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 a multi-year research or preservation project. In this irregular interview series, the webmaster hopes to introduce readers to some of these individuals and their labors of love.
The Webmaster had the pleasure of meeting Jim for a few days during the September 2018 Small Group Tour that he and Markus Klauer led. Since then, the two have become Facebook friends and they communicate from time to time. The Webmaster also occasionally checks in on James’ blog to see what his grandfather was doing 100 years ago. More on that topic below.
1) What are your name, nationality and occupation?
James F. Shetler. American. Retired from the information technology industry.
2) Which languages do you speak, and how fluently do you speak them?
3) When was your first visit to the Meuse-Argonne?
4) When did you really find yourself drawn to the Meuse-Argonne?
During the visit in September 2017
5) What is your primary interest in the region?
My grandfather was a Mess Sergeant with the 301st Engineers, primarily involved in the St. Mihiel Offensive. I also research the lives and deaths of many Americans, as well as a cousin, who served in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
6) Approximately how many times and/or how often do you visit the Meuse-Argonne?
I’ve visited twice, in 2017 and 2018.
7) What do you do when you visit?
I explore the locations where Americans served as well as enjoy the beautiful countryside.
8) What research or preservation projects are you working on currently?
I have a blog that follows my grandfather’s footsteps in the war from the time of his induction until his discharge. It can be found at jayinthegreatwar.com
9) What research or preservation projects have you completed in the past?
I assisted in researching the lives and death of several American soldiers who participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, especially that of Captain Alfred M. Swenson, who was killed in Paris in June 1919.
10) What is your favorite spot in the Meuse-Argonne, and why?
Any place alongside a road, sitting under a tree, overlooking the rolling hills of the Meuse-Argonne
11) History aside, what is your favorite thing to do in the Meuse-Argonne?
Hiking and wandering the country lanes of the area
12) Schedule permitting, would you consider being a tour guide for individuals or groups travelling to the sector?
No, but it’s a nice idea.
13) How can readers contact you for assistance or for more details?
14) Any other comments?
I’ve attached a recording of the WW1 Centennial Commission about Capt. Alfred Swenson, who served in the Meuse-Argonne. It can be listened to here: