Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial


Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial
Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial
Battle Monuments Commission
Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial.jpg
Oise-Aisne
Used for those deceased World War I
Established 1918. (Concentration cemetery 1921)
Location 49°12′8″N 3°32′54″E / 49.20222°N 3.54833°E / 49.20222; 3.54833Coordinates: 49°12′8″N 3°32′54″E / 49.20222°N 3.54833°E / 49.20222; 3.54833 near Fère-en-Tardenois, France
Designed by Cram & Ferguson, Boston, Ma.
George Gibbs, Jr. (LANDSCAPE)
Total burials 6012
Unknown
burials
597
Total commemorated 241
Statistics source: Cemetery booklet

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial is an American military cemetery in northern France. Plots A through D contains the graves of 6,012 American soldiers who died while fighting in this vicinity during World War I, 597 of which were not identified, as well as a monument for 241 Americans who were missing in action during battles in the same area and whose remains were never recovered. Included among the soldiers here who lost their lives is poet Joyce Kilmer.

A graveyard for former soldiers that were dishonorably discharged and executed for crimes committed during World War II, referred to as Plot E, is nearby. Private Eddie Slovik, the only American soldier executed for desertion during World War II, was buried there until 1987.

Contents

Site

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial lies one and a half miles east of Fère-en-Tardenois, Aisne, Picardy, France and about 14 miles (23 km) northeast of Château-Thierry. It is approximately 70 miles (110 km) northeast of Paris.

The grounds extend to 36.5 acres (148,000 m2) and this is the second of eight large permanent American World War I military cemeteries that are not in the United States. It was initially established on August 2, 1918 by the 42nd Division as a temporary cemetery, but was retained as a permanent cemetery by Congress in 1921. The French government provides the site at no cost for use as a military cemetery.[1] The memorials were designed by Cram and Ferguson and the landscape architect was George Gibbs, Jr.

The cemetery is generally rectangular in shape. The chapel, museum and grave plots are one side of the road and a parking area and the service facilities on the other side. The plots are divided by a walkway with a circular island of grass in the middle. The sides of the cemetery include paths, a privet hedge, and a low stone wall.

War dead buried at this site

Grave of an unknown G.I.

Most of the 6,012 soldiers and support personnel honorably interred at this site died fighting during the Second Battle of the Marne and the Oise-Aisne campaign. The site also includes American servicemen who were buried in temporary cemeteries and were moved to this site when their families requested that they be buried overseas. All forty-eight of the states that existed at the time, as well as the District of Columbia, are represented. Stars of David mark graves of Jewish soldiers, all others have a Latin Cross. The headstones are made from white marble quarried in Carrara, Italy.

597 graves at this site are for unknown soldiers. Like the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, Virginia, the graves are marked:

HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD[1]

The memorial

At the far end of the cemetery there is a semi-circular memorial of marble and granite in a Romanesque style. A small chapel is to the memorial's right, and a one-room museum to the left. There are ten double columns that include the Division numbers of American soldiers who fought in this sector, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 26th, 28th, 32nd, 42nd, 77th, and 93rd. The sides of the columns are engraved with images of contemporary equipment such as gas masks and artillery shells. The columns are separated by four statues: two of soldiers, one of St. Michael and one of St. George. There is an inscription on the monument:

THESE ENDURED ALL AND GAVE ALL THAT HONOR AND JUSTICE MIGHT PREVAIL AND THAT THE WORLD MIGHT ENJOY FREEDOM AND INHERIT PEACE[1]

The rear of the monument identifies the American Battle Monuments Commission and the architects. On the friese and the exterior walls of the chapel and museum are twenty-three carved shields representing the branch and service insignia that served in this region of France, and the museum and chapel both include stylized versions of the Great Seal of the United States.

The names of 241 American soldiers missing in the area who were never found or whose bodies were never identified are inscribed on the walls of the chapel. The museum includes a dedicatory relief in English and French as well as a large map of the Aisne-Marne region.

Plot E—the "dishonorable dead"

The US Army executed a total of 98 servicemen following General Courts Martial (GCM) for murder or rape, or both, in the European Theatre of Operations during the Second World War. The remains of these servicemen were originally buried near the site of their executions, which took place in countries as far apart as England, France, Italy, and Tunisia. Eighteen of the total were executed at Shepton Mallet prison and were interred at the purpose-built "Plot X" in Brookwood Cemetery. Brookwood was chosen since it was not consecrated ground and had been closed to normal military burials since August 1944. Built in a distant corner from the other plots and adjacent to tool sheds and a compost heap, executed soldiers buried in Plot X were not even given coffins, but were put into cotton mattress covers and buried under a numbered marker. Plot X had room for 100 graves and was the first real effort to specifically segregate executed Army prisoners from those who had been killed in combat.

In 1949 all of the Plot X remains were disinterred from Brookwood and were re-interred in Plot E with the other 80 executed soldiers from across Europe in a private section specifically built to hold what Graves Registration referred to as "the dishonorable dead", since (per standard practice) all had been officially dishonorably discharged from the US Army just prior to their executions.

The section is located in a 100x50 foot rectangular clearing surrounded by hedges and hidden in thick forest, accessible only through the back door of the superintendent's office. It is maintained and groomed by cemetery caretakers, though it is hidden from view and kept far separate from the nearby four plots for the honored dead of World War I. One cemetery employee described Plot E as "a house of shame" and "a perfect anti-memorial";[2] unlike the marble monuments and inscribed standing headstones of the regular plots, Plot E contains nothing but 96 flat markers and a single small granite cross. The markers are the size of index cards and bear no honors or identification, only sequential grave numbers engraved in black. No US flag is permitted to fly over the section, and the numbered graves literally lie with their backs turned to the hallowed ground of the main cemetery across the street. Visitors are not encouraged, and its existence is not mentioned on the cemetery website or guide pamphlets.[3]

The remains of two prisoners were subsequently exhumed and returned to the USA after the war. The first was David Cobb (executed at Shepton Mallet for murder on 12 March 1943) whose remains were repatriated to Dothan, Alabama in 1949. This particular repatriation appears to have been an administrative error, as permission had been specifically denied for any of the 98 to be repatriated and honorably interred. The second repatriation occurred much later and concerned the remains of Private Eddie Slovik, the only US serviceman executed for desertion in World War II and the only man buried in Plot E who was not convicted of rape or murder. In 1977, Slovik's wife Antoinette petitioned the Army and Congress for permission to rebury his body in America but was denied. Following her death in 1981, World War II veteran Bernard V. Calka took up Slovik's case, but Slovik remained buried in Grave #65 of Plot E until 1987, when the Army finally granted permission for his remains to be exhumed and repatriated to the United States for honorable burial next to his wife.[4]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial" (pdf). American Battle Monuments Commission. http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/oa_pict.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  2. ^ Kaplan, Alice. The Interpreter. Free Press: New York, 2005. 172-3.
  3. ^ Huie, William Bradford. The Execution of Private Slovik. Westholme: Yardley, 1954. 4-7.
  4. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7006200

External links


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