Article

Cambridge American Cemetery

Cortney Gjesfjeld
Cortney Gjesfjeld

NPS Photo

Abstract

The Cambridge American Cemetery honors the service and sacrifice of more than 8,500 Americans who died in military operations based out of the United Kingdom (U.K.) during World War II. As one of fourteen permanent American World War II military cemeteries built by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) on foreign soil, the Cambridge American Cemetery is the only World War II-era American cemetery in the U.K. Many of those interred at the cemetery were crew members of British based American aircraft who fought in the skies over Europe during the Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign as well as those who lost their lives in training areas of the U.K., in the waters of the Atlantic, and during the invasions of North Africa and France, including Normandy.

The cemetery has a rich history of use and development that began in December 1943 when it was designated as a temporary cemetery. By 1948, the site had been selected as a permanent place of rest for fallen American World War II servicemen and women. A formal plan for improvement was made under the direction of the ABMC and the cemetery was dedicated in 1956. Buildings associated with the cemetery including the memorial chapel were designed by the American architecture firm of Perry, Shaw, Hepburn & Dean of Boston, Massachusetts, while the landscape design was completed by Edward Clark Whiting of the Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts.

The Olmsted firm was involved with the landscape design of 275 cemeteries, rural plots, memorials and monuments throughout their tenure. Many of these projects were completed in the 1920s and were associated with cemeteries and more specifically to individual grave plots. The Olmsted firm designed very few cemeteries as new projects, but rather the firm’s work involved improvements or additions to existing cemeteries and landscapes to accommodate twentieth century needs. The Cambridge American Cemetery, also known as the ‘American Military Cemetery’ in Cambridge is the only international cemetery project that the firm undertook.

Today, the Cambridge American Cemetery remains as an enduring testament to the sacrifices of American forces based in the U.K. during World War II and retains a high level of integrity reflecting the efforts of generations of dedicated professionals who were involved in the planning, design, craftsmanship, and subsequent maintenance of the cemetery. This paper will provide a brief history of the physical development of the cemetery as well as a description of the site’s primary features, including an analysis of the significance and integrity of the cemetery as well as associated preservation activities.

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Cambridge American Cemetery

Presenter Biography

Cortney Cain Gjesfjeld is a Historical Landscape Architect with the National Park Service (NPS). Cortney joined the NPS National Capital Area Office (NCAO) in Washington, D.C. in 2020 where she serves as the NCA Cultural Landscapes Inventory (CLI) Coordinator. Prior to joining the NCAO, she worked as an HLA in the Pacific West Regional Office (PWRO) in Seattle and San Francisco between 2007 and 2018. During her tenure with the PWRO, Cortney was involved with the completion of numerous CLIs as well as various treatment documents. In 2018, Cortney relocated to Cambridge, England where she worked for English Heritage before returning to the NPS.

Part of a series of articles titled Olmsteds: Landscapes and Legacies.

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Last updated: July 22, 2022