I am sure that some of you think me a bit odd for my focus on American Military Cemeteries but I think it is very important, when the US has now been involved in various wars for over 10 straight years, that we recognize the sacrifices made by those who have given their lives in past wars for our freedom. Last year I reported on the US involvement in the St. Mihel salient in 1918 and in the Meuse Argonne offensive later that same year. Next week I will spend 4 days visiting the very first US involvement in WW I in 1918 in the so-called “Second battle of the Marne” near Chateau Thierry, France. Today, however, I would like to share with you my experience at the American Military Cemetery in Suresnes, France, which is a suburb of Paris but unknown to most Parisiens and I am certain to only a rare American who visits Paris. The Eiffel Tower, the Arch de Triumph, the Champs Elysee, the Louvre Museum. the Seine River, etc. but definitely not the cemetery at Suresnes! The cemetery is located on very high ground just beyond the city limits of Paris in the small suburb of Suresnes. The French pronounce it “surenn” and do not pronounce the “es” as I tried to do. Suresnes is just across the river Seine from Paris via the appropriately names Pont de Suresnes or Suresnes bridge, on the northwest of Paris and just beyond the limits of the Bois de Boulogne, the huge park/forest and just a short distance from the famous Longchamps horse racing track. The cemetery itself holds the remains of over 2400 members of the US Military who gave their lives fighting for freedom in the first and second world wars. In total over 80,000 American service men and women died fighting during WW I alone. I hope that the attached photos will give you an idea of the solemn beauty of this lovingly landscaped and maintained tribute to our dead soldiers, sailors, marines and fliers who made the ultimate sacrifice to insure the freedom of Europe, America and a large part of the rest of the world also. When one walks up the pathway from the road below to the memorial building and then turns around a magnificent panorama of the city of Paris is revealed.
In addition to my visit to the cemetery. I also visited the nearby Mont-Valerien, one of the highest natural points around the Paris region and the location of the “Haut lieu de la Memorie Nationale” or the highest point of the national memory. Mont Valerien is a medieval fortress and it was the principal place where the Nazis executed in total 1008 people of 17 different nations including many members of the French Resistance. After the war the site was chosen by General de Gaulle as a place to honor the memory of those killed there between 1939 and 1945. Gen. de Gaulle inaugurated the “Memorial de la France Combattante” or memorial to the French fighter, on June 18, 1960. I present only two sombre photos of this striking memorial which is again, unknown to most French people and virtually no Americans either. I found my visit a very moving experience and I hope that you will consider how strongly our two countries, France and the USA have shared a willingness to fight and die together for freedom for all people. Vive La France and Vive La USA!!