Memorial Day in Waregem

One Sunday around 1970, I was biking around our house when I saw a helicopter land in a field nearby. Curious, I approached it. A few seconds later, I stood almost eye to eye with someone who seemed to be a very important man, surrounded by bodyguards and military men. It was David Eisenhower, son of the U.S. ambassador to Belgium John Eisenhower, grandson of the late president Eisenhower, and son-in-law of Richard Nixon, so I read in the newspaper the next day. What had brought him to my humble town of Waregem? It was Memorial Day, and I'm living less than one mile from the American Cemetery "Flanders Field". It is the smallest American cemetery in Europe, with only 368 graves from World War I. Each year on Memorial Day, a rememberance service is held. No helicopter this year, as U.S. ambassador Tom Korologos arrived by car, a BMW.

The presence of the American Cemetery in my town had some impact. I could sing the U.S. national anthem earlier than the Belgian national anthem, the Brabançonne. That's because children in Waregem learn the Star Spangled Banner in school, to sing it at the memorial service, a tradition since 1937. On Memorial Day, fighter jets are roaring the skies when they fly over in the "missing man formation", and the surroundings of the cemetery are crowded with army vehicles with the funny inscription "for official use only". This Sunday, I went to the memorial service and took some pictures.

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BUT FIRST, A POEM
One of the 368 soldiers who are buried at Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem, is Kenneth MacLeish, a pilot. He died in 1918 when his plane was shot by German gunfire near the harbor town of Nieuwpoort. His brother, captain Archibald MacLeish, became a famous poet and a Librarian of Congress. After he attended Memorial Day in Waregem on August 8, 1937, he wrote a poem titled "Memorial Rain". Here is a small quote from that poem:
Ambassador Puser the ambassador
Reminds himself in French, felicitous tongue,
What these (young men no longer) lie here for
In rows that once, and somewhere else, were young...

All night in Brussels the wind had tugged at my door;
I had heard the wind at my door and the trees strung
Taut, and to me who had never been before
In that country it was a strange wind, blowing
Steadily, stiffening the walls, the floor,
The roof of my room. I had not slept for knowing
He too, dead, was a stranger in that land
And felt beneath the earth in the wind's flowing
A tightening of roots and would not understand,
Remembering lake winds in Illinois,
That Strange wind. I had felt his bones in the sand
Listening [....]

In the gripe rain
The wind coiled glistening, darted fled,
Dragging its heavy body: at Waereghem
The wind coiled in the grass above his head:
Waiting - listening...


THE PICTURES


The memorial with chapel inside, designed by architect Paul Cret and inaugurated in 1937.


Some important guests at Memorial Day 2005 - left to right: Yolande Dhondt (mayor of the city of Waregem), Paul Breyne (governor of the province of West-Flanders), Tom Korologos (US ambassador to Belgium), Renaat Landuyt (Belgian minister of Mobility), general Edward Hanlon jr. (US military representative to NATO), Mrs. Hanlon, Erik Derycke (judge at the Belgian Constitutional Court).


Belgian socialists flanking the U.S. military - left to right: Renaat Landuyt, general Hanlon, mrs. Hanlon, Erik Derycke


Close-up of ambassador Korologos taking pictures, Renaat Landuyt, general and mrs. Hanlon


These men are running the cemetery on a day-to-day basis: superintendent Hubert Caloud and guide Christopher Sims. Photo copyright David Stockman, all rights reserved.
Apart from these two men, the cemetery employs a mechanic, a mason and two gardeners.

Hubert Caloud
Before working with the American Battle Monuments Commission, superintendent Hubert Caloud served 30 years in the US Marine Corps.


Ambassador Tom Korologos, mayor Yolande Dhondt, member of Flemish parliament Carl Decaluwe.

Renaat Landuyt
Minister Renaat Landuyt.


The public.

General Edward Hanlon jr.
General Edward Hanlon jr.





Sources:
Memorial Rain - Waregem 1914-1918, published by the city of Waregem.
Marine Hubert Caloud beheert Amerikaans kerkhof, article by Hendrik Ghistelinck, Het Nieuwsblad, May 27, 2005.

Reacties

#14079

goethe girl

 

This is the first time (September 19!) that I came across your very interesting site. Nixon's son-in-law is DAVID Eisenhower, but otherwise I find your site quite nice.

