I II II II I
B M D7T D3D
W$t Care of tfje Jfallen
WASHINGTON : GOVERNMENT PRINTI NO OFFICE : 1920
% Report to tije ^ecretarp of War
. . . on . . .
American jftlilttarp Beab <0uer£easi
MAY 11, I 'i2ii
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL AND REPLY.
Washington, I). C, May 12, 1920.
The Honorable the Secretary of War.
Sir: Pursuant to your instructions of February 13, 1920, to assist
in effecting a Franco-American agreement on repatriating our mili-
tary dead and to suggest those burial places most suitable for perma-
nent retention. I sailed for Europe on February 19, returned to
America on April 30, and present herewith an informal report.
Assistant to the Secretary of War.
W A R 1 ) E PA RT M E X T .
Washington, M<>>/ 20, 1920.
Mr. Hayes :
The recommendations in this report, numbered 1 to 7. are hereby
approved, with the reservation that the permanence of the cemetery
at Bony will be determined later, when we have accurate informa-
tion as to the number of soldier dead associated with British mili-
tary operations to be retained in Europe.
I direct that this report be published immediately, in convenient
form for distribution to the relatives and friends of our soldier dead
abroad, in order that an accurate and detailed picture of all the
conditions may be fully known to them.
Newton D. Baker,
St cretary of War.
BURIAL PLACES OF AMERICAN MILITARY DEAD
NOW IN FRANCE
BELLEAU WOODS ^^fOf 1 /
VER01 *- momfauco*
THE THREE PROPOSED PERMANENT CEMETERIES FOR
AMERICAN MILITARY DEAD IN FRANCE
1. Wab Depabtment's Policy Regarding Return of Military Remains.
2. Public Opinion on the Disposition of Military Remains.
3. Franco-American Negotiations, Jl t ne, 1918-Febbuaby, 1920.
4. Franco-American Negotiations. March-April, 1920.
5. Caking for the Graves of the Fallen.
6. The Fields of Honor.
7. A Wab Memorlals Council.
8. Summary of Recommendations.
AMERICAN MILITARY DEAD OVERSEAS.
I. POLICY OF WAR DEPARTMENT REGARDING RETURN
OF MILITARY DEAD.
One need not search long or far to find curious misimpressions re-
garding the intention of the Government with respect to the disposi-
tion of American military remains. There is a feeling, vague, but
rather widely spread, that the actual care of American remains in
France is in the hands, or at least under the supervision, of the French
Republic. There is some prevalence of a fear also that those remains
not returned to America will be abandoned eventually overseas, or
that their care will consist only in such sporadic attention as the
willingness of local authorities or the efforts of interested relatives
may make possible.
It is proper therefore to restate once again the attitude of the
Those military remains, whose return is requested by their nearest
of kin. will be returned to America and to the location designated by
the relatives, at the expense of the Government. Those, whose return
from France is not requested or whose permanent retention there is
desired by the families concerned, will rest in a small number of
American fields of honor, in areas permanently assigned for eeme-
terial purposes to the United States and under the constant and per-
petual care of the American Government.
This attitude of the War Department has been stated repeatedly.
To quote from one of a number of similar announcements, the Secre-
tary of War wrote in January, 1920:
The department wishes to repeat and emphasize the fad thai it is pledged
t<> return to America all those bodies which the nearest of kin desire brought
back. It is pledged likewise to care fittingly and tenderly for those whose rela-
tives desire them to rest in the Fields of Honor, which will contain all bodies to
he retained overseas.
In the British Isles (where about 3 per cent of our dead rest ) only
those remains are being left at present whose retention has been re-
quested. But negotiations are in progress with the French Govern-
ment for permission to remove military dead from Great Britain to
the permanent American burial places in France. It' these negotia-
tions are successful it is probable that all bodies in the British Isles
not requested to be returned to America or to eventual private cus-
12 American Military Dead Overseas
tody will be concentrated in the Fields of Honor in northern France.
