Somme American Cemetery
There are 1,844 casualties of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) buried at the Somme American Cemetery. 138 burials are unidentified.
Design & Construction
The cemetery was established as a temporary burial site by the American War Graves Registration Service during the war. In 1918 it was called the American Expeditionary Forces' Somme Cemetery No. 636.
After the end of the war the next of kin of US Servicemen were asked if they wished the casualty to be returned to the United States for burial. Those casualties who were buried in numerous temporary American burial plots in the area and who were not returned to the United States were brought to this cemetery.
From 1934, when the responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the American war burial sites was taken over by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), work was carried out in the cemetery.
The Memorial Chapel and other architectural features in the cemetery site were designed by architect George Howe (1886-1955) of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. George Howe had served in the US Forces during the First World War.
On 30 May 1937 a ceremony of dedication was held at the cemetery.
The area on the site for the graves is laid out in four rectangles. Each grave is marked with a white marble headstone.
1,794 graves are marked with a white marble Latin Cross.
Star of David
There are 33 soldiers of the Jewish faith who have a Star of David headstone.
Medal of Honour
There are three recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest military award by the United States for an act of valour.
Nurse Helen Fairchild
Helen Fairchild was a volunteer nurse who served with the U.S. Army Reserve. She served in France and Belgium from June 1917.
In late July 1917 she volunteered to serve with a nursing team at Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) No. 4 at Dozinghem in Belgium. It was one of the field hospitals dealing with the wounded from the Third Battle of Ypres on the Ypres Salient battlefield.
Following an aerial bombing attack on 17th August the CCS was evacuated. A few weeks later Helen fell ill with tonsilitis. She died a few weeks after this on 1st January 1918 from complications considered to be as a result of exposure to Mustard Gas from the bombing attack in August.
Her grave reference is Plot A, Row 15, Grave 13.
The chapel is situated at the south-east side of the cemetery. There is a large bronze double door to enter the chapel. On the double doors there are 48 stars, each representing one of the 48 States of America on the 48 Star Flag of the period in 1937. Over the door is a large bronze eagle with its wings outstretched.
Wording above the door is:
TO THOSE WHO DIED
FOR THEIR COUNTRY
High up on the north and south sides of the exterior chapel walls there are sculpted reliefs.
On the northern wall there is a tank and on the southern wall there is an artillery gun.
On the south facing wall there is the name of the cemetery and two inset eagle sculptures.
Names of the Missing
Over 300 names of those missing in action who have no known grave are engraved on the walls of the chapel. An inscription reads:
THE NAMES RECORDED ON THESE WALLS ARE THOSE OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS WHO FOUGHT IN THIS REGION WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES
There are three windows in the chapel. The window above the altar is in the shape of a cross. The two windows on the left and right of the altar are stained glass and include insignia of American units of the First World War.
A flagpole flying the American flag is located in the centre of four plots of graves. At the base of the flagpole are four bronze helmets.
The helmets were designed by Marcel Loyau and were cast by H Rouard Foundries in Paris.
Visitors can access the site at any time. However, there are hours of opening for the member of staff on site. These are between 09.00 hours and 17.00 hours every day except on 25th December and 1st January. The site is open on all other French and US public holidays.
During these visiting hours a member of staff is on site to welcome visitors and to assist with finding a grave or a commemorated name.
A dedicated parking area is provided in front of the Visitors' Building.
The Superintendant's Office and Visitors' Building are situated to the south of the cemetery and reached via a driveway lined with trees. During opening hours toilets are available for visitors.
The Visitors' Book is to be found in the Visitors' Building. There is a comfortable room for those who wish to sit and rest or find out information from the superintendant.
Somme American Cemetery, rue de Macquincourt, 02420 Bony, France
Telephone +33 23 66 87 20
Location of Somme American Cemetery & Memorial
Latitude N 49° 59' 8" ; Longitude E 3° 12' 58"
The American Battle Monuments Commission
See our page for more about the Commission and links:
American Battle Monuments Commission
1 Photograph of Nurse Helen Fairchild taken from the picture of her on a memorial at Dozinghem to Nurse Fairchild, which was reproduced courtesy of Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc.