THE American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) officially opened Saturday, October 19, a new interpretive visitor center at the Manila American Cemetery (MNAC).
The Manila Visitor Center is the first in the Pacific and tells the story of the war for the Pacific during World War II.
The dedication also marked the 75th anniversary of the return of General Douglas McArthur to the Philippines and honored American and Filipino sacrifices during the fight for the Pacific in World War II (WWII).
The ceremony attendees included American and Filipino Veterans of the Pacific campaign members, next of kin family members of fallen soldiers buried at MNAC or memorialized on the cemetery’s Tablets of the Missing wall, and dignitaries and military members.
The ceremony featured remarks from Chargé d’Affaires John C. Law, ABMC Commissioner Robert Wefald, director of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Mr. Kelly K. McKeague, and Superintendent of the Pacific Larry Adkison.
“The new visitor center is a wonderful reflection of the partnership between the American and Filipino people,” said John Wessels, ABMC chief operating officer. “This center will tell the story of [the war for the Pacific] to generations of Filipino and Americans to come. One thing I’d like to emphasize is that Manila American Cemetery and the Visitor Center are free and open to the public.”
MNAC is the largest of the 15 WWII cemeteries that ABMC manages and maintains on foreign soil, with more than 17,000 graves of fallen American and Filipino service members, including and more than 36,000 names of the missing honored on the walls of the memorial.
“I think we are very fortunate from the point of view of the United States that we have an extraordinary friendship with the Philippine government and the Filipino people,” said Chargé d’ Affaires John Law.
“I think what’s extraordinary about this cemetery and this center is that it visually displays the depths of that relationship and its history. The more that Americans and the more Filipinos better understand are shared history, I think our shared future is more and more bright,” he added.
The new visitor center is 11,000 square feet and includes an exhibit gallery and a state-of-the-art theatre that shows a 17-minute film that highlights the contributions and sacrifices of the US and the Philippines in the fight for the Pacific during WWII. The site MVC provides informative and emotional context to why and who the Manila American Cemetery commemorates, including 29 Medal of Honor recipients who fought to free the world and ensure tyranny did not find footing on American shores.
“I am very proud, very honored that my grandfather is being remembered here and that his story and the story of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice freely will be told to American and Filipino visitors,” said Vicente Lim III, whose grandfather was the first Filipino to graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point and prior to the establishment of the Philippine Army, served as an officer in the Philippine Scouts.
“It is important to know your history, to know what my grandfather and all who are honored here sacrificed for; it is the foundation of our values,” Lim added.
Brigadier General Lim, who would become a leader in the Filipino resistance, was captured and subsequently executed, and today is honored on the Tablet of the Missing at MNAC and in the new visitor center.
During his remarks at the dedication, ABMC Commissioner Wefald summarized the ultimate goal of the visitor center, which is to ensure the promise of General of the Armies Pershing made upon establishing ABMC -- “that time shall not dim the glory of their deeds -- because the very character of a nation can be measured by how it cares for and remembers its war dead.” (PR)