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tv   American Artifacts WWI Centennial Chateau- Thierry Belleau Wood  CSPAN  September 9, 2018 9:58pm-10:44pm EDT

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about sortwe think of the push for immigration reform which i think people needed,y agree is right? i mean, and there is a thatficant group who think actually we need to lower the numbers overall of immigrants right?ain but then what we have to do is think about what categories of immigrants would we actually cut? how can we actually reduce the numbers, right? and so i show you this right in order to help you process through. these are the kinds of choices right and priorities that people are trying to sort of -- i mean, so we are having protracted this right?out and another thing i hope that the sort often from what we talked about so far is that, in fact, immigration totriction is very difficult pass. it's difficult to get enough consensus around the specific because i mean, people feel very, very strongly
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right about what kinds of immigrants, what kinds of relationships should be encouraged and preserved. projecting into our future right, whom we admit theshapes the future of country. so we have all kinds of -- it's a set of incredibly difficult choices. the first, a portion of a 1960 u.s. army film that describes the military situation at the time. the germans reached the river and was less than 40 miles from paris. and thirdthe second u.s. division to help withstand
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the onslaught. division, wrote one of the most brilliant pages of our military annals. division, began pushing the germans back, and u.s. marines fighting with the second division, reclaimed ground in a fierce contest known as the battle of belleau woods. >> american history tv visited key monuments, battlefields and cemeteries in northeastern france with historian mitchell yockelson. we visited the monument to learn why u.s. forces were in the region.
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>> we are on top of hill 204, which means it is 204 meters high. the significant of the monuments is to honor the troops that fought in the aine-marne sector. aine is one of the riverse, marne the other. the chateau tierney monument is being restored in honor of the world war i centennial taking place before the american contribution of 2017 and 2018. on the opposite side of the monument from where i am standing are statues of two women, one american, one french, who are holding hands in honor of their sons, brothers, uncles, and fathers who risked their lives here in the aisne-marne,
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particularly in chateau-thierry. the monument was dedicated in 1937. ♪ it's one of three significant american monuments on the western front that's established by the american battle monuments commission, and remains under their guidance. the monument itself lists some of the villages that the americans liberated. below that are the divisions, 10 of them, plus two corps, the first and the third, that were actively engaged in this area. that includes belleau wood's and chateau-thierry. the city of chateau-thierry, who had been largely untouched
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during the war, including the battle of marnes, that would change on may 31, 1918, when german troops broke through the french lines, penetrated past in hopes of crossing the river at chateau-thierry, and heading directly to paris. the french were in a panic, and concerned they did not have enough troops to block the germans. they contacted general pershing and asked for his help. general pershing had been fighting desperately to keep the americans as an independent unit, hoping to form his own independent first army at some point by the end of the summer. but he recognized the perilous situation, and he offered the french two divisions that were in the training area not far off from paris. one was the second division, the other was the third division. an american division, at that time, was little more than 27,000 officers. that was twice the size of even
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the french and german forces and british forces. the second division headed into the direction of belleau wood's, while the third division head to chateau-thierry. they left the area around france, heading on highways that were packed with civilians, because they knew the germans were in the vicinity and threatening paris. the roads were clogged. it was difficult to get to the chateau-thierry area. further troubling their efforts were the fact that they were driving ford truck's and vans, not the detroit michigan variety but ones that had been made in england, of lesser quality parts. they were described as flimsy,
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with having horrible tires, that took 22 hours to reach a nearby area here. the tires would often go flat and the troops would have to stop and change the tires. eventually they made it, and the seventh machine gun was shipped along the river back of the marne at chateau-thierry, where they helped the french prevent the germans from crossing. >> the american monument on hill 204 can be seen from the city of chateau-thierry in the marne river valley. we moved our camera into the city near the river to continue the story. mitchell: directly behind me is a monument in tribute to the third division. not only for the first world war, where they stopped the germans from crossing the marne, but the third division that helped during the normandy invasion, and kept the germans from penetrating further into
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the marne area. the grateful french placed this monument and keep it well protected in memory of the americans who were in this area in both world wars. there were two bridges that crossed over chateau-thierry. really the only crossing points within five miles to get across the marne. the germans had sent some troops. they fought the americans hand-to-hand here in the town. but the seventh machine gun battalion was able to get across the river on the south side, opposite from where i am standing, and block further penetration from the germans. the germans did make it into the north part of chateau-thierry, where they were engaged by the americans and the french. meanwhile, the french had placed detonations underneath the two bridges, and blew them up, one on june 1, the other on june 3, preventing the germans from going any further.
