Wars are costly affairs. It costs money to raise and train and equip militaries. The cost to rebuild societies after the destruction of battle is tremendous. But most costly is the staggering human cost of war. And so as we approach Memorial Day in the United States it’s only fitting that this episode examines how the nation memorializes and honors those who have died in service to their country. A BETTER PEACE welcomes Kate Clarke Lemay to examine the history and significance of military cemeteries around the world. She joins our Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline Whitt to discuss her study of U.S. military cemeteries and her book Triumph of the Dead: American World War Two Cemeteries, Monuments and Diplomacy in France. Their conversation covers the art and architecture of the cemeteries, along with the politics and diplomacy of their locations and creation. Honoring and remembering the war dead speaks to the fabric of a nation’s morality as well as the lengths it will go to in defense of its beliefs.

One of the most moving experiences a person can have is to walk into these American war cemeteries and sites and have that overwhelming vision before them of how many lives were lost during war.

Kate Clarke Lemay is the Acting Senior Historian at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. She holds a dual PhD in art history and American studies from Indiana University, and specializes in the intersections of art and memory with military and diplomatic history.

Jacqueline E. Whitt is an Associate Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Army War College and the Editor-in-Chief of WAR ROOM.

The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, or Department of Defense.

Photo Description: A man dressed as an American, World War I soldier plays the bugle during the 2017 Memorial Day Ceremony at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.

Photo Credit: Chantal Mistral-Bernard

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  1. With great thanks to Professors Lemay and Whitt, my next visit to Section 60 at Arlington will be different and imbued with additional levels of meaning and understanding. As a sidebar, and I suspect beyond the bounds of her reseach as an art historian, it would be interesting to learn if the guest has any thoughts on the kinds of momentos I observe being left graveside, and how in Section 60 the dead seemingly being remembered and honored in different ways, to include battle brothers and sisters in group reflection with “adult beverage” in hand, to a scene etched in my memory of a loved one, lying on a blanket face down over the grave, hugging the marker. Off to secure a copy of Dr. Lemay’s book, which then goes to my Middle Son, in the midst of deciding which PhD history program will be graced by his acceptance.

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