"IT'S strange that a military graveyard should be so lovely, but lovely is the only way to describe the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, 26 miles northwest of Verdun. As exquisite as any French park or chateau grounds, the cemetery is a formal garden of perfectly clipped trees, immaculate lawns, fountains and roses and long white rows of grave markers. Given its beauty, it's also strange how empty the place is — and stranger still since this is the largest American military cemetery in Europe, the burial site of 14,246 United States service members who died in the war to end all wars.
"When we Americans think of travel inspired by world war, Normandy is what springs to mind, and in fact each year more than a million visitors crowd the Normandy Cemetery and the nearby Pointe du Hoc and Utah Beach Monuments. Yet the countryside north and east of Paris is rich in memories — and monuments — of United States involvement in the other world war. Twenty-six years before D-Day, more than two million American soldiers were in France fighting in battles whose names now sound as archaic as jousting sites — Oise-Aisne, Château-Thierry, Aisne-Marne, St.-Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne. What's astonishing when you travel to these battlegrounds is how much remains on, or just below, the surface and how few people there are looking for it."