"I have nothing to say until we have done something; I hope when we go you will be glad that we came."
General Eaker, Commander of the First Contingent of American Troops to Land in Britain, January, 1942
When World War II was winding down, the US Army Air Force started erecting small memorial tablets for those whom had performed the "Ultimate Sacrifice" on their airfields. In 1945, they asked Lord Trenchard (Marshal of the RAF and Chairman of the Anglo American Commission) to help them find a site for a central memorial. His resposne was immediate: "It is not for you but for us to erect that memorial." The Dean of St. Paul's, the Very Revd. Walter Matthews, suggested the cathedral as the location of a memorial chapel and his ideas was adopted. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was so moved by this offer that he offered all possible help. The British representatives declined and made it very clear that the chapel was to be tribute from the people of their country to the American brothers-in-arms. Eisenhower asked to be allowed to cooperate by preparing and presenting a Roll of Honour of those whose memory the chapel was inteded to memorialize. They acceped. A site for the chapel was was chosen to be at the extreme east end of the Cathedral. On October 1940 a bomb had exploded in the roof there, destroying the Victorian high alttar and damaging Bodley's neo-Gothic reredos of 1888.
This damage to the sanctuary coupled with a concept of building a new chapel behind it encouraged the Dean and Chapter to redevlop the whole area.. Sir Christopher Wren described in his Paarentalia, that his original concept was to have been a marble altar surmounted by a carved oak caopy with 12 oak pillars; the whole to rest on white marble pedestals.
As a result, the Memorial Chapel gained in both beauty and import;ance. The Roll of Honour standds below the high altar and beneath its canopy. The chapel in Return provides the high altar with a perfect background. The central window of the chapel is the main stained-glass window of the cathedral, visible from the west door.
The chapel was dedicated in November 1958 in a ceremony attended by HM Queen Elizabeth II and Richard M. Nizon, US Vice-President. The chapels 12 stalls were occupied by the next-of-kin of American Servicemen honoured there.
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