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Friday, May 10, 2013

2 weeks+ in the footsteps of the A.E.F. front lines!

Climbing up out of jet lag, I begin a series of articles here about the heart-rending, exciting, endearing and oh so informative 18 day trip my husband and I took to France to imbibe details of the American Expeditionary Forces' routes in 1917-1918.

My husband Steve was my right arm and hand, my interpreter, my expert photographer and my chauffeur for this marvelous event. (To add also, that he is my wine expert and...yes, arbiter of all things funny is quite essential to the telling of this tale—and to the completion of this trip.) He was and is invaluable to me in finishing the research for this novel. In fact, I would not have undertaken writing it again had he not insisted that the time was right, that the Centenary of the war was the appropriate moment to ensure that HEROIC MEASURES found the readership that it deserves. Next to him was my dear cousin Kathleen who also read the book decades ago and who loved it then and who is delighted it will see air now.

As a trained historian who has written 18 novels, I know the value of proper research. I also value the essence of truth it imparts to the finished work. And as one who has also written mysteries where the importance of forensic and police procedure is imperative to the veracity of the story, I know that the smallest details are the ones that make a novel live.

What a person wears, how she feels as she boards a ship, or even what she eats helps to set a scene and give the reader the ever valued verisimilitude vital to the plot and characterization.

Here in HEROIC MEASURES, what I will give you are these facts, among others:

  • Not just what my heroine wears, but why and how it feels, how she acquired it and yes, paid for it herself!
  • What kind of ship she boards when she sails out in the dead of night from an American port—and why she cannot even learn the name of the ship!
  • What she will sleep in on that ship. Hint: It is not a plush cabin bunk.
  • Where she will get off that ship and how she will travel from the French port to the site where she first nurses the wounded who fought on the hills near Cantigny.
  • What Cantigny looks like
  • Why she is there with A.E.F. and the British troops in the Somme Sector
  • How she is trained to nurse the wounded
  • What materials she has at her disposal. Hint: Penicillin was not yet invented.
  • How she must have felt to go on leave to Paris through Gare de l'est and see thousands of refugees fleeing the north with only the goods they could carry in their arms.

And yes, there is more, much more to this story, so I will lure you in to read more about precisely where we went. For brevity and for those who follow here who are vitally interested in World War One and our devotion to the wounded American Doughboy and Marines, I will tell you here we went to:

  • Paris
  • Compiegne
  • Cantigny
  • Montdidier
  • Belleau Wood
  • Chateau Thierry
  • Ouise-Aisne
  • St. Mihiel, Montsec, Thiacourt
  • Verdun, Fort Douamont and the Citadel
  • Meuse-Argonne, including Montfaucon, Varennes and many other hamlets where our men fought and died and prevailed.

Please return for photos, videos and insights. I will do my best to relate to you the sights, the smells, the environment where more than 1 million Americans, men and women, devoted their lives and their honor to accomplishing the goal of winning the war.

Today, when we Americans think of that war, we owe these men and women the same respect and honor we give to our other men and women in uniform, past and present. After all, these Americans won that war. It was not they who lost the peace.

If this Centennial teaches any moral, I hope the first one, the strongest one we claim is that these men and women fought and did themselves and their cause proud. If the Great War has been branded as sad or senseless, then it was not these men and women who made it so. We owe them the remembrance of what was a heroic measure to go when called, to serve when asked, to devote all to accomplish that goal and to contribute mightily to end a conflict which began too easily, endured too long and ended in a peace which should have been more just, less vengeful.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Invalides, Museum of Army of France, marvelous WWI exhibits

Advertisement for the 1871/1945 Chambers
For those of you pondering visiting the Invalides in Paris, run, do not walk to one of the most marvelous exhibits on World War One.  While most of the parlors devoted to the 1914-1918 conflict center on French Army efforts, the chambers are filled with so many valuable items that I can list only a few.

Before you immerse yourself in the three chambers devoted to three phases of French WWI efforts, do see the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. One of the most breath-taking memorial sights in the world (next to the American Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, Virginia and the Cenotaph in London, IMHO), the crypt of the man who was the first emperor of the French is truly awe-inspiring.

For a fine and brief introduction to the rest of the Invalides, do watch this film:

This picture does no justice to the majesty of the crypt.
Official photo of Musee-Armee,
For the memorial to Marshal Foch, the third and last French commander during the war, I will do that more justice with a separate post. But here it is in the Dome of the Invalides.
Copyright, 2011, A. Power.