American Memorial Chapel Podcast Transcript

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Welcome to the July 22 edition of History Corner. This is your host Jennifer Kinser speaking to you from London. Today I’ll be discussing the American Memorial Chapel and its place in Britain’s history. But first we’ll learn a little about St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the chapel is located.

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The current incarnation of St. Paul’s Cathedral is the fifth structure to occupy the area. In 1666, the previous building was lost in the Great Fire of London. Sir Christopher Wren designed the new cathedral and work was begun in 1675. The cathedral was completed in 1710 and has been the heart of London ever since. Visit St. Paul’s around 1pm and you can hear Great Paul, the largest bell in the British Isles, verify the time.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral remains the heart of London. In 1940, however, the building was threatened once again by what one American reporter dubbed, the second Great Fire of London. The fire was caused by heavy bombing during World War II. When the city was pummeled by explosive and incendiary devices on December 29, 1940, Winston Churchill insisted that the cathedral be protected at all costs. He knew losing St. Paul’s would severely impact the morale of the entire nation.

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Lives were lost to keep the cathedral safe, but at the end of the bombardment, she remained the heart of London. One part of the Cathedral was destroyed; this part was the Jesus Chapel.

During World War II, many American servicemen were sent to the British Isles to defeat a common enemy. For a time tensions ran high, but before too long, the men from both countries discovered what they had in common. One result of this camaraderie was the creation of the American Memorial Chapel at St. Paul’s Cathedral. After the war, British press and radio requested donations from the public to erect the chapel commemorating American soldiers who were based in Britain who had been killed. Small, anonymous donations from the British public began pouring in, totaling around $280,000.

The American Memorial Chapel was not complete until July 4, 1951 when President Eisenhower presented the Roll of Honour. This book lists the names of the 28,000 American soldiers who were lost. Upon Eisenhower’s insistence, the Roll of Honour is the only part of the chapel that was not paid for by the British people.

The book lies open within the chapel, and is turned one page each day.  When the last page has been turned, the process begins again.  In this way, the soldiers are remembered every day.

Thank you for joining me for this edition of History Corner. Today I leave you with a quote from Winston Churchill: “To those who did not return the best memorial is the fellowship of our two countries, which by their valor they created and by their sacrifice they have preserved.”

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Resources:

American Memorial Chapel. (n.d.) Welcome to St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Retrieved from http://www.stpauls.co.uk/Cathedral-History/The-Chapels/American-Memorial-Chapel

How St. Paul's Cathedral survived the Blitz. (2010, December 29). BBC - Homepage. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12016916

A letter from the publisher. (1952, December 15). Time.com. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,820467-1,00.html

Credits:

This podcast features the song "Consort for Brass" by Kevin MacLeod, available under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

This podcast features the sound effect "Marble Church" by club sound, available under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 License.

This podcast also features the sound effect "Air Raid Soundscape" by CGEffex, available under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 License.