Montfaucon American Monument Dedication in 1937

The Montfaucon American Monument Dedication is one of thirteen segments featured in the "America Honors Her Heroes" film. The film is the Official Record of the Dedication Ceremonies in 1937 at the American World War Memorials and Cemeteries in Europe. It was taken under the auspices of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Video Transcript

[music plays]

NARRATOR: Under smiling skies and before an audience of more than 12,000 people, the monument at Montfaucon, France commemorating the great Meuse-Argonne Offensive of the American First Army was dedicated on August 1st, 1937.  The ceremony of an international character was participated in by the presence of France and the United States and Generals Petain and Pershing, the wartime commanders of the French and American Armies.  The five special trains, which carried Americans from Paris, were filled to overflowing.  And the greatest traffic since the war at the shell torn ruins of Montfaucon was handled in perfect shape. 

NARRATOR:  Not forgetting the sacrifices of the French comrades to the American soldier, the official delegation of the United States laid a wreath on the city monument at Verdun before going to Montfaucon. 

NARRATOR: It was a great day for General Pershing in his dual role as commander in chief of the AEF and as chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission.  The President of France, Ambassador Bullitt, General Pershing, members of the French Cabinet and other distinguished guests arrive.     

NARRATOR: The ceremony opens with services by three American chaplains, ex-servicemen who represent the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish religions.  Rabbi Aaronson is speaking.

RABBI: Beneath these seas of battle and desolation, upon this land whose beauty still holds my soul.  We stand before thee in humility and awe.  Who can say what is (indiscernible).  What mortal man can perceive the majesty of thy justice and the wisdom of thy will?

[music plays]

NARRATOR:  Mr. Harry W. Colmery, the National Commander of the American Legion and a member of the official American delegation, speaks as a representative of all American veterans.  

HARRY COLMERY: 20 years ago, more than two million American citizens, submerging every thought of selfish interest, left their homeland and joined their friends and allies on the field of honor in defense of a noble principle.  Today we assemble together to dedicate the first of a group of memorials, which the people of the United States of America have erected as an expression of gratitude for their victories to preserve their spirit of service as an inspiration for future generations and to commemorate the gallantry of those who laid the priceless part of life upon the altar of sacrifice. 

NARRATOR: Ambassador Bullitt, the American Ambassador to France, delivers the introductory address. 

AMBASSADOR BULLITT: A year ago I stood at Yorktown before the monument, which marks the field where French soldiers gave their lives for our independence.  An unbroken chain of friendship stretches from that monument at Yorktown to this monument at Montfaucon.  Those French soldiers still live in the hearts of Americans as these American soldiers buried close to us here will live in the hearts of the French.  Americans and Frenchmen have marched together in two wars and in both have marched to victory.  

NARRATOR: The dedicatory address is delivered by General John J. Pershing.  At the conclusion of which, the monument is unveiled. 

GENERAL PERSHING: President Albert Lebrun, President Roosevelt,  Monsieur le Maréchal, Mister Ambassador,  Messieurs les Ministres, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and comrades French and American, it is difficult for our people at home to picture to themselves what took place upon the now smiling hillsides that surround this monument.   1,200,000 American soldiers were the actors upon in the tragedy.  They suffered as only those who have been through that war can realize.  Most of them had been hurriedly equipped and only partially trained when they were rushed across the seas and put in to battle against a veteran army.   They fought with a dash that surprised both friend and foe and displayed the courage of seasoned troops.  In the thousands individual combats, which the broken nature of the terrain exacted, they proved themselves cool and resourceful.  The highest praise that can be given can be bestowed upon them is to hope that America will continue to raise such sons.      

[applause]

[music plays-American national anthem]

NARRATOR:  Marshall Petain, the great French war leader, who commanded Verdun during the severe French fighting there, pays homage to the achievements of the American Army.  

GENEARL PETAIN …of the 1917 and 1918 years. We can say that they changed the face of the war. In these circumstances, one code of conduct imposed (indiscernible). Before the (indiscernible) superiority of the anti-French, we had to temporize and limit their actions to push back the enemies until the moment when the Americans arrived. The balance of power shifted to the advantage of the Allies and permitted us to go on the offensive…

NARRATOR: In an inspiring speech transmitted perfectly more than 3,000 miles, President Roosevelt honors the American war heroes and pleads earnestly for international peace. 

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT: Though the seas divide us, the people of France and the people of the United States find union today in common devotion to the ideal, which the memorial at Montfaucon symbolizes.   That ideal to which both nations bear faithful witness is the ideal of freedom under democracy, liberty obtained by government founded in democratic institutions.  In a real sense, this monument, which we have reared on the French hillside to commemorate the victory of our First Army in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, symbolizes that devotion.  Today we reaffirm our faith in the democratic ideal.   It was in defense of that ideal that we entered the Great War 20 years ago.   In the Meuse-Argonne we fought as champions or the rights of mankind.  Neither France nor the United states sought or seeks conquest;  neither had nor has imperial desires.  Both desire to live at peace with all nations.

NARRATOR:  With a voice full of emotion, the President of France expresses the gratitude of his country for America’s World War help. 

PRESIDENT LEBRUN: …of France, Petain decided to personally address his brothers-in-arms the Americans and show them the fervent homage of the French army. I wish to pay my respects one last time before his monument created on a (indiscernible) French which has now become American (indiscernible) our populations surround it forever (indiscernible).

NARRATOR: Color guards of the America Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars were in attendance.  And our national colors, carried alongside the flags of the French war veterans, was an inspiring sight.  The ceremony concludes with the parade by the 151st  French Infantry Regiment, which passes in review before the distinguished guests.

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