Celebrating the Franco-American Alliance Tour - Day 6

Written by: Denise Doring VanBuren, First Vice President General
October 14, 2017

Whether she appreciates it or not, every Daughter has accompanied us in spirit throughout this amazing journey to commemorate not only the centennial of World War I but also our gratitude to the French citizens who aided America’s struggle for independence. And so it was truly one of the highest honors of my lifetime to carry inside me the devotion of all members when joining Mrs. Dillon to place a wreath on Thursday at Tilloloy, where DAR rebuilt the community’s water system in 1921. No description could adequately convey the emotions associated with representing each of you at this solemn place – a brick-and-mortar reminder of our selfless service to others.

Friday, the final day of our tour, was no less emotional and nothing short of exhilarating – full of amazing experiences, unforgettable places and meaningful moments.  Our day began by visiting the Palace at Versailles, which became the seat of French political power in 1682, when King Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” moved the royal court here from Paris. I was fortunate enough to have visited Paris and Versailles on a trip in high school in the late 1970s, but my memories of the grandeur and size of the palace did not do it justice.  It is awe-inspiring – c’est magnifique! Its property encompasses about 2,000 acres, and the palace is absolutely massive. The Hall of Mirrors, the War Room and the Peace Room are staggering in their size and decoration.  One highlight of the War Room was viewing the original "Victory at Yorktown" painting. You may recall that the National Society sponsored the only reproduction of this massive work at the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia last year.

Equally overwhelming is the sense of history here:  The Treaty of Paris, in which the United Kingdom recognized the independence of the United States of America, was signed here in 1783. It was later the site of the Paris Peace Conference and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, that ended the First World War.  Walking through these hallways in the footsteps of those who participated in such momentous world events was incredibly moving.

In the afternoon, we toured the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery, the birthplace of American combat aviation and a symbol of the Franco-American comradeship during World War I. This site honors all of the 200 American volunteer pilots who flew with French squadrons, and it is the final resting place for some of America’s first combat aviators. Five French officers and 38 American pilots, also known as "The Valiant 38," who were members of the Lafayette Escadrille (the French word for squadron) with service that included the Battle of Verdun and the Somme Offensive, are buried here. The squadron was named in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American and French revolutions. The cemetery’s memorial arch was recently restored in honor of the war’s centennial, and the American Battlefield Memorial Commission in January assumed ownership and responsibility for the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery, now the 9th commemorative World War I cemetery managed by the agency.

Our day, and our trip, ended with a marvelous and delicious au revoir party on Friday evening. We departed with a renewed appreciation of our deep history and long-standing ties with the people of this nation. Vive La France!

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