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US troops travel to France to commemorate the ‘America’s deadliest battle ever’

Officials, descendants of soldiers and visitors braved strong winds and rain to attend a remembrance ceremony on Sunday afternoon in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery, which is surrounded by green fields and forests in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, a village in northeastern France.

The Meuse-Argonne offensive of 1918 was America’s deadliest battle ever, with 26,000 U.S. soldiers killed, tens of thousands wounded and more ammunition fired than in the whole of the Civil War. It was also a great American victory that helped bringing an end to World War 1.

All day, volunteers read the soldiers’ names aloud, to honor those who sacrificed their lives. Covering 52 hectares (130 acres), Meuse-Argonne is the largest American cemetery in Europe.

As part of the ceremony on Sunday afternoon, serving US soldiers gathered in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery in northern France to listen to the names of the troops killed in the fighting being read out. Representatives from the French army were also on show

Serving American soldiers wearing WWI military uniforms were on parade during the remembrance ceremony in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery on Sunday. The cemetery is the largest American military cemetery on the continent, dwarfing many of the World War Two graveyards

Serving American soldiers wearing WWI military uniforms were on parade during the remembrance ceremony in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery on Sunday. The cemetery is the largest American military cemetery on the continent, dwarfing many of the World War Two graveyards

Commander of U.S. European Command, Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, delivers a speech during Sunday's commemorations as he flew in from the US to join in the ceremony

Commander of U.S. European Command, Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, delivers a speech during Sunday’s commemorations as he flew in from the US to join in the ceremony

Organizers were forced to cancel the planned lighting of 14,000 candles because of the bad weather.

Gerald York, grandson of World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York, praised a ‘beautiful commemoration’.

‘The weather’s a little dreary, but that’s the way it was 100 years ago for the battle. So we’re kind of getting a view of what they did, what they fought in and the conditions they had to endure,’ he said.

His grandfather earned the Medal of Honor for his efforts during the Meuse-Argonne battle. Sgt. York led an attack on a German machine gun nest, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers, and capturing 132 Germans.

‘It was the first real modern warfare that the U.S. was in. Machine guns, airplanes, tanks, mustard gas that killed many,’ York said.

Two men in the WWI military uniforms of France and the United States pose in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery, northeastern France, during a remembrance ceremony on Sunday as hundreds of volunteers braved inclement weather to turn out for the remembrance service

Two men in the WWI military uniforms of France and the United States pose in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery, northeastern France, during a remembrance ceremony on Sunday as hundreds of volunteers braved inclement weather to turn out for the remembrance service

French and American flags were planted at the tombstones of marked and unmarked soldiers' graves as people from around the world gathered to pay their respects to those who died during the deadly offensive 100 years ago

French and American flags were planted at the tombstones of marked and unmarked soldiers’ graves as people from around the world gathered to pay their respects to those who died during the deadly offensive 100 years ago

Commander of U.S. European Command, Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, placing candles on the tombstones of American soldiers in the cemetery as part of the ceremony of remembrance on Sunday afternoon

Commander of U.S. European Command, Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, placing candles on the tombstones of American soldiers in the cemetery as part of the ceremony of remembrance on Sunday afternoon

Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Comission, William Matz, delivers a speech during a remembrance ceremony in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery surrounded by military figures from around the world including several high-ranking generals from France

Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Comission, William Matz, delivers a speech during a remembrance ceremony in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery surrounded by military figures from around the world including several high-ranking generals from France

The cemetery contains eight wide grave sections with long regular rows of crosses stretch between the trees on the gentle slopes of a hill with many of the graves unmarked. Hundreds of bodies of men killed in the fighting were never identified because of the severity of their injuries

The cemetery contains eight wide grave sections with long regular rows of crosses stretch between the trees on the gentle slopes of a hill with many of the graves unmarked. Hundreds of bodies of men killed in the fighting were never identified because of the severity of their injuries

Grandson of WWI hero Alvin York, Colonel Gerald York, walks in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery. His grandfather earned the Medal of Honor for his efforts during the battle after leading an offensive against a German position in which 25 of the enemy were killed and over a hundred captured

Grandson of WWI hero Alvin York, Colonel Gerald York, walks in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery. His grandfather earned the Medal of Honor for his efforts during the battle after leading an offensive against a German position in which 25 of the enemy were killed and over a hundred captured

Around 16,000 of the total number of American dead are buried at the cemetery in northern France with thousands more missing. Along the walls of the chapel area are the tablets of the missing which include the names of those soldiers who fought in the region and in northern Russia, but have no known grave

Around 16,000 of the total number of American dead are buried at the cemetery in northern France with thousands more missing. Along the walls of the chapel area are the tablets of the missing which include the names of those soldiers who fought in the region and in northern Russia, but have no known grave

‘In that area was the largest battle and the most casualties because you had men going up against machine guns. And machine guns were just mowing folks down.’

William M. Matz, secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) that maintains the site, believes that this piece of history must be retold to younger generations.

