Friday, August 29, 2008

To all unknown soldiers


If you already visited Paris and went under the Arc de Triomphe you probably know the story, but I think it's worth telling. So... Under this arch, there is a tomb, dedicated to all soldiers who fought during WWI (right behind the flowers in the foreground in the photo). To make it more universal, the journalist Gabriel Boissy came up with the idea that an anonymous soldier should be buried there. To do so, they picked 8 coffins of soldiers who were never identified and asked the Private Auguste Thin to choose one by dropping a bouquet of flowers on one of the coffins. The soldier was transfered to the Arch of Triumph on November 11, 1920 and every day, at 6:30 PM they revive the flame that burns next to the tomb.

55 comments:

  1. La tombe du soldat inconnu...Je me demande pourquoi cette photo apparaît au mois d'août. Les commémorations, ça fait hiver. LOL
    Nice to see the people behind the grave.

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  2. He! They all stopped near the traffic lights to take the picture!

    Do you know when Boissy "decided" to create this story of the unknown soldier btw? Just after the war?

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  3. Okay, what's happening tonight? Where are you all? Do you all find an agreement to let the brat win? Triple GF...whaaa.

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  4. "Did* you all...". Four times Gf, and it's to correct my bad English.
    I feel so alone...

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  5. And Guille walks away with the crown yet again. Is anyone keeping count how many times she has won?

    Beautiful flowers and so fresh and patriotic. I love them. Merci Eric for the extra photo links and great story.

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  6. You're welcome Lois ;)

    Bravo Guille. Tiens aujourd'hui j'ai vu une photo pour une pub pour Montblanc et j'ai eu l'impression que c'était toi qui posais dessus. Je ne sais pas si tu l'as déjà vue ?

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  7. Guille, I know how it feels, mon petit chou.

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  8. Vraiment?! Je ne me souviens pas avoir posé pour une pub Montblanc... :) Montblanc la crème dessert ou Mont Blanc le stylo de luxe (parce que c'est plus la classe!)? LOL

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  9. I had no idea they did this every day. I thought it was an eternal flame, such as the one at JFK's grave. I should like to witness this ceremony one day.

    Congrats Guille. What swift fingers you possess.

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  10. Beautiful photo.

    Eric, I did not know the story of how they chose the unknown soldier. Thanks so much for the fascinating information!

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  11. I hope nobody jumps down my throat for saying this, but pretty cool story! (and pretty good shot, too!;)

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  12. Peut-etre qu'elle apparait au mois d'Aout car c'est l'anniversaire de la liberation de Paris?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberation_of_Paris

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  13. It is interesting to see the people in the midst of some crazy traffic trying to perhaps take a photo and/or make their way to the tomb. Reminds me of one of my bandmate's stories that I still razz him about today. Tim relates how once when he was in Paris and wanted to check out L'Arc, he skirted the roundabout (risking limb and life no doubt) to get to your photospot. It was only later that he learned about the underground passage (and recommended route)to get to the tomb. If you know the video game FROGGER (or have seen the Seinfeld episode with George in a similar bind), you get a good idea of what Tim had to accomplish to get to this spot. I'm sure you Parisians have seen tourists do some rather embarassing things. As to the photo, I say Bravo, Eric! Definitely a sacred spot.

    Guille...Speedy Gonzalez has nothing on you. ;-)

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  14. BTW...I don't think she'd mind me saying, but Alexa has been having computer problems lately. Just in case some of you were wondering where she has been. If she was here, she'd probably talk about the cool Soldiers' and Sailors' Arch, Grand Army Plaza, in Brooklyn, NY...and it is cool! Check it out on Wiki.

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  15. ...were here. [way to go English teacher, ahem]

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  16. lol! I'm glad you pointed it out before I did, Coltrane. You would have felt really dumb if moi, horrible grammar and all, got to it first.

    No no, they aren't trying to take a photo of the tomb, they are trying to get a picture of the famous guy behind this amazing shot!

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  17. Soosha...I stand corrected! LOL!BTW...I love your new profile.

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  18. What an intriguing story, Eric. That is really interesting. I've seen pictures and even a computer game of this area, but it is more beautiful now with the true story. I wonder who he really is...


    Thanks for sharing!

