The rest of that afternoon was spent looking at various memorials connected with the US Army's operations of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. I apologise for not describing these well-known sites in more detail, but they are all covered in 'Before Endeavours Fade' and 'American Armies and Battlefields in Europe'.
From Vauquois we headed north on the D38 to the Memorial to the Men of the State of Missouri which lies just off this road. This memorial consists of a plinth surmounted by a bronze of the Angel of Victory. We arrived again at Varennes-en-Argonne which is dominated by the massive twin colonnades of the Pennsylvania State Memorial. The town was captured by the US 28th and 35th divisions on 26 September 1918. The various Michelin Guides show pictures of the ruins.
We then drove eastwards to Montfaucon d'Argonne. This village is the site of the Meuse-Argonne American Memorial. This monument, a 180 foot high Greek column surmounted by a figure representing Liberty, is the largest of the US war memorials in Europe. It commemorates the victory of the US First Army in the Meuse-Argonne offensive of 26 September to 11 November 1918 and the actions of the French Army on this part of the front. The hill on which it is sited, Hill 336, overlooks the ground over which the Americans advanced, and was captured on 27 September 1918. The memorial is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission who were not allowing access to the observation platform on that day. It is surrounded by the ruins of an ancient monastery and village. The Germans had previously occupied and fortified the hill, and the remains of many bunkers can be seen in the ruins.
Luxembourg and the Frontier
We then drove to Luxembourg, about an hour and a half away, to stay with some friends who are also WFA members. After a congenial evening, they kindly showed us around the city the next morning. Luxembourg was invaded almost as soon as war broke out (2 August 1914, I think. There is an article on Luxembourg's part in the Great War by Christina Holstein in 'Stand To!' the journal of the WFA in about late 1995 or early 1996.)
There is little evidence of the city's role in the Great War apart from the National War Memorial which can be found on the promenade near the cathedral. Some Luxembourgeois escaped in August 1914 and fought for the French Army. There is an inscription, written by Foch, which salutes their part in the war. Apparently these men were liable to be shot by the Germans as 'traitors' if captured. On our way back to Paris we stopped at the border town of Montmedy.
French troops set off from here when the French army made its attacks in the Ardennes in August 1914. The French were defeated and driven back, and the Germans were able to occupy the town on 22 August 1914. The citadel is perched high above the main part of the town and is home to a small Museum of Fortifications. One can walk around the ramparts and can see several buildings inside the citadel which look as if they have been in ruins since 1914.
Copyright © Charles Fair, September, 1997.
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