Seventy miles northeast of Paris lies the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial. Four plots fill the space, with one end featuring a large marble and granite Romanesque memorial dedicated to the Americans who died in combat in World War I and are buried on the grounds. But outside the well-landscaped space, across the street, through a thick wall of shrubbery, there is a fifth plot of graves. It’s one the military wants to keep quiet.
Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial’s Plot E is the final resting place for nearly 100 American servicemen who were executed during or just after World War II. Almost every single person buried there was convicted of murder or rape, the victims being fellow American service members as well as civilians from France, the United Kingdom and other countries. They were convicted in a court martial and sentenced to death, killed by either hanging or firing squad.
Although technically part of the wider cemetery grounds, it sits apart from the main space and is not advertised or acknowledged, by the facility or by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The cemetery does do upkeep on the grounds, but for the public, it is hard to enter. The only apparent doorway to the 100 foot by 50 foot graveyard is through an office on the cemetery’s grounds. The American flag is not allowed to fly over it, and even if one is able to get onto the space, the graveyard is minimal.
The graves themselves are marked only by tiny stone squares, with no names on them. Names were only revealed decades later thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request. Unlike the WWI cemetery there is only a single granite cross on the field of graves. 96 people were interred in Plot E. Among those buried at Plot E is Louis Till, father of Emmett Till (he originally was buried in Italy but re-interred in the French cemetery in 1948).
If Plot E is known to the wider public, since it is not officially acknowledged, it’s for at one point housing the remains of Pvt. Eddie Slovik. Slovik was the one American in World War II to be tried, convicted and executed for desertion, the first such case since the American Civil War. Many other soldiers deserted, but were dishonorably discharged, which Slovik himself expected as punishment. He had even pleaded for clemency from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, but the general confirmed the execution as a way to prevent further desertions from the army. Slovik was buried in Plot E, where his body stayed until 1987, where after years of advocacy his remains were sent home to the United States, where he was reburied.