Memorial Inauguration – Aisne, France



On the occasion of the inauguration of the 42nd Rainbow Division Memorial in Fère-en-Tardenois (Aisne), France on November 12, 2011

Inauguration Program
at the Memorial
Inauguration Program
at the Salle des Fetes

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Letter read at the inauguration from Major General Steven N. Wickstrom – Commander, 42nd Infantry Division – NY Army National Guard

September 11, 2011

Monique Seefried, Ph.D., President
Croix Rouge Farm Memorial Foundation
2052 Ridge Avenue
Montgomery AL 36106

Dear Dr. Seefried and honored attendees for the Croix Rouge Farm Memorial Dedication:

As commander of the modern-day 42nd Infantry Division, please let me share my praise for the placement and dedication of the Rainbow Division Monument at Croix Rouge Farm this November 12. It is fitting that you will dedicate this monument the weekend of Armistice Day.

On behalf of the thousands of Citizen Soldiers who are part of our Rainbow Division organization, this milestone comes at an appropriate time, certainly for the descendants of the 167th Alabama Regiment and for all Soldiers of the historic 42nd Infantry Division.

It is fitting that this monument, dedicated this fall, will remember the tremendous service and sacrifice of the Rainbow Division’s 167th Alabama and 168th Iowa Regiments during the Battle of Croix Rouge Farm of July 25-26,1918.

After having distinguished itself on July 15-16th in the Champagne as a complete division, the Rainbow was called upon with its historic units, the167th Alabama, 168th Iowa, 165th New York and 166th Ohio Regiments, to participate in the liberation of the Chateau Thierry salient.

These Rainbow Soldiers contributed greatly to the liberation of the Chateau-Thierry salient and proved the worth of the American Expeditionary Force in France.

Croix Rouge Farm and the crossing of the Ourcq River are pivotal achievements in the history of our division and our Army. Just as Soldiers of the 165th Infantry, New York’s famous “Fighting 69th” claim the glory of crossing the Ourcq River, it was the success at Croix Rouge Farm that pushed German forces into retreat and made the bayonet charge of the 167th Alabama an icon in our history.

After this battle, the initiative of the Great War turned solidly to the allies and the surging doughboys of the American Expeditionary Force. From Croix Rouge Farm forward, American forces would attack and attack to push German forces back across the Ourcq River in what is collectively known as the Second Battle of the Marne.

Our own official division history says that “The capture of the Croix Rouge Farm and clearing belongs to that list of military exploits which cannot fail to excite the admiration of those who hear the tale, because of the determination and gallantry displayed.”

Let me also add our division’s praise to the memorial sculptor James Butler.His insight, vision and work capture the devotion to duty and tremendous sacrifice of our Alabama Regiment and of all servicemen in the Great War.

Today’s men and women of the Rainbow Division continue to live up to the legacy of the Marne, the Champagne and the Ourcq, St. Mihiel, and the Argonne. They have done so at ground zero where the towers fell in New York City, in the mountains of Afghanistan and across the cities and sands of Iraq. We are as deeply committed today to the cause of liberty and freedom that filled the ranks of the Rainbow during the Great War.

While I regret not personally joining you for this dedication, please know that the colors of the Rainbow stretch across the Atlantic and give you and the Memorial Foundation our deepest gratitude and praise for preserving the historic contributions of Rainbow Soldiers past, present and future.

Rainbow, Never Forget!

All my best regards,

Steven N. Wickstrom
Major General, NY Army National Guard
Commander, 42nd Infantry Division

Remarks by Robert J. Dalessandro – U.S. Army Chief of Military History

Thank you for allowing me a few moments to pay tribute to the events which occurred nearly one hundred years ago here at Croix Rouge Farm. My heartfelt thanks go out to the many individuals who shepherded this memorial to completion today. What a magnificent tribute to these heroes.

It is fitting that we gather together here today to pay homage to the 42nd Division and indeed to commemorate the power of the lasting Franco American alliance.

To any American, much less a native Virginian, the words uttered when American Soldiers set foot on French soil in 1917 hold special meaning. “Lafayette, we are here!” These words conjure the memories of the birth of the American nation and of the battle of the Chesapeake Capes and of Yorktown and of Rochambeau and d’Estaing and of the precious blood of French soldiers shed for the birth of America.

Here at Croix-Rouge Farm and in the Meuse-Argonne, the Vosges and at a thousand other places, American soldiers returned some small part of that debt in the spirit of fraternity and unity.

