The Oise-Aisne American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) Cemetery and Memorial is located near Seringes-et-Nesles, France. The cemetery contains 6,012 individual burials, 597 of which are of unknowns. It was designated as a concentration cemetery in 1921 and the French government allows the use of the land by the ABMC for a military cemetery or memorial free of charge. As with all of the ABMC sites, it was professionally designed, with meticulous attention to detail, in this instance performed by the eminent ecclesiastical architects Cram and Ferguson, designers of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan.
The layout includes a chapel, which is a common element to all ABMC memorials, a colonnade and a Sir Edwin Lutyens-style ‘stone of remembrance’, which is a detail used in British cemeteries and not usually found in ABMC sites. The stone bears this inscription:
THESE ENDURED ALL AND GAVE ALL
THAT HONOR AND JUSTICE MIGHT PREVAIL AND
THAT THE WORLD MIGHT ENJOY FREEDOM AND INHERIT PEACE
On the chapel walls are inscribed the names of 241 Americans whose burial site, if any, is unknown.
A famous burial in this cemetery (Plot B, Row 9, Grave 15) is that of the sentimental lyric poet Sgt. Alfred Joyce Kilmer, 1st Battalion, 165Th Infantry, KIA July 30th, 1918. He may be best known for his short 1913 work entitled “Trees”:
‘I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.’
During WW2 the US high command decided to use a small part of the Oise-Aisne site for the burial of US military personnel executed for capital crimes against fellow soldiers or civilians, as well as for Pvt. Edward Slovik, the only US soldier executed in WW2 for desertion. In the 1980’s President Reagan allowed the repatriation of the remains of Slovik and one other, but 95 burials remain at Oise-Aisne. This area is known as Plot E and is unmarked and accessible only through the cemetery office. Visits are restricted to family and photography is limited.
Oise-Aisne is one of the two ABMC cemeteries in Europe to have both WW1 and WW2 burials. The other, the Normandy American Cemetery at Collville-sur-Mer, has one WW1 burial, 1st. Lt. Quentin Roosevelt (KIA July 14, 1918), re-buried next to his brother Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in 1955.
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