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The World War I Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial lies on the southeast edge of the town of Waregem, Belgium, along the Lille-Ghent E17 highway. It is located 175 miles north of Paris, France and 46 miles west of Brussels. The cemetery is within 30 miles of Brugge (Bruges) and Gent (Ghent), two cities in Flanders. Waregem may be reached by train from Brussels via Ghent in approximately one hour; from Paris, Gare du Nord, in about five hours via Lille and Kortrijk (Courtrai), and five and one-half hours via Brussels and Ghent. Taxi service is available from the station in Waregem.

The cemetery occupies a six acre (24,000 m²) site. Masses of graceful trees and shrubbery frame the burial area and screen it from the passing traffic. At the ends of the paths leading to three of the corners of the cemetery are circular retreats with benches and urns. At this peaceful location rest 368 American military Dead, most of whom gave their lives in liberating Belgium in World War I. Their headstones are aligned in four symmetrical areas around the white stone chapel that stands in the center of the cemetery.

The altar inside the chapel is of black and white Grand Antique marble having draped flags on each side; above it is a crusader's sword outlined in gold. The chapel furniture is of carved oak, stained black and white veining to harmonize with the altar. On the side walls are inscribed the names of 43 of the Missing in Action who gave their lives in the service of their Country, but whose remains were never recovered or identified.

The cemetery is open daily to the public from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm except 25 December and 1 January. It is open on host country holidays. When the cemetery is open to the public, a staff member is on duty in the Visitors’ Building to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites. Flanders Field is a sacred little place where people see different things.

John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day the most memorable war poem ever written. It goes like this.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem: Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime. As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient. It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it: "I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done." One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain. The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry. In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook. A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave." When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read: "The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene." In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flanders_Field"

So this is the battle that my great grandfather died at.