In 2007 the webmaster was offered the opportunity to lead the second half (six days) of the Western Front Association’s U.S. Branch tour; which included four days in the Meuse-Argonne, participation in the Memorial Day Celebration at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, and two days in the St. Mihiel Salient. The author prepared the Study Guide and Driving Directions (printed below) for the participants. Broadly speaking, the tour was organized to give one or two days to each Army Corps in the Meuse-Argonne (I, III and V Corps), starting at the jump-off line and advancing northward as the battle progressed. It also provided for two days in the St. Mihiel Salient. Readers can use this as a template for planning their own tour; as long as they recognize the limitations of relying on this template:
- The tour was designed for a 50-person bus. The size and weight of the bus severely restricted what portions of the battlefield were visited.
- The size and age of the group (60+) required ten to fifteen minutes to load and unload the bus–at every stop.
- Because of the average age of the group, “hard-core” hikes were severely limited.
In contrast, in August 2014, the webmaster and his son and several European friends spent two days in the area where the 28th Division fought; driving down narrow forest lanes and hiking a few miles at each location.
Both trips were great; each in their own way. But the planning for both trips was very different.
Foreword–25 February, 2007
Hotel du Commerce, Aubréville
It’s 23:30 and I cannot fall asleep. The countless sites, roads, experiences of the past two days run through my mind.
This area of France has been calling me since my first visits in the early 1990s, yet how do I tell the story of American participation in 1918?
I reenact, but I’ve never experienced the terror of a real artillery barrage. I left a message for my wife on my GSM world phone. I did not have to worry about a cut in the wire, nor do I have to wait weeks for a reply letter. I drove up the Aire River Valley in the comfort of a 2007 automobile. I was warm, dry and, most of all, not under fire. So how do I tell the story?
Better researchers, writers and historians have told all or portions of the story; each with varying degrees of success. What can I add?
This tour is also operating with several limitations: Time is not sufficient to tell every soldier’s or every unit’s experience. Traveling by bus, and the age of most participants places severe limitations on the selected route. So how do I tell the story?
In addition to the yet-to-be-written background material (now complete and printed below), I have chosen a 3-pronged approach. First I plan to retrace key portions of the battlefields themselves. Second, we will take advantage of the many restored and recreated sites, museums and cemeteries in the area. Third, I will include a variety of then and now media, such as photographs, trench maps, and letters home.
It is my hope that some portion of this tour will move each of its participants; much as I can almost feel the spirits of the doughboys of I Corps, marching through Aubréville on their way up to the line.
A Meuse-Argonne Study Guide
Prepared for the 2007 Biennial Tour of the Western Front Association, United States Branch
(Divided into Sections due to Length)
Daily Driving Guides Complete with Directions and Notes