In World War II, 416,800 heroes of our American forces gave their lives in the name of freedom.
The Henri Chapelle Cemetery, shown here, is in the Eastern region of Belgium about seven miles west of Aachen, Germany. It is one of the two American Military Cemeteries in Belgium and contains 7,992 graves marked by crosses and Stars of David.
The Henri Chapelle Temporary Military cemetery was established in September 1944 and 17,300 heroes were buried there while American troops were engaged mostly in Belgium. Two years after the war, in 1947, when permanent cemeteries were constructed, all of those remains were exhumed and approximately 40% were placed in caskets and buried in the permanent Henri Chapelle Military Cemetery illustrated here. The other approximately 60% were returned home to the next of kin when requested and sent to cemeteries in the U.S. where directed by families at no charge.
Many of these fallen had died in the Battle of the Bulge, which was the largest land battle the U.S. Army ever fought–Dec 16th 1944 to Jan 25th 1944– and was the turning point in the final stages of the war in Europe.
The 607th Graves Registration Company, for the most part, was instrumental in the handling of the dead at this cemetery. George Ciampa, founder of Let Freedom Ring, was a member of that company
Each one of these crosses and Stars of David represent a young person who gave his/her life protecting that which is mostly cherished by mankind, FREEDOM. Without these heroes, the world would be a different place.
On June 6, 1944, Army Private 1st Class George Ciampa was 10 days shy of 19, couldn’t swim, and barely 115 pounds when his Higgins Boat landed on Utah Beach for the D-Day Normandy Invasion. He was with the 607th Graves Registration Company, which had the gruesome and solemn task of collecting, documenting and burying fellow dead American soldiers, as well as the German soldiers. The company initiated 17 temporary cemeteries along the way in France, Belgium, and Germany. One of them became the permanent Henri-Chapelle cemetery shown above.
For 11 months, from when his boots touched the sand at Normandy up until the end of the war, George saw death in the eyes of young soldiers. It was his job and it was estimated that his company, in total, handled 75,000 bodies. He saw the ultimate sacrifices of these young men–many aged 18, 19, 20–who gave all in the name of freedom. It would forever leave a lasting impact and he would never forget.
Let Freedom Ring, A New Mission
Six decades later at the age of 81, George knew he wanted to pass on the history of this era as it is not commonly known by many younger Americans and others. Too often in modern society people take freedom for granted and never realize that there is always a chance for it to be taken away. When he was 18, he saw how people in Europe lost their freedom as Nazi Germany occupied their countries.
In June 2006, Ciampa created LET FREEDOM RING, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization with the main goal to educate today’s generation on the importance of FREEDOM and to never forget those men and women he helped to bury. “Today’s generation cannot be complacent about the security of our freedom that so many servicemen and women have died for over the years.” said Ciampa.
George decided in order to accomplish his mission, he would need to make a documentary including young high school history teachers for the purpose of passing on their education to their students. Then came the never ending effort to raise funds to make the documentary. This was his new Mission. Thankfully, Northrop Grumman would provide a substantial donation to become the major contributor in order to get the first documentary off the ground.
In August of 2006, George took four young Southern California high school history teachers and two First Division “Battle of the Bulge” veterans to Belgium. The purpose was to enlighten the teachers about the hardships of the Belgian people who lived under four years of Nazi occupation as well as hear the experiences of the veterans who fought the Nazis. The tour was filmed for what would become the documentary, “Let Freedom Ring…The Lesson is Priceless”.
George’s documentary was released in 2007 to rave reviews and a great success. It was featured in the G.I. Film Festival, shown across the country on over 90 PBS stations, and the Pentagon Channel. George Ciampa would cement his new role in life as a documentary filmmaker producing 5 more films over the course of the next 14 years. All of this was done while he single-handedly financed, produced/directed, and distributed his own films. As such, these documentaries were shown to a vast audience and continue to be shown worldwide.
Click on any documentary to view more
Board of Directors
Sandi Ciampa Rusconi
James "Rusty" Rorke
Dr. John Schmitt