“Some people were not aware” of the cemetery’s closure and several tour buses have been “turned away” at the gates, a spokesman for the American Battle Monuments Commission--which runs the cemetery under a 1951 agreement with the Grand Duchy--told Delano on Wednesday.
Last year, there were about 95,000 visitors to the cemetery, he said. This year the memorial site had seen 97,516 visitors up until October 1, the date it was forced to close when Washington failed to pass a budget bill.
An estimated 800,000 US federal employees have been told to stay home, while thousands of “critical” staff, such as border guards, are working without pay.
The Luxembourg site employs 12 staff, according to the cemetery spokesman. Its two American employees have been furloughed, and they do not know if they will be paid retroactively or not when a federal budget is finally approved, he said. The ten non-American staff are currently on paid administrative leave.
Emergency maintenance schedule
Although the gates are closed, one staff member is voluntarily visiting the cemetery daily as part of a “maintenance emergency schedule”. Staff “won’t allow the degradation of the cemetery”, the spokesman stressed.
If the US government shutdown continues into next week, two staff members may visit the site each day.
The ABMC recently completed a three year, €3 million renovation programme, and the cemetery is “in the best shape that it’s been in” for several years, he stated.
More than 5,000 American soldiers killed during the Second World War, including General George Patton, are buried there.