CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- During his speech Oct. 4, Ronald J. Gidwitz, U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, said that many Americans don't know the story of Petite-Chapelle, a town that was liberated in 1918 by African-American Soldiers during World War I.
It was the first time that the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium was in Petite-Chapelle. "We are here to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of the men of the 370th U.S. Infantry Regiment who, 100 years ago this year, were fighting alongside the French 10th Army, in part because their own country and its military were segregated," said Gidwitz. "In the closing days of the war, they crossed the border where we marched today to drive German forces from this area. They helped secure the peace on what we now know as Armistice Day," he added.
The event started with a symbolic march from the Belgian-French border featuring the USAG Benelux Color Guard, a group of American WWI re-enactors called the Ebony Doughboys, school children from the Belgian border schools and from Heuvelland (in Flanders), local officials and residents of Couvin.
During the ceremony, some school children talked about freedom, peace, and history. According to the Mayor of Couvin, forgetting the past is like accepting its return. Belgian school children will participate in a virtual exchange program with American school children in Chicago, where many Soldiers of the 370th Infantry Regiment came from.
Today, Petite-Chapelle hopes that Belgian and Americans will never forget this unknown chapter of history.