Thursday, July 03, 2008

Warriors at Rest


Here are a few snippets from a European history journal (a requirement for an on the road 1981 summer course via UNC-Chapel Hill, led by Jim Leutze). This, my first trip to Europe, left a permanent impression in many ways:

June 1, 1981, Monday

In the morning we visited the U.S. Luxembourg Cemetery and saw Patton’s grave. It was an honorable touch to make his grave as unadorned as the common soldier’s, a simple white cross inscribed with a name, place, and date. The old warrior played his part even in the end.




An important visit to the German Sandweiler Cemetery came next. I thought this was the most tranquil of the cemeteries, almost like a Zen garden. The dark gray German crosses were widely spaced, with several soldiers to each cross. Another subtle touch was to have the soldiers' birth and death dates, which many of the French and American graves left off.

I could have spent much more time there on my own. Looking in the directory at the last minute, I found a Shaffer, which is the maternal side of my family. Christian Shaffer was nineteen when he died. It was encouraging to see how well tended this cemetery was, and how many fresh flowers were placed in memory of these dead soldiers. . . . .


June 2, 1981, Tuesday

It was an adventure finding Erwin Rommel’s grave. After the normal navigational difficulties led us into a wild goose chase, we asked a local where Rommel’s grave was. “Rommel’s dead,” he responded helpfully. As we rounded a corner, a group of little kids shot us the bird as if to mock our efforts. Finally, with some local assistance, we found the old Marshal in a quaint little cemetery. We honored him for s short while, the iron cross grave stone receiving us respectfully. I felt very much the same as at Patton’s grave, though Erwin was resting with his fellow townsfolk rather than his troops. The grave site was not grossly memorialized, but subtly appropriate. . . .


And so it goes . . . . .

Today's Rune: Defense.

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Great pictures of the graves. I actually became quite an admirer of Rommell when I was back in my 20s. Patton to a much lesser extent although both men were certainly brave.

the walking man said...

Once in the ground, and the place in history is denied or secured, the need for more tributes cease.

Bubs said...

Interesting, that both men who were such larger-than-life characters have such humble grave markers. I had no idea that Patton was buried in Europe.

Anonymous said...

I HAVE A PICTURE IN MY ARCHIVES OF PATTON TAKING A WHIZ (DRESSED IN HIS ARMY UNIFORM)SOMEWHERE IN EUROPE. SOMEONE IN THE FAMILY WHO WAS IN THE ARMY MUST HAVE TAKEN IT. EVEN THE MIGHTY HAVE TO PEE.

Johnny Yen said...

Cemeteries are pretty damned fascinating places. Not too far from my, Graceland Cemetery has a lot of historical figures, including Mies Van Der Rohe, pugilist Jack Johnson and George Pullman. Also, Joe Hill was cremated there after his execution in Utah.

Both men were fascinating figures. Did you know that Rommel committed suicide in order to save his family from execution?

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks, y'all for the comments!

Johnny, I've been to that cemetery in Chicago, isn't there a Jewish one next to it or close by? That would have been ca. 1999. I "seen" the graves . . .

And yeah, sad end to Rommel, but at least his fam' was spared. Weird that Patton died the next year in an equally bizarre way.

Johnny Yen said...

Erik-
Good memory-- yes, there is a Jewish cemetery right across the street.

Strange, the irony that two warriors would end so ignomiously (sp?).