Questions about Private Memorials and Isolated Graves
We control the design and construction of U.S. military monuments and markers in foreign countries by other U.S. citizens and organizations, both public and private, and encourage the maintenance of such monuments and markers by their sponsors.
For most ABMC purposes, a private memorial is a permanent war monument or marker commemorating the sacrifices of the American armed forces erected by any American person or entity. For purposes of the Memorial Trust Fund Program, it does not include any memorial or marker erected by any agency of the U.S. Government. A private monument generally has some architectural significance (structure, sculpture, window, etc), while a marker is generally a plaque attached to a building or other monument, or a simple object that marks a road, route, boundary, or site.
After World War I and World War II, the next of kin of Americans who were killed overseas were given the choice of what to do with the remains of their loved ones. The remains could be repatriated for burial in a cemetery in the United States, they could be buried in a permanent ABMC cemetery overseas, or they could remain where they lay. While about 61 percent of the remains were returned to the United States and 39 percent were buried in ABMC cemeteries, several hundred families chose not to disturb the remains. These isolated graves can be found in town cemeteries, the war cemeteries of our allies, or even in the fields where they fell throughout Europe.
We have several programs to help maintain private memorials:
- The Private Memorials Trust Fund Program allows a sponsoring organization to set up a trust fund with us and we then maintain the memorial for as long as there are funds available in the trust.
- We can hire a caretaker for a sponsoring organization, using the sponsor’s funds, and supervise the caretaker’s work.
- We can provide technical advice regarding the maintenance of the memorial.
- We maintain a database of private memorials that includes locations, sponsors, local contacts, and maintenance status.
And, as a last resort, we have the authority to destroy private memorials that fall into such disrepair that they become a safety issue or an eyesore.
ABMC receives no funds to maintain private memorials; we can only encourage sponsoring organizations or local towns to maintain them. In many cases private memorials are beautifully maintained. However, if there is no sponsoring organization or if the local town does not take an interest, these monuments can fall into disrepair.
Questions about Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action
Without confirmed information to the contrary, a War Department Review Board established the official date of death of those missing as one year and a day from the date on which the individual was placed in missing status.
The individual branches of the U.S. armed forces provided ABMC with rosters of missing in action, or lost or buried at sea. The data inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing includes the decedent’s full name, rank, branch of service or unit, and state from which the decedent entered military service. Some Tablets of the Missing also includ the date of death.
The Department of Veterans Affairs administers the memorial marker program for those listed as missing in action, or lost or buried at sea. Upon request by a family member, and at no expense to the family, a memorial marker can be placed at any national cemetery, including Arlington National Cemetery, provided space is available. Memorial markers can also be placed at private cemeteries. However, when markers are placed in a private cemetery, the family must pay site and installation costs. Information about the memorial marker program is available from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Attn: Memorial Programs
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420
The best resource for researching American prisoners of war and missing in action is the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office. You can search a variety of databases related to these issues, or you can call (703) 699-1155 or (703) 699-1199.
Yes, the Department of Defense is requesting that family members contact the casualty office for the branch of service in which the decedent was serving at the time of being placed in prisoner of war or missing in action status. The service casualty offices are compiling family member databases for use if remains of missing are located. The military casualty offices can be reached at:
U.S. Navy Casualty Office
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-6210
Questions about the Korean War and Vietnam War
No, all recoverable remains from the Korean and Vietnam Wars were returned to the United States for interment at national or private cemeteries.
The Department of the Army can provide the interment sites of Korean War dead.
U.S. Army Human Resources Command
200 Stovall St.
Alexandria, VA 22332
Yes, the names and other personal data of the Korean War and Vietnam War missing in action, or lost or buried at sea are commemorated individually by name on Tablets of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial co-located with the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (the Punchbowl) in Hawaii.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial honors all members of the U.S. military that served during the period of the Korean War, but the Honor Roll database contains only the names of those who died world-wide during the war.
Send information and photographs to ABMC.
American Battle Monuments Commission
2300 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22201
Those members of the American military killed worldwide during the Korean War.
Questions about the ABMC Database
Our databases contain only the names of those interred or memorialized at ABMC cemeteries and memorials. These databases do not contain the names of war dead returned to the United States for permanent interment at national or private cemeteries.
Send the information you believe to be correct, along with copies of verifying documentation to:
American Battle Monuments Commission
2300 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22201
Information is available from the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration. Additional information may be available from the following organizations:
For casualties of World War I, information may be available from the National Archives:
National Archives at St. Louis
P.O. Box 38757
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002
For casualties of World War II, information may be available from the Department of the Army, U.S. Human Resources Command. This office administers the individual deceased personnel files for all U.S. World War II dead, regardless of the branch of service in which the decedent was serving at the time of death.
Department of the Army
US Army HRC, Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center
Attn: Public Affairs (FOIA)
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue
Fort Knox, KY 40122
- Those interred at our World War I and World War II cemeteries overseas.
- The missing in action from World War I and World War II memorialized on our Tablets of the Missing within the cemeteries and on the three memorials in the United States.
- War dead and veterans of the Mexican War, Civil War and Spanish-American War who are buried at our Corozal American Cemetery and Mexico City National Cemetery.
- The missing in action of the Korean War and Vietnam War memorialized at the Honolulu Memorial.
