Pro­fessor of History Thomas Conner released his book “War and Remam­brance” after 10 years of trav­eling and research. Emma Cummins | Col­legian

After 10 years of trav­eling to Europe and Wash­ington, D.C., reading archives in both French and English, and vis­iting numerous war mon­u­ments and ceme­teries, Pro­fessor of History Thomas Conner has pub­lished his new book titled: “War and Remem­brance: The Story of the American Battle Mon­u­ments Com­mission.”

In his book, Conner tells the story of the American Battle Mon­u­ments Com­mission, a gov­ernment agency founded in 1923, devoted to com­mem­o­rating the service of American sol­diers. Conner developed an interest for the agency during his many trips he took with the college’s high school study-abroad summer pro­grams.

Even­tually, Conner began to develop per­sonal rela­tion­ships with per­sonnel at the sites, par­tic­u­larly at the Nor­mandy American Cemetery and Memorial, devoted to D‑Day in World War II. With more than 300,000 American sol­diers buried and main­tained abroad, Conner felt the need to tell the story of their com­mem­o­ration.

“It’s a story that people deserve to know,” Conner said. “Nobody had written a history of the agency before. It’s every author’s dream. I feel very for­tunate to have arrived at a topic that nobody else had written on this exten­sively.”

Conner ded­i­cated his book to Gene Dellinger, a Korean War Air Force veteran, who worked for the ABMC for almost 40 years. As one of the first per­sonal rela­tion­ships Conner developed, his and Dellinger’s con­nection proved to be fruitful.

“He has told me, shown me, modeled for me the quin­tes­sential ABMC staff person but also the quin­tes­sential public servant,” Conner said.

The second ded­i­cation is to the memory of his father, who taught Conner the great beauty of war mon­u­ments and brought Conner to the Nor­mandy cemetery for the first time.

“He taught me that it was not unmanly to shed tears in one of those sights,” Conner said. “I’ve often said I’ve seen more grown men cry in the Nor­mandy cemetery than any­where else; they are placed of honor and pride but also places of sadness, in the ceme­teries espe­cially.

The great power of mon­u­ments lies in their ability to pre­serve.

“Mon­u­ments are meant to promote memory,” Conner said. “Not just memory of sol­diers who fought and died but the memory of the cause.”

These mon­u­ments, however, can also serve to inspire future gen­er­a­tions through the remem­brance of the great bravery shown in both world wars by American sol­diers.

“It’s a story that all Amer­icans can be proud of,” Conner said. “We can be equally proud of the ongoing work done by this agency to keep those mem­ories alive. Hope­fully keep them alive in such a way as to inspire the current gen­er­ation and future gen­er­a­tions to be willing in the same manner to pay whatever cost must be paid to pre­serve our own freedom.”

Conner’s passion for remem­brance has not gone unno­ticed by those around him while he worked on the book.

“I’ve seen him at these places and I’ve observed his intense passion for the impor­tance of these ceme­teries and these mon­u­ments and the way he’s shared them with stu­dents,” Pro­fessor and Chairman of History Mark Kalthoff said. “I encouraged him but I think he was bitten by the bug pretty early. All I had to do was encourage him to stay the course.”

Senior Samuel Roberts has enjoyed a close rela­tionship with Conner throughout his years at Hillsdale, starting as a student in Conner’s Western Her­itage class freshman year. After attending the release of the book on Oct. 2, Roberts par­tic­u­larly liked one of the points Conner had made.

“He pointed out that under­neath every single one of the crosses is someone’s son, father, brother, husband who meant the world to a large group of people,” Roberts said. “The mon­u­ments them­selves and the pale, light marble can be a bit alien­ating but if you look closer, you read those inscrip­tions and you rec­ognize that every single one of those people is a human life. They are really human­izing at the core.”