We've gotten behind on our blogs now that school has caught up to us, but last Wednesday we didn't have class and instead everyone got to go on a FIELD TRIP! We visited the Lorraine American Cemetery and Fort Hackenberg on the Maginot line.
We first visited the cemetery and learned from the "cemetery keeper", an older black man from NY who served in the military and now works for the American Battle Monuments Commission, all about this agency. Currently there are 24 foreign burial sites, and this particular one covers 113 acres. It was actually moved from the original location because of "superior location" which was established in 1945, 1.5 miles from the current site. IT IS THE LARGEST AMERICAN WWII CEMETERY IN EUROPE!
- It has 10,489 buried soldiers
- 151 headstones mark the graves of "unknowns"
- 28 instances of brothers lying side by side
- 4 medal of honor recipients
Looking out over the rolling hills of white headstones was quite amazing. Everything was laid out perfectly. I tried to show this in one of the videos: ever angle is in line and the layout of the place is in perfect symmetry.
An interesting thing we learned was that this agency was formed by an agreement with President Coolidge in 1923 as an agreement with the wives and mothers of lost soldiers. All mothers and non-remarried wives had the option of bringing their deceased back to a site in the US or in Europe, and if he was left in Europe they were allowed to visit the site, all paid for by the government (I'm not sure if that was really necessary, but it's a nice honor).
After the cemetery we were taken to a restaurant for a free lunch...and we got our first real French meal (we still haven't had any other French food). Then we headed out to an fort on the Maginot Line, an extensive underground network of forts, ammunition storage, and bunkers for soldiers near the German and Italian border. Construction lasted nearly 10 years from 1930 on and cost 3 billion francs...and in the end the Germans just went around it from Belgium...gee who'd of thought of doing that. We were given a presentation at GTL about the line and the turrets that popped up and down for gunfire, and the presenter was especially proud of THE KITCHEN. He repeatedly commented on how the electrical equipment was very modern for its time...so basically the French are good at food, bad at fighting. We were given a tour and got to ride the little electric train inside the fort from the barracks to the turrets, where we got to see the turrets rise and turn in operation.
Overall a very good field trip. Now that we saw the largest cemetery in all of Europe, we're reconsidering going to Normandy.