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The Enemy You Killed

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The Enemy You Killed
By Ruth Edgett

Soldatenfriedhof crossesThe Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof at Neuville-Saint-Vaast in Northern France is the largest of four cemeteries in France that honour German soldiers who died during World War I. 38,000 soldiers are buried in individual graves, four to a cross. Photo: Ruth Edgett

It’s April 17, 2013, and a magnificently blue sky arcs over the open fields of Northern France, where I’ve come to retrace my Canadian grandfather’s journey as a young soldier in the Great War of 1914-1919.

The countryside sweeps wide in all directions here, a peaceful patchwork of tilled and greening fields in the warm spring light. It’s hard to believe that all of this was once a churning battleground, riven with trenches and tunnels, writhing with soldiers and littered with dead and injured. It dawns on me now that, here in this region, the words “battlefield” and “cemetery” mean the same thing.

I’m standing in the Duetscher Soldatenfriedhof at Neuville-Saint-Vaast. Miles away across the plain I can just make out the towering white pylons of the Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge, the scene of Grandpa George Millar’s proudest battle. Beneath my feet are buried 45,000 German soldiers: the 38,000 named ones lie four to a metal cross; the 7,000 unnamed ones, shoulder-to-shoulder beneath squat stone crosses in one long mass grave.

Less than a mile north and on the other side of the Arras-to-Souchez highway—once at the front line—is La Targette, where acres of white crosses mark the resting places of 11,000 French soldiers.

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Heroes' Grove: Remembering and Forgetting the Great War in Germany

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Remembering and Forgetting the Great War in Germany
By David Eisler

Eisler2"Heroes' Grove"- Sandstone boulder added in 1957. Image courtesy of David Eisler.

They originally called it “Heroes’ Grove” when they buried the dead from the Great War. In the lush, green hills of Germany’s Rhein-Neckar Valley, about thirty kilometers from Heidelberg, the names of the town’s forty-two fallen soldiers were engraved on individual plaques and attached to the oak trees that formed the woods. The families of the dead tended the graves.

In 1957, nearly forty years after the dedication of the Heroes’ Grove, the plaques were recast in bronze and the names of the dead and missing from the Second World War were mixed with those of the First. A sandstone boulder with the years 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 bolted on its face was placed in the middle of the grove. Later, after nearly another forty years, the community would build two small stone walls near the central boulder and place the plaques with the names on them, where they still are today.

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The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans, Post 2: Jean Moulin

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The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans, Post 2: Jean Moulin

Moulinpic2

This post is the second in a WWrite series on the debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans. Last week, the blog featured resister Albert Camus and the influence of his father, a WWI soldier who died at the Battle of the Marne. This week, WWrite explores the most famous French Resistance icon, Jean Moulin. One of France's most celebrated WWII heroes began his fight in WWI as a soldier and an artist. The experience, which he discusses in his book, First Combat, shaped his rise as the leader of France's Resistance Army, also known as the "Army of Shadows." 

In Paris on December 19, 1964, the ashes of French WWII Resistance hero, Jean Moulin, were transferred from their original resting place at Père Lachaise Cemetery to the Pantheon, an architectural masterpiece located on the Montagne St. Geneviève in the Latin Quarter. Moulin, taken prisoner by the Nazis in 1943, died in a train station in Metz as he was deported to Germany from Lyon, France.

The Pantheon, designed as a church by the architect Jacques-German Soufflot during the reign of Louis XV to honor the patron saint of Paris, St. Geneviève, is a peristyle building that was deconsecrated during the French Revolution in 1791 and renamed the Pantheon, a patriotic monument that contains the graves of great writers, scientists, generals, philosophers, artists, and politicians who have made great contributions to the history of France. Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas, and Simone Weil are among the 70+ illustrious figures housed there. The Pantheon also houses a copy of Foucault’s Pendulum.

Read more: The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans, Post 2: Jean Moulin

The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans, Post 1: Albert Camus

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The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans, Post 1: Albert Camus 

Camus2Writer-Resister Albert Camus. Image source: salon-litteraire.linternaute.com

This post is the first in the WWrite Blog series entitled, “The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans.” This week’s post focuses on Nobel Laureate, French writer, Albert Camus. Over the next few months, WWrite will take a look at other French resisters like Jean Moulin, Victor Basch, and Louis Aragon.

Almost 20 years after the Allied victory in WWI, which cost millions of French and German lives, France found itself at war with Germany again. This time, France couldn’t sustain the fight…at least at the beginning of WWII.

Read more: The Debt of WWII French Resistance Writers to WWI Veterans, Post 1: Albert Camus

Sgt. Frank L. Carbaugh's 1918 Poem "The Fields of the Marne"

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 Sgt. Frank L. Carbaugh's 1918 Poem "The Fields of the Marne"
By Connie Ruzich

Battle of the Marne detail Harvey Dunn SmithsonianBattle of Marne (detail) by Harvey Dunn (Smithsonian)

About Connie Ruzich and the "Behind Their Lines: Poetry of the Great War" Blog
Connie Ruzich has gone where no one has gone before in her quest to unearth the faded poems of the Great War. While she is an expert in the famous WWI poetry of Joyce Kilmer, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon, she has become the go-to specialist for poems written by lesser-known poets. Her archival work has shown that poetry wasn't only for the more literary-inclined service men and women; writing poetry was seen as an essential and patriotic duty for surviving the front. In fact, as Ruzich, shows in a recent post, in November of 1918, America’s Poetry magazine proclaimed that the war had made “poetry...an essential industry.”

Read more: Sgt. Frank L. Carbaugh's 1918 Poem "The Fields of the Marne"

Of the Dreadnoughts - By Jeffery Hess

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Of the Dreadnoughts
By Jeffery Hess

 

HESSWWI navy poster riding torpedoWWI Navy Poster: “Join the Navy, the service for fighting men” by Richard Babcock

Jeffery Hess, author of Beachhead, Tushhog, and the short-story collection, Cold War Canoe Club, navigates us through one of the less familiar stories of WWI about the U.S. Navy and its formidable Dreadnoughts.

Florida and the Navy are as much a part of me as blood and bone. I’ve lived in the state all but the first four years of my life. But the only thing I find myself writing about more than Florida is the Navy. Having served aboard two ships, I’m endlessly fascinated by shipboard life—especially in times of war. I’ve written about Navy ships and submarines and populated them with people real and imagined. A few years ago, I was putting together a collection of Navy stories set during the Cold War. I had a good number of stories, but I always looked for the next idea, the next ship. The stories I had were heavy on the later portion of the era, so I began looking back.

I did some digging, took copious notes, and accidentally rediscovered the Dreadnoughts.

Read more: Of the Dreadnoughts - By Jeffery Hess

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