Here is the final resting place for some 4,153 Americans, many who died in the reduction of the St Mihiel Salient. The Salient had been held since 1914 by the Germans. Many of the dead here died postwar from the raging Spanish influenza epidemic. Looking at the duty assignments of many of the dead, hospital trains might not have been the place to be stationed in the winter of 1918-19. There is one Medal of Honor winner buried here. Inside the chapel on the walls are the names of those missing from operations near here. A large map shows the actions of the various American units during the St Mihiel operations. The American Memorial atop Mont Sec can be seen in the far distance from outside the chapel.
This hill had been a German observation point as much of the terrain of the St Mihiel Salient can be seen from here. The circular colonnade design - 1930 - is said to be evocative of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. but it really reminds me of the Tomb of Warren Harding in Marion, Ohio. In place of a Presidential grave, a bronze relief map describes the actions involved in teh reduction of the St Mihiel Salient. George Patton served as a major during the St Mihiel operation and 26 years later he would be back as commander of the US 3rd Army which would liberate the areas around Mont Sec. The staff planning for the American offensive - 500,000 American and 35,000 French soldiers - was done by Col. George C. Marshall who would alaso go on to much larger operations in World war II. Brigadier Douglas MacArthur led his 84th Brigade of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division into action here at St Mihiel, as well. He would go on to command the entire division during the upcoming Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
In the small village of Marbotte on what was the southern edge of the St Mihiel Salient, this 18th century church was the only building left standing, serving as a hospital and morgue – one soldier recalling the horror he felt as he saw blood flow the length of the church giving a permanent brown tint to the stone floor. Regiments and individuals who took part in the fighting in the area – which claimed over 30,000 French lives – have covered the walls with memorial plaques. The stained glass windows are magnificent depicting scenes from the nearby battles: Commandant d’Andre and his beleaguered men in the Tranchee de la Soif; Adjutant Pericard’s exhortation “Debout le Morts!” ; the scene of the dead and dying lying in the church. One of the most powerful memorials you will find.
Looking north from the American Memorial on Mt Sec east of St Mihiel, I spied a little village that magically sat atop a point of the Meuse Heights jutting out above the Woevre Plain. Others have seen the magic in the scene before me. The Duke of Lorraine used to be a constant visitor to the chateau in earlier times. World War I damaged the town significantly as it did many others in the immediate area. Belle Skinner, a rich lady from Philadelphia, also noticed the magic during her visits after the war. She helped to rebuild the town and even bought and restored the chateau. Her efforts are remembered by the town with a plaque within the town Marie in Miss Skinner’s memory and in the naming of one of the two streets in the old town after here – Rue Skinner.
If that isn’t enough to make you stop and pay a visit, then there is also the magnificent “Retable” that some ascribe to Ligier Richier or at least someone very close to him. The work sits quietly in the back of an ancient abbey church – now opening into the side of today’s parish church. Sculpturally exquisite, the expressions are amazing as stories appear within stories the longer you look at them.