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

Michigan State University

Study Abroad Program 2010

Dr. Jeff Charnley

Faculty Program Leader

Ms. Kelly Myers

AMS Graduate Student and Program Assistant



On Campus Phase

17-27 May 2010


Holocaust Memorial Center Site Visit

24 May 2010

Farmington Hills, Michigan




MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel

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




MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel

Stained Glass Window


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.


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!





In 1951, the MSU Chapel originally was dedicated as a memorial to MSU students who died in WWII.

Their names are carved in limestone on the walls near the entrance.

Now it is in honor of all veterans who were MSU students and who died during their service.


Group Flight  on 12 June 2010

We flew from Detroit to London via Paris on Air France






13-20 June 2010


 Students at orientation at the dorm in Reid Hall at Regent’s College in London after we arrived late Sunday afternoon.



Michigan State University Office of Study Abroad has renewed its relationship with Regent’s College this year after many years with the University of London for summer study abroad programs.


The dining facility at the College gives students good value for a variety of meals while they are in London this week. 


Churchill’s Underground Headquarters during WWII

 and the Churchill Museum 


On Monday the students studied at Churchill’s Underground Headquarters under 10 Downing Street.  They listened to a digital audio tour and took notes on the exhibits.  The HQ were just like they were at the end of the war complete with original fixtures and maps on the walls as they were in 1945. 




This photo shows the central communications center with phones used during the war. 



Attached to the underground headquarters is the new Churchill Museum.  The students enjoyed this state of the art and high tech facility as they learned about Great Britain’s  most famous war time prime minister


This interactive Churchill timeline had sound and documents from the war for students to study.



This historic photo shows the St. Paul's Cathedral during the London Blitz in 1940. Photo is from the Churchill Museum and although the church was hit several times, it survived largely intact. The area nearby was totally destroyed in the bombings and the fires that followed. 



This photo shows the group after we toured St. Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday morning.  The students enjoyed seeing the American Memorial Chapel behind the cathedral’s high altar.  Although photography was not permitted inside the church, you can find information about the British memorial to the Americans who died and who were stationed in the UK during WWII by following the web link below: 

American Memorial Chapel at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London 


In the afternoon on Tuesday, the group crossed the Millennium Bridge over the Thames River enroute to their study of the WWII museum ship in the river, the H.M.S. Belfast.

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“Happy Campers! “



In the background of this photo is the reconstructed Globe Theater of William Shakespeare.  Many of the students took the initiative as we walked by the Globe and stopped here to get standing only tickets for a Shakepeare play for only 5 British Pounds—about $7.  They’ll enjoy that experience for a longer time than the ice cream that costs 2 Pounds!


The crew of the H.M.S. Belfast, a British battle cruiser, provided critical fire support for the American sector invasion beaches on D-Day at Utah and Omaha Beaches.  The big 6 inch guns were able to lower enough to take out German pillboxes, bunkers and guns embedded in the hills and cliffs overlooking the beaches.  The ship is maintained in the Thames River as part of the Imperial War Museum.


On the fantail of the ship before their tour, the students stand with the famous Tower Bridge in the background.



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On the H.M.S. Belfast on a nice summer day!


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 Students spent the whole day at the Imperial War Museum.  The museum is one of the great military museums in the world .  Outside are mounted two guns from British battleships from World War II.  Note the Guns and Roses above!

 The acclaimed William Wyler film, Mrs. Miniver, the students viewed during the on campus phase of the program.  Here at the museum they were asked to photograph the most beautiful rose, the Miniver Rose.  Here’s one of those:




Students waited for the “Blitz Experience” that recreates conditions in an air raid shelter in London during the German air attacks in 1940.




During the Battle of Britain in 1940 the Germans used a combination of bombs in their campaign.  When they bombed London they first used high explosive bombs to blow off the tiled roofs and followed up with smaller but more lethal incendiary bombs that created a firestorm when large sections of the city caught fire.  Much of Tudor London with the cross timbered wooden beams and thatching was destroyed in these attacks.


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    In the main exhibit hall students examined large weapons including the V-1 and V-2 rockets in the photo on the left above and a U.S. built Sherman Tank.


This gun is the famous German 88 mm anti-aircraft gun that was one of the most feared and effective weapons of the war.  The Germans adapted it as the main battle gun on tanks and other artillery pieces.  The projectile was high velocity with a high rate of fire and it could be lowered and sighted almost like a rifle! 


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In another major exhibit area, “The Children’s War,” the students found poignant photos and narratives like the one above that showed the effects of the war on British children and the home front in the special exhibit entitled “The 1940s House.”

In addition to these special exhibits, the students studied the Holocaust Exhibit and the Secret War that detailed the experiences of spies, secret agents and code breaking.


