner 1

Upon our arrival at our Normandy hotel near Omaha Beach, we had a nice three course group dinner after a long day of travel. You can see the English Channel in the background!


Carentan Group Photo

This group photo shows the students and the local memorial to the 101st Airborne Division's liberation of the key crossroads village of Carentan a few days after the main D-Day assault on 6 June 1944.

Sainte Mere Eglise

Ste. Mere Eglise 1

The US 82nd Airborne Division jumped into Ste. Mere Eglise in the early morning hours of D-Day. The town was close to what was called in the military plan--Utah Beach. Note the parachute and dummy caught on the church steeple. This commemorates the real life incident experienced by Pvt. John Steel who survived the incident and the war.

Stained Glass window

Many of the older stained glass windows were destroyed during the fighting and this newer window installed in the church shows a common theme of church windows, the Madonna and Christ child but this one also shows two paratroopers as liberators of the community!

church interior view

Students studied several other windows in the church as well as the memorial organ dedicated to the memory of locals killed during World War II.

Airborne Museum Exterior

This town is the location of the excellent Airborne Museum and its exhibits focus on the local citizens and the regional efforts at liberation by the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. Note the shape of one of the two main exhibit halls--it's a parachute!


Inside the exhibit hall is a C-47 Aircraft, one of the great Allied "work horses"of the war. It carried paratroopers and supplies, towed gliders and transported wounded.

Waco Glider 1

This student examines a US Waco Glider in a second exhibition building at the Airborne Museum. Much smaller than the British Horsa glider, the Waco carried a smaller number of troops and equipment and the counter measures ordered by Field Marshal Rommel (mainly sharpened logs buried in the Normandy farm fields) destroyed many of these gliders on landings. Airborne units who did not parachute into Normandy, came in by gliders like these. Made of fabric stretched over an light aluminum frame with a plywood floor, many of these gliders were made in Michigan at factories in Bay City and Greenville, Michigan!

Waco 2

This shows the interview view of the Waco glider exhibit.

Film viewing at Museum

At the end of the museum tour, students viewed an excellent interpretive documentary film about the local airborne operations and their role in the D-Day invasion.

Utah Beach Bunker

Students traveled to nearby Utah Beach following their study at the Airborne Museum. They went inside this German bunker after this photo was taken.

Utah Beach 3

This is Utah Beach as it appears at low tide. The distance US troops had to run across under heavy fire was similar to that shown in this photo, but the weather was much worse than this day and the beach had many mines and obstructions in place.

Students on Utah BeachThese two students stand at the base of the Utah Beach dunes. The dunes here are only about 7 meters high and soldiers were able to get over these much easier than the higher ones and the cliffs at Omaha Beach.

Utah Beach Sand Sculpture

Students found this interesting sand sculpture left in memory of the US soldiers and their units that fought on Utah Beach. This will be gone when the tide comes in about 8 PM in the evening!

Utah Beach 00 KM Marker on the Route of Liberty

The French in the 1950s traced the route of the Allied Liberation of Europe with markers like this one placed every kilometer enroute. The is KM 00 marker on Utah Beach. The students will follow this route through France and into Luxembourg and Belgium. The flame depicted on the front of the monument is the representation of the Statue of Liberty with its raised torch, a gift of France to the people of the United States in the 19th Century.

Gold Beach at Arromanches in Normandy

Gold Beach 09


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.


Bocages Country in Normandy

Hedgerows in Normandy Group Photo

Near Graignes in Normandy, students pose for a group photo near the bocages, the French word for "hedgerows." These hedgerows provided cover for both the US Troops and the Germans who used them as defensive positions. It slowed the allied advance considerably until measures were developed to get though the hedgerows more easily. In this instance the hedgerows were so close they sometimes scraped both sides of the motor coach.

Hedgerow 2

This student gives perspective on how high most hedgerows were. Also, they often were 3-4 meters thick at the base. Local farmers put stones and debris from their fields at the base and, over time, planted the hedges that locked everything into place with roots. Cattle were easily confined in the fields without artificial fences.


Graignes Memorial in Normandy

Graignes Memorial Normandy

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 chuch and the town and were later prosecuted for the war crime committed here.

To read more details click on this web link

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.

US 79th Infantry Division Memorial and a Student Connection

La Haye du Puits

This student holds a photo of his paternal grandfather from Michigan who fought in the US 79th Infantry Division during WWII in the Normandy Campaign.

The student began his research with this photograph and identified his unit patch as the 79th that had the Cross of Lorraine on it. This was the symbol of the Free French Forces who fought along side the Allied troops against the Germans and its puppet government at Vichy, France. The unit had received its battle patch for aggressive fighting in Northern France during World War I. The student's grandfather fought with the 79th until early December 1944 when he was severely wounded in the hand but he survived the war.