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the americans were able to hold the germans back from further penetration. after the battle, the third division earned a well-deserved moniker of the rock of the marne. \>> our next stop is about six miles from the town of chateau-thierry. >> we are standing right in the heart of belleau wood, renamed after the battle which ended on june 26, 1918. the battle itself is iconic in marine corps history. there is no other world war i battlefield for the americans that is set up like a national park service battlefield in the united states.
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in 1955, felix llewellyn dedicated this monument. it's the archetype of a marine, he's looking tough with his shirt off. there were two regiments of marines that fought in this area. it was an army division. the marines probably had more experience than the army at the time of world war i. marines had been deployed around the world, in the caribbean. but general pershing, the commander of the american expedition forces, didn't want the marines to be part of it. it took lobbying from the congress, by help from the secretary of the navy, the promenade of the marine corps, finally pershing acquiesced and allowed two regiments, the fifth and six marines would become part of the division.
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they would stand here over a month of fighting. during that period, they lost almost 10,000, wounded and killed. 1800 of those marines were killed. let's take a look at the area that shows how those marines fought during the period of june fifth through june 26, 1918. the one that i'm approaching is in 1896 model field gun, that can fire everything from high shrapnel, shrapnel and gas. these guns are what wreaked havoc on the american and french troops who were trying to break through the woods. you see these field guns, which were really the workhorse of the german army, throughout the western front. and the germans were the masters
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of defense. they used these when they were attacked, when the allies took the offensive towards them, and caused significant casualties. what we have here is the workhorse of the french army. and the americans, for that matter, because this is a 75 millimeter artillery piece. this gun, and many others like it, were used throughout the western front by the french. it had been used as early as the 1870's, and was a valuable piece of machinery for the americans. it should be known that the americans didn't have their own artillery, but relied on the french to provide artillery pieces in this part of the western front come in not only the 75, but the 105, and 110. artillery was used heavily during the battle of belleau
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wood, which forced the germans germans to scatter from their trench position, and allowed an opening, which the fifth and sixth marines took advantage of. the americans are forced to go across hedges and heavy rows of wheat, which is now in full bloom in june. it will take another two weeks before the americans are able to penetrate to the south into the woods. finally on june 24, a major thrust takes the marines through the woods hand-to-hand fighting. on june 25, the marines penetrate deep into the woods. the germans haven't fully retreated. finally on that evening, into the next day, the 26th, the marines have control of the woods. word us sent to the commander, and the marines now have been victorious. by the 26th, the marines have captured belleau wood and prevented the germans from going any further in their offensive toward paris. the field pieces we see here,
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and the other markers throughout the woods, were placed in honor of the marines. this was, again, their iconic battle it certainly, before world war ii, you know the marines fighting in the pacific. the battle of belleau wood stood as the main marine corps battle for heroism. this was basically designed as a park to honor the marines who fought in this area. standing behind me is one of the icons of the battle. you will see this structure in many photographs, paintings and depictions of this landmark battle for the marines. it was a private hunting preserve, owned by the count and countess of belleau. they would come out here from
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paris, hunt wild boar and animals. as you can see the structure was heavily damaged, occupied by the germans as an observation post. and then american and french artillery had shattered it to where it was no longer usable by the belleau family after the war. here you are looking at an artillery shell hole, that has been fired either by the americans or the french, most likely using the 75 millimeter. to my right is a deep crevice, which is a german trench, which they constructed in late may when they started occupying belleau wood. it was through these trenches that the germans were well defended, that the americans and the french had to fire the artillery and eventually move forward with the machine gun, rifle, and hand-to-hand fighting to drive them deep into the woods. along this path, besides where the trench lines are and the artillery shells, the marine corps historical division had placed markers.
