American Cemetery Somme (Fr)
The 14-acre Somme American Cemetery is situated on a gentle slope typical of the open, rolling Picardy countryside. The cemetery is named after the region in which the American 1st, 27th, 30th, 33rd and 80th Divisions and the 6th and the 11th Engineers fought during the period between March 1917 and September 1918. It is the final resting-place of many of the American War Dead who fought at Cambrai, Hamel, in front of Amiens, and during the Hindenburg Offensive. The cemetery was first established as a temporary cemetery by the American Graves Registration Service following the offensive in 1918. It was known as the American Expeditionary Forcesí Somme Cemetery No. 636. After the war, the other temporary cemeteries in the area were discontinued and the military Dead of the region whose next-of-kin requested burial overseas were moved to the Somme American Cemetery for permanent interme nt. Post-war administration of the cemetery passed to the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1934. The Commission landscaped the grounds and constructed the memorial chapel and other permanent buildings. The cemetery was dedicated on 30 May 1937.
The formal entrance, with its ornamental grill gates and fencing, is of striking beauty. The entrance road leads to the greystone Superintendent's Office and Visitorsí Building. Directly in front of the building is the visitorsí parking area. To the right of these, enclosed by a low stone wall, are the graves area and the memorial. A short bituminous roadway, bordered by linden trees on a carpet of grass, leads from the Visitorsí Building to the ornate bronze gates through which the visitor enters the graves area. This area, which is divided into four plots, A through D, is generally rectangular in shape. The graveled paths intersect the graves area at the flagpole, which files an American flag. Mounted on the base of the flagpole are four bronze World War I trench helmets capping bronze wreaths. The bronze ornamental items were executed by Marcel Loyau of Boulogne, France and were cast by the H. Rouard Foundries of Paris, France. Located in the rear of the graves area in Plots C and D are two pillars containing a carillon presented and dedicated on 2 June 1996 by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation. The carillon will play the national anthems of the United States and France, Taps, as well as other hymns.
At the southeastern end of the cemetery stands a small memorial Chapel of white Vaurion stone.
The chapel rests on s slightly raised square podium and is enclosed by a stonefaced wall. Resting on the lintel of the entrance doors is a sculptured bronze eagle with
wings spread. Above the doors is inscribed the following:
TO THOSE WHO DIED FOR THEIR COUNTRY
to remind the visitor that those buried there, died for their freedom. Flanking the inscription are sculpted on the exterior facade at one end of the Memorial Chapel is a
World War I era tank and on the opposite facade is an artillery piece. Beneath these are arched windows providing light for the interior of the Chapel. The rear facade of the
Chapel is embellished by a crystal window in the form of a cross. Above the window, flanked by sculpted artillery shells, is the inscription:
MORTS POUR LA PATRIE
(They Died for Their Country)
Two stylized sculpture eagles flank the name of the cemetery.
The Chapel is entered from the stepped terrace through bronze double doors studded with forty-eight bronze stars representing the then forty-eight states. Inside the chapel, oneís attention is drawn to the altar of Balacet marble. Across the face of the altar is inscribed:
THOU O LORD HAS GRANTED THEM ETERNAL REST
Immediately below the inscription are the letters: IHS. Four bronze candelabra sit on the altar. Behind the candles, inlaid in the Vaurion stone, is an hourglass motif embellished by a bronze screen pattern. In the center, embossed in bronze, is a grapevine wreath which encircles the ancient Greek religious symbol for the ďanointed one.Ē At the altar base rests the Table of Moses. Inset in the Haurteville marble floor, within a circular bronze plaque, is a large embossed star surrounded by forty-eight smaller stars. The names of 333 American soldiers missing in the area whose remains were never recovered, or, if recovered were never identified, are inscribed upon the sidewalls. The following inscription precedes the names on the north wall:
THE NAMES RECORDED ON THESE WALLS
ARE THOSE OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS
WHO FOUGHT IN THIS REGION
WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES.
On the opposite walls, below the flagstaffs, additional names of those Missing in Action in the region are inscribed. Also inscribed is the following:
THIS CHAPEL WAS ERECTED BY
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF HER SONS
WHO DIED DURING THE WORLD WAR.
Three windows illuminate the chapelís interior, one in the form of a cross high
above the altar. To the left and right of the altar are beautifully arched stained glass
windows containing the insignia of the major units which participated in World War I.
The graves area consists of four rectangular plots. The gravesites are all marked with marble headstones set in stately rows on a carpet of grass. Stars of David mark the
graves of those of the Jewish faith and Latin Crosses mark all others. Of the 1,844 burials in the cemetery, 138 are Unknown. The remains of three Medal of Honor recipients are among those resting at the cemetery. Each grave plot is bordered by trees and plants. Those interred in the cemetery came from all of the then forty-eight states
(except Vermont and Wyoming) and the District of Columbia.
At the upper end of the entrance avenue are the Visitorsí Building and parking area. Inside the building are the Superintendentís Office and a comfortably furnished room
where visitors may rest and obtain information from the cemetery staff. The visitorsí register is maintained there. Burial locations and sites of memorialization in all of the
overseas American military cemeteries of both World War I and World War II, plus other information of interest concerning the American overseas cemeteries or local history,
may be obtained from the Superintendent of the cemetery staff.