The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest American battle in the First World War. The American First Army, flanked to the west by French forces, pushed north between the Argonne Forest and Meuse River to cut railroad lines that the Germans needed to supply their troops.
The enemy’s destructive weapons, diseases, intolerable weather conditions, and the duration of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign led to some of the greatest sacrifices ever endured by United States service members. The courage and dedication to duty displayed by American soldiers during the fierce fighting of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive are evidenced by the 53 Medal of Honor recipients who fought in this 47-day battle. The success that the First Army experienced in the campaign demonstrated the progression of the United States from a once militarily insignificant nation to a global power.
The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery amply demonstrates the breadth and diversity of American participation in World War I. The commemorative vision displayed by the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery is rich with symbolism and provides a venue to explore how the United States chose to honor the sacrifices and achievements of United States forces in World War I.
The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery is the largest American cemetery in Europe, World War I and World War II combined, in terms of headstones. A temporary cemetery was established here in 1918, during the fight. The land was later granted in perpetuity to the United States by the French government. The permanent improvements of the cemetery were completed in 1932 and dedicated in 1937.
Architect Luis Ayres designed this chapel in the Romanesque style. It was finished in 1932. Above the main entrance is a sculptured bas-relief in which the figures represent Grief and Remembrance. Enter the chapel through the large doors to behold an alcove with an altar circled by United States and Allied nations’ flags. Subdued light washes through stained glass insignias of American divisions and over the marble floor.
The walls of both loggias are carved with the names of 954 American soldiers who died in this region, or in other parts of the world, including Russia, who are commemorated here, but whose remains were never recovered. The west loggia displays an ornamental map showing the land captured by each of the American divisions during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The floors of the pavilions point directional arrows to prominent features of the landscape. The famous German defensive position known as the Hindenburg Line ran along the ridge behind the chapel.