National Geographic : 1934 Jan
OUR NATIONAL WAR MEMORIALS IN EUROPE twin rows of majestic columns (see Color Plate IV and illustrations, pages 8, 10, and 11). War has come before to Chateau Thierry. The town had its origin in a Gallo-Roman village known as Otmus, and was destroyed by the Huns in the fifth century. Early in the eighth century, Charles Martel, whose victory over the Saracens had given him control of the re gion, built a castle there as a residence for King Thierry IV. On many occasions through the passing centuries the castle was damaged and re built. Normans, Danes, the English, and pillaging bands all had their turn at spread ing destruction and terror in the vicinity. JOAN OF ARC KNEW CHATEAU-THIERRY Through the castle's Gate of St. Pierre, the only gate still standing in the historic pile which rises on the hillside, rode Joan of Arc in 1429.* The site of the monument commands a sweeping view of the Marne Valley, in an area rich in fields of grain, sugar beets, and vineyards, flecked with quaint towns and quiet villages, crisscrossed by little streams. Here devastation stalked with the prog ress of battle. Every town was a target for artillery. Farms were furrowed with myriads of trenches and subterranean shel ters, subsoil was turned up over formerly fertile land, fields were implanted with barbed wire and sown with shell fragments. To-day most of the towns are restored, the refuse of the battlefield has been cleared away, and the countryside is as peaceful as it was when the famous native son of Chateau-Thierry, Jean de La Fontaine, ac cording to tradition, sat under a shade tree on this very hill, now called "204," and wrote many of his immortal fables. There would be little in this vicinity in years to come to remind American pilgrims of the heroic deeds of their countrymen who fought in the Aisne-Marne region were it not for the monument and the two Amer ican military cemeteries. One is located at the northern side of the hill on which stands the famous Belleau Wood. The other is near Fere-en-Tarde nois, just north of the Ourcq River (see Color Plates I and VII). In the Aisne-Marne Cemetery at Belleau * See "The Maid of France Rides By," by Inez Buffington Ryan, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, November, 1932. nearly 2,300 marble crosses and stars form curving rows around the base of the hill, while from the center of the hillside rises the chapel of tranquil beauty. The Oise-Aisne, near Fere, is the second largest of the American cemeteries abroad, with 6,012 battle dead resting within its confines. Built in the form of a curving colonnade, and flanked at the ends by a chapel and a museum, the memorial possesses a distinc tive charm. Here color is dominant. The walls of pink and gray sandstone and the many-hued French and Italian marble col umns form a striking frame for the exterior altar of highly polished golden granite from the Cote d'Or. In the four medallions above the columns, and just beneath the commemorative inscription, the modern soldier is contrasted with the medieval Crusader. All of the decorative sculpture is characteristically Romanesque in style, but modern in subject. Thin sheets of onyx have been utilized for windows in the chapel and museum. YANKEES ATTACK AT ST. MIHIEL The first operation of a complete Amer ican Army as an independent unit in the World War was the attack of September 12, 1918, in the St. Mihiel region, which lies southeast of Verdun, between the Meuse and Moselle Rivers. German attacks early in the war had driven a wedge between Verdun on the Meuse and Pont-a-Mousson on the Mo selle. The apex of the wedge included St. Mihiel, about 20 miles south of Verdun. This sector, occupied by the Germans for about four years, was the St. Mihiel salient. A study of a map will show how geog raphy generally determines the strategy of war as well as the commerce of peace time. The environing hills to the east and west dictated that the main attack should be delivered northward. The First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Twenty-sixth, Forty-sec ond, Seventy-eighth, Eighty-second, Eighty ninth, and Ninetieth Divisions took part in the offensive, in which approximately 550,000 Americans were engaged. The American Second Army was organ ized in this region a month afterward, in October, 1918, and later the Seventh, Twenty-eighth, Thirty-third, and Ninety second Divisions undertook a general at tack in the direction of Metz. The signing of the Armistice halted that battle.