Celebrating the Franco-American Alliance Tour - Day 2

Written by: Nancy Folk, Alabama State Regent
October 10, 2017

Yesterday almost eighty Daughters and spouses began touring the sites where American forces played a significant role in the defense of France in World War I.  Dr. Monique Seefried, US World War I Centennial Commissioner, led the tour and shared her knowledge and insights. The sites visited are within 50 miles of Paris, and their proximity highlights the importance of these battles in preventing the capture of France’s capital city.

We first visited the Muse de la Grande Guerre in Meaux. The first and second Battles of the Marne were fought in the surrounding countryside.  This museum contains over 50,000 documents and personal artifacts which tell the story of the war. We gained new understanding of the term “trench warfare” through its life-size model of the trenches used during the war. This visit to the museum provided the background we need to understand the importance of the sites we visit this week. Our group gathered for a photo outside at the "Liberty in Distress" monument, a gift from the United States.

After lunch in Meaux, our next stop was the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau. Eighty-one hundred American soldiers and Marines lost their lives at the Battle of Belleau Wood in June, 1918, and almost 2300 American troops are buried here. The Belleau Wood Marine Monument is a moving tribute erected by the US Marines in honor of their comrades who fought in this battle. We were given time to explore the surrounding area, which still shows vestiges of the battle.

The nearby massive Chateau-Thierry American Monument was erected by the United States “to commemorate the sacrifices and achievements of American and French fighting men before and during the Aisne-Marne and Aisne-Oise offensives.” At the base of the monument is the inscription “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”   The memorial, situated on a hill, provides a view of the Marne River valley and the town of Chateau-Thierry, a strategically important hub and the site of the American Expeditionary Force’s second victory in early June, 1918. The monument is closed for renovation, but we were able to view it from our buses.   

We then travelled a short distance to the 42nd Rainbow Division Memorial at Croix Rouge Farm, where the German Army had an anti-aircraft post. The 42nd “Rainbow” Division of the American Expeditionary Force was composed of National Guard units from 26 states, with the infantry comprised of regiments from Alabama, Iowa, New York, and Ohio. The regiments from Alabama and Iowa, together with French troops, took control of the farm after heavy hand-to-hand fighting in which many lives were lost. The Rainbow Division Memorial was established by the Croix Rouge Farm Memorial Foundation of Montgomery, Alabama.  Through its president, Dr. Seefried, and its primary benefactor, Nimrod Frazer of Montgomery, the foundation purchased the land, commissioned the statue, erected the monument, and deeded it to the nearby town, Fre-en-Tardenois, in 2012.  Mr. Frazer was moved to establish this memorial to honor the sacrifices and contributions of the Rainbow Division because his father Will Frazer had been awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in the Battle at Croix Rouge Farm. The Alabama Society was honored to lay a wreath at this memorial.

Afterward, we boarded our buses for the trip back to Paris with new understanding and appreciation for all those who fought in World War I and the incredibly difficult conditions in which they served so nobly. 

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