Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yet More Americans in Paris

If you've been thinking about heading out to Normandy to visit the American cemetery near the landing beaches, by all means do so.  It's an incredibly moving experience that you really shouldn't miss.  On the other hand, if time is in short supply, you can always get off the Transilien commuter train or the line 2 tramway in Suresnes just south of La Defense and head up the hill a short distance to the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial.  In stark contrast to French cemeteries which, in my experience are pretty much solid stone, this resting ground is resolutely American:  lush green lawns with crisp white markers.  In fact, if anything, the white Greek temple like chapel on the top of the hill reminded me of the Custis-Lee Mansion that overlooks Arlington National Cemetery just across the river from Washington, DC.  And when you look down from the hill in Suresnes, you don't see the Lincoln Memorial but there is an impressive view of the Seine and the city of Paris before you.

Why an American cemetery in the suburbs of Paris?  Most of the 1,500 some headstones mark the graves of personnel who served in World War I, many of them victims of the Spanish flu who died in a nearby military hospital.  Others served in various capacities in World War II and for various reasons were never repatriated.  Thanks to the generosity of the French state, the land was given to the U.S. for its perpetual use, free of charge or taxation.

The day I happened in for a visit, my friends and I were greeted by the cemetery's superintendent who shared both his devotion to maintaining the memory of these fallen soldiers and his gratitude to France and her people for their longstanding support of the U.S. from its very origins.   He also mentioned that he would like nothing better than for visitors and residents alike to come out to the site. 

The Suresnes site is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission which operates 24 American cemeteries and 25 memorials, monuments, and markers in 15 countries.  It is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm with the exception of New Year's Day and Christmas.


Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] said...

Wow, I never knew about that! I know that the largest American cemetary outside of the US is right next to me in Meuse/Argonne. I highly recommend a visit there as well!

Anonymous said...

I too had a long talk with the guy who runs the place when we visited. There's also a French monument to WWII further on up the hill and even better views of Paris. I understand it's the highest spot in Ile-de-France.


Anonymous said...

After seeing The Band of Brothers I've been dying to go back to this place.

Anne said...

CBR: I visited the French monument just up the hill the same day and will post about it soon. Completely different story there.

Paul at Nautilus R514 said...

Thanks for the daily blog. I'm taking notes as to what my family will be (and not be) visiting when we take a month tour of Europe next year.

Starman said...

The closer I get to being in one, the less interest I have in seeing them.

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