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the markers show the advance of the fifth and sixth marine regiment throughout the course of the battle. we are heading through the second division line on the battlefield. and you can see how steep the hills are, and how the troops of the second division, including two regiments and marines had to fight their way up this hill, while being raked by german machine gun fire. of course, these trees that are here now would not have been here at the time. any foliage would have been completely decimated. this marker commemorates the capture of belleau wood on june
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26, 1918. finally it was in american hands. the second division insignia was a star seen throughout the western front. this marker was put up to show it was the second division that reached this part of the line. i'm standing in one of the abandoned german trenches, that had been raked by artillery fire. from june 26th, when belleau wood was firmly in american hands, the second division troops stayed in this area and were able to have a line of sight across the valley to the farm, which was occupied by the germans. the americans used this to observe the german movement across the valley from the farm, as they started to attack chateau-thierry where they had been driven from in june.
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the germans are once again driven from chateau-thierry, and chateau-thierry is once again in american and french hands. >> the alliance pressed the counterattack forward and by the end of july the force was removed. the tide had now turned. the initiative had passed to ally hands, where it would remain. eight u.s. divisions have participated in the successful counteroffensive, and their performance had met their commander's expectations and exceeded all others. the doughboy had proved his ability as a fighter, and it was obvious to all that the constantly increasing american forces were to be a decisive factor in the war. mitchell: as we head down the hill, we will see the
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aisne-marne cemetery, which includes the more than 1800 marines that were killed during the battle. meanwhile, there was a temporary cemetery up on this ridge, and you can see what the cemetery looked like from this faded photograph. there were wooden crosses, that were marked by dogtags. each soldier in world war i, the first time dogtags were used, they were provided two of them. they were around their neck on a lanyard. and when a soldier was killed and buried, one of the dog tags was kept around his neck, the other was nailed to the wooden cross for later identification. as we would learn, as we get to the cemetery, and especially as we going to the chapel, there are more than 1100 names of soldiers and marines who fought, not just that belleau wood, but chateau-thierry and other areas around the marne are missing.
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we know who these individuals were, we know their units, but we don't know what happened to them. we can only assume they were killed and either buried in isolated graves that weren't found, or because of the heavy artillery shelling, they were buried and never seen again. >> the remnants of belleau wood battlefield are on a hill above the aisne-marne cemetery. the final resting place of more than 2300 americans who died in this region. mitchell talked with shane williams, employed by the american battle monuments commission. >> i think it's important for american visitors to realize this is their taxpayer dollars at work overseas, to tell the story of what took place here, with the memory of the fallen. having said that, this is 40%.
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the headstones you see here are approximately 40% of those lives lost in this geographic region. all world war i. again, it is not just the battle of belleau wood. i think what people are surprised to understand here, yes, we are on the battlefield where primary u.s. marine corps took over three weeks of very bloody combat in june of 1918, but in fact they were relieved by u.s. army troops who continued the fight. many of whom fell in the field to my left here. a beautiful countryside, as it was in 1918. you have a lot of stories here of u.s. marine corps, u.s. army. we had our navy medal of honor recipients buried just behind the camera here. so many stories to tell. we are just trying to find ways to make that connection with the visitor. the 204 memorial under your direction as well?
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>> we manage out of the cemetery office, about 200 acres approximately. and then hill 204. we call it the chateau-thierry american monument, but it's 204 meters high. it is a french-american monument the way it commemorates, built and maintained by the market battle monument commission. but if you take it detailed look at the villages, the names of the villages inscribed on the monument and why it was built, it is commemorating the french and american soldiers who fought and died side-by-side in world war i. kind of an interesting way to show the sprinkle of american history and shared linkages. >> you mentioned being on the battle of belleau wood battlefield, some of it is unique for an american battlefield in france. we are used to this in the
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united states, national park service sites like gettysburg. can you talk about why the battlefield is marked and why it is important for people to walk through it? >> we are always try to find a way where we can walk in history. going back and literally in the same footsteps, the marines where they came through the field on june 6 of 1918 to take a small sector here, but at heavy cost. i always found, when i go back stateside, getting in touch with something that is physical, walking in the footsteps of history, that is why i was pleased, in the very early 1920's, american visitors actually found value in preserving that site. if not for those american visitors who came over on these war tourism tours, the battlefield would perhaps not be as preserved as it is today.
