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Salute!

 

"Time will not dim the Glory of their Deeds"

Gen. John J. Pershing

 

In the course of our European travels we have stumbled upon 2, and sought out 2 American military cemeteries from WWI and WWII.  Normandy, Somme, and Aisne-Marne (Belleau Wood) are in France, and Henri Chapelle lies in eastern Belgium.  These cemetery/memorials are administered by the American Battle Monument Commission (ABMC).  This agency of the US government was authorized by an act of Congress in March 1923 to erect and maintain memorials in the United States and foreign lands where US Armed Forces have served since 1917.  It was later assigned full responsibly for military cemetery's outside the United States. 

Overlooking Omaha Beach

Ainse-Marne

Every one of these cemeteries is maintained in the most pristine condition by the American manager and the staff of local nationals (many of whom are 3rd and 4th generation employees).  The land for each of them has been donated in perpetuity by the host nation - free of all taxes and fees.

The pride of the staff is reflected in the high state of maintenance of the grounds.  Extremely creditable.

We salute them all!

Henri Chapelle

 

... This is a disgrace!  These boys should be brought home immediately!  The French hate us!

Comment in the guest book at one of the cemeteries in France

 

The comments of this American are so wrong on so many levels that I wouldn't know where to begin.  I wonder why he came to tour in France when he hates the French so.  I wonder if he learned anything new about the World, the French or himself?

 

After both World Wars the US government began to consolidate all the temporary war time cemeteries into a few large plots.  In the course of the activity they polled every family of a deceased solider buried in a foreign land as to their wishes.  Bring your loved one home, or move him within the theater or leave him within the ground that he paid so dearly for.  Sixty percent choose to bring their loved ones home, some choose to move them to be with other fallen kin and the others choose to leave them be.

Somme American Cemetery

 

Hercules Grays

 

These cemeteries are filled with the graves of America's heroes.  Every one of the fallen here deserves the title Hero.  Even those who did not receive a medal, nor whose name does not mean a thing to most of us.

Men like Hercules Grays.

But who was he? 

I don't know.  Can't find out a thing about him.  Grave may as well be marked "Unknown" for all we know.

But let us look closer.  Let us look at the fine print.  He died July 11, 1918.  He was from New York.  And he served in the 93rd Infantry Division.

93rd Division Insignia

He was a Black soldier.  A black infantry soldier who died in combat in World War One.

But you say that no black American soldiers fought and died in the American Army in WWI.  How can this be that he lies in the Ainse-Marne American Military cemetery below Belleau Wood?

Who said that he fought and died in the American Army?

 

The 93rd Infantry Division of the US Army can be described, at best, as a notional division.  It only existed on paper for administrative reason - it handled the paperwork associated with the four infantry regiments that were assigned to it.  Those were the 369th, 370th, 371st and 372nd Infantry regiments.  Those regiments probably never saw each other throughout the war.  Odd for an infantry division where all the elements did not serve together in close proximity.  Why not?

If you look closely at the insignia of the 93rd Division you will notice that the helmet is not the American army helmet, but rather an Adrian helmet which was the helmet of the French Army.  The uniform patch of this insignia was blue - thus the 93rd was known as the Blue Helmets

 

The four regiments of the 93rd fought in the French Army during the entire war.

Most black American troops in WWI were assigned labor battalion duties upon arrival in France for the principal reason that no "white" outfit wanted to fight with or be next to black troops.  The French however were quite used to North African colonial troops within their formations and had no such qualms.  And in late 1917 they were absolutely desperate for any manpower that they could obtain.  Thus, the American  Expeditionary Force commander, General John Pershing, made the decision to send these four regiments to the French.  They in turn distributed them to four different and separate commands.  There they trained them, clothed them and armed them, all with French equipment.

What is somewhat notable here is that the American commander, General Pershing, was quite familiar with and supportive of black troops.  He was the former CO of the 10th Calvary Regiment, the famed Buffalo Soldiers, an all black enlisted outfit.   It was said that he loved his black soldiers.  That could explain his nickname amongst his West Point classmates - Nigger Jack Pershing.  Obviously that would not do once he reached such public prominence as CO of the American Army in France.  Thus his name became Black Jack Pershing.

