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Americans and French mark centennial of massive WWI offensive

Dressed in World War I-style uniforms, the honor guard marches out of the chapel after the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the World War I Meuse-Argonne Offensive at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018.

MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

By MICHAEL ABRAMS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 24, 2018

ROMAGNE-SOUS-MONTFAUCON, France — Strong winds and heavy rains couldn’t beat back Americans and French who marked the centennial of America’s biggest offensive on Sunday.

With 1.2 million soldiers involved, the World War I Meuse-Argonne offensive was the largest involving U.S. forces. It began on Sept. 26, 1918, and lasted until the guns fell silent with the armistice on Nov. 11 of that year.

About 117,000 were killed or wounded in the battle, which pushed the Germans beyond the Meuse River. Many of the dead — 14,246 — are buried here at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the largest U.S. military cemetery in Europe.

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With the flags snapping in the wind and sheets of rain drenching participants and visitors, the ceremony was moved inside the cemetery’s small chapel, where people stood rows deep to watch the ceremony, although most only heard it.

Speakers, including Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Europe, spoke about the bravery, sacrifice and camaraderie of the American and French soldiers fighting the battle.

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“Let it remind us, we are stronger when we face a challenge together,” Scaparrotti said. “That when we act as one, we will conquer every challenge and we will deter every aggressor and we will ensure a Europe that is whole and at peace.”

Outside, members of French military organizations braved the rain, bearing the Stars and Stripes and other flags. The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band performed under the colonnade that flanks the chapel.

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During the day, volunteers placed candles on each headstone that were to be lit for an evening luminary.

Unfortunately, the rain soaked the candles, and the American Battle Monuments Commission, the organization that runs the cemeteries, had to cancel the event. However, that didn’t stop some visitors from walking through the rows of crosses and Stars of David and lighting some of the candles anyway.

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abrams.mike@stripes.com
Twitter: @stripes_photog

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Spc. Damion Sutherland, left, of 212th Combat Support Hospital and Spc. Kalev Baker of the Medical Support Unit-Europe salute during the playing of the French version of taps at the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the World War I Meuse-Argonne Offensive at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and U.S. European Command, shakes hands with flag bearers from French military veterans' societies after a ceremony marking the centennial of the World War I Meuse-Argonne Offensive at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

Petty Officer 2nd Class Kristen Gale of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band plays taps at the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the World War I Meuse-Argonne Offensive at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

A Frenchman and his son light candles on a row of crosses at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. The American Battle Monuments Commission planned a luminary at the cemetery where candles were placed on its more than 14,000 graves. But wind and heavy rains cancelled the event. The ceremony marking the centennial of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was held in the cemetery's chapel.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

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