The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, in Picardy in northern France, contains the graves of just over 6,000 American soldiers who died while fighting in this vicinity during World War I. Their graves are distributed across four plots designated Plot A through D. But there is also a fifth plot — Plot E —that’s located outside the walls of the main cemetery, across the road. Plot E is secluded, surrounded by hedges and hidden behind a thick forest. Buried here are soldiers who served in World War II. But these are not war heroes. Instead, the shunned Plot E contains the graves of those who were “dishonorably discharged” from service and executed under military authority for crimes committed during or shortly after the World War. These were rapists and murderers.
Photo credit: Stranger20824/Wikimedia
Plot E is deliberately hidden from view, and there is no official entryway for the public. The only way in is through the rear door of the superintendent's office. Visitors are not encouraged and its existence is not noted on any of the cemetery’s promotional literature, guide pamphlets, or on its website. Plot E is the perfect anti-memorial, a “house of shame”, as put by one cemetery employee.
Unlike the marble monuments and inscribed standing headstones of the regular plots, the graves on Plot E are marked by flat stone markers about the size of standard index cards, carrying only a sequential number engraved in black. There are no names or dates. The intention was that individual graves would be impossible to identify, but the U.S. Government later released a document stating who was located where in the cemetery. There is a small, solitary, white cross standing at the head of the space. No US flag is permitted to fly over the section, and the numbered graves literally lie with their backs turned to the main cemetery on the other side of the road.
Plot E currently contains the remains of 94 American soldiers, all of whom were either rapists or murderers or both. All had been dishonorably discharged from the US Army just prior to their executions. Only one individual buried in Plot E had not been convicted of a violent crime. He was Eddie Slovik, who carries the infamous distinction of being the only soldier executed for desertion during the years of World War II. In 1987 President Ronald Reagan gave permission for Slovik's remains to be exhumed and returned to the United States for reburial.
The grave of Pvt Louis Till (#75) in Plot E of Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. Photo credit: www.findagrave.com
The main cemetery. Photo credit: Victor Grigas/Wikimedia
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