The next stop on our World War 2 tour takes us through the Voges mountains to Lorraine’s American Cemetery in St. Avold, one of many French, German and American cemeteries on the tour. It also provides excellent historical context to this period of the war. Linden trees line the avenue leading up to the visitor building.
The cemetery is beautifully laid out and landscaped. At one end the ground rises to a knoll with an overlook from which you can see the entire cemetery and the countryside for miles—the countryside that these men fought to protect.
We are the only ones here except for maintenance workers. It provides a feeling of solitude. No one speaks. We quietly walk the rows of markers, and then walk up to the overlook.
Two large, glazed ceramic maps on the chapel’s south wall show military operations in western Europe, including fighting in the St. Avold region. These troops, including African-Americans, pursued German forces across eastern France beginning in early September 1944 when the US Third Army’s Fifth Infantry Division crossed the Moselle River near Dornot. By late November, the Third and Seventh Armies had liberated Sarrebourg, Metz and finally St. Avold.
On December 19, the Third Army, including Dave’s father Dick, left, moving north toward what would become the Battle of the Bulge. March 9, they crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim, reaching Frankfurt on March 26. The war ended when the Seventh Army entered Munich on April 30. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 7 at Reims, and V-E Day was May 8.
One of the most interesting experiences is hearing from a St. Avold citizen who was nine years old during the months when war surrounded the town. He described daily living conditions—and fears—during that fall, and the lasting memories those in St. Avold hold for the Americans who came to their rescue. He also reminded us that for the children, there was some levity as well. There was no school.
On to the next stop on our tour. For that, we go underground.
Next time: Fort Hackenburg on the Western Front
Ann Otto writes fiction based on factual as well as oral history. Her debut novel, Yours in a Hurry, about Ohio siblings relocating to California in the 1910’s, is available on-line at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, and at locations listed on her website at http://www.ann-otto.com. Ann’s academic background is in history, English, and behavioral science, and she has published in academic and professional journals. She loves speaking with groups about all things history; writing; and the events, locations, and characters from Yours in a Hurry. She is currently working on her next novel, Little Diamonds, about Ohio’s Appalachia in the 1920’s, and preparing for future works by blogging about a recent World War 2 European tour. She can be reached through the website, or on Facebook @Annottoauthor or https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard..