Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rhone American Cemetery

For many of us born after, only film, photos and documents can give us an idea of the horrors and losses of the second "great" war.   The immensity of the sacrifice ( and I mean that in all its senses) is brought home when one sees some evidence left behind of WWII. 

Last week I was taken to see the Rhone American Cemetery at Draguignan where 861 white marble headstones sit in stark contrast to the serene surroundings.  It is a cemetery kept in immaculate order by the Americans.   The French government has granted free use of the land as a permanent burial ground without charge or taxation.   It is probably the smallest of all of the American cemeteries on French soil memorializing WWII and it is   beautifully designed and rendered.

The men laid here mostly represent the American death toll of Operation "Dragoon" whose objectives were capturing the ports of Toulon and Marseille, trapping the German Nineteenth Army, and joining the Allies in the north.  

 U.S. Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces,  plus British and French air units, rendered airlift and air support throughout these operations and in less than one month ( August 15-Sept 11, 1944) , Seventh Army had advanced 400 miles into France and then onwards to the end of fighting in Germany, May 1945.    


It may sound mawkish but if it weren't for the struggle and dedication of these men, it seems likely that non of us would be where we are now enjoying our lives as we do. 

 So visiting this stunning park is indeed sobering and even.... on such a day....ironically peaceful. 

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