American Cemetery Epinal (Fr)
The Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial, 48 acres in extent, is situated on a plateau in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, 100 feet above and overlooking the Moselle
River. If is one of fourteen permanent World War II American military cemeteries erected on foreign soil by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The site was
liberated on 21 September 1944 by the U.S. 45th Infantry Division and a temporary military burial ground was established there fifteen days later. Subsequently, the burial
ground was selected to be a permanent cemetery site. After the war, when the temporary burial grounds were being disestablished by the American Graves Registration Service
(AGRS), the remains of American military Dead whose next of kin directed permanent interment on foreign soil were moved by the AGRS to a permanent site, usually the one
closest to the temporary burial location. They were then interred by the AGRS in the distinctive grave patterns proposed by the cemetery’s architect and approved by the
Commission. Free use of the Epinal site as a permanent American military cemetery was granted by the French government in perpetuity without charge or taxation. Included in
the site is a right of way approximately 500 meters in length leading from Highway D-157 to the main gate of the cemetery. The 5,255 American military Dead buried in the
Epinal American Cemetery lost their lives in the fighting across central France, the Rhone Valley, the Vosges Mountains, the Rhine Valley and Germany, they represent
42% of the original burials in the region. Design and construction of all facilities at the permanent American military cemeteries on foreign soil were the responsibility of the American Battle Monuments Commission, i.e., the memorial, the chapel, the visitors’ building superintendent’s quarters, paths, roads, walls and service facilities. It was also responsible for the sculpture, landscaping and other improvements on the site. Construction of the permanent cemetery at Epinal was completed in the spring of 1956 and the cemetery and its memorial were dedicated on 23 July 1956. On the morning of 12 May 1958, 13 caskets draped with American flags were placed side by side under a canopy at the north end of the memorial in the cemetery. Each casket contained the remains of one Unknown serviceman from each of the thirteen permanent American military cemeteries established in the Atlantic Theatres of World War II. As soon as the caskets were in place, an honor guard took a position at attention about the canopy. When the invited dignitaries had arrived, General Edward J. O’Neill, Commanding General of the United States Army Communications Zone, Europe, walked slowly as past the thirteen caskets, returned to the front of the canopy, picked up a wreath and proceeded to the fifth casket from the east and placed the wreath upon it. He then drew himself to attention and saluted as taps were played. The simple ceremony of selection terminated with the band playing “Miserere”, as the pall bearers carried the Unknown selected by General O’Neill behind an honor guard to a waiting hearse. The hearse, under escort, proceeded to Toul-Rosiers Air Base in France where the Unknown was flown to Naples, Italy and loaded aboard the destroyer USS Blandy. As soon as loading departed Naples to rendezvous in the Atlantic with a U.S. Naval Task Force carrying two other Unknowns, one from the Pacific Theatre of World War II and one from the Korean War. A similar ceremony to the one held at the Epinal American Cemetery was conducted by the Commander of the Naval Task Force to determine which of World War II Unknowns would represent both the Atlantic and Pacific Theatres of that war. After the selection was made, the Task Force proceeded to Washington, D.C. where, on Memorial Day 1958, the World War II and the Korean War Unknowns joined the Unknown soldier of World War I at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
A rectangular memorial, consisting of a chapel on the east end and a museum room on the West End separated by an open but covered portico, stands in the center of the court. The overall structure is 81 feet long, 35 feet wide and 36 feet high. The walls of the structure like those enclosing the court are of Rocheret limestone. The floor of the
portico is patterned with Rocheret and Roc Argente another French limestone from the Jura region.
The south face of the memorial contains two large bas-relief carvings designed and sculpted by Malvina Hoffman of New York. The carving on the western end of the south
face depicts the Crusade in Europe. It is a composition of United States military forces advancing on the enemy and consists of infantry, tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft guns,
paratroopers, grenade throwers, signalmen and search lights with a large eagle overhead to symbolize U.S. Army Air Forces. The carving on the eastern end of the south face
depicts Survival of the Spirit. In the center of the carving, a kneeling figure of a sorrowing woman – humanity – comforts a dying soldier, while the souls of two brave
young men who have preceded him in death are raised upward on rays of light by an angel, as their earthly bodies remain behind under a Latin Cross or Star of David
headstone. In the upper left portion of the carving, an angel precedes them with a torch to light their way and in the upper right portion, two angels with trumpets herald their
approach. Carved on the attic above the south face of the memorial are an eagle.
Architects for the cemetery memorial were Delano and Aldrick of New York City, New York. The landscape architect was Homer L. Fry of Austin, Texas.
The Court of Honor is rectangular in shape. It is enclosed by low walls of Rocheret, a hard limestone from the Jura Mountains of eastern France. On these walls are engraved
the names of 424 service members who are Missing in Action in the region:
United States Army and Army Air Forces....................419
United States Navy........................................................ 5
These Missing lost their lives in the service of their country, but their remains were not recovered, or if recovered, not identified. They represent every State of the Union
(and the District of Columbia) except Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming. The following inscriptions appear in English and
French on the walls above their names:
HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES
IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES.
IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF THOSE WHO DIED IN WORLD WAR II
THIS IS THEIR MEMORIAL
THE WHOLE EARTH THEIR SEPULCHRE.
Without confirmed information to the contrary, a War Department Administrative Review Board established the official date of death of those commemorated on the
Tablets of the Missing as one year and a day from the date on which the individual was placed in Missing in Action status.
The chapel at the East End of the memorial is entered from the portico through Oakwood doors inset with rectangular panes of glass. Directly in front of the entrance doors against the east wall of the chapel is a long teakwood planter. Above the planter are three tall narrow windows. The altar, flanked by circular teakwood planters, is an apse in the north wall of the chapel to the left of the entrance door. The altar and the two plinths on which it rests are Rouge Antique marble from southern France. On the wall above the altar is a large sculpture of the Angel of Peace.
The primary feature of the museum room in the western portion of the memorial is the large colored glass mosaic map depicting American and Allied military operations from
the landing in southern France on 15 August 1944 to the junction with Allied Forces advancing from Normandy on 11 September at Sombernon, near Dijon; and their
subsequent advances after turning eastward, crossing the Rhine and sweeping across Germany to meet with the spearhead of the U.S. Fifth Army south of the Brenner Pass.
The mosaic, 54 feet long and 14 feet high, was designed and fabricated by Eugene Savage of Branford, Connecticut, utilizing data provided by the American Battle
Monuments Commission. The map is laid out in perspective as seen from the south; consequently, the lines of the longitude and latitude are tilted to accommodate the map to
the proportions of the room. Thus, north is toward the upper right instead of vertically upward. Symbolically, the figures on the semi-circular wall depict the Spirit of Columbia
leading the Army, Navy, and Air Forces to the landings on the south coast of France. The final victory is symbolized by the Angel of Victory with laurel branch above the
central altar; a group composed of trumpets; the American and French flags emerging from the clouds of war and the outstretched hands of women who offer flowers as tribute
to the victors. In the border of the map are the insignia of the following military units of divisionsize or larger that participated in ground operations in the region:
6th Army Group and
12th Army Group; Third Army and Seventh Army; VI Corps, XV Corps, and XXI Corps;
3rd, 4th, 28th, 35th, 36th, 42nd, 44th, 45th, 63rd, 65th, 70th, 71st, 75th, 79th, 80th, 86th, 87th, 90th,94th, 99th, 100th and 103rd Infantry Divisions;
6th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 20th Armored Divisions; and the 101st Airborne Division.
The principal Allied ground, naval and air forces that were engaged in these
operations are listed in panels at the ends of the mosaic.
Interred in the cemetery are 5,255 American military Dead of World War II. Their 5,255 graves are set in two fan shaped plots separated by a wide north/south mall lined with
sycamore (Platenus orientalis) trees. Plot A lies west of the mall, plot B to the east. The War Dead interred here died in the service of their Country. They came from every State of the Union, the District of Columbia and the then U.S. territories of Alaska and Hawaii. One buried here came from Canada and another from the British West Indies. One grave holds the remains of three identified Dead that could not be separately identified. In 14 instances, two brothers lie side by side. Sixty-nine graves hold the remains of American Dead that could not be identified (Unknowns). One of these graves contains the remains of two comrades in arms. Each grave is marked by a white marble headstone; a Star of David for those of the Jewish faith, and a Latin Cross for all others. The lines of white headstones against the background of green grass harmonize well with the memorial and the Court of Honor at the south end of the mall. A 75 foot flagpole overlooks the graves area from the north end of the mall. Its circular bronze base sits on a pedestal of Rocheret limestone which in turn rests on two circular plinths of Ampilly limestone from the Cote d’Or region. The base plinth contains a thirteen points star of Noir d’Izeste from the Pyrenees. Two small cul-de-sacs with fountains are located in the graves area, one in the northeast corner and one in the northwest corner. The graves area itself is enclosed by a wall of granite from the local region with a coping of Euville limestone from the Verdun region.