Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division


Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Division Chaplain

The Cemetery At Draguignan

On August 17th I went back to the cemetery to conduct religious services for the dead.  I found that not even one grave had been opened.  They were digging in shale rock and waiting for TNT to blast open graves.

I told the officer in charge that we couldn’t have a cemetery there.  Regulations provided that graves must have proper drainage.  We had quite a discussion.  Fortunately Lieutenant Colonel Clifton C. Carter, the Division Quartermaster, came by.  We agreed to ask for help from the French officials in the selection of a cemetery site.

We decided to go to Draguignan, the capital of Var.  It was reported that our troops were fighting in the town that morning, but we thought they would have the Germans driven out by afternoon.  We were correct.

When we reached Draguignan everyone was rejoicing in the eviction of the enemy.  We went to the office of the Mayor and told him we needed land for a cemetery for our dead.  He suggested that we use their cemetery.  It would be an honor for the American dead to be buried with French soldiers.

I told him, “There are too many dead for us to use your present cemetery.”

“C’est dommage! (It is a pity)”, he exclaimed.

He assigned his secretary to help us find an appropriate spot.  The young man was delighted to accompany us in our jeep.  As we rode along, he waved to all his friends.  They cheered him.

He took us to a beautiful field.  The digging would be easy.  Some trees could be left in place.  We agreed that it would be a suitable area.  Colonel Carter agreed to come back the next day with the necessary papers to purchase the land. When we arrived the next day with the necessary papers for the purchase, we found that local people had taken up a collection to buy the land and present it to the American army.

We made arrangements with the Airborne Division to bury their dead in our cemetery.  Later on I had to return to the cemetery many times to conduct religious services for our dead.  Every time I came there were fresh flowers on the graves.  They had been placed there by the local people.  No one could be more appreciative of the sacrifices of these men than were the French people of Var.

After the war the cemetery at Draguignan was made a permanent American cemetery.  I visited the cemetery in 1961 and found it very well maintained.  Appropriate buildings had been erected.  Walls bore the names of all the honored dead.  Proper recognition was given to the 36th Infantry Division.  I visited the graves of some of the men whom I had known personally, and offered prayers in the Chapel for all the men of the 36th Division who are buried there.


Copyright 2001 by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission

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