And it is at these sites, which when taken in the context of the great maneuverings of 1914-1918, often appear as smaller actions that we may highlight the power of individuals. And individuals and their actions allow every moment of combat to be potentially decisive. What I am telling you is that in war, every action makes a difference; as did those of the soldiers of Alabama and Iowa and France here . . . this fight made a difference!

Yes, the big battles and the famous generals get the headlines and later get chapters in history books, but success or failure in those battles rests on the actions of lower ranking officers and soldiers, the captains and lieutenants, the sergeants and privates. They fight and win battles and they determine victory.

As the Army Chief of Military History, I am often asked why battlefield preservation and commemoration is important. After all, in these pressing times of financial crisis, why bother to memorialize battlefields, or for that matter study the history of long past events. For that matter why is history important to us at all?

Simply stated, history is the thread of continuity that binds us to those men and women that have struggled before us. Far beyond providing us an understanding of the past, or fostering pride in our nation or our community, history teaches us that we are part of something far greater than ourselves – history links us to the men and women who have gone before us. We take their legacies to heart and draw from their strength to overcome our challenges and adversities.

We study history so that the past may inform our future. This is the importance of history!

What then is the importance of the battlefields of history or of Croix-Rouge Farm? To answer that question, I will quote one far more eloquent that I. Simply stated:

“In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls… and generations that know us not and that we know not of, will be heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, and they shall come to this now deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision shall pass into their souls.”

If perhaps today, the deeds of these men touched you, or inspired you, or gave you pause to pay thanks for all you have; then you have realized the vision – it has passed into your soul. And you have answered the question of history’s importance yourself. You understand why we have an obligation to remember these men, why we must remember their deeds, and why we must remember our history.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for allowing me a few moments to share my thoughts with you. Thank you for memorializing our Soldiers here today. I salute these men and I salute their brave French brothers in arms.

Thank you!

Remarks by Dr. Erin Mahan – Chief Historian of the Office of the Secretary of Defense

I am honored and privileged to be here today as we celebrate the heroism and recognize the sacrifice of the 42nd Rainbow Division at Croix-Rouge Farm. I am humbled to pay tribute not only to the men who fought and died here, but also to the memorial that will stand as an affirmation of the historic friendship between the United States and France.

American intervention on the side of France during World War I was an affirmation of the shared friendship of love of liberty. Just as French troops fought to help the American colonists become free, so American troops fought here and other battlefields along the Western Front to keep France free. It seems most fitting that just as French troops were at Yorktown in 1781 for the last battle of the American Revolution, so American troops were at Chateau Thierry in 1918 for the beginning of the last phase of WWI.

The conflagration once known as the Great War looms large here as it does throughout France at its many battlefields. The troops were full of the notion of sacrifice and sacrifice they did. The valor displayed and the slaughter endured here at Croix Rouge Farm almost 100 years ago was but a microcosm of that Great War that took almost 35 million lives in the course of four years.

The chivalry, idealism and sense of sacrifice that propelled the brave men of the 42nd Rainbow Division and their French comrades to fight and many to give the ultimate sacrifice—a death in mud and misery-•deserves the recognition and preservation for posterity that this memorial enshrines.

It is sometimes easy for historians with that glorious perspective of time to decry the senselessness of a past war. There were at the time and there persists today great moral and philosophical disagreements about the rightness of the Great War, and we cannot forget those because there is no wisdom to be gained in forgetting.

But we must not forget either that the troops of the 42nd Division and their French brethren fought for a noble cause, for a belief that they fought to end war. They believed, as a later U.S. president would declare, that “Mankind must put an end to war – or war will put an end to mankind.”

Those who fought here at Croix Rouge Farm are part of our shared history—part of the bond of our shared U.S.-French friendship. Those who died here reflected the best in us. They sacrificed their lives in the name of duty, honor, and country. No number of wreaths and no amount of memorializing will ever do them justice but it is right that we honor them and their sacrifice.

I join in thanking the many men and women who made this memorial possible. With this dedication, we will never forget the devotion, valor and sacrifice of the 42nd Division. With this fine and fitting memorial, they stand before us, those who never age, marching into time and into shared Franco-American memory.

Remarks by Mayor Gary Fuller – Opelika, Alabama

As mayor of the great City of Opelika, Alabama, I stand with you today as we recognize and honor the memory of the brave soldiers from the 167th Alabama Infantry Regiment that made the ultimate sacrifice on this battlefield, July 26, 1918. It is well known that these soldiers from Alabama didn’t have any famous politicians or celebrities promoting their involvement….but we know our men were warriors and they played a key role in the battle won here at Croix Rouge Farm.

