World War I Centennial Ceremony to Mark American Operations in Belgium
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Flanders Field American Cemetery in Belgium hosted a ceremony on October 27, 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of American operations in Belgium during World War I.
Among the attendees were military officials from the U.S. and Belgium, to include Belgium's Chief of Defense General Marc Compernol, and the Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, William M. Matz, Jr.
Featured speaker was our Vice Chair of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission Edwin Fountain. In his remarks, he talked about the partnership between our two countries.
Fountain also told the story of American poet Archibald MacLeish, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and a future Librarian of Congress.
"MacLeish was a veteran of the Great War. He volunteered as an ambulance driver in the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit, before joining the U.S. Army. MacLeish commanded a battery in the 146th Field Artillery, in the second battle of the Marne.
The young dead soldiers do not speak
Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them? . . .
They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.
They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.
They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.
"Archibald MacLeish’s younger brother Kenneth also served in the Great War. Kenneth left college to join the U.S. Naval Reserve Flying Corps. One hundred years ago, on October 14, 1918, Kenneth was shot down, and killed, over Schore, Belgium, about 30 miles from here. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
"Kenneth is one of those American servicemen who today lies beneath the crosses, row on row. He is buried over there, in Plot B, Row 4, Grave 1."