Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, May 14, 2020

77th New York Metropolitan Division to Be Honored in France

Men of the 77th Division About to Attack the Argonne Forest

The episode of the Lost Battalion during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive is the most remembered and commemorated event of America's effort in the Great War. That patched-together unit trapped on that hillside for five desperate days came from men from the 77th Division, composed of men from New York City and the nearby communities. The Lost Battalion has its own monument overlooking the site and has been the subject of a well-done feature film. All well justified, of course. However, this focus has inadvertently led to a century-long neglect of all the other accomplishments of the full 77th division, including those of the men who were trapped temporarily with the Lost Battalion, who —once sprung loose—carried on the fight right up to the Armistice.

Shoulder Patch, 77th Division
Consider: No other division captured as much enemy territory during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive as the 77th Division. They advanced 37 miles in the 47 days of the operation, being in the line 32 days total. Including its earlier service in the Aisne-Marne sector, the Metropolitan Division suffered 10,194 casualties in action including 1,486 dead in the war. Yet, unlike many of the other divisions that served in France, the 77th has never had a monument to its accomplishments placed on the battlefields it liberated in 1918.

Happily, however, that is about to change. A group of boosters are coordinating with numerous government officials, agencies, and foundations, in both the U.S. and France, to dedicate a private memorial to the U.S. 77th Division. The monument will be placed at the village of Villers devant Mouzon, on the Meuse river, which became the point of the division's farthest advance on 11 November 1918.  Poetically, the Hillburn Granite Quarry of New York state has presented  an exceptional design that is sure to highlight a true American story—from a small New York quarry to the banks of the River Meuse.

Villers devant Mouzon (Insert: Mock-up of Memorial)

The dedication to the 77th Division Memorial is planned for Villers devant Mouzon on 28 June 2021, the anniversary of the signing of the Versailles Treaty. Planning for the event is being closely coordinated with the 77th Sustainment Brigade, Ft. Dix (which traces its lineage to the 77th Division), the 77th Infantry Division Reserve Officer Association, and the 50th Attack Squadron, Shaw AFB, which in October 1918 provided support for the Lost Battalion. All will be represented and included in the dedication. The commemoration also will include a flyover dedication by Dorian Walker in his recently restored DH-4 Liberty, the only one the world.

The point of contact for the event is Col. Charles E. Metrolis, USAF, whose great-uncle Edwin Welch, was killed in a post-Armistice action, on a bridge over the Meuse river near Villers devant Mouzon.  Contact him HERE if you have any questions about the dedication.

New York's Own Returns Home (ARTICLE)

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