Thank you very much for honoring the memory of these brave men from Alabama and the City of Opelika. I deeply appreciate, on behalf of the Opelika City Council and all our citizens, the monument you have erected to honor our heroes. I very much appreciate the good work of Nimrod Frazer and Monique Seefried to make this event possible. It will be decided by the historians the credit due to those Alabama soldiers for having fought at Croix Rouge Farm and by all accounts it was one of the hardest battles won by Americans in World War I, a victory that caused a German retreat. God bless the memory of all soldiers involved, French and American, especially Major Dallas B. Smith from Opelika and commander of the 3rd Battalion, which attacked from the south and southwest. His I Company was from Opelika and its Company Commander, Lieutenant John M. Powell was killed in the assault. Half of his force was killed or wounded. Lieutenant Harry Young was seriously wounded and one of the handful to take the farmhouse where we stand today.

Lieutenant Henry L. Griggs who was with them wrote, “This was the hardest fighting my battalion had during the war and was the only hand to hand fighting I saw during the war.”

Thank you very much for remembering and honoring the memory of these brave men.

Remarks by Major General Perry G. Smith – Alabama National Guard

Good afternoon distinguished visitors, ladies and gentlemen.

It is hard for me to find the right words to say today. When I think of the events that unfolded here nearly ONE HUNDRED years ago – the lives lost, the gallantry displayed, the freedom purchased, the lives changed – it is hard for me to comprehend the great sacrifice that was made here.

We remember today those who died, American and French warriors united against those who would take unlawfully what was not theirs and cruelly impose their will on others. I appreciate so much those of the foundation, local governments and the French government who have worked toward making today’s event possible. To know that the memory of our allies has not been dimmed in these years is refreshing and is a testament to the courage and valiance shown on the battlefield here.

The French and Americans have a history of working together in time of need ever since the French Navy under de Grasse sailed to General Washington’s rescue at the Battle of the Chesapeake at the forging of our nation. In 1917, we were able to return the favor by sailing across the Atlantic to join forces against the invading German army.

A great part of that American force, the 42nd Division, was the 167th Infantry Regiment from Alabama. Here, at Croix Rouge Farm, the 167th suffered heavy losses alongside our brothers from Iowa. The 167th earned a great deal of distinction from the honor and bravery displayed here in those late July days of 1918.

The 167th Infantry Battalion of the Alabama National Guard still carries that lineage and honor today and continues to serve with distinction. The 167th will deploy next year to Afghanistan in an effort to liberate another people being unlawfully oppressed. The times are different, the wars are very different in many ways, but the honor and service of the 167th Infantry and the Alabama National Guard are the same.

It is the sacrifice of Soldiers that we recognize today. It is the brotherhood between comrades-in-arms – though they even be from different nations on vastly separated continents – that we celebrate today.

When the Soldiers of the 167th Infantry and the rest of the 42nd Division fought here, they fought for freedom and peace, just as we do today. Their bodies lie here, beneath our feet, thousands of miles from their home, but oh so near to the cause for which they fought. Their sacrifice took place almost a hundred years ago, but it is not old, it is not stale, and it is certainly not forgotten.

Thank you again for this memorial. It means so much to the 167th Infantry and to the Alabama National Guard.

May God bless the memories of those who perished here. God bless the Soldiers who continue to fight and die for freedom, and God bless their families. May we always remember, as our nations knew in 1918, that those bound together in a just cause may unite in valiant action for the good of the whole world!

Thank you for inviting me to attend here today and for your kind attention. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

Remarks by Major General Raymond Carpenter – Director of the US Army National Guard

I am deeply honored to be here with you as we recognize the sacrifices made by the Soldiers of a truly historic unit of the United States Army.

It is humbling to stand with you on this now sacred soil to look back on a time of selfless sacrifice and remarkable valor. Ninety-three years ago our two countries fought together here, their co-mingled blood consecrating this ground.

The United States War Department took the best National Guard units available, and organized them into a new division. The goal was to deploy a trained force as rapidly as possible to France.

By the time U.S. troops arrived in Europe, France had already suffered tremendously. Once our country entered the war to fight alongside France and other allies, there was a great sense of urgency in the United States to mobilize an expeditionary force and to send it overseas to join the fight.

In a rush to send trained units to France, the War Department organized a division comprised of the best-prepared National Guard units. The Department chose National Guard units from 26 states and the District of Columbia. The next month, the 42nd was officially organized at Camp Mills on Long Island, New York. From there the unit prepared for deployment far from their home soil.

Douglas MacArthur, then a colonel and division chief of staff, was instrumental in forming this now legendary division. In summarizing the melting pot of cultures, backgrounds and accents that were represented by units from these states, he said: “The 42nd Division stretches like a Rainbow from one end of America to the other.”

