U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
Air Force Academy cadets traveled to France this month to mark the centennial anniversary of a major World War I battle.
Cadets joined French service members and government officials September 22 in ceremonies honoring the 7,000 allied service troops – including 4,000 U.S. service members – who died in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Sept. 12-16, 1918.
Cadet 2nd Class Michael DeFazio was one of the 18 cadets and four faculty members to make the trip. DeFazio visited one of the battle sites 177 miles east of Paris.
“Being on the ground totally changed how I view these battles,” he said.
The battle was fought during the Great War to reduce German fighting positions around the village of Saint-Mihiel, with more than 555,000 U.S. service members and 1110,000 French troops taking part in the campaign. Thousands of American troops are interred at the Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery.
Dr. Mark Grotelueschen of the Academy’s Military and Strategic Studies Department spoke at the event’s commemoration ceremony. He said he hopes cadets returned to Colorado Springs with a “broader appreciation for the scope, size and complexity of the Great War.”
“I also hope they were motivated by the commitment demonstrated by the military professionals who fought and died in the remarkably challenging context of the Great War,” he said.
Cadets visited the cemetery; the Museum of the Great War in Meaux; the Duoaumont Ossuary at Verdun; and the site of Sgt. Alvin C. York’s exploits during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
The Great War occurred July 28, 1914-Nov. 11, 1918.