Great War era US Army soldier’s gravestone in Bellu Cemetery, Bucharest

US army soldier’s gravestone in Bellu Cemetery, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I organised last Sunday (24 June ’12) a thematic architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery, also known as the national pantheon of Romania. We visited the Christian Orthodox section of this huge necropolis, which is in its turn is divided in a civilian part, the largest, and a smaller military one. I found there a headstone marking the grave of an US Army soldier and relief worker from the Great War era: “Edward Newell Ware, Illinois, Pvt. I Cl., Ambulance Service, US Army, American Relief Mission, May 7. 1919”. That is a rare find in Romania as the US Army was not directly involved in war operations on the Romanian front, where the largest number of casualties among allies came from the Russian Imperial Army, followed by the French Army. The British had fewer casualties, especially among the Navy, involved on the Danube operations. In any case, the American soldier interred at Bellu was, as the inscriptions mentions, member of a relief mission in the aftermath of the great conflagration.

The war graves are often well documented on the internet and was not a surprise to find multiple references about this American hero. I cite here just a couple of those sites that mention him in some detail: Memorial Volume of the American Field Service in France or Find a Grave.

I was profoundly touched by the fact he came to Romania to aid the country in its effort to recover from the dramatic consequences of a devastating war, volunteering his services for the  Hoover Food Commission, considering his involvement with the typical gallantry of that era as a “very minor sort of role in the economic reconstruction of a romantic story book country, poor Roumania.” Edward Newell Ware tragically became one of the countless victims of the epidemics that affected the great multitude of those among whom he nobly came to help, dying of smallpox on 7 May 1919. The American is part of a line of remarkable foreigners who found their life mission in Romania, among whom I would cite the well known case of the Canadian colonel Joe Boyle. He was “interested in books, architecture, art, and music”- I wonder what he would have thought about the architecture of Romania that he encountered during his mission?

Edward Newell Ware, Jr (1892 – 1919)

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