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James L. Mooney Jr. was, among many other things, a Chicago Police Officer who died while in service to the United States during World War II.  An article written by his grandson, James L. Mooney IV, during his visit to his grandfather’s grave follows.

  “The Glory of Their Deeds…..”

 “Time Will Not Dim the Glory of Their Deeds”, said General of the Armies John Pershing at the 1934 dedication of the St.Mihiel American Cemetery for World War I dead in Thiaucourt, France. Now that the first generation of military World War II orphans has reached their 70 s, it is the privilege of their sons and daughters to fulfill Gen. Pershing’s vow, as their parents have done before them.

Such was the commitment of Jim Mooney, Jr. who recently visited the grave of his grandfather at the Brittany American Cemetery. The cemetery where 4410 honored dead are interred and memorialized is approximately 50 miles from St. Lo and Omaha Beach. Like Jim Mooney’s grandfather, most of those buried in this cemetery lost their lives in the fighting in Normandy and Brittany in 1944.The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) that administers our overseas burial grounds and monuments inters and memorializes our war dead near the ground they paid their supreme sacrifice to liberate.

Jim Mooney’s contact with ABMC began with his Email asking for directions to the cemetery that he and his wife, Sue, planned to visit during their 25th wedding anniversary trip to France. He received a prompt reply from Alan Amerlinckx, the Brittany American Cemetery Assistant Superintendent. The response included a welcome, information on transportation alternatives and accommodations, as well as making arrangements to have flowers at his grandfather’s grave on the day of the visit.

That was just the beginning of ABMC’s services……

Following their 200-mile drive from Paris through the French countryside, the Mooneys were met by Alan Amerlinckx in the Brittany American Cemetery guesthouse where they were cordially welcomed and given an outline of the suggested plan for the day. The plan included a visit to the gravesite and tour of the beautiful cemetery grounds, memorial chapel and monuments.

On arrival at the James L. Mooney grave, wet sand was temporarily applied in the carved characters on the pristine white marble cross for photo contrast. Symbolically, that sand had been brought from Omaha Beach.

Following photographs and while the visitors knelt for graveside reflection and prayers, taps were solemnly played over the chapel tower speakers. It is difficult to describe the mixed emotions of sorrow and pride.

Those moving gestures are representative of the compassion and attention to detail of ABMC associates as they honor our 124,913 war dead interred in their 24 cemeteries and 22 monuments on foreign soil. Commemorated individually at these cemeteries are the names of 94,145 of our service men and women missing in action or lost or buried at sea. On the US mainland ABMC is also responsible for the AEF World War I, Koran War Veterans and World War II memorials in Washington, DC, as well as The East and West Memorials in Manhattan and San Francisco respectively.

The Mooney’s escorted tour of the cemetery began with a visit to the impressive chapel building. One of its features is a museum whose walls are covered with large, inlaid maps and narratives describing the progress of the allied invasion. This on-site history lesson will be of particular interest to future generations.

Next,  a climb up the 96 steps to the chapel tower observation platform overlooking the graceful curving rows of 4327 crosses and 81 Stars of David. The names of 498  Missing In Action, buried where they fell, are inscribed on the commorative wall of the nearby Memorial Plaza. From the chapel tower, a panoramic view of the peaceful French country side and, 15 miles distant, majestic Mont St. Michel.

Of special note during their walk through the burial grounds were the headstones of  two Medal of Honor winners and, with particular poignancy, 97 crosses bearing the inscription

Here Rests
In Honored Glory
A Comrade In Arms
Known Only To God

Representative of the extraordinary guardianship of ABMC, the Brittany American Cemetery and its memorials are unique in their dignified design, beautifully landscaped and meticulously maintained. Alan Amerlinckx , their host, assured the Mooneys that the cemetery would look exactly as it did that day when their daughter and sons and their heirs visit to honor their ancestors who fought and died for their freedom.

Special tribute in each of the ABMC overseas cemeteries is paid during annual Memorial Day ceremonies by US and host country dignitaries and military, as well as grateful local residents. Mr.Amerlinckx praised the personal degree of ongoing gratitude paid by the Normandy and Brittany residents whose homes and farms, as children, had been commandeered by the Germans. As an indication of that gratitude, each of the graves and memorials in the Brittany American Cemetery has been adopted by  a local French family who visit it during the year and place American and French flags on it every Memorial Day. The government of  France, like the other countries in which ABMC has cemeteries, has ceded the burial grounds to the US in perpetuity.

Jim Mooney describes his visit to his grandfather’s grave as “profound and very moving” and pledges that his daughter and sons will continue the tradition of his and his parents’ visits to the Brittany shrine.

While ABMC is appreciated and well known to the relatives of the 124,913 war dead interred and memorialized in its overseas burial grounds and familiar to its millions of annual visitors, this federal agency carries out its sacred trust in relative obscurity. For more information on the American Battle Monuments Commission visit its web site, www.abmc.gov .

James L. Mooney
October, 2009

James L. Mooney, IV at the grave of his grandfather at the Brittany American Cemetery

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