This cemetery, 42.5 acres in extent, is situated at the foot of the hill on which stands Belleau Wood where many of those buried in the cemetery lost their lives. During WWI, it was a temporary cemetery established by the Army's Graves Registration Service, known as American Expeditionary Forces' Cemetery No. 1764-Belleau Wood. When in 1921, Congress authorized its retention as one of eight permanent WWI cemeteries on foreign soil, an agreement was negotiated with the Government of France granting its use in perpetuity, free of charge or taxation.
The cemetery is laid out generally in the form of a "T." The chapel which crowns the "T" sits on high ground to the south. The cross bar of the "T" is formed by the cemetery's two grave plots, each projecting in a slightly convex arc from opposite side of the mail. A flag pole, centered on each side of the mail, overlooks each grave plot.
The memorial chapelwas erected over front line trenches dug by the 2nd Division as part of the defense of Belleau Wood, following capture of the Wood by the division on 25 June 1918. Rising more than 80 feet, it is a striking example of French Romanesque architecture. Its exterior steps, walls, and tartar are of native St. Maximin, Savonnieres and Massangis limestone. The decorative embelishments, on each side of the entrance, depict scenes from the trenches of WWI. In the tympanum over the entrance is carved the figure of a crusader in armor, defender of right, flanked by the shields of the United States and France intertwined with branches of oak to symbolize the traditional unity of the two countries. Around the top of the chapel on stone shields are carved the insignia of American divisions which fought in the area and the V.S. coat of arms. Decorative embellishments are also carved on the capitals of the belfry columns. The following eleven carvings appear: bayonets for the Infantry, cannon for the Artillery, tanks for the Tank Corps, crossed heavy machine guns for Machine Gun units, propellers for Aviation units, artillery rounds for both Artillery and Ordnance, a plane-table for Engineers, the Greek cross and caduceus for Medical units, airplane engines for Aviation repair units, a mule's head over which is engrave "8 Chev" for the French boxcar used to transport 40 men or 8 horses, and oak leaves for the Judge Advocate General's Corps. Other carvings embellish the arches of the belfry openings. Engraved on the sills are orientation arrows with distances to points of historic interest. Below the belfry openings are sculptured heads representing the men and women of the Allied armed forces in WWI as follows: a French soldier, a French nurse, an American aviator, a Scottish soldier, a Russian soldier, a Portuguese soldier, a Canadian aviator, and a British Women's Army Corps driver. The same figures appear on each side of the chapel but in different order.
To the right of the entrance is a hole in the stonework made in 1940 by a German anti-tank gun which was firing at French tanks passing in the vicinity. Other minor damage from that war was repaired.
Above the inside of the entrance is inscribed:
THE NAMES RECORDED ON THESE WALLS ARE THOSE OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS WHO FOUGHT IN THIS REGION AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES. The names of the 1,060 Missing are inscribed on the walls of the Memorial Chapel. Each alcove has one of the chapel's five beautiful stained-glass windows.
One's eyes are drawn to the exquisitely carved and gilded altar of Italian marble. At the top .of the altar back are carved, respectively, an owl for wisdom, a crusader whose shield bears a lion device for fortitude, and scales for justice. Below these figures the six virtues appear in two lines - wisdom, fortitude, justice, faith, hope, and charity.
The graves aeraconsists of two convex curved plots projecting from each side of the south end of the mall ; Plot A is on the left and plot B is on the right. Each plot contains 13 rows of headstones. Stars of David mark the graves of those of the Jewish faith and Latin crosses for all of the others. Of the 2,289 burials in the cemetery, 251 are of Unknowns whose remains were not identified. Those interred here came from all of the then forty-eight states and the District of Columbia.
The plantingsalong the long avenue leading from the entrance gate include plane alignment trees and polyantha roses. Massifs of multicolored shrubs such as forsythia, laurel, boxwood, Japanese plum, deutzia, mock orange, Oregon grape and others screen the graves area from the north. Beds of polyantha roses border the mail and extend to the chapel steps.
The archittectsof the memorial features were Cram and Ferguson of Boston, Massachusetts. The chapel's embellishments were designed by William F. Ross and Co., East Cambridge, Massachusetts and were executed by Alfred Bottiau, Paris.
By Executive Order, the President, in 1934, gave the Commission the responsibility of operating and maintaining the cemetery. The dedication ceremony was held on Memorial Day, May 30, 1937.
(other small monument inside the wood)
Belleau Wood, 200 acres in extent, adjoins the cemetery behind the memorial chapel. Vestiges of trenches, shell holes and relics of the war to include weapons found in the vicinity may be seen. This memorial to the American fighting men includes a monument erected by the U.S. Marines and a flagpole located on an island in the road passing through the clearing in the center of the Wood. The monument is a black granite stele with a life-size bronze bas-relief by Felix de Weldon of a Marine attacking with rifle and bayonet. This to commemorate the 4th Marine Brigade of the U.S. 2d Division which was primarily responsible for the capture of the Wood. On 30 June 1918, these woods were officially renamed by the Commanding General, French 6th Army, as "Wood of the Marine Brigade."(More on AMBC web site)