Mullen Pays Tribute to Fallen at Manila Cemetery
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MANILA, Philippines, June 2, 2008 The chrysanthemum wreath the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff placed at the American Cemetery and Memorial represented one generation of U.S. warriors saluting the past.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after laying a memorial wreath in honor of the 17,202 servicemembers killed in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II who buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Republic of the Philippines, June 2, 2008. Mullen is on a eight day tour of Asian Pacific nations. Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The ribbon on the wreath read: “From the Men and Women of America’s Armed Forces in Honor of the Heroes Resting Here.”
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen represented all members of the U.S. armed forces when he placed the wreath at the chapel on the grounds of this immaculately maintained cemetery. The cemetery graphically demonstrates the extent of sacrifices the United States has made in defense of freedom.
Rows upon rows of crosses and Stars of David mark the 17,206 graves. The white marble is set against a backdrop of flowering trees and shrubs amid incredibly green grass.
Two chapel “hemispheres” contain the names of 36,282 servicemembers – including those of Philippine scouts who served with U.S. forces – lost in the fighting between 1941 and 1945 “who rest in unknown graves.”
To Americans and Filipinos alike, this is sacred ground. The shared national sacrifices were mirrored in today’s ceremony. Philippine officers met Mullen and his wife, Deborah, as they arrived at the cemetery. There was a joint American and Philippine color guard. A Philippine band played the national anthems, and a Philippine honor guard fired the rifle salute to the fallen. Finally, two Philippine buglers played a haunting version of “Echo Taps.”
The cemetery is on the grounds of what once was Fort William McKinley. It contains the remains of American servicemembers killed in fighting in the Southwest Pacific. This represents just 40 percent of those killed in action in the theater.
“In all of our travels, my wife and I try to visit as many of the 24 cemeteries we have overseas -- they are such special places of honor and memory -- just to pay our respects to each of the Americans buried here,” the admiral said.
The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains the cemetery and memorial, “and they do an outstanding job,” the chairman noted. Mullen urged all American servicemembers to visit the cemeteries and pay their respects to those who served before.
The cemetery attracts American visitors, and American servicemembers have held commemoration activities there. The crew of the USS Blue Ridge, for example, joined hundreds of Americans and Filipinos on Memorial Day to place the American and Philippine flags on each grave.
The cemetery was on the outskirts of Manila when it was dedicated in 1960. But today, skyscrapers are beginning to surround the 152-acre site. During World War II, this site was a killing ground. Today it is a quiet place that encourages reflection.