Even today French locals, other Europeans and Americans find themselves drawn to the Meuse-Argonne region of France. Once drawn there, many return time and again; often working on multi-year research or preservation projects. In this irregular interview series, the webmaster hopes to introduce readers to some of these individuals and their labors of love.
1) What are your name, nationality and occupation?
Lillian Pfluke, US, Founder of American War Memorials Overseas. Also adjunct math professor for the University of Maryland.
2) Which languages do you speak, and how fluently do you speak them?
Native English speaker, totally fluent speaking (though with an accent) in French and German. Writing at a professional level is more problematic. Have lived in Europe for over 25 of my 58 years.
3) When was your first visit to the Meuse-Argonne?
4) When did you really find yourself drawn to the Meuse-Argonne?
I worked for the American Battle Monuments Commission for ten years from 1998 – 2008 as their Private Memorials Administrator.
5) What is your primary interest in the region?
Memorialization. American War Memorials Overseas documents, promotes, and preserves America’s overseas wartime legacy. We try to find all overseas war memorials honoring Americans, register them in our database, encourage cultural tourism, and look for maintenance solutions when required.
Webmaster’s note: The ABMC website has some good Q&A regarding private memorials. See their website at https://www.abmc.gov/about-us/faqs.
6) Approximately how many times and/or how often do you visit the Meuse-Argonne?
I visit 2 or 3 times a year, but always a very targeted visit for a specific meeting or project.
7) What do you do when you visit?
Site visits to memorials honoring Americans for American War Memorials Overseas. Coordinating with locals reference ceremony support or site maintenance.
8) What research or preservation projects are you working on currently?
The two main projects that I am raising money for the moment are not in the Meuse-Argonne Region:
- The memorial to HHHouston II in Arcis le Ponsat put up by his father to honor his son’s WW1 service as an ambulance driver and forward observer before his death in action is literally falling over into the street. We are looking for funds to repair the monument.
- Sergeant Joseph Florey was shot down with his B-17 crew and his family elected to repatriate his remains to Mulhouse, France, where they were originally from. The family has abandoned the gravesite and it is in terrible disrepair. We are looking for funds to renovate the gravesite.
9) What research or preservation projects have you completed in the past?
Our database at uswarmemorials.org contains 1,419 memorials at 1,036 sites containing 5,640 names and 1,680 units–growing every day.
10) What is your favorite spot in the Meuse-Argonne and why?
I like Dun-sur-Meuse with its Monument aux Morts honoring Americans just by the river and the Pershing Memorial Bridge. The town hall has CPT. Harris’ flag, and Jean Marie has his wonderful small museum just up the road.
11) History aside, what is your favorite thing to do in the Meuse-Argonne?
I am a competitive bicycle racer with several world titles in Masters cycling competitions. So I always travel with a bicycle, and the Meuse-Argonne Region is wonderful for cycling.
12) Schedule permitting, would you consider being a tour guide for individuals or groups travelling to the sector?
I already do this. My company Fitness Travel France does mostly custom cycling tours and some custom battlefield tours. I am also heavily involved in planning leadership training on European Battlefields for the U.S. Army in Europe.
13) How can readers contact you for assistance or for more details?
14) Any other comments?