mulberry purse uk Dishonorable Dead of Plot
No GloryPlot one of the world’s loneliest places and, perhaps, one of its least publicized.
The little known Plot is appended to a cemetery for the fallen of World War I, the Oise Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial. This well maintained place of rest is roughly a mile and a half east of F (formerly Chateau F established in 1206) in the Picardy district of France (about 70 miles northeast of Paris). Inside are burial sections labeled A through D
Credit: Vic Dillinger, 2012Unlike the respectfully memorialized WWI fallen of the main cemetery, there is a quieter, lesser visited plot outside the walls of the Oise Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial. This is Plot Buried there are some of the World War II dead. But it is not war heroes interred there. Instead, the shunned Plot contains the bodies of rapists and murderers.
Marks the Plot
This interment ground of infamy in France was established as an out of the way place to bury those military men who had served with less than distinguished careers and had been executed under orders of the United States military. Planted in the Plot turf are rapists, molesters, and killers of civilians (and, until 1987, this assorted group included Eddie Slovik, the only man executed for desertion in WWII).
Everyone buried in Plot was a military man. Everyone there was processed under General Court Martial conditions and each was remanded for execution by the US military. Human dignity required burying even these miscreants with some semblance of civility, but they are most definitely segregated from the other fallen buried in the World War I section of the park.
Generally, military personnel executed for serious crimes were hastily buried near their place of execution in the European Theater of Operations area. This meant American soldiers were interred in Italy, France, and other locales. During WWII, 98 US servicemen of the ETO were executed by order of the US military for violent offenses such as rape and murder.
Plot was purposefully designed and landscaped on the contingency of burying such people. However, many of the dishonorable dead those executed by the military for crimes against foreign citizenry originally had a different final resting place. This was Brookwood Cemetery in London, England.
Brookwood was established in 1849 to handle London growing problem of remains disposal. It is sometimes called the London Necropolis, and it is not only the largest cemetery in the UK, but it is also one of the larger ones of Western Europe. [By 1854 it was the world largest, holding that title for a time.]
Plot was set up in Brookwood Cemetery (after August 1944) specifically to receive executed US military men. The selection of the plot was purely Puritanical the chosen site was not ground and, therefore, would not offend the tender sensibilities of the acutely religious.
Nor was it immediately accessible, either. Plot was given over to a remote corner of the Necropolis nearby were grounds keeping tool sheds and the grounds compost heap. In keeping with the need to further denigrate the dead men (and to insure their social place was enforced) these executed men received no caskets they were stuffed into cotton mattress covers, dumped into a grave, and given a numbered marker (mostly for identification for civilian reasons, such as perhaps later having a need to dig up the area for utility work or things of that nature). Names, ranks, and dates of birth and death were not important.
The ignominious Plot had space for 100 bodies, and it was the first time a concerted effort was made to segregate executed soldiers from the ones who had been killed, presumably more honorably, in combat. [An irony is that Dr. Robert Knox, the Scottish anatomist who purchased the corpses of murdered people turning a blind eye to their source from notorious early 19th Century body snatchers turned killers Burke and Hare, was buried in Brookwood in 1862. He rests peacefully in the section.]
The Plot Thickens
Meanwhile, across the English Channel a similar dilemma (what to do with executed US military men) was resolved in France. An area outside an existing and much honored military necropolis, the Oise Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, was planned. A roughly oval plot of land about 100 feet by 500 feet was partitioned outside the main cemetery there. Furthermore, Plot is surrounded by privet hedges and is protected from casual observation by copses of trees. Finally, there is one last hurdle for viewing: no official entryway for the public. The only way in is through a rear door of the main cemetery superintendent office. The graves are barely noted on the landscape they are marked with flat stone placards (about the size of a standard index card) carrying only a number engraved in black (the spaces are numbered sequentially, in 4 rows). There is a small, solitary, white cross at the head of the space, standing watch over the stone index markers. US flags are not allowed on the grave sites in the section, nor are American flags permitted to fly over Plot Publicity is generally by word of mouth; visitation is not encouraged per policy, and the mere fact of its existence is not noted on any of the cemetery promotional literature, guide pamphlets, or on its website.
Credit: Stranger 20824,
July 4, 2012The occupants of the English Brookwood Cemetery Plot (18 of them) were disinterred in 1949 and shipped over to the Oise Aisne Plot in France. In all, 96 graves remain (3 have been repatriated since burial in the 1940s).
First, Do No Harm
All wars have rules. Among them are rules on how an occupying invader should behave toward the civilian citizenry. These rules also apply to military personnel who are quartered in a country either providing military aid or other support for the natives.
After the French Occupation, American military personnel remained stationed all over the country, awaiting orders, or for shipment home, or to provide materiel and aid to the war torn country. The same American military presence was in Italy and other countries as well in varying numbers.
One thing made perfectly clear by General George S. Patton about US military personnel remaining in these countries after the French Liberation: there would be zero tolerance for molesting the civilian populations wherever they were met. This meant no assaults, no sexual aggression toward the local women, and certainly no mindless murdering of innocent civilians. He had circulated a memo in August 1944 that read, am gravely concerned with the increasing number of crimes of violence against French civilians which are being committed within the Army, particularly by service troops. He solidified his position: is not to be tolerated that a comparative few shall, by their criminal conduct, bring discredit upon us. (more than likely a farm boy who probably never been very far outside the US county of his birth) had little in the way of an appreciation for foreign cultures.
A later military slang phrase summed up how US military personnel should behave when in foreign lands, particularly within the boundaries of an allied or host country: nice to Mommy This phrase simply means to be tolerant and do no harm to the natives where the soldier is stationed.
Among the quiet despair of Plot are three tragically exceptional stories. Of these, one was that of a deserter, another of a black soldier in Italy (whose son was fatally touched by racism a few years later), and finally of a black soldier in France who was likely the victim of racial prejudice at the hands of the military. Two of the three were not nice to Mommy.
So Long, Suckers
Desertion is not uncommon either during wartime or in peace time for military personnel. The Northern Union Army road to victory in The Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, for example, was aided by so many Southerners desertion during the heat of battle.
In World War II, there was only one deserter whose name anyone knew, Private Edward Donald Slovik. He carries the infamous distinction of being the only soldier executed for desertion during the years of World War II.
Eddie Slovik (born in 1920), unlike many of his American compatriots, was a city boy, a street punk. Raised in Detroit, Michigan, he was a two bit crook and an ex con, and the US military had originally declared him unfit for duty because of his temperament and criminality. However, as the circumstances changed and WWII dragged on longer, men like Slovik were tapped for active duty anyway. He was drafted in late 1943 (a month after getting married), then shipped off to France in August 1944.
The Battle of H Forest was fought between the Allies and the Germans and, despite its name, was a series of on going engagements. It lasted from September 19, 1944 to February 10, 1945. The battle yielded about 24,000 casualties as a result of active combat; another 9,000 casualties were racked up from illness, fatigue, and fire The Battle of H Forest remains the longest single battle in US Army history.
Into the maw was thrown the recalcitrant Pvt. Slovik about a month after his arrival in France. As expected, he was not a good soldier. Upon exposure to combat Slovik repeatedly asked for reassignment to the rear lines. His requests for removal from the front were denied, and he deserted.
Slovik was confined in a division stockade. Despite the threat of a court martial, he flatly refused to cooperate and to return to his unit (actively fighting at the time). He faced charges on November 11, 1944 (roughly a year after being drafted). He pled guilty to the desertion charge, but was convicted anyway. Slovik sent a letter to General Dwight D. Eisenhower (later, President of the United States in the 1950s), begging for leniency if not outright clemency. Eisenhower upheld and confirmed the court martial decision on December 23, 1944. Slovik was destined to die. His sentence was carried out before a firing squad on January 31, 1945.