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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A Roads Classic: Little-Known AEF Monuments in Europe

Readers may be familiar with the American Battle Monuments grand monuments at Chateau-Thierry, Montfaucon, and Mont Sec near St. Mihiel, but the AEF fought in every area of the Western Front and operated numerous bases far behind the lines. Also, other groups contributed their own memorials to commemorate the  service by U.S. forces. Here is a group of six that are a bit forgotten.

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The ABMC's World War I Naval Monument at Brest, France, stands on the ramparts of the city overlooking the harbor that was a major base of operations for American naval vessels during the war. The original monument built on this site to commemorate the achievements of the U.S. Navy during World War I was destroyed by the Germans on 4 July 1941, prior to the United States entry into World War II. The present structure is a replica of the original and was completed in 1958. The monument is a rectangular rose-colored granite shaft rising 145 feet above the lower terrace and 100 feet above the Cours d'Ajot. It sits upon a German bunker complex at the approximate site of the original monument. All four sides of the monument are decorated with sculptures of naval interest. The surrounding area has been developed as a park.

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The American Cathedral Avenue George V in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris is the site of a little-known memorial to the American Expeditionary Forces.  Its cloister is lined with a system of panels each dedicated to a unit or branch of the American military and volunteer organizations that supported them. The panels identify the unit by name and insignia and lists their number of casualties. The memorial cloister was dedicated on 30 May 1923 by Marshal Ferdinand Foch and the American ambassador, Myron T. Herrick, in the presence of President Raymond Poincaré.

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The State of Tennessee contributed this monument honoring the achievements of its sons in capturing the St. Quentin Canal, thus breaking the Hindenburg Line in September 1918. It is located at the village of Riqueval and the opening of the canal tunnel. It mentions two brigades of the U.S. 30th Division, a formation that was composed mainly of National Guardsmen from Tennessee and the Carolinas.

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The ABMC's Bellicourt American Monument is nine miles north of St. Quentin (Aisne), France on the highway to Cambrai and one mile north of the village of Bellicourt. It is 97 miles north of Paris and three miles from the Somme American Cemetery. Erected above a canal tunnel built by Napoleon I, the monument commemorates the achievements and sacrifices of the 90,000 American troops who served in battle with the British armies in France during 1917 and 1918.

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This new Doughboy statue located at the village of Cantigny is a recent contribution sponsored by the First Division Foundation. Cantigny was captured by the First Division on 28 May 1918 in the first American offensive operation of the war. Your editor, just to the right of the statue, is shown here with his 2011 battlefield tour group.

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The ABMC's World War I Kemmel American Monument is six miles south of Ieper (Ypres), Belgium, near Vierstraat, on the Kemmelberg (Mont Kemmel) Road overlooking the bitterly contested Ypres battlefield. This small monument on a low platform consists of a rectangular white stone block in front of which is carved a soldier's helmet upon a wreath. It commemorates the services and sacrifices of the American troops who, in the late summer of 1918, fought nearby in units attached to the British Army. Some are buried in Flanders Field American Cemetery at Waregem, Belgium, ten miles to the west.

Sources: The ABMC and American Cathedral websites

1 comment:

  1. All great suggestions - I'd include the Pennsylvania & Missouri memorials in the Argonne and the Blanc Mont memorial in Champagne regions