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a sidebar history that didn't have to do with the monument commission at the beginning, but was to maintain, that wasn't done until the 1930's. the belleau wood memorial association, thank you to those who have since passed on, who fund raised and came over here with american money to purchase those woods. mitchell: was that deeded? >> it was deed over the french ministry over to america for maintenance and perpetuity. >> the ground we are standing on, which is the cemetery, how many? >> here, honored over 3000 men. there are 2289 burials and 1060 missing in action. their names are inscribed in the memorial chapel. mitchell: they could very well be buried in one of these unmarked plots.
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>> in fact, we have 251 unknown soldiers, sailor, airman, marines that are buried here, 10% of the burials are unknowns. their names are likely on the wall here, but they could be on another wall or tablet in one of the american cemeteries as well. mitchell: some of those unknowns have actually been recovered, is that the case here? >> there are a total of seven of the 1060 since the chapel was completed in 1930. those listening out there who go to an overseas american cemetery, if you go to the tablet or wall and you see a bronze, small bronze rosette next to the name, that means the person was identified. that doesn't mean they were buried at the site, but they were buried somewhere. mitchell: how's this different
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from national cemeteries, such as arlington. >> there are shared challenges when it comes to maintenance. a lot of shared ideas and exchange that way. all of the men and women who were honored and buried in the oversee sites, they fell while serving their country overseas. they are not specifically war cemeteries, because we have many men and women who have died of illness, or accidents. back in the states with arlington or the national cemetery that the veteran affairs manages, those are in fact eligible for spouses or dependents of the veterans. mitchell: was this particular plot of land a temporary cemetery? >> we are kind of sort of on the site of one of the temporary cemeteries. here, just behind the camera, hopefully we will get a shot of that, was a temporary cemetery
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of 1764. there were over 2000 burial sites. everything from an isolated burial to a temporary cemetery like in 1764. there is a lot of history there with the greats registration and labor battalions billing these sites out. and of course the repatriation of about 60% of america war debt from world war i back to the states. at requests of the family. at the government expense, families were ultimate given a choice whether to accept their loved ones remains back for final burial back in a private cemetery or national military cemetery, or to keep them serving, like those here. mitchell: the burials, the temporary, was that right at the time of the battle? >> they would have been buried off the battlefield, isolated burials. they would attempt to bury the
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war dead, fallen, at a temporary cemetery. that wasn't always possible. sometimes they would not have been found after that found until after the battle was finished, or sometimes postwar. they are most didn't exist at the end of the day. there was a big push to bring all of the fallen home. for multiple reasons it wasn't the case. the families were given a choice, and that is what you see here today. this site could have easily been twice the size. >> when was the cemetery dedicated? >> the cemetery wasn't dedicated until 1937. there are a few reasons. they had to figure out how do they repatriate all of these war debts. this was done in the early 1920's. they needed to have within a few hundred, a final number how many burials there would have at that site. we had to find architects, landscape architects, plan together.
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a lot of thought went into how the cemetery site would be set up. as an example, this is one of nine world war i cemeteries. it's the only one, i believe, that has curvature in the plot. a lot of thought went into it. i guess that is the long-winded way of saying a lot of thought went into the process of building the site. that's why 1937, the site was more or less completed by the mid-1920's. then they built the building and the chapel. 1937 is because of this big american legion delegation that came over. that helped, especially at the hill 204 monument. >> do you know if general pushing came to the dedication? >> he can do both. general pershing came to the dedication here at the cemetery and also at the monument at hill 204. >> particularly interesting to americans, because here, the first and the final advance of the enemy toward paris, made in
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may 1918, was stopped by the second and third american division. the second at belleau wood, and the third at chateau-thierry. >> how did the individual divisions or regiments commemorate that continuing today? >> individually, even the regimental side, they decided a different way to commemorate that can trace the path of where they advanced. a couple of examples would be the second division boulders. you can trace just over 30 france -- i guess,
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in another way, you can trace their footsteps. on the flipside, the unit that relieved the marines after the battle of belleau wood, the 26th division, they decided to build one monument. that was the church bell of belleau. so postwar, they fund raise and help to rebuild the new church location outside the gate of the cemetery. there is not just the cemeteries to discover in these areas, there are other sites of commemoration and memory that americans 100 years from now built. i can point you in the direction of second division boulders. whatever you find of interest. there is a lot of history here. >> why don't you show us some of the grave markers you are more familiar with?
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shane: i found this story thinks a family visitor. i just happen to be working. it was the 11th of april. i remember it. 2016. about a year and a half ago. if i had walked by his headstone on the 10th of april, i would have been able to tell you he was a member of the 102nd machine gun battalion, 26th division, the yankee division. that's the unit that relieved the marines here in belleau wood. he died on the 20th of july 1918. i couldn't have told you much more than that. but i can tell you a lot more and show you a photo of him now, thanks to the family visit. i happened to be here working, it was a weekend. two ladies and a man came up through the gate. in fact they came packing his story. she was the great niece and the great great niece, her daughter. what was interesting is they had
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kept his letters, diary, photos in the family. they made high-quality copies and kept his story alive. if not for that family also sharing with me, perhaps his story would be lost. now i get to tell his story, a little bit about what he was thinking, feeling, what he was doing. we can always guessed what a young soldier, a young private from vermont, he had just celebrated his birthday. he lived only to be 20 years old. we can guess what you guys were thinking, thinking about going home, having to see this through, even if they agree that yes, this is something we have to fight for, a common cause with our french allies. now i can tell you all of those things were true. he kept talking about i hope this is the final birthday i ever have to celebrate away from
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home. as it were he never got to use that return ticket. he never lived to see past day three of combat in the area. he could have a similar story with a guy who is buried on his left or right. but i can tell you with his letters, with his words, i can look past that farm, he would have fallen somewhere right up there. just a 10 to 15 minute walk. we can walk right in the area and be in the area where he was killed. he was one of those doughboys, not a marine, but a doughboy who knew belleau wood as well. he would have relieved the marines here in early july. had a couple of weeks to prepare defenses.
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and then on the 18th of july, off they went on the big and then on the 18th of july, off they went on the big aisne-marne offensive. ultimately successful. but one of many that fell in that area. >> important to bring that up, because many people who know something about belleau wood think that the battle completely ended on june 26, but in reality the fighting continues on through july. shane: i'm careful to remind people, the marines that died had a heavy casualty compared to the size of their brigade. on the left french were dying, on the right the u.s. army, all at the same time. we keep maligned the battle of belleau wood. it was an important battle, a pitched battle. they were fighting to take other villages just to the right. they could literally see each other, and there was some mixing between the lines. i try to be fair and balanced.
