Should soldiers lie where they fell? That’s the way it used to be. Bringing the dead home from foreign battlefields was expensive and cumbersome.
After World War I, the United States gave families the choice on their loved ones’ disposition. Former President Teddy Roosevelt was adamant. His son Quentin should “continue to lie on the spot where he fell in battle.”
New York Times writer Owen Wister opined, “Out of these holes were being dragged—what? Boys whom their mothers would recognize? No! Thing without shape, at which mothers would collapse.”
Grieving mothers didn’t agree. One wrote to Secretary of State Robert Lansing, “You took my son from me and sent him to war…Now you must as a duty of yours bring my son back to me.”
Families of 46,000 WWI dead—nearly 60%—opted for their boys to come home. After World War II, only one quarter of the families brought the dead home. With American-owned cemeteries that are works of art, many prefer to leave their loved ones among comrades-in-arms.
Where would you want a loved one to be buried?
|Luxembourg American Cemetery|
Burying the dead where they fell—be it a ditch, someone’s yard, a burned-out tank, the middle of a street—is impractical. Quentin Roosevelt was originally buried in the French village where his plane crashed. Now he lies beside his brother Ted Jr. in Normandy American Cemetery. Surely his father would approve.