A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, May 28, 2012

For Memorial Day: the US Military Cemetery, Carthage, Tunisia

US Battle Monuments Commission Photo
Twenty years ago or so, an airline check-in agent in Washington, noting my ticket was to Frankfurt and Tunis, asked me if Tunis was in Germany. Many hours later, taxiing into town from Tunis-Carthage airport, I saw the sign for the turnoff to the US Military Cemetery at Carthage, where 2,841 American military personnel lie fallen, victims of a somewhat forgotten campaign, buried near a city which at least one airline employee had not heard of.  The juxtaposition of events stuck in my mind. Of the 24 officially-maintained US Military Cemeteries overseas, there is only one in the Middle East and North Africa, the one at Carthage, Tunisia, for the dead of the North Africa campaign. As the American Battle Monuments Commission website notes:
At the 27-acre North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Tunisia rest 2,841 of our military dead, their headstones set in straight lines subdivided into nine rectangular plots by wide paths, with decorative pools at their intersections. Along the southeast edge of the burial area, bordering the tree-lined terrace leading to the memorial is the Wall of the Missing. On this wall 3,724 names are engraved. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. Most honored here lost their lives in World War II in military activities ranging from North Africa to the Persian Gulf.
Though it is the only US military cemetery in the Middle East, the North Africa campaign of World War II was sadly neither our first war in the region ("...to the shores of Tripoli") nor our last, obviously. But on this day when Americans venerate their fallen of all wars, it seems an appropriate, if little-known, place to remember. Perhaps we do not remember the fighting in Tunisia because our first battle there, at Kasserine, was a disaster. Aside from the 1970 film Patton, Tunisia is little discussed.

 Here is the video from the American Battle Monuments Commission:

Added: Erik Churchill's Kefteji blog visits the Memorial Day ceremonies. 

For Memorial Day, for the fallen of all wars, Taps. Memorial Day began as a US holiday to remember what is still our bloodiest and most uncivil war, the Civil War, so I've always felt it appropriate to remember the fallen of both sides in war.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting about the commemoration today. It was a beautiful ceremony. I have written about the interesting nature of Tunisia's cemetery, as part of colonial France at the time, and I have posted some pictures here: http://kefteji.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/memorial-day-in-tunisia-bittersweet-patriotism/

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Thanks. I've added a link to the post.