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Five students who had completed their IAH requirement conducted original research  on a selected WWII topic at one of the great research libraries in the world, The British Library. They register with the archivists who assist with source selection and they obtain a researcher card for use in the reading rooms.  You can see the main library is modern construction that contrasts with the  ornate Victorian architecture seen in St. Pancras Rail Station in the background.  This is close to King’s Cross station made famous most recently in the Harry Potter books with its Platform 9 and ¾!  Another important connection is that this is area made famous in the works of Charles Dickens!

The students’ research topics include:  US Combat Nurses in the European Theater; A Comparative Analysis of the Hitler Youth with the Scouting Movement; The Kindertransport—Efforts to Rescue Jewish Children in the Nine Months before World War II; Operation Fortitude and the Allied Deception Surrounding D-Day; A Comparison of the Engineering and Performance Differences between Allied and Nazi Fighter Aircraft.


The statue behind the students is “Newton”!



 Trafalgar Square

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Trafalgar Square commemorates the decisive naval victory of Lord Nelson over Napoleon’s French fleet.  The Square was the scene of massive celebrations in London on the occasion of Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945, ending the fighting in Europe during WWII.  It was estimated that more than a million people attended this celebration.

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To see a video of the WWII VE Day celebrations here click on this text!


Whitehall Walk to Westminster

Students walked down Whitehall Street past the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street in the direction of Westminster.

Enroute they stopped to analyze several WWII memorials and statues including that of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.



Thames River Cruise 

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The weather cleared  enough for the students to enjoy a short cruise on the Thames River.






Some students are enrolled in an IAH course that includes more than WWII.

In the background are the White Tower constructed by William the Conqueror of Normandy and the surrounding Tower of London.  We toured this important castle later Friday afternoon.



Dover, UK

20 June


 We left Dover early Monday morning on this P&O Channel Ferry.  The students enjoyed the one and a half hour crossing to France.  Our motor coach met us in Calais for the drive to Normandy. Below are photos of the students and the famous White Cliffs in the background.


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Here the students have arrived in France on the “gang plank” to their next adventure in their study abroad!


Normandy, France

21-24 June


 Group photo of students at Omaha Beach




Students dressed  up for their first group dinner in the program at the historic medieval abbey at Le Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.  It was a postcard blue beautiful day!

[click on this text for all the other Normandy web pages and photos]


Students discover they need some help getting through the Normandy hedgerows, called bocage in French!



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Students studying headstones of US soldiers  and the sculpture, American Youth, at  the US Normandy Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach


25-27 June


Some of these students went to an international mass where the Cardinal of Paris conducted the service at Notre Dame Cathedral.  Others joined us for this photo and for our tour of the Jewish Quarter nearby.


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Near Notre Dame, the students study the Holocaust Memorial in the Jewish Quarter of Paris.  This memorial commemorates those who helped save French Jews from deportation to almost certain death at the Nazi Concentration Camp in Auschwitz , Poland.

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Also in the Jewish Quarter is a memorial on the wall of a former Jewish trade school.  The plaque translated from the French indicates:  “To the memory of the Director, the Personnel and the Students of this School who were arrested in 1943 and 1944 by the Police of Vichy [France] and the Gestapo.  Deported and exterminated at Auschwitz because they were Jews.”




Although this seating for lunch in the Paris Jewish Quarter was less than ideal, the students sampled some excellent local food.  In the background center is one of the several small Jewish synagogues in the district.

Luxembourg and Belgium

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



Students enjoyed their time in the Duchy of Luxembourg.  In the background of this photo is a bank but during WWII it served as headquarters for a time for both Generals Omar Bradley and George S. Patton, Jr.




In this photo taken at the important town of Ettelbruck in Luxembourg the students flash the “V” for victory sign as a complement to the bronze statue of General Patton.  Patton’s troops liberated Luxembourg and the locals accepted him as their own!


Sherman tank in the main city square in Bastogne, Belgium.  The tank commander presently is from Michigan State!


Student and statue of General McAuliffe, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle for Bastogne in the German’s last ditch Ardennes Offensive  of December 1944 and January 1945.  The general is most remembered for his inspiration to the US defenders of Bastogne and for his simple statement in response to a German demand for the surrender of the town and his troops—“Nuts!” 



The students had studied the HBO series “Band of Brothers” during their on-campus phase of the program and here is the memorial to Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division—The Screaming Eagles.  This is a recent memorial  near the small Belgian town of Foy.  During the defense of Bastogne and the liberation of Foy, East Company lost many soldiers.  Those killed are named on the memorial.  They also lost many wounded due to intense German artillery fire that exploded above them in the trees.  In the background is the Bois Jacques from which they launched the attack on the retaking of Foy.  US foxholes can still be found in the woods there.




