WWII Burials in Gettysburg National Cemetery

Color image of headstones with American flags in front in a National Cemetery
Headstones of WWII servicemen buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery

NPS Photo

"That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."
President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863


Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place of 590 soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and other enlisted personnel who died during the Second World War. From the wartime years—when burials occurred for servicemen who died during training accidents—to the post-war years, which saw a massive repatriation of American World War II dead from nearly every corner of the globe, these burials in Gettysburg tell the vast and complex story of American involvement in the Second World War.

In the aftermath of World War II, the United States government embarked upon an effort to repatriate the bodies of its military dead based upon the wishes of their next of kin. Over 270,000 questionnaires were sent to Gold Star families across the United States. Ultimately, over 171,000 families chose to have their loved ones brought home for burial in the United States.

Starting in 1947, at the cost of $545 per serviceman, the U.S. government brought these honored dead home for their final burial. Some families chose to have their loved ones buried in plots in private cemeteries, while others chose national cemeteries such as Gettysburg. National Park Service officials in Gettysburg believed that it was because of Gettysburg’s status as “a national shrine” that so many families chose to have their loved ones buried here.

This video series highlight specific stories of World War II soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who were buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery during and after the Second World War. These individuals served and died in places such as Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, North Africa, Normandy, the Ardennes Forrest, and Okinawa. Their stories remind us of the multiple ways the legacy of World War II can be felt in Gettysburg. Included in these videos are stories of veterans, as well, and the ways they continued to serve after the war.

The connection between these World War II stories and Dwight Eisenhower is significant. Not only did Eisenhower make Gettysburg his retirement home—no doubt strolling past these many graves in the National Cemetery from time to time—but Ike spent much of his post-war life reflecting on the sacrifices so many had made. In his Guildhall Address in London, on June 12, 1945, Eisenhower reflected that he and the Allied powers would not have achieved Victory in Europe at all if not for the sacrifices of so many, sacrifices which were then still on-going in the Pacific Theater. Early in his remarks, Eisenhower noted the following:

“Humility must always be the portion of any man who received acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends. Conceivably a commander may have been professionally superior. He may have given everything of his heart and mind to meet the spiritual and physical needs of his comrades. He may have written a chapter that will glow forever in the pages of military history. Still, even such a man, if he existed, would sadly face the fact that his honors cannot hide in his memories the crosses marking the resting places of the dead. They cannot soothe the anguish of the widow or the orphan whose husband or whose father will not return.”


It is in this spirit that we remember and honor these World War II dead of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Last updated: December 22, 2021

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