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  19. I'm with Cali, I would very much like to witness this ceremony one day as well. Beautiful shot Eric. Good choice on the angle you have picked.

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  20. Oh & congrats to Guille for wearing the crown!

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  21. This photo comes at a meaningful time for France. I don't have a link, but I know that 10 French soldiers who were ambushed in Afghanistan were laid to rest last week in Paris.

    While this soldier is from the First World War, I see it as a monument to all who lost their lives fighting for France.

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  22. Merci, Eric!! I have been there at L'Etoile for that and it is quite moving.

    The way the world is lately one would think people might take a look at history before they are doomed to repeat it. The lives of Angelina and Brad etc, etc..are nul compared to the lives and sacrifices of these "Unknown" Heroes.

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  23. Excellent shot, Eric! I didn't know the story of how this particular unknown soldier was chosen either, and it is very interesting. Caroline watched the ceremony while she was visiting in July.

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  24. After all this time in Paris I didn't know that the flame was not "eternal" either. The story also makes the discussion driving around that big arch they put in the way of the road a lot more interesting! I can see myself the next time I'm a passenger and the driver is hectically navigating, trying to avoid an accident, popping up and saying, "I bet you didn't know the story about the soldier who is laid to rest there..."

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  25. Congrats Guille. I'm beginning to worry for your personal life! ;-)

    Soosha, as you know I adore your new profile photo. I OWN it on Facebook! Any buyers?

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  26. Great shot, Eric! What I love about the daily ceremony is that it's not just a couple of guys lighting the flame and putting down some flowers. It's a whole regiment in full regalia. Every day. Every Month. Every year. Huge. Big deal. Very impressive.

    I had heard that they were allowed to continue during the Nazi occupation, but now I understand that's not true. It was a nice story, though.

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  27. Hellooooo way down there, Petrea!

    This story is new to me and I loved learning this bit of history tonight.

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  28. I'll wear the crown with pride at work today. Since I have no personal life, I want to dedicate my victory to all the people fighting to be GF and who have no personal life either (you can thank Michael).

    Coltrane, nice to know about Alexa, I was wondering where was my favorite opponent.

    Tomate, actually that's a plausible explanation! J'aurais dû réfléchir...

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  29. I would like to apologise emphatically and publicly to my dear Guille who obviously DOES have more of a personal life than I. I can't seem to manage to stay awake past midnight these days, so it's evident that I mis-spoke. Mea culpa Guille and I beg forgiveness from your highness and loyal subjects...

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  30. A a former Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran, I have found this evening ceremony to the Unknown Soldier to be a wonderful salute to the fallen French forces. It is one that should be attended if near the Monument at Sunset. We owe much to the memory of the French veterans. Viva la France!

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  31. Slightly off topic, but my grandfather was one of 5 brothers who left their village in England in 1914 to join up for WW1. All five of them fought right through to 1918 and all of them came home. That must have been very rare for a family to survive intact.

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  32. Oh! I expected to see Les Benauts. Ou sont-ils? :(

    Beautiful photo though Eric.

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  33. What a coincidence! I was just looking at my photos of crosses of the unknown soldiers in the American cemetery at Normandy - "comrades in arms known but to God" I was there exactly two weeks ago and was very moved by the tributes to all the fallen soldiers. I also kept wondering "when will we ever learn?"
    Thanks Eric, for a lovely photo and great info, as always!
    Coltrane, your pal is not the only one to make that "mistake" AND live to tell about it - moi aussi, 1998!
    Rich.painter1, I enjoyed hearing about your family's history. I am very interested in the history of WW1, the memory of which becomes more distant with each decade, it seems...

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  34. Hey, there's a link over at mine to lotttttts of photos of the Benauts in London! As they've not hit Eric yet, catch up with them there. Then...come back...here...of course. Ahem. Hi Eric!

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  35. I read Barbara Tuchmann's book on the beginning of WWI ("August 1914") last winter and I am still shocked. I have always in my life been against war, but after having read this book, more than ever.
    Thank you that you have told us this comforting little story about the grave of the unknown soldier.
    I think that Europeans have not yet forgotten the dead of last century' wars and I hope they will always remember.

