Oisne Aisne Military Cemetery – “Plot E”


Plots A-D of the Oise Aisne American Cemetary hold the remains of American soldiers who died fighting in a small portion of Northern France during World War I. However set across the street unmarked and completely surrounded by impassible shrubbery is Plot E, a semi-secret fifth plot that contains the nearly forgotten bodies of a number of American soldiers who were executed for crimes committed during and after World War II.

Over 6,000 soldiers are buried in the first four plots of the Oise Aisne Cemetery, but just 94 bodies are currently buried in the shunned fifth plot. While the small patch of land is technically on the grounds of the greater cemetery, it is not easily distinguished as it sits across the street, hidden behind the tall hedges that surround it. The only way into the secret cemetery is through the superintendent’s office.

 

The soldiers eventually interred in Plot E were tried for rape, murder, and in one case, desertion (although the remains of the deserter, Eddie Slovik, the only American executed for desertion in WWII, were returned to the states in 1987). After being convicted in U.S. courts martial held in Europe, the men were dishonorably discharged and executed via hanging or firing squad. In many cases, the men who were buried in Plot E were initially buried close to the site of their execution. Those bodies were later exhumed and moved to Oise Aisne in 1949 when the plot of shame was established.

 

PLotE
The lone headstone in Plot E.

 

Plot E has been referred to as an anti-memorial. No US flag is permitted to fly over the plot and the graves themselves, small in-ground stones the size of index cards, have no names; they are only differentiated by numbers. Even underground they are set apart with each body buried in Plot E positioned with its back to the main cemetery. The site does not exist on maps of the cemetery, and is not mentioned on the cemetery website.

 

Louis-Till-84-Grave-73
Marker for Private Louis Till, who was hanged in Italy in July 1945 after murdering an Italian woman, raping two others and then assaulting a US navy sailor.

 

Plot E has been described by one cemetery employee as a “house of shame” and “the perfect anti-memorial,” especially as the original intent was that none of the individual remains were ever to be identifiable by name.

“The Fifth Field: The Story of the 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II” by French L.Maclean (Schiffer Publishing, 2013) was the basis for this blog post.

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Büsingen – A little piece of Germany in Switzerland


One of my favourite areas of geography are exclaves and enclaves. An enclave is any portion of a state that is entirely surrounded by the territory of one other state. An exclave is a portion of a state geographically separated from the main part by surrounding alien territory. Many enclaves are also exclaves.

One of the better-known examples of an enclave is Büsingen, which is a German enclave surrounded entirely by Switzerland, as shown on the following postcard:

d_bues

The narrowest gap between Büsingen and the rest of Germany in the south-eastern corner of the exclave. The distance between the border of Büsingen and the border of the rest of Germany is only approximately 700 yards. The total population is approximately 1,500.

Here is a summary of how day-to-day matters work in Büsingen;

1. Currency – most of the townspeople use Swiss Francs

2. Police – the police of the neighbouring canton of Schaffhausen are allowed to apprehend citizens in Büsingen, and transport them to Switzerland. German police officers traveling to Büsingen must use designated routes, and refrain from all official acts while they are in Switzerland.

3. Education – a school up to the 4th grade operates in the exclave. After then parents may choose either a Swiss school or a German school for their children

4. Postal and telecommunications services – Büsingen had both Swiss and German postal codes

5. Car licence plates – despite being part of the German Konstanz (KN) district, Büsingen has its own licenc plate code (BUS)

6. Football – the local team, FC Büsingen, competes in the Swiss League.