From Germany all bodies in the care of the Government will be re-
moved either to the United States or to the permanent American ceme-
I do not hesitate to say that the sight of actual disinterments, how-
ever reverently made, and the vision of the Fields of Honor have left
with me the fervent hope that the proportion of parents preferring
to have their sons rest overseas will be large. But, officially, no officer
of the War Department can permit such a hope to defeat or delay
the redemption of the pledge made at the Avar's beginning, that the
desire of the families as to their own dead would take precedence over
every other consideration.
The movement of those remains which are to return is begun. The
first bodies from England were shipped in late February. The first
shipment from France started in early April. The initial evacuations
from Germany will be made in May.
Following the determination upon the permanent sites of the
American Fields of Honor overseas, the work of beautifying them
may be pushed forward speedily, in order that they may serve alike
as a symbol of a Nation's gratitude to its departed sons and a
demonstration to all peoples for all time of America's response to a
II. PUBLIC OPINION ON THE DISPOSITION OF MILITARY
A punctured tire had stopped my automobile along a byroad
near the northwestern frontier of Belgium. While repairs were
progressing I walked into a field beside the road, where a multitude
of craters bore witness to a violent artillery duel. In the center of
the field what might have been an imposing shaft or statue had
become scattered particles of rock. Here and there were bits of wood
in the ground, perhaps debris of battle. But a closer examination
disclosed some semblance of symmetry about them; and a detailed
survey of the field proved it to be a German cemetery, or the pitiful
remnant of what had been one, constructed during the first advance
of the invader and destined for four years to see a succession of blue
and gray and khaki uniforms sway backward and forward across
it. The rock dust in the middle of the plot had been an impressive
monument ; each splintered bit of wood had been raised to mark the
resting place of a German soldier.
Five million soldier corpses lie in France, killed during four years
of fighting. The terrific destructiveness of modern engines of war;
the carelessness of soldiers in failing often to keep marks of identity
American Military Dead Overseas 13
upon their persons: the effect of newly introduced chemicals upon
the markings on name plates: the inevitable uncertainty that occurs
in the heat and perils of battle — these have raised to mammoth pro-
portions the task of finding and bringing together and identifying
the dead of the World War.
Happily for us. the situation with respect to American dead is
relatively much less unfortunate than, is the case among the Allies.
America was in the war for a year and seven months; for a consider-
able part of that time we had no great number of troops in the line.
Britain and France. Belgium and Serbia, fought more than four years.
The frontage in France held by the Americans at the armistice and
the number of men holding it were respectively greater than the
British line and forces in France at that time; but the Britons had
been in the battle since 1!>14 and their dead had fallen " from Xieu-
port to Nazareth"; ours (so far as those at the front is concerned)
were mainly in a small area. More important, many of the battle-
field cemeteries of the Allies had changed hands repeatedly as no
man's land moved up or back; the American cemeteries were behind a
constantly advancing army; many of them were shelled but — more
than momentarily — none were lost to the enemy.
The initial task for each of the allied powers after hostilities was
to bring in their dead from the burial places that were lonely or in-
accessible, or otherwise unsuitable, to complete the work of identi-
fication, and to beautify the graves of their comrades. The War
Department having stated that the wishes of the families concerned
would be followed, the question early arose as to the ultimate dispo-
sition of American remains. In the course of the discussion, national
organizations were formed to urge the retention of the dead in
France or to insist upon their return to America, and no little heat
was engendered, despite the fact that each group was assured from
the first that its wishes with regard to the disposition of its own dead
would be scrupulously respected.
Those in France and in America who advocate keeping Qur dead
overseas urge, in opposing immediate repatriation, that the transpor-
tation facilities of northern France are still perilously meager and
that every effort should be centered on using such track and transport
as is available for the supply of food and shelter and working mate-
rials to the returning inhabitants of the devastated areas (which in
the main are coterminous with the cemeterial areas). The population
of France, they recall, was under a cruel strain for five years of war:
and even yet the devastation in the north, and the fiscal and industrial
difficulties throughout the country, should make us unwilling to place
the further burden on the morale of this brave people that would be
caused by the continual sight of endless funeral trains passing
14 American Military Dead Overseas
through the country. France's own dead, they assert, have not been
returned from the battle front and from the colonies to their homes;
the vast amount of preliminary work, under conditions immeasurably
more difficult than ours, will make it impossible for the French to
begin this return until a considerable interval has elapsed; and in the
meanwhile no discrimination should be made in favor of America by
giving it preferential treatment over the other associated powers.
In opposing likewise the ultimate return of military remains to
America they state that the gruesomeness of the operation is insuffi-
ciently appreciated by those who demand it. and that sentimentally
the reverence which — as relatives or as countrymen — we feel toward
the fallen may be more beautifully and appropriately shown by suit-
ably adorning their tombs and surroundings and by permitting them
to rest with their fellows beneath the fields they fought to save.
But those who insist on bringing back the bodies of the dead remind
us that our traditional policy — as exemplified in the Philippines, in
Cuba, and in the return of John Paul Jones — has been to bring back
our own. They point to a Franco- American agreement, concluded
in August, 1918, providing that —
The Government of the French Republic will examine conjointly with the
American Government the measures to be taken to insure * * * the trans-
port and return to the United States of the bodies * * * interred in France.
If American dead are left in France, they assert, the necessity for
preserving the inviolability of our burial places will be the more
likely to involve the United States in future European wars.
The position of American parents, they add, is radically different
from that of the French and most of the Allies. In the latter case,
the dead, even if unreturned. are sufficiently close to permit sorrow-
ing relatives to make reverential pilgrimages to the graves and to
show the respect they feel for their lost sons. But for Americans
there is necessary a long trip to the seacoast, a trans- Atlantic voy-
age, and another journey by land across a country strange in its
language and customs. The project is one of great difficulty at best,
they insist, and it is wholly impossible for that majority of parents
who are of moderate means.
Both those who deplore and those who demand the return of
remains to America have been inclined at times to voice generaliza-
tions which are scarcely supported by sufficient evidence.
Occasionally it is stated that the first wish of the dead, themselves,
could they be consulted, would be to return to their own families
and homes; perhaps with slightly greater frequency we are told that
the preference of those who lie in France would be to remain where
they fell. Xo actual poll of soldiers' opinions, sufficiently general
American Military Dead Overseas 15
to be conclusive, seems ever to have Ween taken which would support
either of these assertions.
The correspondence of the War Department indicates that a ma-
jority of the parents and near relatives of the American Expedition-
ary Forces' dead prefer to have the remains brought hack to America.
It tends to show also that the majority of those who have no near
relatives buried abroad favor the retention of our dead overseas.
The first convention of the American Legion in the United States
and one post helium divisional poll furnished evidence signifying
a probable preponderance of opinion among service men favoring
retention abroad in the absence of an adverse expression on the part
of the families concerned.
Some months a
to approximately 75,000 emerg-ency addresses of deceased soldiers
indicated that in about 59 per cent of the eases the return of the
remains to America was desired. The additional 41 per cent was
made up of "26 per cent who affirmatively requested retention in France.
14 per cent who did not reply, and a very small number requesting
reburial in countries other than the United States.
More recent revisions of this data for localized areas tend to show
that about 60 per cent of the remains in the vicinity of Brest and
about 56 per cent of those about St. Xazaire will be returned to
It has been alleged that the motive behind the proposal for the
return of bodies is " the propaganda of the undertakers and coffin
makers." So. too, it has been charged that activating the movement
for the retention of the dead abroad was the hope of "the French "
to make their presence a source of constant and substantial financial
revenue. Specific and sufficient data has not yet been adduced to
indicate that either fear is borne out in fact. One group of embalmers
did take part in the dissemination of advertisements and circular
letters which, from the viewpoint of professional ethics, were open
to question. But there was a repudiation without delay from the
recognized association of reputable funeral directors. Undoubtedly,
also, instances of extortion and profiteering might be found among
merchants and innkeepers in the vicinity of some of the hundred- of
American burial places in France: it will not be wondered at by those
who have seen too many similar instances near military camps in
America. But it is not true that there exists now in France any gen-
erally prevalent effort to capitalize financially American burial places.
The number of differing localities and persons involved precludes
the making of any sweeping statements concerning the attitude of
the French populace toward our cemeteries. My own experience
was deeply gratifying. No one who goes through the overseas burial
16 American Military Dead Overseas
places will fail to see incidents that are as genuine and sincere as
they are touching and reverential.
While (Jen. Walsh was still the American commander at Bordeaux
he went to a village cemetery near by with Gen. Jadwin to visit the
grave of a man from the hitter's troops. They found an old French
woman pottering about the graves; and they learned on questioning
her that the women of the neighboring village had divided the
mounds among themselves and that each cared for her quota of
When I asked the director of Red Cross activities in France and
Belgium what his experience had been, he replied by showing me a
current report from one of his district managers, in which I read :
Shortly after arriving here we found in the neglected Boche cemetery of
Anion one grave not buried in weeds. On this grave grew rose bushes long
tended by unknown French hands: at the head of the grave one read on the
cross from which hung a French wreath the name of the soldier buried there
during the German occupation, ('apt. Miller. American aviator.
In the fields at Merval while plowing a farmer found the body of an
American, killed in the taking of that region between the Vesle and the Aisne.
Who saw that this ally's body was transferred to an American cemetery?
Naturally the old father of Mile. Lecat, of our '* Village liberes committee " at
At the same committee's barrack one day there halted an American Army car,
with a captain speaking no French. He was in search of the grave of his brother,
killed in an attack which had not gained the expected ground, so that the fallen
officer's body had been buried by the Bodies behind their lines. The captain,
who had been with the Army of occupation on the Khine, had. curiously enough,
been able to get from German sources a description of where his brother's grave
was to he found — in a German cemetery at a tiny hamlet back of the heights
dominating the north side of the Aisne. But. even with this description, he was
at a loss, for the little roads leading to the hamlet in question were as vague
to him as the language of the inhabitants. Mile. Lecat, who can understand
English, got into the captain's car. guided him to Cuisy. and there, most difficult
of all, learned from one of the few inhabitants where to look for that lost little
enemy cemetery. Behind the smashed hilltop village they found it, utterly
buried in weeds: and, as the captain's German description had it, there indeed
was his brother's grave, the last in the last row of weathered crosses.
The care which Mme. Dufay, of the S. S. B. M. committee at Chezy-on-Orxois
has given to our dead of the Chateau-Thierry region is infinitely touching.
Mother of three sons dead for France, she estahlishd herself at Chezy. near the
grave of one of them killed in a joint French and American attack. For his
American comrades in arms, dead for the same cause, there is no service she
has not rendered — searching out their graves in the woods, having their bodies
exhumed, collecting for their relations any relics that she could find on them,
wrapping them in her own white sheets, transferring them to our ceme-
teries, planting their new graves with flowers.
Dr. J. F. Wadsworth, an American resident of Chateau-Thierry,
in a communication to Hon. Richard Yates, reprinted in the Con-
gressional Record of March 26. 1920, writes from intimate knowledge
American Military Dead Overseas 17
of the willingness <>t" the near-by population to be helpful. A.mong
the experiences lit' recounts is this one:
Prom time to time the people conic t<> us telling of the finding of American
graves. We have gone oul with them, feeling glad for their solicitude for our
This morning I wenl to one of those villages from which had come Hie word
th.it Madame Assailly had found four graves. We found her, with her aged,
crippled husband, living in a poor, shell-torn house down near the banks of the
Marne. While she was hurriedly making her toilet to ride with us in our auto-
mobile her husband told of the time when the bombardmenl of their village
was made, and how, because Of his lameness, he was left behind while his wife
was taken away prisoner by the Germans. One could easily see the pleasure
felt by the old lady in being able to give this valuable information to us con-
cerning our dead. * Hurrying on before us Madame Assailly brought
us to the place where lying about 50 feet from each other were three places
marked with improvised crosses made of sticks or laths about '_' feet in Length.