Private Grays was a member of the 369th Infantry - the Harlem Hellfighters.  Organized as a National Guard unit they were known as the 15 Infantry Regiment, New York National Guard when they left the States.

When it was time to ship out to France they expected to parade through the streets of New York to their waiting  ships.  They were Denied this privilege!  At the time they were to be assigned to the 42nd (Rainbow) Division and they were told that black was not a color of the rainbow.  So they did not hear the cheers and hurrahs' of their countrymen bidding them Godspeed.

Croix de Guerre

Under the command of Colonel William Hayward they spent a total of 191 days in combat - the most of any American unit in all of WWI.  They received 171 individual citations for valor, again a record.  They were the first American unit to reach the Rhine river..

Their war record can be read here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

369th soldiers with Croix de Guerre

 

Upon returning home, Colonel Hayward is said to have pulled every string he could.  His reward; he led his soldiers up 5th Avenue, through cheering crowds, in their Homecoming Victory Parade.

 

 

Colonel Thomas William Salmon

It takes a multitude of skills to make up an Army and not everyone carries a weapon.  Col. Salmon was one of those.

And he preferred to be addressed as Doctor Salmon.

Doctor Salmon was descended from his great grandfather, Nicholas Salmon, who was landed gentry in the eastern French Province of Lorraine, but who was run out of France during the Revolution and settled in England.  His grandfather was Thomas William who settled in Stratford upon Avon as a schoolmaster, and his father was Thomas Henry, a physician in the British Merchant Marine who immigrated to the US in 1860 and became a country doctor in Lansingburg, New York (near Troy).

Graduating in 1899 from Albany Medical College Tom was a country doctor for a very short period before taking an assignment at Willard State Hospital (Mental).  In 1903 he became an Officer of the United States Health service and was posted to Ellis Island in 1904 to plan and execute psychiatric examinations.  After a number of years pushing for better and more humane treatment of mental patients he became Medical Director of the National Committee of Mental Hygiene.  He led the effort to investigate and improve the state of mental hygiene in the United States.  More a leader and administrator than a practicing physician he spoke on behalf of mental hygiene before numerous State and Congressional Committees.

Doctor Salmon volunteered for military service and arrived in France in December, 1917 as Director of Psychiatry, American Expeditionary Forces.  His office was located in Neufchateau, Lorraine, France.  Thus the Salmon family had come full circle so to speak, returning to its roots.  His work during the war was the establishment of all psychiatric services for the US Army in France, with an eye toward treatment facilities as close to the front as possible.  He also made it a point to educate all about "war neurosis" and its proper care and treatment.  He especially disliked the term "shell shocked".

After the war he continued to have a distinguished career as a practitioner, educator, lecturer and author and was for a time the President of the American Psychiatric Association.   He passed away in 1927.

Doctor Salmon was my Grandfather. 

We never met.

s

Full Circle once Again

On April 28, 2009 we brought his burial flag to the American Military Cemetery at St. Mihiel, Lorraine, France.  This facility is the closest such facility to his location during WWI.  There we flew said flag to honor his contribution to the war effort and also to salute all the fallen.

On the Rise

Preparing

During Taps

Folding

 

*     *     *     *     *

 

 

We were assisted by Cemetery Superintendent Bob Bell and his wife Christy.  They welcomed us into there home and gave us a guided tour of the facility and the area.  Without them this day would not have been possible.

Though the day was overcast, raw and rainy at times, all went well and we are most pleased.

Merci beaucoup, mes amis!

 

Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery

 

 

 

CERTIFICATE

 

In Honor of

 

COL. Thomas William Salmon, AEF - WWI

 

This flag has flown over the Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial at Thiaucourt, France, and is presented to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas W. Salmon III , in grateful recognition of his Grandfather’s contributions to WWI – AEF while serving in General Pershing’s Staff. These hallowed grounds, the final resting place of the four thousand one hundred and fifty-three souls who gave their all so that others could enjoy freedom, have also been honored on this date.

 

This 28th Day of April 2009

 

 

Bobby O. Bell

Superintendent - Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial

 

 

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