#14050

Filip Vanwynsberghe

 

Never Forget Never Forgive !!
Frenzy aka Filip
http://www.dtwtrucks.com/Fr...

#10444

Leo Norekens

 

http://www.abmc.g...

http://www.abmc.g...

Couldn't find a number in Belgium either, but on the page about the Henri-Chapelle Cemetery (Belgium), it says:

"If you would like to learn more about this cemetery, the Commission has a booklet that you can obtain in two ways:

1. You may write to us at:

Operations --- Director of Engineering, Maintenance and Operations

American Battle Monuments Commission

Courthouse Plaza II, Suite 500

2300 Clarendon Boulevard

Arlington, VA 22201

Telephone (703) 696-6897

(2. ...) " http://www.abmc.g...

#10192

Outlaw Mike

 

Mr. Epstein, I couldn't find it either, even after querying using "Amerikaanse militaire begraafplaats" + Waregem and the like.

I think your best shot is simply to call Waregem's municipal services at 0032 56 62 12 11.

This is the City of Waregem's site: http://www.warege...

There is a Union Jack button for the English-speaking visitors. I doubt however you will find much needed info there, unless you are a fan of horse races.

#10151

CP

 

Ambassador Korologos is an avid amateur photographer, I know at least one photo store in Brussels that's getting very rich because of the rolls of film Mr. Korologos develops there. And he's a nice guy too. Sometimes very funny too.

#10040

David

 

What is the telephone number of the cemetery office? I cannot find it at GoudenGids.be

#9652

Briggs

 

Rangefinder huh..As long as you dont let the General play with it...he just might call in an arty strike :)

#9370

Outlaw Mike

 

Mike Mulch: "Yet it might also just mean the important 18th century American gathered a lot of bad karma to be reincarnated not even as a dog but as a Belgian."

Funniest quote of the day.

#9351

JVS

 

Luc: "@JVS: do you mean that the Contax Rangefinder is the BMW of photo cameras?"

This question is not easy to answer in a few phrases, because there are so many elements to consider. My opinion, the nec plus ultra in non-digital rangefinder cameras is the Leica M (my favourite is the M2), and Contax comes a tad below. But this is all discussable of course, and more important is the quality of the lenses. Overall Leitz (that makes Leica : "LEItz CAmera") scores better than Zeiss (fits on Contax).

Zeiss also produces lenses for the Sony digital cameras and Leitz does it for Panasonic, But don't expect here the same quality as their "serious" lenses.

interesting site : http://www.camera...

#9350

LVB

 

@JVS: do you mean that the Contax Rangefinder is the BMW of photo cameras?

#9345

JVS

 

Readers of this blog have no interest in decent photocameras. shame!

#9340

P. Bass-Treble

 

Now if you ask me who I admire most among these illustrious dignitaries, just give me general Edward Hanlon Jr any time. I even got up at 7 o'clock this morning to do so. He's tops for me for 2 reasons:

1. His cap. It works so well for him.

2. His tired gaze. He must have seen a lot in his life. And now he sees Waregem.

Great guy, the general!

#9335

Leo Norekens

 

When I said "I don't think I know anybody who can (sing it)", I meant the Belgian national anthem, of course.

#9333

Mike Mulch

 

The fact that Mr LvB could sing the Star Spangled Banner as a lone and small child in a country far away must mean he is a 19th or even 18th century important American reincarnated. May be this means he's in for great things, may be he only has to be discovered thanks to the secret signs on his body to be reinstated and restored in a splendid and most important position in Washington. Yet it might also just mean the important 18th century American gathered a lot of bad karma to be reincarnated not even as a dog but as a Belgian. But, what the heck, the wheel keeps turning. You'll go far, Lvb!

#9331

Leo Norekens

 

Looks more like plaster or meringue to me. :-)

(Doesn't anybody have anything *serious* to say about this *serious* article? This is a *serious* Blog after all.)

LVB says he could sing the Star Spangled Banner earlier than the Belgian national anthem. I wonder if that means he can sing it now. Personally, I don't think I know anybody who can.

#9328

Jack Stroboscopick Jr.

 

And what brand is that splendid whig on Mr Korologos's head? Or is it a flattened white cockatoo? Whatever it is, my sincerest congratulations!

#9259

Joe

 

Tom Korologos has a Contax rangefinder?

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