Lynn Honors Australia’s War Dead
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 16, 2010 Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III concluded his visit to Australia today by paying tribute to Australian servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III and wife, Mary Murphy, tour the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 16, 2010. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Lynn attended the daily closing ceremony at the Australian War Memorial here. He and his wife, Mary, then placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.
The ceremony was dignified and sad and is the way Australians close the memorial at 5 p.m. each day. A lone bagpiper marched slowly out playing the Scottish lament, “Flowers of the Forest.” The piper’s song signifies to servicemembers that “the duty day is over and they can now rest in peace.”
“The whole ceremony was very moving and a fitting tribute to the sacrifice Australians have made,” Lynn said during an interview. “Australia has fought alongside us in every conflict from World War I to Afghanistan. I thought it was important to recognize the sacrifices they’ve made as part of that partnership.”
The war memorial was built to honor the dead of World War I. Designed in the 1920s, construction of the memorial was slowed by the Great Depression. It was dedicated on November 11, 1941.
“Of course, by then we were two years into World War II,” said Gerard Pratt, a memorial official. The memorial is co-located with the Australian War Museum.
The memorial features an open area with a rectangular, reflecting pool at its center. The bottom of the pool is layered with coins that people have thrown in. On either side of the pool are steps leading up to covered hallways. Lining those walls are bronze tablets featuring the names of fallen servicemembers. On one side of the memorial are inscribed the dates “1914-1918” and 60,000 names are listed.
“It was an incredible sacrifice for a nation of at the time about 4.5 million people,” Gerard said of Australia’s military war dead of World War I.
On the other side of the courtyard is another hall featuring the names of Australia’s war dead from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. All names are presented alphabetically by unit. There are no ranks or awards.
“The number of the names on those walls and the sacrifices Australians have made is quite staggering,” Lynn said.
Alongside the thousands of names are small paper poppies put there by people remembering departed loved ones. Poppies symbolize World War I sacrifice and paper poppies have been a way to pay tribute since the publication of the poem, “In Flanders Fields” in 1915.
In all, the names of 102,000 Australian men and women are listed at the memorial.
At the end of the memorial’s courtyard is a chapel housing the Unknown. The Australian government brought the Unknown to the site from a World War I battle cemetery in 1993. The soldier represents the sacrifices of all Australian servicemembers. Lynn placed a wreath at the tomb and then walked back toward the entrance looking at the names as he went along.
At the end of the row, there is a new plaque and on it are the dead from more recent operations in Somalia, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. Two Australian servicemembers were killed in Iraq, and 11 have died in Afghanistan.