People of the Meuse-Argonne: Sjoerd van der Ven

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.


Dutch Doughboy 1

“The Dutch Doughboy”


1.  What are your name, nationality and occupation?

Sjoerd van der Ven; Dutch; Assistant Manager, Pall Mall Store


2.  Which languages do you speak, and how fluently do you speak them?

Dutch, fluently; English, professionally; French, reasonably well


3.  When was your first visit to the Meuse-Argonne?

In 1998 when I was four weeks old my parents brought me to their house in Tailly.


4.  When did you really find yourself drawn to the Meuse-Argonne?

I have always been.  I spent almost every vacation I had during my youth in Tailly, so I partly grew up here.


5.  What is your primary interest in the region?

World War 1 and the participation of the AEF during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive–especially the 89th Division sector.


6.  Approximately how many times and/or how often do you visit the Meuse-Argonne?

I try to come as much as I can.  The last few years that was about four times a year.


7.  What do you do when you visit?

I’m studying the liberation of Tailly by the U.S. 89th Division.  I try to connect the past with the present as I want to reenact this event 100 years later in 2018.


8.  What research or preservation projects are you working on currently?

  • My private investigation on the 89th Division and preparation for the reenactment of the liberation of Tailly in 2018.
  • I’m also the Chief of Overseas Ground Research for Doughboy MIA.
  • My living history impression:  The Dutch Doughboy.


9.  What research or preservation projects have you completed in the past?

  • Providing the museum Romagne ’14-’18 a living history experience with my doughboy impression.


10.  What is your favorite spot in the Meuse-Argonne and why?

Tailly.  I really call this my home!  Also the Bois de Bantheville as it was the jump-off line for the 89th Division on 1 November, 1918.  The Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon is also a special place for me.


11.  History aside, what is your favorite thing to do in the Meuse-Argonne?

Being with my French friends, wild boar hunting and enjoying the French culture and nature.


12.  Schedule permitting, would you consider being a tour guide for individuals or groups traveling to the sector?

I’d love to share my knowledge of the AEF in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and World War 1!


13.  How can readers contact you for assistance or for more details?

[email protected] or, on Facebook, The Dutch Doughboy


14.  Any other comments?

  • I want to thank my parents, Ans and Rens van der Ven, for the opportunity to grow up like this and their support and help in building my dream.
  • I want to thank Jean-Paul de Vries for the help and being such an inspiration.
  • I want to thank Steve Husson for being the best French friend and neighbor I could have.
  • Feel free to contact me for information.
  • If you have photos, family members or anything about the 89th Division I would love to hear from you!


Webmaster’s comment:  Reenactors who are interested in participating in a reenactment of the liberation of Tailly in early November, 2018 are encouraged to contact Sjoerd.  Likewise, anyone interested in the 89th Division should get in touch with this hard-working, young researcher!



Dutch Doughboy 2

Sjoerd and his Family