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NEWS | May 27, 2019

U.S. Naval Leaders in Europe Commemorate Memorial Day

By Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Drew Verbis, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples and three additional admirals pay fitting tributes to the legacy of fallen service members during Memorial Day ceremonies in Europe, May 24-27, 2019.

Throughout the course of U.S. History, soldiers, sailors, airmen, marine and coast guardsman have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation and allies and partners. Memorial Day serves as a special day of commemoration to honor their selfless service.

Foggo spoke from the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial where the University of Cambridge donated over 30 acres of land to honor the fallen in 1956. The cemetery contains 3,811 remains and 5,127 names are recorded on the Walls of the Missing.  

“Their sacrifice is on display,” said Foggo. “Their steadfast commitment defeated tyranny and preserved freedom.”

Next week will mark seventy five years since Operation Overlord, the 1944 Normandy landings, was the largest seaborne assault in human history. During the lengthy operation, over 6,000 Allied ships carried 1 million soldiers across the English Channel to a 50-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in occupied France.

“Incredible,” said Foggo. “It is sometimes hard for us to imagine the scale and breadth of World War II. It was the most global war in history that directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. It was also the deadliest.”

Foggo stated the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created out of the WWII experience with a common goal to keep Europe whole, free and at peace.

“Together we can build the peaceful, connected, and prosperous world that these men and women fought for. The world they died for,” Foggo said.

Other U.S. Naval leaders commemorated Memorial Day throughout Europe.

Rear Adm. Thomas Ishee, deputy commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, commander, Submarine Group 8, provided remarks from the Netherlands American Cemetery which contains 8,291 remains and 1,722 names of missing in action. The site is one of significant historical background dating to the era of Roman soldiers. The cemetery's tall memorial tower can be seen before reaching the site, which covers 65.5 acres.

During the ceremony, Ishee talked about the sacrifice and heroism between the allied service members during the liberation of the Netherlands. 

“Here on these hallowed grounds we stand amongst the memories of heroes and the crossroads of history,” said Ishee. “Victory came at extremely high cost. Young men and women shed their blood for the ideal of freedom for a people they did not even know. United in a common cause and bound together by common values, men and women of all backgrounds, races and faiths; many of them descendants from European immigrants who came to America seeking freedom, continued to serve, fight and protect just as we do today. Standing shoulder to shoulder across the globe to strengthen our alliances.”

Rear Adm. Tim Kott, assistant chief of staff, operations, Allied Joint Forces Command, hosted commemorations at the World War II Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial site. Here, headstones of 7,858 of American military war dead are arranged in gentle arcs beneath rows of Roman pines. The majority of these individuals died in the liberation of Sicily. On the white marble walls of the chapel are engraved the names of 3,095 of the missing.

“For America and her Allies during WWII, the 1943 battle for Italy was particularly bloody and brutal,” said Kott. “More than any other holiday I believe Memorial Day defines us as a nation. On this day we bow our heads and pay tribute to the service members who put others before self.”

Somme American Cemetery hosted Rear Adm. Nancy Lacore, vice commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. The 14.3-acre cemetery contains the graves of 1,844 WWI military burials. A massive bronze door surmounted by an American eagle leads into the chapel, whose outer walls contain sculptured pieces of military equipment and the names of 333 missing soldiers.

By the end of the 19th century, the Navy adopted regulations for proper observance of Decoration Day to be held on May 30. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day.

U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.