There is a terraced cemetery overlooking Fredericksburg, Virginia. Over 15,000 U.S. personnel are buried there, making it one of the largest cemeteries outside of Arlington in the National Cemetery System. Many of the men on that hill died trying to take it in one of the two Battles of Fredericksburg in 1863. The peaceful place, well-landscaped, belies the violence on that hill during the Civil War – violence which included some of the most famous units engaged on either side. (For much of Fredericksburg’s history, more men were buried on that hill than lived within the city limits.)
There is another well-landscaped and terraced cemetery half a world away. It also sits on a hill overlooking a town, and was the scene of very savage fighting at close quarters – in one place, no further than the width of a tennis court. Many of the roughly 1,400 men buried there died while defending the hill or its immediate environs. Some of the most famous units in the British Army today carry the town’s name as a battle honor – KOHIMA.
The contrasts in both places between the present peace and the former violence is striking. The similarities of how the dead are commemorated, some only yards from where they fell, also evoke similar feelings.
The Kohima Epitaph:
When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today