In addition to being accurate, MacArthur’s statement helped establish a unique and memorable identity for the 42nd Division, thereafter known as the “Rainbow Division.”

The unit was comprised of dedicated young men from National Guard units representing more than half of the states, and the District of Columbia, our nation’s capital. They came from large cities, small towns and farming communities like this one.

These men left their neighborhoods. They left their jobs. They left their families. Far too many of them never returned to their homes. We honor them the most today.

As you all know, the fighting here at Croix Rouge Farm was brutal.

The 3rd Battalion commander, Major Dallas B. Smith, also from Alabama, describes the action in which he was wounded and for which he was also to receive a Distinguished Service Cross:

“We hadn’t advanced a hundred yards toward the Croix Rouge Farm when it was a matter of hand to hand fighting…using both the bayonet as we had been taught during so many hours of instruction, and the butt of the rifle, the latter being more effective. My battalion suffered many casualties. I reorganized the Battalion into two small companies.”

A decade after the Armistice, Father Francis P. Duffy of the 165th Infantry Regiment of New York was quoted as saying “There was no more gallant and sustained attack during the entire war than the taking of Croix Rouge Farm by Dallas Smith’s battalion on July 26, ten years ago.”

We are here today to honor Soldiers from different lands who forged unbreakable bonds. These warriors fought side-by-side, for freedom and democracy; joining this battle to turn back the forces of tyranny. They struggled for enduring ideals that sustain us to this day.

They were Citizen Soldiers, who set aside their professions, said farewell to their families to board ocean going troop carriers.

Once again, it is a great honor for me to be here today, representing the Army National Guard of the United States. I know how much all of you appreciate the heroism displayed by the National Guard Soldiers who came here so long ago, especially those who sacrificed their lives in the liberation of your homeland. Thank you for continuing the tradition of recognizing their service every year since the original Armistice Day.

Thank you very much.

Remarks by Mr. Jean-Paul Roseleux – Mayor of Fère-en-Tardenois

It is a great honor for me to welcome you here, today, in the Tardenois, a land of art and history.

This November12th marks the inauguration of the memorial of the Croix Rouge Farm. This inauguration is a double (dual) symbol.

On the day after the commemoration of the Armistice, to give homage to our Allies is a strong gesture. Nearly 100 years ago started this war between brothers. This war that was named “the Great War” . Great War indeed! 9 million dead, 20 millions casualties…

In France, about 600,000 widows and 1,000,000 orphans

A society radically transformed…

Nonetheless, this victory was the victory of the law: the right to revolt against Barbary, the right to democracy over hegemony…

Victory costly acquired!… Thanks to the valor of our troops, and the indispensable help of our allies, especially our American friends. Indeed, their presence from 1917 on gave hope back in a conflict that was floundering, and the addition (influx, bringing in) troops and material vastly contributed to the final victory. At what price!…As you now know, during this day at the Croix Rouge, about 200 dead, 1000 wounded…

The second symbol is the art work…When one gets closer to your Pietà, Mr. Butler, one is overwhelmed by emotion. Words are failing us. One is speechless. The many people who have come all had the same feeling. A lady was telling me the other day in pointing to her stomach…: “it grips you there and one remains without words”…

The way this soldier looks at his comrade is so incredibly moving. ONE is in front of a brother carrying a younger brother in his arms and his gaze seems to say: “WHY”. How much sensitivity in the gestures and attitudes of these two soldiers.

The correctness of the military gear…the quality of the details… one remains mesmerized in front of such realism.

I will dare a comparison, Mr. Butler: you have given a soul to this bronze.

I have the same emotion that when I am in the presence of the little “Chatelaine” of Camille Claudel. As in this sculpture by Camille Claudel, one would like to put a hand on her to commune with, and grasp a crumb of this sensitivity. Your Pietà deserves to be place on the native land of Camille Claudel. All the inhabitants of Fère are proud to be the repository of such a work of art. My heartfelt thanks go to all the actors who made this inauguration possible:

Monique Seefried, president of the foundation of the memorial of the Croix Rouge Farm, headstrong and daring, who knew so well how to convince us all in order to allow this grandiose project to come to completion,

Rod Frazer who wished to honor the memory of his father wounded on this site and who is one of the principal instigators of this site,

James Butler, the master, the artist…,

Farquahr Laing, the founder, for the quality of his work,

Senator Daudigny, president of the Council General, who through his personal interest for the project, gave it its full support in the various instances of the department,

Our congresswoman, Isabelle Vasseur, always present, and very attentive to the completion of projects in this region,

Monsieur le Prefet, monsieur le Sous Prefet who understood right away the important of this commemorative site, and who followed the evolution of this project with great attention,

The Veterans who honor with their presence all the patriotic ceremonies, and Mr. Odelot, their representative,

Ms Lallier, Deputy Principal of the Middle School of Fère-en-Tardenois, and the students who have been so implicated and interested in this project,

Catherine da Silva, who has been so implicated in the mission I entrusted her with,

and all of the city employees who took to heart to organize this day.

