People of the Meuse-Argonne: Stephen Skinner

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?

Stephen Skinner, USA. I’m a journalist by trade.


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

I’m fluent in English, of course, and I speak some very rudimentary French. I’ve gotten to the point where I can live in France for a week or two at a time without speaking English at all. It isn’t pretty, but I can manage.


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

Randy Gaulke of guided me on my first trip in 1993. It was a whirlwind tour but we covered a tremendous amount of ground in less than two weeks.

Webmaster’s note:  Stephen was the most thorough researcher of all Americans with whom I have toured the battlefields.  I was amazed at how much research he completed before even stepping foot in France!


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

When I first stood along the D102 just west of Murvaux and tried to locate the exact spot where US SPAD ace Frank Luke, Jr. was killed in action.


5) What is your primary interest in the region?

Continuing research into the career and combat death of Frank Luke, Jr. That’s been my passion for twenty years. I’ve found the locations where several of his aerial victories crashed, the spot where he died, and much more. It’s been a fascinating journey.


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

I’ve been there seven times, the most recent in 2007. I’m about due for another trip.


7) What do you do when you visit?

I usually stay with friends in Dun-sur-Meuse, frequent a few favorite restaurants in Verdun, and spend as much time walking the WWI battlefields as possible. I love getting dirty. I like to dig, metal detect, and put together clues to find out precisely when and where various actions occurred.


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

After the release of “THE STAND: The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr.” in late 2008 (see details in next question), I took a break from active research. Now I host Over The Front Radio for the League of WWI Aviation Historians, as well as the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous WWI event for the Museum of the US Air Force. I also enjoy playing the “Dawn Patrol” WWI aviation combat board game (


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

In 2000 I led a successful effort (which included a number of other good people who contributed greatly) to restore the monument to Frank Luke in Murvaux, France. The project was hugely successful and sufficient funds were raised to complete the entire effort. I’m very proud to have been involved in that. In late 2008 Schiffer Publishing released my book on Frank Luke titled, “THE STAND: The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr.” The book received fantastic reviews and remains the only work to ever be endorsed by the Luke family. At the same time we also released the 1-hour documentary on Luke by director Mark Magin, and a second book containing all the material that was deleted from THE STAND titled, “THE QUEST: A Companion to THE STAND, The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr.


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

The spot alongside Bradon Creek just a few hundred yards west of Murvaux where Frank Luke, Jr. died… because it took me fifteen years to find it.


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

I love the French countryside, the old buildings, and the churches. Even the most mundane country drive is breathtakingly beautiful in the Meuse-Argonne.


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

Sure! I could give you the ultimate American airfield tour and the most detailed study of the life and death of Frank Luke ever.


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

[email protected]