Anna Marie Mattson and Tilly Gaillard Report on World War I Centennial in Colognes-Cohen

For previous ceremonies at US cemeteries, the massive number of those fallen were collectively honored. The approach at the Centennial on August 25th, 2018 in Coulonges Cohan was the opposite. 100 years ago during World War I, the death of one remarkable 20-year old pilot, Quentin Roosevelt was commemorated as that of an emblematic hero representing the fate of the many.  He was the son of a former President of the United States who was shot down at the commands of his airplane. At the tombstone where the plane was downed, many local and regional organizations laid wreaths. I had the honor of laying a wreath of flowers that designed our flag, on behalf of Democrats Abroad France. The honor was compounded by the presence of descendants of the Roosevelt family, some local, some whom I believe came especially from the U.S.

 

The multi-generation element was touching. A 12-year old namesake, Quentin, a local French youngster, gave a determined speech to “Quentin R” saying “you were my age when you came to France, you saw the air show at Reims and decided you wanted to fly planes". The story of how it all started, with a school boy saying he wanted to make a copy of the plane that was shot down, was inspiring. Big trees from little acorns grow!

The organization seemed flawless although it would have been wonderful to sit down during the speeches. The “Chef d’orchestre,” a local high school history teacher, Monsieur Dussart, is to be roundly applauded.  This two-day event was done on a shoestring of over 200 volunteers. And even the toilets were built with their help. The singing and the music were carefully timed and coordinated. And Monsieur Coret is to be warmly thanked for sharing the history of Quentin’s life (see speech in the attachment).

A lady on a small platform next to the tombstone had an eagle attached to her wrist that almost carried her away and added a very special America touch to the event.

The acrobatic airplane during the ceremony was followed by air clubs from around Europe flying above, including the replica of a German plane that downed Quentin's. So many things were going on at once. Learning about homing pigeons at a booth from someone who raises and trains them was also fascinating. What imagination: a bee or wasp in a little bead to dissuade the prey.   I was much impressed seeing the chassis that served for the ambulance, converted for the film industry into “taxi de la Marne”, or other uses, and the traveling “soup kitchen”, and the firewood to make coffee.  And then there were the long rifles that somehow fit together to form a teepee! The replica of trenches (with children assigned to be in them to make it look more “real”). The construction of hospital scenes.  — the soldiers in uniforms de l’époque….. And your knowledge of all that….

We also did GOTVing with Helen Patton, granddaughter of General Patton and any American we crossed who would be in France in November and could vote absentee, including Quentin's descendant.