May 4th, 2013| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Col. Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr., (1901–1944) of Quanah, TX, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1925, and was part of the WWII Allied action closing in on Chartres, France, which was in the hands of the Germans.

Chartres is the location of Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres), about 50 miles southwest of Paris. The cathedral, built between 1194 and 1250 is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Notre Dame has been an important destination for pilgrims and tourists (me among them a few months ago), many who arrive to venerate the Sancta Camisa, apparently the garment worn by the Virgin Mary at Christ’s birth. The cathedral is in an exceptional state of preservation, and the majority of its magnificent stained glass survives intact. A marvel, indeed!

But back to Col. Griffith ….

As his company approached Chartres from the southwest on August 16, 1944, it came under heavy artillery fire. The order was issued to return fire and demolish the cathedral on the assumption that the Germans were using its tower to target Allied troops.

We don’t know what Col. Griffith was thinking, but he questioned the strategy and, in fact, volunteered to spy behind enemy lines to verify if the Germans had really occupied the cathedral.

He climbed up the cathedral tower, a feat of immense bravery, risking sure death if the Germans were in it.

They were not. Col. Griffith signaled for cessation of fire. The order to hit the cathedral was withdrawn and the cathedral was saved.

As he returned to his unit, he encountered fifteen of the enemy, fired shots at them, and escaped to the nearest outpost of his Allied unit. Arming himself with an M-1 rifle, he climbed on to a tank, directing it to the enemy forces he had come across, utterly disregarding his own safety. He did not survive; he died in Lèves, just outside Chartres.

The French locals somehow put together this story and erected a plaque on a sidewalk in Lèves honoring “Griffith Welborn”—not knowing how to read American dog tags, they reversed his name. So no one knew the heroic story of this valiant soldier, until a military historian, a M. Papillon, recognized the mistake and located Griffith’s daughter in Florida … in the mid 1990s!

The family went to Chartres and a ceremony was held at the cathedral in Col. Griffith’s honor, and they played “The Star-Spangled Banner” right there in the medieval Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres! Wow!

The plaque at Lèves was corrected and a park was dedicated in honor of the intrepid young man, who won the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star for “gallant actions and dedicated devotion to duty, without regard for his own life, … in keeping with the highest traditions of military service … [reflecting] great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army” (and his country, I might add).

Selfless sacrifice!

But, of course, this magnificent cathedral will not last forever, so, in that sense, Col. Griffith’s sacrifice only extended the temporary life of that building. (Kinda like what we doctors do: postpone sure death.)

But there is another selfless sacrifice that has ramifications for eternity.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

And for all who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the only God and Savior …

… the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

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