Who’s Who and Why?: Examining the Sculptures at Lorraine American Cemetery

Guiding Question:

How can we make the sculptures of Lorraine American Cemetery more representative of the Fallen Heroes resting there?


In this lesson, students will look at five principal sculptures at Lorraine American Cemetery in France. Initial discussions will center on why these sculptures were chosen. After teaching on the purposes and design of Lorraine as well as the fallen heroes buried there, students will have a second discussion that centers on making the sculptures more culturally relevant.


Historical Context

Lorraine American Cemetery was dedicated in 1960 for those who, according to President Dwight D. Eisenhower “gave their lives that France and Western Europe might live in freedom and peace.”  The dead of World War II crossed all lines—political, social, racial, economic, and gender. The outside of the chapel at the cemetery prominently features a sculpture of St. Nabor, the patron saint of the town of Saint-Avold where Lorraine American Cemetery is located. St. Nabor was a martyr who refused to renounce his belief in Christianity. Such a selfless act typifies the fallen heroes of Lorraine American Cemetery—heroes who could have made a choice to not be a part of “the eternal struggle for freedom.”

The heroes buried at Lorraine American Cemetery include five Medal of Honor recipients, 30 sets of brothers, and 11 women, as well as religious and racial minorities. This diverse demographic representation begs the question about why certain sculpture choices were made. There is an irony in the inclusion of the diverse fallen heroes; and yet, no sculpture pieces reflect that diversity.

All American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries feature sculptures and chapels as a way to honor and remember those buried and memorialized within the cemetery. This lesson asks students to examine the sculptures and decide if they represent five men (Private First Class John Akimoto, Private Victor Akimoto, Private Chester Lane, Second Lieutenant Richard Paul Padgett, and Private Moses Vanderhorst) who are buried there.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Hypothesize about why the present four sculptures in the chapel were chosen;
  • Present new choices which update the sculptures and justify those choices; and
  • Discuss how historical factors can influence architectural design.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.4.6-8. Analyze multiple factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
D2.His.5.6-8. Explain how and why perspectives of people have changed over time.
D2.His.6.6-8. Analyze how people’s perspectives influenced what information is available in the historical sources they created.

Lesson Preparation


Activity One: Characteristics of Fallen Heroes (45 minutes)

  • Arrange students into group of four to five students each.
  • After teaching a unit on World War II, the teacher will pose the question: What kinds of traits did these soldiers need to possess, given the obstacles they faced? Responses could include the courage to leave home, the strength needed to complete physical training, the bravery to face combat or disease, etc.
  • Make a list of characteristics on the board and tell students that there are several American overseas cemeteries that honor our fallen heroes.
  • To emphasize both the importance of these traits and the impact of World War II, the teacher will write on the board:  The trait of ___________was critical because it helped win the war. And without that win, we would be _______________________________.
    • Teacher Tip: The teacher will provide the initial example of what could go in both blanks. The responses can range from very simplistic to highly sophisticated.
  • Introduce Lorraine American Cemetery as one of the overseas military cemeteries and look at the sculptures there in connection with the student-generated list about characteristics traits.  The teacher will:
    • Project two images of sculptures to the students;
    • Use the slides to explain who the statues are portraying; and
    • Ask student groups to discuss (and report out) why they think these sculptures were chosen. Students are encouraged to think about how these sculptures reflect what is on their characteristic trait list.
  • Distribute one Lorraine American Cemetery Visitor Brochure to each group. For older or more advanced students, you can choose to use the Lorraine American Cemetery Visitor Booklet.
  • Assign each group to review the Fallen Hero profile and watch the eulogy of one of the following:
  • Ask students to reconsider their previous answers (why these sculptures were chosen) in view of these men. It is important that the teacher tracks how answers may have changed based on this new information.

Activity Two: Reconsidering the Sculptures (45 minutes)

Assessment Materials

  • Distribute one copy of the Culminating Assessment and Assessment Rubric for Presentation to each student.
  • Student groups will have to present five sculptures to the Chair of the Arts Commission (their teacher) in a two to three minute speech that addresses the importance of World War II to our lives today and how their sculpture choices pay due tribute to the fallen heroes in the Lorraine American Cemetery. In their presentation, student groups will have to state specific societal, cultural, and political considerations which influenced their sculpture choices. At this hearing, each group should plan for a student member to be a voice of dissent that raises questions about some (or all) of these choices.
  • The presentations can be assessed using the Assessment Rubric for Presentation.

Methods for Extension

  • Students can research the sculpture and architectural choices of other overseas American military cemeteries and provide justifications for new ones.
  • Students can research and discuss the controversies which surrounded the creation of the Vietnam War Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial.
  • Students can have a debate about what future students might say about the Lorraine American Cemetery sculpture choices in the year 3000. This can facilitate a discussion on how the students believe the world is changing and what forces are responsible for that change.

  • Students can come up with a new sculpture choice that corresponds to the role of the existing ones. For example, St. Nabor was a martyr. Students would select a martyr. Students would choose a monarch for King David, an emperor for Constantine, and a fictional character for King Arthur. Students would still be required to provide justifications.

  • Students can research what is required to be a Medal of Honor recipient. Students can write up whether requirements should be revisited.

  • Students can come up with new (original and existing) quotes for the sculptures.
  • Students can create a storyline about the sculptures in the chapel (i.e., explain what is going on).

  • The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains U.S. military cemeteries overseas. These cemeteries are permanent memorials to the fallen, but it is important that students know the stories of those who rest here. To learn more about the stories of some of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, visit the Understanding Sacrifice Interactive Map.



  • Teacher can allow for groups to choose only one sculpture to replace.
  • Teacher can allow students to create a gallery of visual images with new sculpture choices with captions which justify their choice. This can be displayed in the classroom.
  • Teacher could allow English language learners, working with other students, to provide justifications and/or visual descriptions in two languages.
  • Teacher could provide translations of multimedia resources.
  • Teachers can orally record any written document so students can play back and repeat as needed.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Other Sources