Aisne-Marne Cemetery and Memorial
"I never saw men charge to their death with finer spirit." ~Floyd Gibbons
The Second Battle of the Marne had incredibly high casualties with over 272,000 casualties within the space of three full days. Of these, only 12,000 were Americans who fell in battle. It is no surprise then that many of these men hailed from Acadiana. These men include: Horace Aucoin (Chataignier), Louis Bellard (Crowley), Joseph R. Businick (Lake Charles), John F. Clark (New Iberia), Murphy J. Cole (DeRidder), Henry H. Dalrymple (Midway), Claymile J. Darcy (Gray), Merritt B. Durham (Baton Rouge), Joseph C. Gaudin (Donaldsonville), Nick Gonzales (New Roads), Joseph A. Gregoire (Franklin), Cleopha P. Hebert (Cameron), Theodore Jacquet (New Iberia), Arthur Kennedy (Plaquimine), Adrien Kilbert (Convent), Sidney Manuel (Mamou), Laurence Miller (Plaquimine), Dorsle Richard (Cameron), and Isaac C. Savoie (Houma).
Isaac C. Savoie was 25 when he enlisted in the Army and served as an infantryman in both the 347th Infantry and the 23rd infantry, with which he was serving in Company E when he fell during the Second Battle of the Marne.
In the quiet French countryside, a sweeping cemetery speckled with white crosses and Stars of David now resides in silence on what was once one of the worst battlefields the world had ever seen. The Aisne-Marne Cemetery is the final resting place for almost 2,300 American soldiers. The 42.5 acre cemetery was designed and dedicated by the American Battle Monument Commission in 1937, and is located near the base of Belleau Wood. The cemetery is divided into two plots with the memorial chapel situated between them, each plot consisting of thirteen rows of graves. Of the 2,289 soldiers buried in these plots 250 remain unidentified.
The Monument Chapel: Sitting where the front line had been dug, now between burial plots is a white Gothic Revival chapel with a distinguished bell tower that watches over the battlefield turned cemetery. The chapel is adorned with stain glass that features insignia of the Allied Forces and equipment, and provides a quiet space for reflection. Inscribed into the stone walls in large letters is: “THE NAMES RECORDED ON THESE WALLS ARE THOSE OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS WHO FOUGHT IN THIS REGION AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES.” Beneath this salutation are 1,060 names of those who went missing during the various battles in this region. Some are accompanied by rosettes, indicating that the missing soldier had been found and identified. These names include a few Acadiana men. During the Second World War the cemetery and chapel came under fire and was damaged by heavy artillery. During post-war years the chapel was repaired, but the architect chose to leave one bullet hole near the entrance as a reminder of the fighting that took place in this region.
In an effort to distract Allied troops from their planned attack on Flanders, the Germans launched their last major offensive on the Marne. Beginning on 15 July, 1918 when German divisions attacked the French Army to the east and west of Reims. In the east, though the French artillery were reduced in number, they began an assault prior to the Germans planned bombardment, taking them by surprise. By the time the Germans had time to retaliate, the French lines were almost completely empty. Following the trenches the Germans found the bulk of the French army and, as they found out when they attacked the next morning, the bulk of French artillery. The attack to the west was much more successful beginning with a three hour bombardment which left the Allied forces scarce, until 17 July, when the British Expeditionary Force and 85,000 troops of the American Expeditionary Force came to reinforce the survivors. On 18 July, the Allied counterattack began when twenty-four French divisions, eight large American divisions, along with other Allied divisions attacked the enemy lines. Allied intelligence knew what the Germans plan of attack minute by minute, partially because the Americans fed the enemy false plans, and were able to deceive them. Allied troops attacked the exposed parts of enemy lines leaving them no choice but to retreat. On 20 July, German leadership ordered a retreat back to where their Spring Offensive had begun.
The Second Battle of the Marne is considered to be the turning point in the war, which alerted German leadership to the idea that they would lose the war. Allied forces had captured 29,367 German troops and caused 168,000 casualties.