History/Archive/Memory: A Historical Geography of the US Naval Memorial in Brest, France

  • Michael Heffernan
Part of the Knowledge and Space book series (KNAS, volume 4)


Memorials, like texts, escape the intentions of those who create them. Designed to recall past events or personalities, memorials are sometimes radically reinterpreted as a consequence of later political or military conflicts, acquiring new layers of meaning as a result and engendering different, often unanticipated memories. The chapter examines this process with reference to a specific, deeply contested lieu de mémoire: the U.S. Naval Memorial in the French city of Brest. This imposing tower has a complex history that reveals both the creative and the destructive impacts of twentieth-century warfare on European urban environments and underlines the uneasy relationship between the United States and its European allies. Originally constructed in the early 1930s to commemorate the achievements of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, the memorial was destroyed during the German occupation in World War II, only to be rebuilt in the late 1950s. Using published official histories, unpublished archival materials in France and the United States, and the oral testimonies of some of the city’s residents, this chapter examines the politics behind the surprisingly varied interpretations of the memorial’s construction, destruction, and reconstruction.


German Occupation American Troop German Army Aerial Bombardment Official Story 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography, University of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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