When we left Nancy, France on July 14th we made a little detour to visit a World War I monument and a World War I cemetery, both run by the American Battle Monuments Commission.  The ABMC maintains 24 cemeteries in several foreign countries.  They also maintain 25 memorials, markers and monuments in mostly foreign countries with a few in the United States.  If you’re interested in learning more about them, you can visit their website here.

We had previously visited the Luxembourg (where General Patton is buried), Lorraine and Normandy cemeteries as well as the Honolulu Memorial and the Utah Beach and Point du Hoc Monuments, all maintained by the ABMC.  On this trip we wanted to see the Montsec monument and the St. Mihiel American Cemetery.  Our first stop was the Montsec monument, which Is only 10 miles from the town of St. Mihiel, so it was very close to the cemetery we wanted to visit as well.  This monument commemorates America soldiers who fought in the area in 1918.  Until we visited here, I had never heard the term “salient” as a war term.  I had heard it only used in phrases such as “salient point”, meaning an important point.  A salient in terms of war is a part of a battlefield that juts into enemy territory and is surrounded on three sides by the enemy.  On September 12, 1918 the American and French forces, commanded by General Pershing, captured the St. Mihiel salient that had been defended by the Germans.  World War I ended less than 2 months later.

As we were driving toward the monument, we were passing field of sunflowers and we stopped to take some photos.  It was a pretty hazy morning, but you can still see the monument up on the hill in the distance.

Here is the monument up close.  When we arrived there were only a few people at the site.  They were in campers and they were off to the side so we were able to get photos with nobody in them.

If you look at the writing at the top of this photo you can see the reference to the St. Mihiel salient described above.  What really caught my eye here, though, was the reference to V Corps.  They have been continuously active since 1940 but were just deactivated this year right here in Wiesbaden, Germany where I work.  The only reason I really even know this is because my office has been working the civilian end of this deactivation.

One interesting tidbit about this monument before moving on is that it was damaged during World War II by American troops.  It has since been repaired, but it just made me think that I’m sure nobody involved in the fighting in the area during World War I imagined that the United States would be back there fighting another world war less than 25 years later.
On the drive from Montsec to the St. Mihiel cemetery we passed this religious monument.  We see things like this quite often on our drives but I thought this one was particularly nice with the trees on either side.

Pulling up to the entrance to any ABMC cemetery is always a moving experience.

There are over 4,000 graves in the cemetery so we obviously couldn’t see them all, but this was the only one we noticed with flowers.  As you can see, this grave is for a woman named Nellie Jane Ward.  We were surprised to run across graves for several women.  After we were done visiting the cemetery we stopped at the visitor center and asked the woman working there some questions.  One was about how many women were buried there and she told us there were 15.  We just happened to see a lot of those 15 graves. 

It’s a little difficult to see the writing on this grave marker but it says “Here Lies In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God”.  It’s very sad to see all the grave markers, of course, but particularly sad I think to see the markers for the unknown soldiers.

This eagle sculpture is in the center of the cemetery and is actually a sundial.  The inscription on the base of the sculpture is a quote from General Pershing: “Time Will Not Dim The Glory Of Their Deeds”.

This marker caught my attention because of the date this soldier died: December 7th, 1918.  Again, I’m sure those involved in this war never dreamed that an attack on an American Naval base on that same date just 23 years later would draw the United States into another world war.

Looking over the grave markers toward the memorial in the cemetery with the American flag waving. Quite a somber sight.

This marker was the only one I saw with an inscription on the back.  It reads “Being Made Perfect In A Little While, He Fulfilled Long Years”.  The front side of the marker shows that this is the grave of Arthur Ellis Hamm, a Captain from Florida who died on September 14, 1918. It also shows that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award a United States Army soldier can earn (the highest is the Medal of Honor).

This is a funeral urn that is in the round memorial you just saw above.  According to the cemetery brochure, “The carved figure of Pegasus is symbolically taking the immortal soul on its voyage to the hereafter.”

These were the doors leading to the chapel.  I thought the door handles were a nice touch.

Inside the chapel, this is a mosaic of the Angel of Victory.

This was inside a little building opposite the chapel that was called a museum, although there wasn’t much in there.   There were two walls, though, showing the names of soldiers missing in action.  Towards the bottom of this photo, notice the rosette next to the name of Captain James E. Welch, Jr., that indicates he was later found and identified.  Unfortunately there were very few rosettes on the walls.

This is just a side view of the eagle sculpture/sundial you saw earlier. The grounds at the ABMC cemeteries are always immaculate.  One of the questions I asked at the visitor center afterwards was how often the grass was mowed and the woman told us once a week in the summer.  They have a special tool that allows them to cut the grass around the grave markers.

We were also very surprised to see the word “Civilian” on several of the markers like this one.  The visitor center employee told us those indicate Italian civilians who joined the Americans in the fighting.  Although they weren’t part of the American military, they earned the right to be buried in the American cemetery due to their ultimate sacrifice. 

We saw several markers for Jewish soldiers but wondered about this one that indicates the soldier was unknown.  We asked how they would know if a soldier was Jewish – or not, for that matter – if he was unknown and were told all the unknown markers represent a percentage of those who died. So, if they know a certain percentage of the soldiers at that time were Jewish, there will be a corresponding percentage of markers for unknown soldiers indicating that they were Jewish.

Another sculpture in the cemetery.  This one has the inscription “Blessed Are They That Have The Home Longing For They Shall Go Home”.

Back at the visitor center, on a lighter note, this little guy named Oscar came to say hello.  His mommy had brought him to work.  He was old and deaf and slow but adorable and friendly.

On the way home, shortly after leaving this cemetery, we passed this sculpture.  It has a reference to the American 3rd Army.  The grounds around it were all overgrown but Sean walked up to it anyway and said it looked like it had been a nice memorial at one time with benches and everything, but was clearly unused now.  I couldn’t find any reference to it online but it was still a nice memorial.

I think it’s important to remember the sacrifices made during these two world wars and plan to visit more of the ABMC cemeteries and monuments whenever I can.

About the author: Trish


Website: http://travelsandtipples.com