We are proud of the honor bestowed upon us, and be assured, Madam President, that we will know how to be worthy of it.

Remarks by Senator Yves Daudigny, President of the Council General

In the words of Abraham Lincoln on the battlefield of Gettysburg:

“We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground — The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power”   We thank them.

We are gathered here to inaugurate this monument, a tribute to the courage of the U.S. 42nd Division’s soldiers.  Only a few weeks ago, we saw it being installed and erected on this pedestal, on the site of the Croix Rouge Farm.

I had the opportunity at the time to say how moving it was, nearly a century after the events this monument commemorates, that there are still women and men to imagine such an initiative; women and men resolute enough to move from intention to action;  women and men who have crossed the Atlantic to do so.

The artistic quality of James Butler’s work, exhibited for a while in a high place of culture in London, has already been highlighted.  It keeps your attention.  To chose a renowned artist, commission his creativity, his hands to produce a unique work dedicated to the memory of these men, already means making memory. In the intent one finds already the tribute.

Allow me today to insist: this is a moving sculpture, a beautiful sculpture, in which everyone will read, interpret the intentions of the artist and his patrons in terms of his or her own sensitivity to the events and men of the Great War. As far as I am concerned, I sense in it a desire to highlight the values ​​of solidarity, of the link between citizen and the world, of courage.  Values ​​that these people manifested throughout their ordeal.

Our department, as you know, has been deeply marked by the events of WWI. Scene of several major battles, it suffered destruction on the scale of 4/5 of its territory; its northern part was occupied and 2/3 of all its inhabitants took the roads of exile.

How then could one remain indifferent to your act of memory? How could one not associated oneself to it? We are here on one of the major battlefields of the war, that of the second battle of the Marne in the spring and summer of 1918. An episode that begins with a rapid German breakthrough, from the Chemin des Dames to the gates of Château-Thierry.

We know today how crucial the support of American Expeditionary Forces was in these difficult days of the summer of 1918 in order to stop the last major German offensive and to allow the successful summer counterattack. The victory came in the fall thanks to the sacrifice of several thousand men from the United States of America and through the economic support and logistics of the whole American nation. The Rainbow Division that this memorial is honoring made a big contribution to these events. We must not forget it.

This war was a cataclysm, it caused 10 million deaths across the continent, involved 35 countries and swallowed up 1/5th of an age group, if one is only speaking of the disappearance of the men in uniform; its victims and its economic, social and political consequences, as everyone knows, have affected the whole of last century.

That there are no more direct witnesses of this cataclysm does not break the thread of memory. It remains extremely alive. It even renews itself!  And each year, at different periods of the calendar, thousand of our citizens bring it back to life through a variety of manifestations, ranging from the official commemorations, to associative, local, and state commemorative events, marches, lectures, concerts etc.  Motion pictures, literature, theater, song, and museums maintain a close relationship to that memory, feeding and nourishing it. This memory is generating social ties, it is an opportunity for civil society. Therein lies its importance as our country, like others in Europe, is shaken by the magnitude of its economic and social upheavals. Therefore, it would be a paradox – when less than a thousand days separate us from a centennial everyone is already talking about – to imagine that tomorrow we would not anymore be formally commemorating these events.

Let’s beware that, in order to allow the existence of other commemorations, other memories in themselves perfectly legitimate and just in their principle, one doesn’t lean on this site of memory that is the Great War; and in so doing that we forget its singularity so often established by historians with, as a result, ultimately, the creation of  a new object of memory whose contours would be more fuzzy, on which it would be more difficult to build a common consensus. This consensus that exists today is,  I think,  valuable;  it belongs to no one and yet to all of us.

After the Great War the establishment of a memorial day was an evidence. The legislator assigned to this commemoration a double meaning: it was the commemoration of the victory and it was also the commemoration of the peace. With hindsight, with the disappearance of the last players of the Great War and with our questions about Europe, what makes sense today is really peace. We must continue to honor tomorrow as we do today the sacrifice of all those men in uniform may they have been American, French, British, German, African … in the  name of a precious conquest on our continent: that of peace.

I thank you.

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