- All interments at Corozal American Cemetery, including civilians who built and operated the Panama Canal.
Questions about Military Records, Awards, Statistics...
Lists of cemetery interments by country, state and region—including military cemeteries—are available online.
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration holds the records of all discharged military personnel. Veterans and next of kin of deceased veterans can order copies of records online. Inquiries from individuals other than veterans and family members must be submitted in writing to the National Archives and Records Administration.
National Archives and Records Administration
National Personnel Records Center
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132
ABMC does not maintain records relating to discharged veterans of the U.S. armed forces. You might find the information you are seeking by placing an advertisement in veterans’ magazines that have special reunion columns, or by using “People Finders” search engines through the internet.
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) maintains online listings of casualties from various conflicts, sorted alphabetically by state and location. NARA also has listings related to prisoners of war.
The Department of Defense Statistical Information Analysis Division manages information about casualty statistics.
For personnel who served in the U.S. Army or Air Force (including the Army Air Forces), the National Personnel Records Center can verify awards to which a veteran is entitled and forward the request with verification to the appropriate service department for issuance of medals.
Mail your request to:
National Personnel Records Center
Medals Section (NRPMA-M)
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
You should start by identifying the unit with which your relative served. If you already have that information, then you should check for unit histories or look into the official records created by the unit. If you do not know the unit, try to obtain a copy of your relative’s military personnel records to determine that information.
An extensive unit history library is maintained by the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pa. Some unit histories can be obtained through the inter-library loan system. However, many of the unit histories are not available for inter-library loan due to their rarity or condition. You may also wish to investigate out-of-print or used military book dealers.
The U.S. Army Center of Military History also has information regarding Army units.
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, National Personnel Records Center is the official custodian of the records that have been retired by the U.S. Army.
Each branch of the armed forces has a historical center at the following addresses:
For information on all heraldic items, flags, patches, insignia, etc., contact the Institute of Heraldry.
Contact the Office of the Clerk of the Court, U.S. Army Judiciary.
Office of the Clerk of the Court, U.S. Army Judiciary
901 North Stuart Street, Suite 1200
Arlington, VA 22202-1837
Visit the U.S. Army Center of Military History website.
Questions about ABMC History and its Burial Policies
Yes, the remains of American war dead are buried at these cemeteries. The interment of remains of World War I and World War II war dead at permanent overseas American military cemeteries was made by the American Graves Registration Service, quartermaster general of the War Department. When the interment program was completed the cemeteries were turned over to ABMC for maintenance and administration.
No, use of the land was granted in perpetuity by the host country free of charge or taxation.
Except for Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, burial in ABMC cemeteries is limited by the agreements with host countries to members of the U.S. armed forces who died overseas during the wars. U.S. civilians serving with our armed forces and Red Cross workers and entertainers serving the military were treated as members of the armed forces for burial entitlement. The agreement with the Philippine government permitted members of the Philippine Scouts and Philippine Army units that fought with U.S. forces in the Philippines to be interred at Manila American Cemetery.
No, ABMC does not provide veterans’ interment benefits. Unlike the national cemeteries administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, all permanent American military cemeteries on foreign soil are “closed” except for the remains of servicemen and women lost during World War I and World War II that may be found on the battlefields.
The decedent’s full name, rank, date of death, unit, and state of entry into military service. The individual's service number is included on headstones at the World War II cemeteries.
This website contains databases of the names of those interred or memorialized at the overseas American military cemeteries and memorials. The databases can be searched through the “Search ABMC Databases” links in the navigation bar to the left. Inquiries also can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following World War I and World War II, the interment of the remains of war dead was carried out by the American Graves Registration Service, quartermaster general of the War Department. At that time the next of kin, authorized to make the decision regarding their loved one’s interment, was given the option of having the remains returned to the United States for permanent interment at a national or private cemetery, or permanently interred at the overseas American military cemetery in the region where the death occurred.
The interments of World War I and World War II remains at ABMC cemeteries are permanent. It is no longer possible to repatriate the remains of those interred at these American military cemeteries. The program of final disposition of these remains was carried out by the American Graves Registration Service, quartermaster general of the War Department under the provisions of Public Law 389, 66th Congress and Public Law 368, 80th Congress. It entitled the authorized next of kin to select one of the following alternatives:
- Permanent interment in an American military cemetery on foreign soil specifically designed, constructed, and maintained in perpetuity as a memorial to American war dead.
- Repatriation of the remains to U.S. soil for interment in a national cemetery.
- Repatriation of the remains to the individual’s homeland or that of their next of kin for interment in a private cemetery.
A provision of the law terminated authority to make further disposition of remains after December 31, 1951, when the decision of the next of kin became final. The program of final disposition of war dead established the moral and legal obligation of the U.S. government to honor the expressed wishes of the next of kin authorized to make the decision regarding the permanent interment of their loved one’s remains.
War dead listed as missing in action, lost or buried at sea, or non-recoverable or unidentifiable are commemorated individually on Tablets of the Missing at the ABMC cemetery closest to the region where death occurred, and on three memorials in the United States.
Grave and memorialization information for those interred or memorialized at ABMC cemeteries can be found in the World War I and World War II databases available on this website. These Honor Roll databases can be searched by name, unit or state of entry into military service.