Even today French locals, other Europeans and Americans find themselves drawn to the Meuse-Argonne region of France. Once drawn there, many return time and again; often working on a multi-year research or preservation project. In this irregular interview series, the webmaster hopes to introduce readers to some of these individuals and their labors of love.
2018 update: As of 16 January, 2018 Manon will be moving to Paris as a Communications Assistant with the American Battle Monuments Commission. Congratulations Manon!
1) What are your name, nationality and occupation?
Manon Bart, French, Interpretive Guide at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery
2) Which languages do you speak, and how fluently do you speak them?
Native speaker in French, fluent speaking in English. Learned Spanish, Italian and a bit of Polish back in High School and University, but unfortunately I haven’t practiced them in years now.
3) When was your first visit to the Meuse-Argonne?
2015, when I applied for a seasonal job at the cemetery.
4) When did you really find yourself drawn to the Meuse-Argonne?
When I was hired.
5) What is your primary interest in the region?
My work. I keep learning and discovering something new about the men who fought here a hundred years ago almost every single day, and it keeps fascinating me.
6) Approximately how many times and/or how often do you visit the Meuse-Argonne?
I work here.
7) What do you do when you visit?
I always try to attach a name, a face, to a particular place. Madeline Farm? Albert Turnbull was asleep nearby a kitchen there when a shell burst next to him. Grandpré? William Sawelson was bringing some water to a wounded soldier when a machine gun bullet killed him. Ste. Ménehould? That’s where Marion Crandell was located when the German Army attacked the WMCA canteen she was working at.
8) What research or preservation projects are you working on currently?
We have several projects at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, interpretation-wise:
- We are constantly looking for information, documents and photos of our soldiers. Knowing who these men and women were and sharing their stories with visitors is the best way to commemorate these American dead, but also the most powerful way for visitors to understand why this cemetery is maintained at the highest standards.
- We are currently working to mark the Centennial of the American intervention and the Meuse-Argonne American Offensive. Apart from the traditional Memorial Day ceremony, which will take place on May 27, 2018, we will host other Centennial events:
- A (partial) Luminary on November 11, 2017
- A Centennial Ceremony and (full) Luminary on September 23, 2018
- A Luminary is a popular event during which volunteers (in other words, yes, you readers are invited to help us too!) will light thousands of candles in the cemetery–one for each service member buried there. Visitors will also be able to walk among the cemetery and hear about the men and women who served a hundred years ago, learn more about the history of the cemetery and just enjoy this beautiful scenery at dusk!
9) What research or preservation projects have you completed in the past?
One of the research projects I am really passionate about is research the stories and the faces of our soldiers. Researching more than 14,000 men is a never-ending project.
10) What is your favorite spot in the Meuse-Argonne, and why?
Walking among the cemetery, paying attention to each name on each headstone, early in the morning of a beautiful summer weekend day, when you hear nothing but the birds. The harsh discrepancy with the battlefield that these men and women knew always makes me more humble.
11) History aside, what is your favorite thing to do in the Meuse-Argonne?
Practice yoga in a beautiful spot along the Meuse River.
12) Schedule permitting, would you consider being a tour guide for individuals or groups traveling to the sector?
I already give tours to visitors, although only in the cemetery perimeter. I can guarantee you this small piece of land has a lot of stories to tell!
13) How can readers contact you for assistance or for more details?
They can contact the cemetery staff at [email protected] or give us a call at +33 3 29 85 14 18.
14) Any other comments?
While Manon gets to be the public face of the ABMC Cemeteries in this “People of the Argonne,” the Webmaster is thankful to all the staff who work at the ABMC Cemeteries!!!
Manon did not provide a personal picture, so here is a video that she participated in. Many people who have visited the cemetery know her well.
Finally, make plans to attend the events outlined in question number 8 above.