The group went to this new memorial to the 79th Division at a Norman city called La Haye-du-Puits enroute to our group dinner at Mont St. Michel.

La Haye 2


Patton Memorial 2009

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.

Patton and Friends

General Patton and Friends

Le Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy

Mont St. Michel Group Photo

This amazing medieval fortified French Abbey was the scene of our Group Dinner. Although most programs have this dinner early in order to get acquainted, we have found that delaying this until we are in Normandy allows the students to see one of the more spectacular sights in Europe.


Students enjoy the shops along the narrow streets seen here.


German Guns at Longue Sur Mer

Students toured the site of the German artillery bunkers at Longue-sur-Mer near Omaha and Gold Beaches.

Group at Longue Sur MerWild Poppies in Normandy

This group photo above was taken next to a field of poppies.Students had studied the World War I poem , "In Flanders Fields," by Canadian poet John McCrae. During our on-campus phase in May, we discussed the significance of the poppies and the poem as "living" memorials for veterans of both World War I and II.


flower power 2009

"Flower Power 2009!"


Group Dinner 2009

Students dined at the Croix Blanche Restaurant and enjoyed a five course dinner

that was quite an experience for all! Large puffy omelettes are a specialty for one of the courses.


26-28 June

Paris 2009 Arc de Triomphe

Students enjoyed their weekend in Paris as you can see in this photo!



Paris Louvre 09

These students got up early to avoid the crowds at the Louvre in Paris.



J. Charnley in Paris 09

Someone insisted I put this photo on the website--a postcard blue sky with a Paris icon in the background.


Notre Dame 2009

These students attended and international service at Notre Dame Cathedral.




Notre Dame Paris

Students on the Left Bank of the Seine River in Paris


Paris War Memorial

On the steps near Notre Dame where the students stood in the photo on the left, this World War II memorial lay hidden from most who stand at this spot admiring the view of the cathedral. The caption translates from the French as:

"National Front of the 5th District of Paris under the auspices of the Mayor,

'To the Heroes of the Barricades Killed for the Liberation of Paris August 1944'"

Jewish Quarter in Paris

Students toured the Jewish Quarter in Paris on the Rue des Rosiers

not far from Notre Dame Cathedral.

Shoah Memorial in Paris

Students examine the inscriptions on the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

Jewish School Memorial 09

Students found this memorial on the side of a Jewish trades school in Paris. The French text translates to:

"To the memory of the Director, the Staff, and the Students of This School. Arrested in 1943 and 1944 by the Vichy Police and the Gestapo. Deported and Exterminated at Auschwitz only because they were Jews."

Jewish Bakery

Jewish shops provide some different choices for shoppers in the Paris district.

Luxembourg and Belgium

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

29-30 June


Luxembourg Group Photo 09

Students enjoyed their stay in the Duchy of Luxembourg. In the background is the building (now a bank) that was once the headquarters of General Omar Bradley during the war. General Patton also had his headquarters in the city.




Luxembourg city square

Following dinner in Luxembourg in the Old City Center, these students enjoyed a local jazz concert.


Mardasson Memorial

In nearby Bastogne, Belgium, students studied the Memorial at Mardasson given by the people of Belgium to the United States in honor of the sacrifices of the US soldiers during the Ardennes Offensive.


Mardasson Memorial 2

This student is about to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the memorial. She has found the Michigan name on the memorial. All US states are represented on the 5 pointed star that forms the memorial.


top of memorial in Bastogne

At the top of the Mardasson Memorial, the students are in the point of the star showing the direction of the Bastogne perimeter where Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division fought during the Battle of the Bulge. Their story was told in the Stephen Ambrose book and the Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg HBO production "The Band of Brothers."

1147 KM marker near Bastogne

This group photo shows the final 1147 KM marker outside Bastogne on the Route of Liberty leading all the way from Utah Beach in Normandy. That is 688 miles!




Downtown Bastogne

This photo shows the downtown city center in Bastogne, Belgium. Note the Sherman Tank and the bust of General McAuliffe in the background. When replying to a German ultimatum to surrender the city, General McAuliffe sent them his famous single word reply::


Luxembourg US Cemetery

Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

Many of the US battle deaths in the Battle of the Bulge are buried in this U.S. cemetery in Hamm, near the Luxembourg airport.


Student in Luxembourg Cemetery

This student reads an inscription on a memorial near the top of the cemetery in Luxembourg. Behind her are more than 5,000 graves of U.S. soldiers.

Patton's grave in Luxembourg

These students read the inscription on the grave of General Patton who is buried with his troops in Luxembourg according to his final wishes expressed to his family. General Patton died in Europe in December 1945, after the war, as a result of complications from injuries he received as a result of car accident.

