6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Triumph of the Dead: American WWII Cemeteries, Monuments, and Diplomacy in France

The overseas American war cemeteries are uniquely American sites of memory, as they are the only war graves to include a variety of monumental art and architecture. They also attract an international audience and are the most visited American memorials outside of the United States. Over time, the American war cemeteries have played critical roles in American ambassadorship, from framing messages of sacrifice and militarism, to staging postwar political statements, to underscoring contemporary diplomatic relationships. Comparing the American war cemeteries with those of other nations, Kate Clarke Lemay reveals how American art and design shape remembrance of the war and work to assert American power, specifically in Franco-American relations.

Dr. Kate Clarke Lemay is a historian and curator at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. She is also the director of the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center, and the co-coordinating curator of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. Her book, Triumph of the Dead: American WWII Cemeteries, Monuments and Diplomacy in France received the 2018 Terra Foundation in American Art Publication Award. She has published essays with International Journal of Military History and Historiography, The Journal of War and Culture Studies, the University of North Texas Press and the Marine Corps History Division.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest and the George Washington University History Department for their support.