One of the things we saw a lot of in France, out where we were in the champagne country near Epernay and Reims, was war memorials. An awful lot of WWI and WWII happened right there, and there’s no forgetting it. Every little town we visited had a memorial to its fallen sons and daughters. Even a tiny little town where we stayed like Reuilly, which occupied about 300 meters on the highway, had a monunment. You couldn’t avoid the history and the loss if you wanted to.
One place we visited was Bois de Belleau, now also known as Bois de la Brigade de Marine, which was a critical battle in June of 1918. The memorial, whose inscription you can get a closer look at here, is as remote and foreboding now as it must have been then.
On the other side of the wood is the American military cemetary, whose land was given in perpetuity by France to the US in 1919. The entrance leads up to a beautiful chapel, where inscribed inside is the name and hometown of every soldier who is known to be buried there. Over 2300 soldiers rest in peace here, though about half of their names are not known. A plaque by the visitor’s center informs you that there were 116,000 American dead and 300,000 wounded, while France lost 1.4 million soldiers, with another 3.5 million injured. No other Allied country suffered as many losses. You can see some more pictures here.
But here in this graveyard that’s still No Man’s Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.
May they forever rest in peace.