Luxembourg Cemetery Memorial

The central memorial at the Luxembourg Cemetery includes the United States Seal and the inscription:


In proud remebrance

of the achievements of her sons

and in humble tribute

to their sacrifices

this memorial has been erected by

The United States of America


Cemetery director speaks to students

The Superintendent of the Luxembourg Cemetery took time out from his busy schedule to speak to the students. Every US cemetery abroad has an American Superintendent present on site. The cemeteries are maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, an organizatiion founded after World War I. The first head of the Commission was General John J. Pershing.


German Military Cemetery in Luxembourg

Just a kilometer away from the U.S. cemetery in Luxembourg is the German military cemetery at Sandweiler. Most of these soldiers also died in the Battle of the Bulge. There are more than 10,000 buried here and the identity of many is unknown.

PA and student view German grave markerSandweiler 3

Here are additional photos from the German cemetery at Sandweiler.

Rhine River Cruise, Koblenz


Weimar, Germany

1-3 July

Late afternoon Rhine cruise

Students in front of ship they took on their Rhine River cruise from St. Goar to Bacharach. Note the Castle Katz in the background. Yes, the nearby castle is called Maus!


Rhine Cruise group photo

The same castle can be seen in this group photo as we began our cruise on the Rhine River. This portion of the river has many castles of interest as well as vineyards for Gemany's famous white wine.

Loreley Rock and Student

This student has German ancestors and she wanted to show them this photo of her with the famous Rock of the Loreley in the background. This location on the Rhine River is famous in German legends and in poetry and song.

End of cruise photo

As the Rhine Cruise comes to an end, students see the Pfalz, a small castle on an island in the middle of the river. Students enjoyed their time on the cruise as well as a nice German meal at a restaurant where they had a great view of the Loreley and the river.


3 July

Buchenwald memorial

This day we spent at Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Weimar, Germany. The first stop in the camp was at the DDR (formerly the East German Government) memorial with a huge bell tower and an accompanying massive statue showing the liberation of the camp by the prisoners themselves.

For background historical information about Buchenwald, click on this text to follow the web link to resources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C..



Buchenwald 2

Students contemplate the memorial at the foot of the statue looking down the valley into the city of Weimar. By road, the concentration camp is 8 kilometers but from this point directly down to the city the distance is less than 4 kilometers making it more implausible that the citizens of Weimar could not know what was happening in the concentration on the Ettersburg hill above the city.

Below is one of three huge pits used by the Nazis to burn thousands of bodies during March and April 1945 as the Allied forces approached in an attempt to cover up the crimes against humanity that occurred in the camp.

Buchenwald Main Gate

This shows students outside the main gate at Buchenwald. This building called "The Bunker" housed prisoners in small cells and rooms where the SS and Gestapo tortured those imprisoned here. Note the time on the clock--3:15 PM was the time the U.S. forces entered the camp on 11 April 1945. The clock is fixed on that time.

Inside the buchenwald bunker

This is the view from the inside of the entrance building toward one of the guard towers. The fences were electrified to deadly levels during the war .

Inside the Buchenwald Bunker

Students look at cells and memorials inside the main building.


Gate at Buchenwald

This photo shows the main gate in the bunker building leading to the main camp. This phrase roughly translates from the German to:

"To Each His Own". Some concentration camps had this and the majority had the more familar phrase, "Arbeit Macht Frei"--"Work will set you free."


Jewish Memorial

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

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.)  

Little Camp memorial at Buchenwald

Students examine the memorial at "The Little Camp" where most Jews were confined near the end of the war. The conditions were horrible.

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.

Ovens in the Crematorium at Buchenwald

This shows the ovens inside the crematorium at Buchenwald. Students are looking at items left in memoriam by other visitors.

candles at Buchenwald

These candles, made in Israel and purchased in the Jewish quarter in Paris, students lit as their own memorial to those killed in this place.


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

Zoo exhibit at Buchenwald

Students view the "Bear Exhibit" at the Buchenwald Zoo. Because of the huge size of the camp and the large numbers of SS guards and their families who were housed here in permanent housing, the Nazis had a zoo that included both large and small animals. Locals from Weimar were allowed to see the zoo and walk through the landscaped gardens on weekends. Students were shocked as they imagined this scene of German families with children stolling within 30 feet of the concentration camp fence where human beings were treated worse than the zoo animals. The existence of this zoo makes even more outrageous the plausibility that local Weimar citizens did not know what was going on at the camp. The zoo is within 100 feet of the crematorium!







Berlin, Germany

5-9 July










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.




This ends our Study Abroad Program for 2009!

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 15 June 2009. For questions or comments, please email Dr. Jeff Charnley at