Books & Movies: American Armies and Battlefields in Europe (1938)



Why write a review for a book written in 1938?  Because the book remains the bible (small “b”) for battlefield visitors!  The Webmaster gets numerous emails from information seekers, and his responses ALWAYS recommend this book as a good starting point for pilgrims.  Likewise, hundreds of people have joined the Meuse-Argonne Facebook group over the last several months looking for more information on their ancestor’s experience in WW1.  Again, this provides a great start.

American Armies and Battlefields in Europe was first published by the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1938.  (A smaller, earlier edition was published in the late 1920s.)  The 1938 version is 547 pages long and it includes three large-fold out maps covering the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Battlefields.  The approximate advance of each division is color-coded.  While the focus of the book is on the A.E.F. participation on those fronts, additional chapters cover operations in less significant regions, such as Ypres, the Somme, the Champagne, Russia and the Occupation of Germany.  The book contains hundreds of photos and maps, which help in visiting the battlefields and in lining up then and now photographs.  The last 100 pages +/- is full of information on the ABMC, its cemeteries and memorials, and statistical data for the American Expeditionary Forces.  For example, pages 516-7 give detail on the individual divisions and their subordinate units.  On page 495 one finds a listing of AEF and Army Headquarters by dates.  The Webmaster has been touring the battlefields and studying the A.E.F. for more than three decades, and he still finds this book a useful reference work.  In fact, he used it extensively to help proofread a historical novel just this week.

No book is perfect.  The biggest weakness the Webmaster has found is the bias brought in by General John J. Pershing, the post-war Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission.  One has to view the inclusion / exclusion of units and wording with this in mind.  Also, people researching a specific division are advised to consult additional resources.  Finally, this is a battlefield guide book.  Other books do a better job of covering the experience of being an A.E.F. soldier in WW1.

The Webmaster still prefers to use the 1938 print edition, because of the quality of the paper and the fold-out maps.  One can easily find 1938 editions in good condition for +/- $50 on  The US Government Printing Office did a reprint in 1992, that can also be found in antiquarian book stores.  Today, numerous companies will print the book on demand.  The Webmaster has not tried these services.  Finally, the book can be downloaded from the ABMC’s website:

This book should be one of the key reference books for anyone planning to visit the A.E.F. battlefields in France and Belgium.