I recently learned some things from a friend that surprised me. The things my friend told me were actually the exact opposite of what I had been told by others.
I had heard for years that several Cemeteries for American Veterans in the Philippines had been abandoned by the US Government and had no funding other than what could be raised by private individuals. I always found this quite sad.
Recently a friend that lives here in Davao had gone to visit the “Manila American Cemetery”. He told me how nice it was, well kept and such. I mentioned to him that it surprised me to hear that it was so nice because I had heard that these cemeteries had been abandoned by the US Government. My friend told me that I was wrong and that the Manila American Cemetery was actually fully funded, maintained and overseen by a US Government Agency, the American Battleground Monuments Commission.
My friend had some brochures that he picked up there, which he gave to me, and he also referred me to the Commission’s website.
I learned on the website that the Commission operates three facilities in the Philippines. Two cemeteries and one Memorial site.
Cabanatuan American Memorial
The Cabanatuan American Memorial was commissioned in 1982. Unfortunately, the Memorial is currently closed for renovations. I do not know for sure, but I suspect that renovations are being made because President Trump has a visit to the Philippines scheduled. Due to his coming visit here, I know that other American facilities are being renovated as well.
According to the website:
The Cabanatuan American Memorial was erected by the survivors of the Bataan Death March and the prisoner of war camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines during World War II. It is located at the site of the camp and honors those Americans and Filipinos who died during their internment. ABMC, recognizing the significance of this memorial, accepted responsibility for its operation and maintenance in 1989.
Clark Veterans Cemetery
The Clark Veterans Cemetery has roots going back all the way to 1900 at the end of the Spanish American War. Currently, more than 8,000 American Veterans are interned at this Cemetery. The cemetery is open to the public daily from 9 AM until 5 PM, except on December 25 and January 1.
According to the website:
In January 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act (Public Law 112-260) directing ABMC to operate and maintain Clark Veterans Cemetery following an agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States. That agreement was signed in December of 2013 making Clark ABMC’s 25th Cemetery.
While sources differ as to the earliest burial, interments date at least to the Philippine-American War (1899-1902). During that conflict and after, the U.S. operated a series of military installations in the Philippines with post cemeteries. The construction of Manila American Cemetery in 1948 led to disinterment and consolidation of the non-World War II dead from four post cemeteries onto Clark Air Force Base. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 led the U.S. Air Force to evacuate and Clark AFB was formally transferred to the Philippines in November 1991. The cemetery continued to be open for burials after the transfer, but it had been damaged in the eruption and fell into disrepair. Between 1994 and 2013, the Philippine Government allowed members of the VFW Post 2485 to operate and maintain the cemetery.
Manila American Cemetery
The Manila American Cemetery has been in operation since 1960. More than 17,000 American vets are interned at this facility, and it also stands as a memorial for more than 36,000 American vets who are classified as Missing in Action. This facility is open for public visitation daily between 9 AM and 5 PM, except for December 25 and January 1. During the hours that the Cemetery is open for visitation, there are staff members at each building in the facility. These people can answer questions or assist in finding the graves.
According to the website:
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines occupies 152 acres on a prominent plateau, visible at a distance from the east, south and west. It contains the largest number of graves of our military dead of World War II, a total of 17,191, most of whom lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines. The headstones are aligned in 11 plots forming a generally circular pattern, set among masses of a wide variety of tropical trees and shrubbery.
The chapel, a white masonry building enriched with sculpture and mosaic, stands near the center of the cemetery. In front of it on a wide terrace are two large hemicycles. Twenty-five mosaic maps recall the achievements of the American armed forces in the Pacific, China, India and Burma. On rectangular Trani limestone piers within the hemicycles, are inscribed the Tablets of the Missing containing 36,286 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. Carved in the floors are the seals of the American states and its territories. From the memorial and other points within the cemetery there are impressive views over the lowlands to Laguna de Bay and towards the distant mountains.
This is the facility that my friend visited, and he told me it is beautiful and well worth visiting.
I was very happy to learn that these facilities are being taken care of by the US Government. Our veterans deserve that, and it would be shameful to let such facilities go without proper maintenance.