French village provides backdrop for Missouri WWI memorial
More than 4,500 miles from Mid-Missouri near the village of Cheppy, France, sits a memorial dedicated to the Missouri military members who lost their lives during the “Great War.”
Though time and distance may have diminished awareness of this striking monument, the National World War I Museum in Kansas City strives to preserve the memory of this memorial and other key sites which honor a conflict now in the beginning stage of its centennial.
“There were very few actual state monuments (located overseas) from World War I,” said Doran Cart, senior curator with the museum.
“(The Missouri) memorial is truly a very impressive memorial,” Cart added. “It is also fitting that the village near where it is located, Cheppy, is also the site where Alexander Skinker—a Missourian—won the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroic actions during the war.”
According to the book “American Women Artists in Wartime, 1776-2010,” the Missouri memorial was erected in 1922 and sculpted by Nancy Coonsman Hahn— also a Missourian, and a student of the St. Louis School of Fine Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
The memorial is situated on a triangular piece of land approximately a half-mile from Cheppy, an important location associated with engagments of the 35th and 89th Divisions, which were heavily populated with Missouri soldiers during the war.
Hahn’s design features a bronze figure situated on top of a granite base—a woman looking toward the sky grasping a victory wreath of laurel in her raised right hand while holding an olive branch in her other hand. The base of the memorial is emblazoned with the state seal of Missouri.
“Missouri Over There”—a web-based project dedicated to the state’s involvement in World War I—notes that below the state seal is an inscription in both English and French, translated to read, “Erected by the State of Missouri, United States of America, to the memory of her sons who died in France for humanity during the Great War 1917-1918.”
“We visited the (Missouri) memorial in 2012 and 2013 as part of our battlefield tour programs,” said Patrick Raymond, vice president of facilities management with the National World War I Museum. “It was part of the tour that we conduct every year.”
Launched in 2012, the battlefield tours are planned in coordination with Battle Honours Ltd. located in Great Britain. Though open to the public, the yearly tours are generally limited to a small number of participants.
“Every year we choose a different destination, but the Western Front seems to be what people are most interested in,” Raymond said. “Some of the primary sites we visit are in France, Belgium and Germany. It’s really a very hands-on experience; we go into the trenches and tunnels used during the war.”
Though this year’s museum tour deviated to battle sites in Gallipoli (Turkey) and the “Southern Front,” Raymond notes that the Missouri memorial continues to be a significant point of interest and priority during the museum’s tours.
“Many of our (museum) members are from Missouri and it has certainly become a spot that we intend to visit every year.”
For information on upcoming battlefield memorial tours, please visit www.theworldwar.org./travel.
Information on the “Missouri Over There” project can be found at http://missourioverthere.blogspot.com/.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Amick
Public Affairs Officer
Silver Star Families of America
Cell: (573) 230-7456