Naperville author discovers grandfather’s words during trip to France
By Jeffrey A. Bockman Submitted June 16, 2011 12:56PM
In 2008 the town of Is-sur-Tille in France erected a monument to show that 90 years after WWII, “the memory of the American presence is still alive.” Here Naperville author Jeffrey Bockman poses with the installation. | Submitted by Jeffrey Bockman
Updated: August 16, 2011 12:26AM
Every town in France has a monument to the fallen soldiers in both the first and second world wars.
The one in the center of Is-sur-Tille in the Cote d’Or department of Burgundy, France, is unique in that it also includes a list of the 238 U.S. soldiers and workers who died in the hospital at Camp Williams, which was a gigantic supply camp there.
Several years ago, the names of the Americans were so worn that they could not be read, so a new list of the 238 names was recreated for the monument.
Inside the town hall meeting chamber, there is also a memorial to the fallen towns people.
To show their gratitude for the American involvement that helped to end the war, Is-sur-Tille is one of the French towns where the U.S. flag is on permanent display inside the town hall meeting chamber.
To help preserve the memory of the camp, the village also named two streets “rue du camp americain” and “rue du President Wilson.”
In 2008 the town authorities, the Societe d’Histoire Tille/Ignon, and the Rotary club erected a monument to show that 90 years after “the memory of the American presence is still alive.”
THE AMERICAN CAMP
From September 1917
to May 1919,
the huge installations
Advanced Base No. 1 stretched across this site.
Its immense railroad yard facilitated the flow of men and material to the front,
thus hastening the end
of the war.
Eternal gratitude to our valiant Allies.
Long live Franco-American friendship
and peace in Europe.
My grandfather was stationed there for most of April and May 1918. The letters that he wrote home describing the camp and surrounding area gave me a glimpse about him as a person. This was important because he died in 1924 when my mother was only three years old.
I recently visited the area to see some of the things he described and to feel closer to him. While I accomplished that, I also came away feeling much closer to the town and the people who I met.
Members of the Society Histoire Tille Ignon went out of their way to show me around the town, take me to the memorials, and to the chimney of the only remaining building of the camp, which my grandfather had described in detail in his letters. They also arranged access to several homes, buildings and even a castle where he had lived, described or at least had seen.
After leaving Is-sur-Tille, my grandfather supervised the unloading and shipping of artillery shells and ammunitions to the front. The gentleman who was driving me around in an American Jeep said that his grandfather had been injured by an artillery shell that was possibly shipped by my grandfather. Since neither of our parents were born until after the war, we were both happy with the turn of events and wouldn’t want to try and change history.
The comment on the commemorative monument about “hastening the end of the war” reinforces the point that nobody wins in a war. At a family and local level there are only survivors and casualties.
When we crossed over the border into the Black Forest of Germany, there are similar monuments in every town. The “Mourning Lady” at the memorial in the town of Gutach (Schwarzwaldbahn) was especially touching.
Jeffrey A. Bockman is a genealogy lecturer and writer living in Naperville and the author of the book “Give Your Family A Gift That Money Can’t Buy; Record & Preserve Your Family’s History.” Visit www.JeffBockman.com to learn more.