I would like to thank you all for being
present at this ceremony of Remembrance held today in this historical place
called « Rempart contre l’oubli » (Bastion against
Oblivion) by the « Association of the Memorial of the Battles of
the Marne ». Today we are gathered here to pay tribute to a
valorous American soldier who died in action in Dormans.
28 august 1944, 16 June 2007: two dates
separated by nearly 63 years, but today these dates don’t seem so
distant with the presence among us of Mr John LEMKE who has come specially
from the United States to see where his uncle, Mr Henry LEMKE, a soldier in
the 7th Armoured Division died during the battles for the
liberation of Dormans.
It was on the 28th of August
1944. After 50 months and 15 days of enemy occupation, Dormans was
liberated by the American Army. Delighted to be free again, the inhabitants
of Dormans were very enthusiastic and showed their gratitude to their
liberators. But for these soldiers war wasn’t over yet.
The units in front of the division that
were moving forward on the main road towards Reims and Epernay were warned
by the French Resistance that German tanks were waiting for them in
Vincelles and Verneuil on the other bank of the Marne river. Was the
information not clear or the order given to proceed and fight the enemy?
The division carried on and the fight took place at the end of the town.
Four tanks were hit, damaged or destroyed. The soldier Henry LEMKE, radio
operator in one of the tanks was killed.
At the same time that in Dormans people
were joyfully celebrating the liberation, on the other side of the
Atlantic, in Minnesota, the Lempke family were grieving the loss of their
son and brother, a brave soldier who had been taken from their affection.
Apart from a few witnesses from that period
who still remember, who else has heard of this sad episode of the
liberation that cost Henry LEMKE his life as well as several of his
comrades whose identities we still don’t know? Therefore we consider
it our duty to identify them so that their names could be engraved in the
memory of Dormans.
Mr John LEMKE, in coming to Dormans in
memory of your uncle Henri LEMKE whom you never knew , you have added a new
link to our chain of memory and you can be assured it will be forever set
in the stone of our Bastion against Oblivion.
We would like to thank you immensely and
pay our respect to your family for the loss of their son and brother in
August 1944 and a few months later for the death of your other uncle Erwin
LEMKE who died in action at Bastogne where your pilgrimage will take you
What a beautiful example of Memory and
Secretary of the Association
of the Battles of the Marne