The Cambridge American Cemetery is the only American WWII cemetery in the United Kingdom. It is one of 26 overseas American cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the smallest independent executive agency of the American federal government.

War cemeteries never fail to be sobering places. Built on a sloping 30-acre site, framed by ancient woodland, on land donated by the University of Cambridge, the cemetery contains the remains of 3,811 US personnel. The names of a further 5,127 men and women, whose bodies were never recovered, are inscribed on the Wall of the Missing. They died in the Battle of the Atlantic, in the air campaigns over Europe and in the build-up to D-Day and beyond.

The flagpole at the cemetery is a good point of orientation for the visitor. The Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, dedicated in 1956, lies on Madingley Hill, from which, on a clear day, you can see Ely Cathedral. It was from the intervening flat fenlands, ideal for building a huge network of airfields, that the Allies took the strategic air war to mainland Europe.

From here it is also possible to view the entire site. Fan shaped burial plots radiate like the spokes of a wheel, whilst three reflecting pools, resembling the National Mall in Washington DC, flank the Wall of the Missing. They lead to a memorial building which contains an inter-faith chapel, a stunning mosaic ceiling, windows commemorating every US state, and a large map detailing the Battle of the Atlantic, the North Africa campaign, and the air war fought in the skies over occupied Europe.

The ‘Visitor Center’ houses an exhibition which uses interpretive displays, photographs, film, and interactive kiosks to chronicle the 'friendly invasion' by American personnel over the war years. This facility greatly enhances the visitor experience by telling the individual stories of those commemorated in the cemetery. Literature is available, and staff, who are always on hand to answer questions, can provided guided tours, subject to availability.

The whole local area is steeped in history, being only three miles west of Cambridge city centre. During the Second World War thousands of Americans made their own history while based at airfields on these flatlands, and further afield. Cambridge was a mecca for these young Yanks abroad, many of whom packed out the city’s pubs and left a lasting legacy.

Honoured at Madingley:

  • Col Thomas Hitchcock Jr. (buried A-6-21) A volunteer during the First World War, he was a test pilot for the improved P-51 Mustang. The fighter aircraft came into service in December 1943. Its greater range meant it could provide vital escort protection for vulnerable bombers. Hitchcock died in a crash in England in April 1944.
  • Lt Joseph P Kennedy (Wall of the Missing) was the eldest son of the Kennedy dynasty and was being groomed for the Presidency. He was killed in an accident during a top-secret mission over the Suffolk coast in the summer of 1944. He has no known resting place, and his name is on The Wall of the Missing.
  • Big band leader Glenn Miller’s (Wall of the Missing) music was so important to maintaining wartime morale. With the rank of Major his hangar dances at wartime airbase are the stuff of legend. He also disappeared when his aircraft went off the radar during a flight from England to France in December 1944. Listed as Alton G Miller, he is remembered on The Wall of the Missing.
  • Medal of Honour recipient Lt Col Leon R Vance Jr (Wall of the Missing) was decorated for his role in attacking German installations on the French coast immediately prior to the D-Day Normandy landings in June 1944. Wounded, he survived – but the aircraft repatriating him to the USA disappeared on July 26, without trace.

Open 9am-5pm daily, except December 25 and January 1. Entry free; fully wheelchair accessible; children’s activities available.