When J. S. Cartier’s article about the Western Front today (November) mentioned a German monument to their dead still “carefully maintained by the local French” people, it reminded me of a World War I battlefield tour I took shortly after the end of World War II. While I was exploring Belleau Wood and Château-Thierry I visited the American Cemetery and met the caretaker, who turned out to be an American himself.
We started to talk, and I found out he had been there all through the war just ended. I asked how the Germans treated a lone American taking care of an American monument in the midst of the Nazi occupation in France. “Well,” he said, “two well-dressed officers dropped in early on and asked to look around. I took them to the points of interest, ending up at the U.S. cemetery. They looked at the grave markers and asked if there were any German graves. I said yes and took them over to the smaller German cemetery. I could tell they were mentally comparing the maintenance of the American graves with the German ones. They had to admit there was no difference; I’d been very careful to see that all my graves were maintained as well as could be done. They left obviously pleased, and during the rest of the occupation many German visitors called upon me, but I was never molested in any way.”