American Cemetery St. Mihiel (Fr)
The cemetery, 40 ½ acres in extent, is located almost at the center of the salient where the majority of the 4,153 military Dead buried there gave their lives. The cemetery was first established as a temporary cemetery by the American Graves Registration Service following the offensive in 1918. 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 St. Mihiel cemetery for permanent interment. It is the third largest of the eight permanent World War I American military cemetery memorials in Europe. Post-war administration of the cemetery passed to the American Battle
Monument Commission in 1934. The Commission, whose functions are described in the latter pages of this booklet, landscaped the grounds and constructed the memorial chapel and other permanent buildings in the cemetery.
Architect for the memorial chapel and other architectural features was Thomas Harlan Ellett of New York City, New York.
At the north end of the cemetery stands the memorial, an open circular colonnade or peristyle flanked by a chapel room on the left and a museum room on the right. On the
left front facade of the memorial is engraved a lamp representing an eternal flame and under it the inscription:
TO THOSE WHO DIED
FOR THEIR COUNTY
On the opposite facade appears the same lamp symbol and the same inscription in French.
The memorial rests on a slightly raised circular terrace and is enclosed by a stonefaced wall. On the lawn in front of it are two large flagpoles with stone and bronze bases.
Large chestnut trees frame it on the sides and rear and immediately behind the memorial are two large weeping willows.
The memorial is constructed of Rocheret limestone. On the inside surface of the lintel is carved in the stone:
THIS CHAPEL HAS BEEN ERECTED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN
GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF HER SONS WHO DIED IN THE WORLD WAR
These words emphasize that the memorial and, indeed, the entire cemetery were erected not to commemorate the glory of battle won or the triumph of victory achieved,
but to pay homage to those American servicemen who made the supreme sacrifice for their country. The large rose-granite urn with its carved drapery at the center of the peristyle resembles an ancient funereal vase. One of its decorative features is a winged horse, Pegasus, symbolizing the flight of the immortal soul to its resting place in the life
beyond. To the left of the peristyle, bronze doors, decorated with stars and two miniature soldier heads, lead to the impressive interior of the chapel room. The carved white Italian marble altar holds a lighted bronze lamp symbolic of an eternal flame. Above the altar is a richly-colored mosaic depicting the “Angel of Victory” sheathing a sword and “Doves of Peace” bearing olive branches. At the top of the wall, carved in white marble with gold letters, is the inscription:
I GIVE UNTO THEM ETERNAL LIFE AND THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH
The mosaics on the end walls have as their main features large shields displaying the national colors of the United States and of France.
The coffered ceiling is decorated in gold and blue, while the floor and lower wallpaneling are of inlaid marble with light and dark green markings. Dispersed about the
chapel in appropriate places are graceful candelabra, cushioned seals and kneeling benches. Crossing to the right side of the memorial one enters the museum through a similar
set of bronze doors. On the wall directly opposite the doorway is a beautiful map of the St. Mihiel region inlaid with various colored marbles. This map showns the boundaries
of the salient, the German lines before the offensive, the Allied lines after the battle and the progress of the campaign. On the side walls of the museum are black marble panels,
at the tops of which are engraved:
IN MEMORY OF THOSE AMERICAN SOLDIERS WHO FOUGHT IN THIS REGION AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES.
Listed below the inscription in gold letters are the names of the 284 American soldiers who gave their lives in this area, but whose remains were not recovered or identified.
The graves area consists of four burial plots, lettered from A to D, separated by the central mall and the transverse axes. The 4,153 headstones are arranged in parallel rows
across the green lawns, which carpet the grave area. One hundred and seventeen of these headstones mark the graves of “Unknowns”. The cemetery contains no multiple burials.Each of the Dead has his own headstone of white marble, a Star of David for those of the Jewish faith and a Latin cross for all others. The precise alignment of clean, polished marble headstones on clipped green grass assures the visitor that no feature of the cemetery receives more respectful care than does the graves area.
The formal entrance, with its ornamental grill gates and fencing and its gem-like buildings, is of striking beauty and offers an excellent view of the cemetery. To the right
of the entrance is the Superintendent’s Office; to the left is the Visitors’ Building. Both are constructed of Euville limestone. Directly behind these buildings is the cemetery
proper. Here, in a beautifully landscaped setting, are the graves area and the memorial. The pristine whiteness of the headstones is in striking contrast to the immaculately
maintained emerald green lawn. At the intersection of the central mall and transverse axis in the center of the cemetery is a large sundial of attractive design consisting of a carved stone eagle gnomon on a round base. The shadow cast by the eagle gnomon in relation to the lead Roman numerals set in the flat surface of the base indicates the time of day. Around the circular base of the sundial is carved the inscription:
TIME WILL NOT DIM THE GLORY OF THEIR DEEDS
From this point one can view the beautiful perspectives along the two axes of the cemetery. At the west end of the transverse axis is a sculptured stone figure of a youthful
American officer, executed by Paul Manship of New York City, New York, standing in front of a stone cross in his field uniform, with trench helmet in hand and side arms
and map case. Above his head isengraved.
IL DORT LOIN DES SIENS DANS LA DOUCE TERRE DE FRANCE
(Translation: He sleeps far from his family in the gentle land of France.)
And on the pedestal below him:
BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE THE HOME LONGING FOR THEY SHALL GO HOME
At the opposite end of the transverse axis is an ornamental urn on a semicircular platform flanked by two beautiful yews. From this platform, facing the east,
an excellent view of the surrounding ruralcountryside may be seen.