* * * As we turned to go back to the road .Madame Assailly remarked
that if was to her a great happiness to render some service to the Americans
who had done sn much for them.
An ex-sergeant in the Expeditionary Forces. Hudson Hawley, re-
turned to France a year after the armistice to revisit the scenes he
had known in war time. On All Souls Day he was in the village of
Perigueux in the Department of the Dordogne where, in the church-
yard of St. Georges, a number of Americans lie. His story of " The
Fading Trail of the Yank," in the Home Sector, says of his visit :
I was the only living American in that area, the only ex-soldier there to pay
respect to those of his comrades who lie buried in what is pretty nearly the
farthest south cemetery of ours in Fiance. But our allies, the good people of
the countryside, had preceded me in their devotions to my countrymen.
In a central position in the cemetery, so disposed as not to favor any particular
grave, was a great wreath with a ribbon of silver and horizon blue, bearing the
inscription, "Aux soldats Americains." At least every other of the little mounds
was decorated with a bunch of wild flowers, broughl by some child, no doubt,
for as 1 entered the inclosure 1 found many of the youngsters of the neighbor-
hood going silently and daintily about laying their offerings on the graves. A
fair sprinkling of middle-aged and elderly Frenchwomen were on hand, moving
about among the plots, reading what they could of the names, and depositing
their humble wreaths.
And as 1 stood there with bared head before that spectacle of friendly
solicitude for the fallen sons of AmeriCi Hhers, monsieur le cure of St.
George, with his two young assistant priests, came marching in with cassock
and surplice and cross, and. uncovering, stood before the ranks of the graves
and began to recite the Latin commemorative service for the dead.
It was biting cold and snowing hard little pellets, yet the kindly old priest
and the two young men beside him stood there a good quarter of an hour, giving
antiphon and response for the strangers who remained within their gates. At
the final " Requiescal in pace." with its concluding "Amen," they remained
Standing in meditation for a moment, and then solemnly made a short tour
around the cemetery before filing out as thev came.
18 American Military Dead Overseas
Sonic time before the armistice, the Secretary of War was returning
from the front line to the American General Headquarters, when his
automobile stopped during the passing of a funeral procession. The
Secretary followed the cortege to the burial place and found there,
to his astonishment, not only a French padre and a Protestant chap-
lain, arm in arm. with an escort of soldiers and choir boys, but gath-
ered there as well the women of the yillage, with two huge wreaths —
the more beautiful because of their crude and homely fashioning — to
place on the newly turned earth.
After 1iis return to America the Secretary referred to the incident
in a public address. In the audience was the poet Edmund Vance
Cook, to whom the story so appealed that he reconstructed in his
verses, " Mothers of France," the narrative of the tenderness of those
Frenchwomen toward the unknown private of the 42 d Division, who
had come to the end of the rainbow ;
These women of France he came to save
Had never known his face or heard his name,
But when they saw the funeral hie they came,
Dropping their daily tasks, to take the place
Of his own womankind. His mother's face
Shone out from theirs. Almost it seemed that she
Had spirited across the wind-lashed sea
And wept through those sad eyes of Picardy.
Great heart of France! Which hath withstood so well
The blast of hattles and the hates of hell,
Which yet hath grace to spare thy prayers and flowers,
From thy unnumbered dead to one of ours.
Our love is thine! By heart, by hand, by head;
By whatsoever pledge it may be said !
By these — thy women, mothering our dead !
The weather never becomes sufficiently stormy, says the caretaker
at Suresnes, to stop the coming of the townsfolk or their caring for
the grave plots of the Americans. From our old headquarters at
Chaumont I started on a cemeterial inspection trip just after day-
break on an April morning. Even at that early hour I met at the