The Montfaucon American Monument rises 200 feet over the former hilltop village of Montfaucon, providing impressive views from above the surrounding battlefield.
Montfaucon was a critical point along the German lines of defense due to its height and advantages for observation. Its fortifications included trenches to the south, east, and west. The hill itself was organized with trenches and machine gun emplacements. The American Expeditionary Forces planned to drive deep salients (a salient being an area pushed into the enemy’s defensive line) across the German lines on either side of the hill. This would cause the German garrison to evacuate, and allow American troops to capture the hill with minimal opposition.
After fierce fighting the 79thDivision of V Corps captured Montfaucon on the second day of the offensive, September 27, 1918. The 37thDivision assisted by flanking the hill to the west.
The Base of the Monument
At the base of the monument, the names of the four most important areas of the battlefield captured by American troops are listed: Meuse Heights, Barricourt Heights, Romagne Heights and Argonne Forest. On the walls of the main terrace appear the names of the divisions of the U.S. First Army alongside the names of three places where each division encountered heavy fighting.
John Russell Pope submitted three designs to the American Battle Monuments Commission for the Montfaucon American Monument. The French had declared the site un vestige de la guerre, which translates to “a remnant of war”, so the monument had to be built on a lower butte.
Out of the designs that Pope submitted in 1926, one was a 22 foot high wall, another was a tall Doric column, 24 feet in diameter and more than 200 feet tall, and the third resembled a Mayan temple. All three emphasized the solitary location of the monument. ABMC voted for the classical Doric column that is now present on the site. In late 1927, when the ABMC reviewed models of the monuments, they requested that Pope make the monument even larger. Pope agreed to do so as long as he could increase the size of the base area to proportion. The resulting design required moving the monument site 80 feet to the west, where it now stands.
The Doric column is constructed of Baveno granite. The figure of Liberty stands on top, facing the U.S. First Army’s line of departure on September 26, 1918. Construction of the monument was completed in 1933, and it was dedicated in 1937 by the president of the French Republic, Albert Lebrun.
Account of the Battle - Foyer
Inside the entrance to the monument is a vestibule containing the flags of the United States and France. On the walls of the vestibule are: a map of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a description of the events of the offensive, and a tribute from General John J. Pershing to the officers and men who served.
"The Meuse-Argonne Battle presented numerous difficulties seemingly insurmountable. The success stands out as one of the great achievement in the history of American arms. Suddenly conceived and hurried in plan and preparation; complicated by close associated with preceding major operation; directed against stubborn defense of the vital point of the Western Front; and attended by cold an inclement weather; this battle was prosecuted with an unselfish and heroic spirit of courage and fortitude which demanded eventual victory. Physically strong, virile, and aggressive the morale of the American soldier during this most trying period was superb. In their devotion, their valor, and in the the loyal fulfillment of their obligations, the officers and men of the American Expeditionary Forces have left a heritage of which those who follow may even be proud." -John J. Pershing General, Commander-in-Chief American Expeditionary Forces
View from the Top
Once you reach the top of the observation platform, look north to see the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery. Although Montfaucon was captured on the second day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, September 27, 1918, it took until October 13, 1918 for the American Expeditionary Forces to capture Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, where the cemetery is located.
The ruins of a gothic church sit behind the Montfaucon American Monument.
The ruins are believed to date back to the 6th century. Many battles have been fought near here, as the site overlooks ground that has long provided a strategic connection between Germany and France.
During the construction of the monument, an underground passage was discovered hollowed out of the soft rock running from the ruins behind the monument to the foot of the hill. To the left of the monument, from the perspective of the parking lot, a cemetery was found dating back to the Middle Ages. On the other side of the terrace, three historic cellars were found, one below the other, with the lowest having evidence of being used as a dungeon.
313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division
Plot E, Row 20, Grave 39
Capt. Harry Ingersoll died during the 79th Division’s second day of fighting as they pressed towards the capture of Montfaucon. He led his company in an attack against an enemy position that was strongly entrenched by barbed wire entanglements. Although he was killed in this highly dangerous offensive, Ingersoll’s men continued the attack. Inspired by their captain’s courage and bravery, the soldiers successfully took the enemy position.
Ingersoll was a prominent lawyer in Philadelphia. He was a friend of Maj. Benjamin F. Pepper, another successful lawyer serving in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. They are buried side-by-side.
Awards: Distinguished Service Cross
Harry Ingersoll is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery Plot E, Row 20, Grave 39.