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it's an important story to tell. but it's one of many stories here in the area. especially when i get a group of marines, especially young marines to come over. they make me feel old. i'm pushing 40 and some of these guys and gals, they are serving their country. i try to tell a story that i think really fits may be where they are in their military career. he is buried over this way. his name is walter cornell. he was a member of the sixth regiment. he was killed day two of the battle here in belleau wood. that's not really, for me, the interesting part of the story, that's the factual side of it. what was interesting is that gunnar cornell, all of the young marines in his company look to him for leadership. it was an all volunteer force. most have never seen combat
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before. not this guy. this guy had been around the world literally fighting under the flag. he had been in china, he had been all over the place. in the marine corps before 1917. they were doing security, bayside, all of that. walter cornell's story to me, or gunnar cornell, as he was known to the young marines, his story is that he showed leadership in the first few days of combat when the young marines were looking to somebody for direction. looking for leadership. when it comes down to it, he was a marine sniper. long-range rifle fire, very effective. he would come in every night. with more notches on the stock of his rifle. he actually was injured relatively severely on the sixth of june. he was shot in the side of his
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ear, but he refused more than just the basic medical attention and went out on the morning of the seventh of june and a leader -- and they essentially bombarded his position. they never found out exactly how they died. at that point of his death, he was looked to for leadership. many young marines said if they can't get cornell, they can't get us. he was awarded the distinguished service cross and the navy cross. one of the more awarded here in the cemetery. he only lasted a couple of days in combat in france. i talk a lot about new englanders because of the 26th division, the new england national guard. also to remind people it was not just the u.s. marine corps fighting in this area. having said that, sometimes there were marines that came
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from massachusetts. second lieutenant thomas ashley, young guy in his mid-20's. he was killed early in the battle on hill 142. he was a member of the fifth regiment, that was the regiment that took essentially the northern part of the battlefield of belleau wood, essentially the half managed by the a bmc. he would never have seen belleau wood. at least not close up, because he didn't live long enough to get there. he was killed taking out one of the german machine guns on hill 142. again, it is not just belleau wood. for the marine corps, the marine corps fought through the farm. he didn't live too long in combat. the gold star mother's pilgrimage, do you know when they came here to the cemetery? it was before the cemetery was dedicated? shane: the goldstar pilgrimages,
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another great part of american history that's largely lost. it doesn't get all of the play i think it deserves. the u.s. government gave the families of the fallen the choices we talked about to bring their loved ones remains home. for those who chose not to bring them home, but keep them overseas, they were given a choice to come over in the 1930's to visit their loved ones headstones and visit the battlefield. they did some other things. they did some shopping trips and other things that were non-world war i and non-war related. that was over four different summers, 1930 through 1933. i don't know how many ultimately came to this site. 6933. just under 7000 total women came over on the trip. men were not eligible. it was often called the goldstar mother pilgrimages.
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it was the goldstar pilgrimage, because it was mothers who lost their sons. widows as well. if they had a widow, the widow would be the one ultimately -- the superintendent at that point would have welcomed them in. if memory serves me, it was an approximately three-week voyage from door to door. a cruise liner with nice table cloths. it took a long time to get here, that's where the three weeks weren't really three weeks in the country. they were careful to separate the groups out a couple of different ways. this would be an aisne-marne group. this would be a group for the end of the year. you have a longer season and hopefully better weather. they would have a military escort, a u.s. army escort to make them as comfortable as possible.
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interestingly, these are desegregated integrated sites. there are black soldiers buried next to white soldiers, buried next to officers, all states, many of them first-generation immigrants and all that. there were goldstar groups of african-american women. they were still segregated during their pilgrimages as well. it's an interesting part of a history that needs to be told. they were provided the opportunity to come over, but they were still segregated at that point. >> i showed during a guided visit, a photo of the mother coming to the headstone of her son, i know next to nothing of her son, except with on the headstone. i know next to nothing about her except her name on the log.
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it's another way of making to make the connection that the information is out there. she came to this same exact site. >> many of your visitors are french citizens. >> that's true. >> what is it about the cemetery to them that brings them here? >> there was always a connection between the french and americans going back to 1918 that i know of. we can always go back to 1776 as well. what interesting is the turnout of the local community. very high, all the schoolchildren, although local officials that came out to honor the fallen, it hasn't changed. last year we had over 3000 here. i know we are going to have more in 2018. that's a link, we are talking 100 years on and we still have a great local community support. >> i say with visitors when they >> i say with visitors when they
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walked through the gate here, a lot of people are struck by how beautiful it is and how maintained it is. all of that is true, a lot of work goes into it, but there's a lot of history behind the scenes. we have multigenerational visitors and sometimes employees who work and maintain the sites. there's a lot of different ways of making the connection that i can tell you the french have not forgotten what took place here to free them. of course as i worked in many world war ii cemeteries in france and elsewhere, it's pretty common to see a great local community support the sites. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]


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