Suresnes American Cemetery
During my (currently frequent) travels, my family (well, at least one son) likes to see pictures of the things that I’m doing/visiting. I usually try to post 2 or 3 pictures at the end of the day on facebook along with a creative sentence or two. For a recent visit to the French Air and Space museum, a facebook post was more than enough. However, it would be a great disservice to the place I visited today if I thought a pithy sentence (or two) would suffice.
Suresens American Cemetery is the final resting place of 1541 Americans that died during the First World War and the place of rememberence for another 974 whose bodies were lost at sea. In addition, 24 soldiers “known but to God” from the Second World War are buried there. The cemetery is on a beautiful hill overlooking Paris.
(Note: just click on the pictures for more detail)
Despite my many visits to Paris since 2003, I hadn’t yet visited. So, on this weekend between work meetings, I decided to find it. . I tried on Saturday but, unfortunately, I left later than planned and I didn’t realize that there were two ways to get there from my hotel…the 1.5h way and the 25 min way.
Sunday morning was as beautiful as Saturday so I left my hotel planning to arrive between 9 and 10 (most overseas American cemeteries are open 9-5 , 363 days per year) . I got there around 9:40 and apparently surprised the receptionist as she hurried to put on her lipstick as I walked in the door of the visitors center. I had read on the Internet that this cemetery was not visited often and I would have to agree. I saw no one during my almost hour there and just a few names in the visitors log from the past few days.
When I visit these sacred plots of American soil in Europe, I feel personally obligated to walk in front of each grave and say the person’s name aloud (even though I’ve never had/taken the time). I guess I believe that a small act of remembrance shows my appreciation and that the person didn’t die in vain…Europe and the United States are still free because of their sacrifice.
During this trip, here are a few of the folks I visited with/things I saw:
Lewis Sol. Seligman and Hugh Stanley Lawwill – YMCA Secretaries who died in 1919 and 1918 respectively. Lawwill died 2 days after the war ended and Seligman over 7 months later. Since their roles were not on the front line, it’s possible they died from the Spanish Flu
Henry Howard Houston Woodward who flew with the Lafayette Flying Corps and was decorated by the French government is interred beside Henry Howard Houston. I can’t find any indication they were related.
Dorothy K. Cromwell and Gladys Cromwell came to France to work for the American Red Cross and both died the same day. Apparently, the twin sisters were overwhelmed by what they had seen and committed suicide 2 months after the end of the war
I thought that the plot for the 24 unknowns from the Second World War was interesting
until I walked down the hill and saw it from another perspective. A cross made of 24 crosses.
This may sound strange but this is at least the second time I’ve been at a cemetery and, just as I got ready to take a picture, the flag unfurled.
The number of Americans killed in the First World War seems huge until you realize that, in the Second World War, over 360,000 FROM JUST ONE COUNTRY lost their lives.
One estimate I saw was that 60 MILLION people died worldwide (2.5% of the world’s population). That’s just staggering.
In Paris and want to go?
Get on the T2 line (if you’re in downtown Paris, take Metro line 1 to La Defense, then look for the T2 signs. Note that you’ll need a ticket that is slightly more expensive than your classic Metro ticket (mine was 2.65 Euros I believe). Take T2 in the direction of Pont de Versailles and get off at Suresnes-Longchamp. Take a left off the train and then your first right.
Get on Rue CLUSERET (note, it’s shaped like a curvy lightning bolt) and hike to the top of the hill. If nothing else, the hill will make you appreciate the terrain!
When you get to this sign, you take a right and in about 2 minutes walk, the cemetery will be on your left.
When you’re done at the cemetery, cross the street to this wonderful overlook of Paris…
…a view that you can take in thanks to the American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and nurses who rest peacefully here.