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.
1) What are your name, nationality, and occupation?
Susanne Adler, American, business consultant
Todd Adler, American, IT administrator
2) Which languages do you speak, and how fluently do you speak them?
We both speak English fluently. Susi’s first language was German, but her vocabulary is very rusty now and limited to topics discussed as a 10-year-old. WW1 was not one of the topics. Susi is working on French, although she can read much better than she can speak French. She has learned food vocabulary so we will never again error in ordering liver stew off a menu when we thought it was steak.
3) When was your first visit to the Meuse-Argonne?
In 2014 we chose France for our three-week honeymoon. We spent a week on WW2 following the footsteps of the 30th Division from the Normandy beaches to Hill 314 in Mortain. The next week was spent with Doug Bekke and friends showing us the WW1 highlights in the Meuse-Argonne. We then headed to Paris for a final week of romance.
4) When did you really find yourself drawn to the Meuse-Argonne?
Instead of being tourists, our week in Paris was spent reviewing the photos we had taken in the Meuse-Argonne and comparing then and now photos, studying battlefield maps, and reading the ABMC book. The Meuse-Argonne had captured our attention and we knew we would be back.
5) What is your primary interest in the region?
The role of Minnesotans in the war.
6) Approximately how many times and/or how often do you visit the Meuse-Argonne?
We try to visit yearly. Susi was fortunate her schedule allowed her to stay in the region almost three months in 2018. We try to stay three or four weeks at a time.
7) What do you do when you visit?
Visit friends we’ve made on previous trips and explore different aspects of the battlefields to tease out stories and places where events large and small happened. Susi usually has a list of Minnesota soldiers to honor by finding where they fought or died.
8) What research or preservation projects are you working on currently?
Susi is creating a database of all the Minnesota soldiers who died in service. The goal is to write a vignette about each soldier/sailor and include a photograph. The final product, “Minnesotans Remembered,” will be a resource at the Minnesota Military Museum, the ABMC cemeteries, and the National WW1 Centennial Commission archives.
Collecting sheet music from the period to tell the arc of the war from beginning to end an on into post-war. Susi is working on finding specific Minnesotans who epitomize the lyrics. The final product will be a display (virtual or physical) that features Minnesotans and music.
Todd is researching the Round Tower at Fort Snelling, the first stone structure in what is now the State of Minnesota.
9) What research or preservation projects have you completed in the past?
Susi serves on the Minnesota WW1 Centennial Committee and is advocating for an updated (corrected) WW1 plaque at the Ring of Honor at the Minnesota State Capital. Governor Walz signed the bill into law in August. Work continues on the final design and funding.
Todd has written articles on Fort Snelling’s role in the war. Specifically, the Officer Training Camp for MNopedia. (https://www.mnopedia.org/thing/officers-training-camps-fort-snelling-1917)
10) What is your favorite spot in the Meuse-Argonne and why?
The Notre-Dame de Bonne Garde (church) overlooking Dun-sur-Meuse is always one of our first stops in the region. We pack a picnic lunch and sit on the bench overlooking the valley. The views are expansive and highlight the scope of the terrain the soldiers faced in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
11) History aside, what is your favorite thing to do in the Meuse-Argonne?
Hang out with friends, sit in French sunshine, and drink French wine.
12) Schedule permitting, would you consider being a tour guide for individuals or groups traveling to the sector?
We already do this informally for friends passing through the area. We also do tours of Fort Snelling on a regular basis and WW1 tours at Lakewood Cemetery, so we have practical experience creating and conducting tours.
13) How can readers contact you for assistance or for more details?
email: [email protected]
email: [email protected]
14) Any other comments?
We are very appreciative that Randy has created the Meuse-Argonne.com community. We have learned so much from others through the many discussions. It is a wonderful source of knowledge and friendship.