‘I think it’s important for their teachers, their parents to bring them to these beautiful sites, let them walk through the rows of crosses, let them look at the walls of remembrance, let them go into the cemetery chapels and let them learn the history of what these men did 100 years ago,’ he said.

‘It’s because of their brave deeds, their acts of valor and courage and commitment … that these young folks are able to live and enjoy the life that they’re living,’ he added.

As night drew in at the Meuse-Argonne cemetery, candles which had been placed on top of war graves were lit to create a dazzling illumination effect

As night drew in at the Meuse-Argonne cemetery, candles which had been placed on top of war graves were lit to create a dazzling illumination effect

Row upon row of candles could be seen illuminating the night sky on Sunday as a candle was placed on the headstone of each of the dead American soldiers in the cemetery

Row upon row of candles could be seen illuminating the night sky on Sunday as a candle was placed on the headstone of each of the dead American soldiers in the cemetery

A U.S .Army 37-mm gun crew man their position as they fight their way through no-man's land during the World War One Meuse-Argonne Allied offensive in France in September 1918. By the time of the offensive, the deadlocked trench warfare stage of the fighting was just starting to be broken

A U.S .Army 37-mm gun crew man their position as they fight their way through no-man’s land during the World War One Meuse-Argonne Allied offensive in France in September 1918. By the time of the offensive, the deadlocked trench warfare stage of the fighting was just starting to be broken

American artillery spotter checking range of his units shells during the Meuse-Argonne offensive on October 5 1918 as the fighting dragged on for seven weeks. The battlefields were so badly damaged by the fighting that the French Sécurité Civile agency believes it will take 700 years to recover all the unexploded shells hidden in the soil

American artillery spotter checking range of his units shells during the Meuse-Argonne offensive on October 5 1918 as the fighting dragged on for seven weeks. The battlefields were so badly damaged by the fighting that the French Sécurité Civile agency believes it will take 700 years to recover all the unexploded shells hidden in the soil

American gunners pose near their 14-inch railway gun in northern France as they rest during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The fierce battle eventually led to the complete collapse of the German army in France and the end of the war on November 11 1918

American gunners pose near their 14-inch railway gun in northern France as they rest during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The fierce battle eventually led to the complete collapse of the German army in France and the end of the war on November 11 1918

American soldiers passing through the ruins of Varennes during the offensive. Varennes was almost completely destroyed by the brutal artillery campaign and was located in the so-called 'Zone rouge' - an area cleared by the French government after the war

American soldiers passing through the ruins of Varennes during the offensive. Varennes was almost completely destroyed by the brutal artillery campaign and was located in the so-called ‘Zone rouge’ – an area cleared by the French government after the war

A squadron of American armored troops preparing for an attack on the Argonne Forest near Verdun as they slowly make their way through the forest. American troops made use of effective British tanks as they struggled to break through the German lines

A squadron of American armored troops preparing for an attack on the Argonne Forest near Verdun as they slowly make their way through the forest. American troops made use of effective British tanks as they struggled to break through the German lines

During seven weeks of combat, 1.2 million American troops led by Gen. John J. Pershing fought to advance on the entrenched positions held by about 450,000 Germans in the Verdun region.

The offensive that started on September 26, 1918, was one of several simultaneous Allied attacks that brought the war which started in 1914 to an end, leading the Germans to retreat and sign the armistice on November 11.

Pershing said ‘the success stands out as one of the very great achievements in the history of American arms.’

At the cemetery, eight wide grave sections with long regular rows of crosses stretch between the trees on the gentle slopes of a hill. On top is a chapel where the names of 954 missing American soldiers, whose bodies were never found or identified, are engraved.

A section of American Marines move through a shattered wood during the offensive. The main objective of the campaign was to knock out the German railway hub at Sedan which would effectively sever all supply lines to the western front and bring to and end the war

A section of American Marines move through a shattered wood during the offensive. The main objective of the campaign was to knock out the German railway hub at Sedan which would effectively sever all supply lines to the western front and bring to and end the war

A German plane downed but not destroyed on the battlefield near Verdun. Towards the end of the conflict, aerial superiority became ever more crucial for the opposing sides as aircraft evolved from being used for reconnaissance to dropping armaments 

A German plane downed but not destroyed on the battlefield near Verdun. Towards the end of the conflict, aerial superiority became ever more crucial for the opposing sides as aircraft evolved from being used for reconnaissance to dropping armaments 

The human cost on the German side of the fighting was also grave as more than 28,000 soldiers lost their lives and around 120,000 were injured in the fighting. Almost 60,000 German soldiers were also taken as POWs by the French and Americans

The human cost on the German side of the fighting was also grave as more than 28,000 soldiers lost their lives and around 120,000 were injured in the fighting. Almost 60,000 German soldiers were also taken as POWs by the French and Americans

Patients queue for food at a German field hospital near the front during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in north-eastern France. As the offensive began in September 1918 there were only 450,000 German soldiers attempting to hold back 1.2million fresh American troops

Patients queue for food at a German field hospital near the front during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in north-eastern France. As the offensive began in September 1918 there were only 450,000 German soldiers attempting to hold back 1.2million fresh American troops

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