Saturday, April 3, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Rebecca Goethe, Moiry, France circa 1918
Friday, March 12, 2010
The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Armistice, A Testimony from Beyond the Atlantic by Rebecca Goethe DeVries
In the framework of a “promenade between the Loire and the Allier,’’ we have written, last August 11th, that there was this hospital. One former inhabitant of a little village situated near this hospital, having had knowledge of this article in our newspaper, wrote us a letter which we have the pleasure to publish now. It comes from Mrs. DeVries. Originally from Moiry, where she lived before and during the First World War, she made the acquaintance of an American minister (Correction: Charles DeVries was not yet minister. He was a medic at the Base Hospital.) whom she married. Since 1921, she lived in America with her husband in Harwich, Massachusetts. ( Correction: Charles and Rebecca DeVries lived in different communities. Their last home was in Harwich, MA.)
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Saturday, February 6, 2010
In Passing, Remember, Part 4
MORT POUR LA FRANCE/ DIED FOR FRANCE
Thus, after fifty years of history, nothing more human exists on this land battered by the cold winds of winter or the hot breath of the winds of summer.
Alone, among the ruins of old pieces of walls, some lizards scoot about, sometimes encountering a viper warming itself in the sun. The birder is king, but there aren’t many for there exists no longer a speck of water.
In returning to Nevers, passing Moiry, you see on the right a tombstone of rock terminating in a pyramid, just on the border of the road. This little monument was erected to remember that at this place was the cemetery. On the front one can read, “Aux Américans morts pour la France le Droit, la Liberté (1916-1918) (To the Americans who died for France, Right and Liberty)
Rare are those who stop a moment in memory of these allied soldiers who came from so far and who had made the sacrifice of their young lives for the freedom of France.
In Passing Remember Part 5
How Does One Commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary
In remembering some 2,000 soldiers having slept their last sleep 50 years ago ( now 90 years ago )in this corner of the Nivernaise earth, who will go to bring a simple bouquet of flowers? Will there be only a bouquet of flowers from the fields ( this one for the soldiers who died as heroes, at the foot of this stone monument, poorly maintained and totally abandoned)?
For sure, the bodies were disinterred and transported to Nevers shortly after the Armistice, but there is still something shocking. The egoism of me continue to manifest itself, some forget quickly, to quickly even, others never acknowledge that such a forgetfulness might happen to the grand day, especially those who had survived the tragedy of the second world war.
Friends, readers, this is a story of the camp called St Parize le Châtel, but in reality, called American Hospital of Mars-sur-Allier because of the railroad serving it leaving from this station. And while you are stopping before this monument think of these soldiers who died in the dawn of the life and think about it as the poet recalling to you these simple words, “In passing, remember...’’
Editor's note: M. Wilrich was instrumental in getting the monument cleaned up initially. As written before it is now in good shape and has an honored spot in the cemetery in St Parize le Châtel. M. Wilrich bemoaned the fact that those who died here were forgotten but now the village remembers. My mother Rebecca Goethe DeVries forecast this in her article in La Montaagne in response to the above article in her wish that the monument be honored in the future on the American Memorial day. This happened Memorial Day weekend, 2001. My family and I put flowers on the monument in memory of the American soldiers who died there and in memory of my parents. I spoke at that event and now each Memorial Day M. Gianni Belli asks me to send a few words to be read at the ceremony of remembering. The village remembered with a grand celebration and exhibition on November 11, 2008.
Translation and note, copyright, Lucy DeVries Duffy, 2/5/2010
SOME GERMAN PRISONERS
Besides the American soldiers there were naturalized Americans, those Greeks, Italians, Spanish, even German, having emigrated to the United States, and volunteered for the duration of the war. There were also wounded German prisoners who lived in the enclosure of the camp and took part in the same life as their guards.
Toward the end of the war, there were many wounded arriving from the front. As the place was inadequate, the later arrivals were cared for in the trains which brought them.
As soon as the state of their health permitted it, the convalescents were authorized to go out and walk, to make a tour in the villages around.
For the local population it was a windfall to have a military camp so near, for the United States did not fail to furnish copiously their soldiers with foodstuffs, conserves, etc.
And when the camp was closed, when the soldiers were evacuated, there was a grand debauch of the American surplus, which finally gave back supplies to people deprived of things from the war.
However, during the activity of this military city, many of the people were employed there in the services of governing and administration.
ALWAYS MORE WOUNDED
As bit by bit the number of wounded grew, it was necessary to build new barracks. The material, stone especially, was taken from the quarries located near Moiry. A good number of Portuguese, Spanish and Annamites were employed there. ( Note: Annamites were Vietnamese.)
In spite of the care given to the wounded, many died. It was then decided to build a cemetery, very rudimentary - similar to those of the front --. This cemetery was built at the south west side of the camp in a big field slightly inclining, terminating along the side of the national route 7.
In the course of the winter 1917-1918 many of the workers, Spanish and Annamites, employed in the different services of the camp, as well as the soldiers, of whom many were black, perished from the Spanish flu. The sanitary services were overflowing. The cemetery took on disturbing proportions.
LITTLE BY LITTLE IT ALL CAME TOGETHER
Here and there, numerous ruins of old pieces of wall, of cement paving covered with moss, the remains of smokestacks, etc...
Of numerous black thorns, eaten away by lichens, growing more and more, covering up little by little that which were these buildings.
At the beginning of the existence of this camp, some soldiers of the American Corps of Engineers came first, with little equipment -- Little by little the organization developed. -- The land was divided into squares and then were built many barracks with walls of brick, setting on floors of cement, covered with boards which were protected with tar paper. Many roads crossed the camp permitting access to the barracks and to the secondary services.
According to eyewitnesses having known this little military city (more than 45,000 people at the end of 1918!) the hospital had many blocks. Each block had around 25 barracks, placed in two rows. facing each other. Between each row were the refectories, the kitchens, the bath rooms and the w.c., the surgical block and the infirmary.
There was also a big recreation room where resident soldiers ( actors or professional comedians), singers, etc. gave their performances to entertain the convalescents. Also, the hospital was composed of many secondary hospitals. At the entrance were the general quarters - with the services of administration and the supply depots of every sort.
Evidently, militarily speaking, each block had a number in order. From the numbers 1 to 50, the blocks were housing the American Red Cross - the numbers under 50 belonged to the American states.
For this era, things were very modern. Electricity was created there, running water functioned marvelously and, moreover, in an area so dry and without natural advantages, all was quickly taken care of.
With their enormous technology, with machines and materials, the American builders went to acquire a water supply at more than six kilometers away, in the Allier River, just opposite the church of Mars-sur-Allier.
Fishermen who frequent the banks of the river could see still the wells which were dug and which still exist. The pumping station is there. The water was brought by underground ducts up to the end of the plateau to supply the camp. It was kept in reserve in an enormous water tower ( chateau d’eau), still held up by nine pillars made from the quarry of Moiry. On the facade bordering the road one can see the American insignia ( insignia of the American Corps of Engineers) fixed in the masonry.