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  36. Guille...your "favorite opponent" Alexa has done what I wish I could've done when my computer went kaput! She pulled a Gilligan and headed to a nearby island. She's probably surfing as we speak. :-)

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  37. This was one of my daughter's favorite spots during our trip in June. We enjoyed the information center and the interactive displays and my 14-year old walked away w/ a little bit better understanding of French history.

    I recently read somewhere that Jackie Kennedy remembered the flame from an earlier trip to Paris and it became the inspiration for her husband's memorial at Arlington.

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  38. I'm meeting Cali aka Rose at the airport this evening. She is going to be staying with me this Labor Day weekend. I'm am very lucky to have her. On Sunday, I have to share her with Katie. We are going to High Mass (it's in French) on Sunday at Notre Dame des Victoires; and then just hang out in the French Quarter.

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  39. Dashing off to work here ... No original comment, but I must chime in that I really like this photo and the angle from which you took it, Eric ... I also appreciate learning more of the story behind the tomb. Merci. :)

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  40. Of course, I had no idea that the flame was revived each day... Quite amazing.
    Hey, the PDP flame too is revived each day , isnt'it?
    Some here are lucky... ;)

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  41. Coltrane, you made me go look at my profile to see what's so special about it. Then I saw Michael's comment about the photo and how he owns it on Facebook. I'm guessing you mean the photo and not the whole profile since there's really nothing special about it? If so, stop! *blushes* Just when I start to give up on you and leave you alone! You must be a glutton for punishment!!!

    Michael- you stop too! Adore? *blushes more* You and coltrane shouldn't play games with my poor feeble heart! Although you can't adore it that much if you're trying to to sell it!!!

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  42. Lois, Cali, Katie...too cool! Have a great weekend hanging in the French Quarter.

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  43. Soosha...no attempt on my part to tremble your feeble heart. Honest. I do love your profile photo. Great sense of humor. Have a stellar weekend. For Parisians who may not know it, Labor Day weekend is not just for pregnant women. Ooohhh, that was soooo baaadddd!

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  44. I am reading a book right now titled "The First Time I Saw Paris" by Peter Miller. He was serving in Paris as a US Army photographer after the war in the early fifties. He began a love affair with Paris, that has lasted his whole life, when he first accompanied the well known photographer Yousuf Karsh to Paris as an assistant.

    It is a great book about his youth in Paris as a photographer and what it was like to be a US Army soldier in Paris after the war when people were starting their lives over again. It is full of wonderful B&W photos, and it makes one stop and think about all the sacrifices that were made to end the horror of the Second World War.

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  45. Coltrane, That was a good one. A man I was working with once said, "Labor Day, isn't that the day we all work, you know, as in labor." Yeah right, you work, I'm taking the day off.

    Soosha, You are so cute. "you can't adore it that much if you're trying to to sell it!!!" You always have interesting profile photos, the one of you reading and cousin IT are really good ones along with the one above. Very creative.

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  46. *g* Thanks Lois! Just wait! I'm about to put up a truly disturbing photo!!!

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  47. Friday night. You know what THAT means: Hot Date for Eric! WORK that suit!

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  48. Oooooh, Eric! Enjoy your hot date, something I am pathetically lacking these days. Have an extra drink for me! All I'll be doing is going to class and then going to sleep. :o(

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  49. Funny how you can get sort of worried about someone that you don't really know... at least in the conventional sense... I mean... how would we even know if something BAD happened...?

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  50. I saw this ceremony on a normal day in Paris a couple of years ago. It was a beautiful and dignified ceremony, honoring veterans up to and including Afghanistan. I may have amazed a policewoman with my use of the phrase "défilé des anciens combattants de guerre": she confirmed that this takes place every day of the year. It is a timeless and surprisingly moving ceremony.

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  51. J'arrive un peu tard et je ne sais pas si je serai lue, mais le choix du soldat inconnu (et au-delà les longues recherches qui visaient à retrouver et identifier tous les corps) constitue l'arrière-plan historique du magnifique film de Bertrand Tavernier "La vie et rien d'autre" avec Philippe Noiret et Sabine Azéma. Il se déroule en 1920 et c'est à cette date là que le soldat a été désigné, pour répondre à un commentaire précédent. Je recommande ce film à tous.

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