The students wanted to see a German Tiger tank and here they are in front of a Tiger II or Super Tiger tank, one of only a few remaining in the world.  This one is in the town of La Gleize, Belgium near a fine local WWII museum.  Most destroyed tanks of the Allies and the Germans were simply left in place and after the war locals were able to cut them up with torches and sell the metal for scrap to buy food for their families and to begin the rebuilding of their homes and communities.  

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Students studied at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. General Patton is buried here along with more than 5,000 other US soldiers, most of whom died during the Battle of the Bulge.

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Students and General Patton’s grave in Luxembourg.



Students study an important local memorial in the small crossroads Ardennes village of Lignueville.  On 17 December 1944, the SS murdered in this place 8 US soldiers who had surrendered.

Rhine River Cruise

Koblenz, Germany

1 July

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After leaving Luxembourg, we traveled by motorcoach to Koblenz, Germany up the Moselle River.  Here you see the students on our short cruise on the Rhine River followed by a nice dinner at a local German restaurant at Braubach in the shadow of Marksburg Castle.



Here is the restaurant where we ate!




 Gute essen!


Weimar, Germany

2-3 July


Students in the main market square of Weimar



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Above left are statues of famous German literary figures Goethe and Schiller and above right is a bust of composer Johann Sebastian Bach.  All these men of culture enjoyed their years when they lived in Weimar.

The building behind the Goethe and Schiller monument is where the National Assembly of the Weimar Republic met in legislative sessions from 1919 to 1933.  Hitler hated the Weimar Republic but at the same time he enjoyed the early political support that local citizens gave the Nazi party, even in the 1920s.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) has designated Weimar as a World Heritage site.

The sad irony and local legacy of the 3rd Reich and Nazi Germany is that it is also the location of Buchenwald Concentration Camp, one of the largest camps within Germany and one of the first concentration camps American Forces liberated on 11 April 1945.


3 July


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..

To hear the radio broadcast of CBS War Reporter Edward R. Murrow when he was at Buchenwald a few days after its liberation, click on this weblink.


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These photos show (from left to right above) a bas relief sculpture depicting the daily torture the campmates faced at the hands of the SS camp guards; the large bell tower and bronze statue showing the prisoner uprising before liberation day; and the students looking down on the city of Weimar just a few kilometers away from the camp and the circular memorial below them was one of three huge pits the Nazis used to burn thousands of bodies as the Allied Forces approached the camp.  These memorials were constructed by the DDR government of East Germany showing a size and scope reminiscent of Soviet war memorials for WWII.

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The main gate to the entrance at Buchenwald has the statement, “JEDEM DAS SEINE,  that translates to “To Each His Own”. 

Also above, the photo shows a student touching the modern memorial to the original wooden memorial constructed soon after liberation day.  The metal plate is heated to normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.




Students consider the “Little Camp” Memorial close to where most of the Jewish prisoners were housed in horrible conditions during the last few months of the war.

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.



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.)  




These photos photo show students outside the crematorium. Professor Charnley is holding a memorial candle made in Israel and purchased in Paris in the Jewish Quarter.  The students will light them as a memorial inside this place.




This photo shows the crimes against humanity the Allied soldiers found in Buchenwald in mid-April 1945.


Below, the photo shows the industrial ovens inside the crematorium as they are today.











Students examine a ruin of a guard tower and the old electrified fence 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 strolling 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

4-8 July

Students in Berlin with the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the background.

The destroyed church has remained as a reminder of the destruction of  World War II.  A new and modern architecturally designed church (on both sides of the old church)  has replaced it as a functioning place of worship.


Students are posing in front of the Bundestag, the building of the modern German national legislature and the scene of much fighting in the Battle of Berlin between the Germans and Soviet military forces.


Students analyze a bronze sculpture entitled “Trains to Life and Trains to Death” by sculptor,  Frank Meisler, dedicated in 2009.  It memorializes the tale of the Kindertransport that saved Jewish children prior to the start of WWII as well as the transport of large numbers of Jewish children by trains to the death camps in Poland in the 1940s.

Students are in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  This memorial as well as the apartments in the background are built on the location of the Nazi Reichschancellery from which Hitler ruled Europe during WWII. 

Above is the same memorial with the new U.S. Embassy and the German Bundestag building in the background.



 Berlin Group Dinner at Brauhaus Lemke

We had a nice German buffet dinner in this restaurant at Hackescher Markt area of Berlin. 


We had to move up the date of our group dinner in Berlin due to the World Cup semi-final game between Germany and Spain.  Everyone in the city will be watching the game.  Winner takes on the Netherlands in the finals.

Many students finished their final exams and their journal entries today.

We’re almost home!






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

Webpage last updated on 7 July 2010. For questions or comments, please email Dr. Jeff Charnley at