Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division
Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
The Cemetery At Draguignan
On August 17th I went back to
the cemetery to conduct religious services for the dead. I found that not
even one grave had been opened. They were digging in shale rock and
waiting for TNT to blast open graves.
I told the officer in charge
that we couldn’t have a cemetery there. Regulations provided that graves
must have proper drainage. We had quite a discussion. Fortunately
Lieutenant Colonel Clifton C. Carter, the Division Quartermaster, came
by. We agreed to ask for help from the French officials in the selection
of a cemetery site.
We decided to go to Draguignan,
the capital of Var. It was reported that our troops were fighting in the
town that morning, but we thought they would have the Germans driven out
by afternoon. We were correct.
When we reached Draguignan
everyone was rejoicing in the eviction of the enemy. We went to the
office of the Mayor and told him we needed land for a cemetery for our
dead. He suggested that we use their cemetery. It would be an honor for
the American dead to be buried with French soldiers.
I told him, “There are too many
dead for us to use your present cemetery.”
“C’est dommage! (It is a
pity)”, he exclaimed.
He assigned his secretary to
help us find an appropriate spot. The young man was delighted to
accompany us in our jeep. As we rode along, he waved to all his friends.
They cheered him.
He took us to a beautiful
field. The digging would be easy. Some trees could be left in place. We
agreed that it would be a suitable area. Colonel Carter agreed to come
back the next day with the necessary papers to purchase the land. When we
arrived the next day with the necessary papers for the purchase, we found
that local people had taken up a collection to buy the land and present it
to the American army.
We made arrangements with the
Airborne Division to bury their dead in our cemetery. Later on I had to
return to the cemetery many times to conduct religious services for our
dead. Every time I came there were fresh flowers on the graves. They had
been placed there by the local people. No one could be more appreciative
of the sacrifices of these men than were the French people of Var.
After the war the cemetery at
Draguignan was made a permanent American cemetery. I visited the cemetery
in 1961 and found it very well maintained. Appropriate buildings had been
erected. Walls bore the names of all the honored dead. Proper
recognition was given to the 36th Infantry Division. I visited the graves
of some of the men whom I had known personally, and offered prayers in the
Chapel for all the men of the 36th Division who are buried there.
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by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission