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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Famous HARLEM HELL FIGHTERS, 369th Infantry Regiment, Commemoration by Black Caucus; Era of "Separate but Equal"

US Archives: public domain photograph
Soldiers of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 1919.
Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Storms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor
     "Some of the colored men of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action." 1998 print. Records of the War Department General and Special. Staffs. (165-WW-127-8)

In the era of "Separate but equal" law in the United States, those black men and women who volunteered to serve in the US Army were trained, slept, ate and fought in separate units from Caucasians.

One of the most famous of those Army units was the 369th Infantry Regiment from New York City, or as they came to be known for their gallantry and for their extreme heroism in World War I, the Harlem Hellfighters.

The subject of many historical books and now of a best-selling graphic novel and soon to be a movie starring Will Smith, members of this infantry group distinguished themselves in France fighting with the French and alongside other US Army units. They were a significant force during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, uniquely never losing one foot of ground they gained and never losing a man as a prisoner of war.

369th Band aboard ship!
When they first landed in France, they were designated (as other African-American units were) as laborers. Most black American Doughboys worked the docks, unloading supplies from ships in the ports of St. Nazaire and Bordeaux. (Please read HEROIC MEASURES for a fuller description of their work.) But at that time the French experienced a number of mutinies in their ranks and French General Staff asked our American General Pershing to help shore up their very thin front line. Pershing, never interested in weaving in any American soldiers into any foreign military force, assigned the 369th to the French command. The French, who had given their colonists in Africa French citizenship in the 1880s, readily accepted the black Americans alongside their fighting forces. The 369th fought "like hell" and they were noted among the French as fearless fighters. Weeks later, once French General Command thought their lines more secure, Pershing took the 369th back and put them on the front lines with other Doughboys in the Meuse-Argonne area.
369th Band Marching in NYC Parade, Feb 17, 1919

In the 369th were many musicians.This group played often in camp and became renowned among the French for playing a new kind of music. This is, of course, jazz.

One monument to them stands in the Meuse-Argonne and another, a replica, in Harlem itself. The 369th has fought in other wars, including World War II and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently, the Congressional Black Caucus honored the descendants of these heroic men at the opening of their recent conference.

     US Archives: Harlem Hellfighters return home to parade in New York City February 17, 1919.  School children got the day off and if you examine this picture closely you will see a wonderful mix of black and white Americans applauding the 369th.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Emotional memories of war, PTSD, war wounds, facial wounds, plastic surgery, front line procedures and what we "learned" in WWI

Americans today associate PTSD with our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Truly, post-war trauma must have always been with us. We are, after all, human and violence of any kind offends us, especially when life and limb are violated. But in the Great War, more men survived the realities of bullets, shrapnel, gas and chemical attacks as well as disease than in any other war. The reason is, of course, that we had organized medical teams behind the lines at the ready.
True that those teams had little in the way of medicines or technology to aid them in rapid response to aiding wounded. But the process of getting aid to a wounded soldier had begun.
What do we know of that process?
1. Speed
We learned that the sooner a medical team sees a man, they can not only bandage him and/or administer first aid, but ease his pain.
The need for speed meant armies developed the concept of stretcher bearers who carried wounded from the line backward to a first aid station. This may have been a TRIAGE station where wounded were assessed for survivability. Triage posts were often served by ambulances, either horse drawn or mechanized. These vehicles ran over rough terrain at slow speeds and men inside often had no morphine or other to ease their pain.

Analysis of wounded men immediately behind
fighting line was often called TRIAGE, or separation
of wounded in to 3 groups. This was: 1. those who
would not live no matter the medical attention; 2. those who needed
immediate attention; 3. those who could wait a reasonable time for attention.

2. Efficiencies
We learned that a proper supply of emergency materials was necessary the closer to the front a medical team operated. This included not only scissors, bandages, splints, gauze, but also fresh sterile water, iodine and other similar sterilizing ointments.
This picture in a church in a Field Hospital shows either
primary or secondary line treatment. This is June 1918 and could
be primary treatment, if behind a rapidly advancing or retreating
front line.
3. Understanding of infection
The Great War occurred during a period when medical researchers were first beginning to understand the process of bacterial infection and how to limit its virulence.  No antibiotics were yet available. So cleansing a wound was a laborious process. Furthermore, the forensics of bullet trajectories and the erratic intrusions of shrapnel made removal of such foreign objects more of a guessing process than a logical one.
X-rays were available but limited in their scope. Furthermore, not every medical team had use of one.

4. Psychological effects of exposure to elements
Not only was a soldier exposed to bombs, bullets, shrapnel, gas and chemicals, he was exposed to the actions and reactions of his comrades to these elements. Add to that the primitive conditions of living and working in knee deep mud, poor hygiene, poor diet and constant pressure to perform menial tasks, and the average soldier suffered physical and social challenges which few current-day non-combatants can identify with.

5. Secondary surgery and recuperative treatments

Often a wounded man required one or more secondary surgeries. Operations performed by medical teams close to the fighting lines were under their own pressures to work quickly. This could mean the wounded had received life-saving treatment but required advanced surgeries to enhance the primary surgery.
To ensure continued care in a more secure area, the US Army (like other armies in this conflict) established hospitals well behind the lines. Americans established a base hospital system, staffed by entire teams from hospitals in the continental US and complemented by others from other area who joined those teams. These base hospitals were approximately 50 to 100 miles behind any front. So indeed a wounded man was transported even farther back of the line to a stationary base from which he could recuperate for an extended period. He was either certified completely recovered and returned to the front lines to fight again or sent on down the line to return home. In the US, he could be treated at another hospital or returned to his civilian home.
No such entity as our current Veterans Administration existed at that time. A man was left to recuperate on his own. The VA was a post World War II entity created by the Congress.

Facsimilie of facial wound prosthetic
Musee de la Grande Guerre, Meaux, FR
Jo-Ann Power photo
6. Rehabilitative services which were new
Torso back brace and amputee of leg prosthetic.
Musee de la Grande Guerre, Meaux, Fr
Jo-Ann Power photo
Physical therapy as a professional service was a new technique offered to amputees and those who had suffered physical incapacities. Much of this kind of therapy included training for new professions, such as weaving and metallurgy.  For those men who were amputees, many were offered prosthetic devices for arms and legs.
For those men who suffered facial deformities, plastic surgery was in its primary stages of development. And while many of these men opted to go into "retirement homes" because they did not wish to re-enter society, many of them volunteered to receive prosthetic masks. Many volunteered to be patients in novel procedures which today form the bedrock of our knowledge about efficacies in plastic surgery.

Arm-shoulder prosthesis
Musee de la Grande Guerre, Meaux, FR
Jo-Ann Power Photo

For more on plastic surgery, visit:
For more on emotional trauma, shell shock and PTSD, visit:

Frontispiece of Pickerill's text on facial surgery, produced on the basis of his M.S. thesis to the University of Birmingham

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Battle of the Marne, September 1914, surprise attack on Paris and rallying of French

Taxis save Paris!
 After Germany invaded Belgium in early August 1914 and France and Britain declared war on Germany and her allies, the Germans saw that to win the war they should attack France quickly and decisively. They hoped to win the war within days and thus end what might be their biggest nightmare—a two-front war. As they swarmed toward Paris, the French were surprised. And their troops, their 7th Division, had to be repositioned from their railhead to quickly stop the German advance.

     In a valiant maneuver, the Army asked approximately 600 taxi drivers of Paris to aid them by carrying 10,000 French troops to the front lines. The taxi drivers were to meet their so-called passengers in the drive in front of the Les Invalides.
Les Invalides, Jo-Ann Power picture
Troops climbing into the taxis!
The farthest the Germans advanced was within 30 miles of Paris. At Meaux, they were stopped, thanks in part to these taxi drivers! (Do see the map here!)
Dotted line: Sept. 5 positions. Solid line: New front, post Sept. 9
Musee de La Grande Guerre in Meaux
Jo-Ann Power, picture

And in Meaux today, you can and should take the train from Gare de L'Est for a 30 minute ride to this quiet little town to visit the most marvelous museum, Musee de La Grande Guerre! (Do see my other posts about it!)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Anti-German hatred among Americans as WWI begins; lynchings, riots, prejudice abounded

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, many in the USA exhibited anti-German attitudes. Newspapers ran cartoons that vilified the Kaiser and his soldiers and allies. Yet more than 1/3 of Americans were of German descent.
If cartoons in magazines and newspapers were the most visible, other actions showed American fear and bias toward the British and French.

Riots broke out in many cities. In Chicago, one man was hanged on suspicion of being a German sympathizer.
In my own German-American family where my father's family were 3rd generation Americans and where they spoke German, my grandfather warned his children to speak only English outside the house. My father remembers clearly that among his friends who were German-Americans, they had this warning, too.

While much of this editorializing might be understood as an effort by the government to propagandize the war effort—and gain support financially from the citizens, it is also a representation of what happens to people's emotional predisposition when attacked or when war seems to be the most viable solution to a political problem.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 4 "the lamps go out all over Europe" as we begin Commemorations of Start of The Great War

Sir Edward Grey
    Tomorrow night, August 4, in the United Kingdom at 10 p.m., all there will be asked to turn off their lights for one hour in commemoration of the official notice by British Prime Minister that the Cabinet had declared war on Germany August 4, 1914. The Lights Out project symbolizes the statement by then  British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey who said, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."
     Read more about this event here on the BBC site:

     And to read more about Grey's famous speech, do visit:

     The world today has been shaped by that war in countless ways. One of them is a constant questioning by many of the necessity and value of spending blood, tears and treasure to kill others.
On the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the event that ignited the conflict, leaders of those countries who went to war months later in 1914, gathered in Belgium. They promised each other then to work toward peace. Among them here you see the leaders of France, Germany, United Kingdom and Belgium.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

HEROIC MEASURES, digital, $1.99 only for Centennial of Declarations of War August 3-4


In commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Declarations of War by various countries, the publisher has reduced the price of digital version of HEROIC MEASURES for the next few days. (The price of the print version remains the same.) Buy Link:

August 3-4, 1914 are dates considered the official start date of the hostilities given that many declared by writ or by action that they existed in state of war.

The assassinations of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo June 28, 1914 certainly began the tragic series of events that culminated in millions of men, women and children dying world wide in the 4 year conflict that followed.

HEROIC MEASURES tells the story of the 22,000+ American women who volunteered to serve in the Army Nurse Corps and sail to France to serve.

What facts about them should you know and honor them for:

  • They volunteered, but were considered Army recruits.
  • They earned half—yes, HALF—the pay of an Army private.
  • They worked shifts that lasted 12 hour, but as the battles intensified and many wounded came to their operating tents and base hospitals—they worked 24 and 36 hours. Many of them dropped from fatigue. Hundreds died of tuberculosis, diseases and influenza. None died in combat, but hundreds served right in back of the front lines.
  • This is the first time that American woman go abroad to serve in the thousands.
  • Because this is the period in American history when the civil rights rule was to have "separate but equal" facilities for African-Americans, the Army established a separate African American Army Nurse Corps to serve the African-American recruits. 
  • A nurse signed a pledge to serve until the end of the war. She could not decide to go home at will, but had to remain in the Corps until the end. Just like a soldier.
  • I hope you will read my book for more insight into these marvelous women who served in a time of abject need.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ready for a Great American History lesson? WWI Centennial, April 1917

American Field medical kit, 1917
Musee de la Grande Guerre, Meaux France
(Jo-Ann Power, photo)
Probably the least appreciated subject in school tends to be history. Just watch any of those "man on the street" interviews where a tv announcer asks someone who George Washington was and you can cringe.
But the best way to teach history is to live it.
And here, for your continuing education and delight, is a BRIEF list of a few groups and organizations creating really wonderful projects. Take note. Take yourself to these sites virtual and real. Better yet, take your children!
Learn from the past with these terrific programs:

1. Go to to see the complete list, to date. Return often and look for more in your city or town!

2. For August 3-4, when the official commemorations begin in Europe, do see the wonderful lists of events our friends have developed here:
Germany: 100 Jahre Erster Weltkrieg
 German War Graves Commission web site

August 3 in the Alsace, the French and German heads of state meet to reaffirm their dedication to peace. They meet in the Alsace, one of the most hotly contested regions between the two countries. The meet beneath this sculpture of their ancestors carved into a mountain above the battlefield.

How could this possibly be of interest to Americans?
Well, I can tell you for myself that because my ancestors fled the Alsace in 1859 because of the constant warfare there, I find this interest in peace-keeping personally significant and gratifying to know.
From "They will meet at Hartmannswillerkopf, where almost 30,000 soldiers from both sides died in a series of battles for control of a strategic promontory overlooking the Alsatian Plain and the Rhine Valley. Known to French soldiers of the Great War as the Vieil Armand battlefield, the area was declared a historic monument in 1921, and now serves as a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation."

3. For those with a passion for more WWI info, do go to World War One Historcal Association site:  You may join for a nominal sum.
    They have a monthly magazine which you can read on line or in print, written by experts in the subject.

4. If you saw on TV the 3-part History Channel documentary about the Two World Wars, then you saw brief bios of George Patton, the famous general who fought in the Argonne in World War One, and Douglas MacArthur who commanded the Rainbow Division, the unit that fought in Oise-Aisne and into Meuse-Argonne campaigns.
     For those of you who live in the Tidewater area, visit MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA.
    For a short and useful video of the causes of the war, do watch this 13 minute film:

5. Bringing the remembrance of those who fought to the cities and towns in the USA, a few organizations have wonderfully informative programs. One of these is the World War I Memorial Inventory Project,
   This project is very exciting, recording in one place for the first time all of the memorials, large and small, the many American commemorations of the war we entered late...but helped to win.

6. Similar to the Inventory Project, but focused on teaching American children the history of the men and women who helped fight the war is Saving Hallowed Ground.  Led by Eugene P. Hough, this group will help communities organize and find the records of local military and volunteers who served in the war. Many of these men and women went abroad, fought and returned to little or no acclaim. With each school child choosing one name of a veteran and then learning about them and telling his or her classmates about that person, they will allow these men and women to live again in the hearts and minds of their countrymen. See

    If any of these groups or their projects appeal to you, do contact the organizers or leaders. They will be happy to assist you with any efforts you may wish to contribute to remembering those who served in World War One.
   Please return here for more of my list of great American WWI Commemoration groups and events!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WWI Centennial is upon us as we remember how millions went to war in summer 1914: USA's WWI Centennial Commission

     I had the honor of being selected to attend the WWI Congressional Centennial Commission's first meeting in Washington D.C. June 14.
     Yes, here I am with my book at the event that bright Saturday afternoon, offering my services to speak at museums and tell others about the 22,000+ women who served in the Army Nurse Corps during The Great War. Ten thousand of them sailed to France to serve there.
     You are going to be surprised and very pleased by the number of those involved in the American commemoration projects.
     And yes, I will list them here, then post their website links to the right in the sidebar for you. What's more, I am delighted to tell you more about each one. They are so varied—from those who are re-enactors to those who are discovering and preserving our long-lost WWI memorials to those who are developing projects for K-12.
     The first website you should visit is that of the World War One Centennial Commission. This is a group authorized by the U.S. Congress to coordinate all commemorative activities by groups and individuals for the war.
     This Commission will be the information center for American activities. If you know of an event or a private individual who has a special project or expertise, do send them to the website and encourage them to write to the Commission. Note too that this group was authorized without funding so all activities are voluntary.
     While those in Europe are already deep into the commemorative process, we here are just getting started. Understandable of course, since we Americans did not declare war against Germany and her allies until April 6, 1917.
   Then too, once we declared war, we really did not GO to war until approximately a year later. General Pershing demanded that he have at least 1 million men to go to the battlefront—and that conscription allotment was not fulfilled until approximately one year later. By the time we were in France in force of one million, it was the Spring 1918. No, Pershing did not go to war with the Army he had. He knew would be disastrous. Furthermore, he advocated educating his staff first, sending his artillery and cavalry (let that read mechanized forces, such as they were) into situations with French and British troops along their lines. He wanted his troops to benefit from what the British and French had learned.
  One of the first groups to go was the first hospital to be organized to go abroad. From Baltimore Maryland (my home town), Johns Hopkins University medical staff volunteered and organized as Base Hospital #1. I post here a photograph given me by First Division Museum curators in Cantigny Illinois of the interior of that hospital. Do note the wooden construction, the metal beds, the uniformity of linens and blankets and do notice especially the nurse in the aisle working with orderlies.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How heroic are you? Excerpt from HEROIC MEASURES about American nurses in WWI France! Out now!

Out now in digital and print at all sites! Here is Buy Link at Amazon:
How heroic are you?
            Would you volunteer to travel thousands of miles from home with others you don’t know to live in tents, wash your hair in your helmet and work 12-24 hours each day?
            In the Great War, thousands of women did.
            HEROIC MEASURES is the novel that shows you how American nurses went to war, how they lived and served­—and how they loved.
            For nurse Gwen Spencer, fighting battles is nothing new. An orphan sent to live with a vengeful aunt, Gwen picked coal and scrubbed floors to earn a living. But when she decides to become a nurse, she steps outside the boundaries of her aunt’s demands…and into a world of her own making.
            Leaving her hometown for France, she helps doctors mend thousands of brutally injured Doughboys under primitive conditions. Amid the chaos, she volunteers to go ever forward to the front lines. Braving bombings and the madness of men crazed by the hell of war, she is stunned to discover one man she can love. A man she can share her life with.
            But in the insanity and bloodshed she learns the measures of her own desires. Dare she attempt to become a woman of accomplishment? Or has looking into the face of war and death given her the courage to live her life to the fullest?

Excerpt: Copyright, Jo-Ann Power, 2013. All rights reserved.
When she did return to the tent, she had Colonel Scott in tow. She’d told him nothing except their German was now awake, aware and spoke English. She thought it best to let the officer discern the veracity of the man.
“Nurse Spencer tells me you speak our language. Might I ask you where you learned it?”
“At my mother’s knee, Colonel. I am Captain Adam Fairleigh, His Majesty’s Forces. Forgive me, sir, I would greet you appropriately but our erstwhile nurse has strapped me to the bed.”
“Then you must need restraining,” Scott replied. “What the hell is this that you say you’re with the Brits?”
“I am, sir. I am attached to General Pershing’s staff, Chaumont.”
“As what? How do you speak Hun so well and why in God’s name are you in one of their uniforms?”
Fairleigh arched both brows, looking at the short American down his very elegant straight nose. “Liaison to the American Commander, sir. Since December. I speak excellent German because my maternal grandmother came from Saxe-Coburg, the same principality as our late Prince Albert. I speak German, sir, as well as I do English. Before the war, that was no crime, but an asset.”
“I see. And how do you come by this uniform?”
Their patient was no longer so quick or cocky. “I took it off a dead man.”
Gwen swallowed hard at the savage image of this man removing clothing from a corpse.
“I had managed to crawl across a zone where they were not shelling. I thought if I could reach one of their forward trench lines, then I—”
“Preposterous. How did you get that far in your own uniform?”
“I went in peasants’ rags. Our lines abut an old village where only a few huts still stand.”
“Why discard your rags for a German captain’s uniform?”
“Well, sir, he was not only dead but conveniently my size.”
That shut the man up.
Gwen could only marvel at this creature in the bed.
“When I came upon their trench, I could hear their conversation below. Luck was with me. That bunker was a communications center. If I could get in there, I might learn quite enough to make my mission worthwhile. Of course, I couldn’t do that, couldn’t speak German to them and have them believe I was one of them if I wore French farmer’s culottes, could I? So I crept around…among their dead whose bodies they had not retrieved.” He stared at the American with blank eyes. “I happened upon the captain who seemed my height. Then I waited until night fell and—”
He halted, regarding Gwen once more. “I buried my rags and crawled into their trench. They accepted my story. I was privy to their orders that were to move their gun emplacements. Then, as you can expect, I was stuck with them, considered one of them. I had to run with them. I had no opportunity to escape until two nights later when the French opened a barrage in our sector.”
He lifted a hand, let it drop to the sheets. “I managed to hang back when they retreated with their line. I set out to No Man’s Land and prayed to Christ I’d find my way across to French lines. This took me…I’m not clear. A night. Two?” He shrugged. “Here I am.”
“Who is your American liaison in Pershing’s staff?”
“Colonel Samuel Rustings.”
Scott nodded, a hint of a smile curling his lips. “I see.”
“I gather you know him.”
“Same class at West Point.”
“Well, then. If you telegraph him, he will verify who I am and my mission. He knew I went out, you see.”
“A man from headquarters is already on his way here.”
“We thought we had ourselves a Heinie.”
The man’s mouth quirked in bitterness. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Oh, you’ll do, sir. What did you say your name was?”
Gwen noticed that Scott had not addressed him by his rank.
“We’ll see what our man from Chaumont has to say about you. In the meantime, my private is outside the tent.”
Fairleigh inclined his head in acknowledgement of his warder.
“Nurse. Finish up here. Untie him. ”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Good day, then.”
When Scott had departed, Fairleigh regarded her with appraising eyes. “What is your name?”
“Nice name. Spencer.”
“Thank you.” She pulled her cart closer to his bed. No matter who he was, he was to be made whole as efficiently as she could.
“I am sorry, Spencer, for being an ass.”
She saw on his face honest contrition. Unaccustomed to apologies from those who insulted her, she had no reason to trust the value of his. Yet she gave him credit for the courtesy of it. He had done such a brave act. What kind of man would do as he had done? A fool. An opportunist. A man who saw this was work which he and he alone was best suited for? Was that hubris? Cunning? Or duty? If indeed, he had done it. If he hadn’t lied.
“Spencer, I am grateful for your help. Please do patch me up. I’d hate to lose my hands because I lacked good manners.”
He was making conversation to heal their rift. She picked through her gauze looking for the needle she had misplaced when she had left him. Brusqueness served her where experience did not. “Lie back then and be good.”
“Chilly. Do you they teach you to be frosty like that in America?”
He feigned a shiver.
She fought a smile. “Put that spoon between your teeth. This needle will hurt.”
“I wager it will hurt less than your German. You should have warned me that it was so bad.”
“Careful.” Fingering her needle, she began to thread the eye. “You need me to be gentle as I sew. Besides,”—she could taunt him now that he was rational and at her mercy—“I doubt I’ll ever sing with you again.”
“I will endeavor to ensure you do.”
His attempt to charm her flattered her. She would do well to ignore it. “This is war, sir. Neither of us has the time.”
“Then sing to me instead.”
“When I put my needle in your skin, I will hear you sing and off key, too.” She threatened him, hiding all the humor his compliment inspired. “The spoon, sir. Now!”

Amazon:  digital

Read Jo-Ann’s HEROIC MEASURES blog about American nurses:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 praises HEROIC MEASURES, a "worthy portrait of nursing life" battlefields...and early 20th century"
The review continues:

“The story has a strong, riveting current that pulls the reader under. Gwen is a plucky, determined sharp-shooter that questions surgeons and army officials alike. She and the nurses by her side set a beautiful example for readers of the true essence of nursing. This is who nurses are, this is what nurses do.

Heroic Measures” is a worthy portrait of nursing life, both in the French battlefields of World War I and in the United States at the turn of the century. And Gwen Spencer and her fellow nurses are a testament to the young women who risked literal life and limb, in the name of duty, to save those wounded in battle.
* * * * *

Read the review at the original site:

Monday, April 28, 2014

Americans in France: HEROIC MEASURES WWI Tour October 2014, 9 days, for Students, Men and Women

Americans in France:
Heroic Measures WWI Journey
9 Days in A.E.F's Footsteps
WWI American Battlefields in France:
A comprehensive tour for men, women and students of Americans' experience in France during The Great War, 1917-1919

   With more than 30 years' researching the American experience in France during The Great War, I lead this tour of the American battlefields of The Great War. Designed for everyone who has an interest in this first massive American military experience abroad, this tour gives you a comprehensive look at the war before the United States declared war in April 1917 until most troops and support services departed in the summer of 1919.

   Managed by prestigious travel corporation KER and DOWNEY, the tour features museums, American battlefields, memorials, and cemeteries with talks by various experts.
   Staff include me as the historical guide, a local French expert and the van driver.

Brief schedule:

Land Only Includes:Oct 13 2014 - Transfer - Meet and Assist at Paris airport (CDG)
Oct 13 2014 - Transfer - Charles De Gaulle airport (CDG) to Paris Hotel
Oct 13 2014 - Excursion - Dinner in Paris
Oct 13 2014 - 1 night in Paris at Marriott Ambassador Opera - Standard Room - BB - 12 x Room
                               - Includes breakfastOct 14 2014 - Transfer - Paris to Compiegne
Oct 14 2014 - Excursion - Visit to the Museum de la Grande Guerre
Oct 14 2014 - Excursion - Dinner at Hotel
Oct 14 2014 - 2 nights in Picardy at Hotel Les Beaux Arts - Standard Room - BB - 12 x Room
                               - Includes breakfastOct 15 2014 - Excursion - Half Day Cantigny Battlefield Tour
Oct 15 2014 - Excursion - Lunch on Excursion
Oct 15 2014 - Excursion - Half Day Armistice Museum Tour
Oct 16 2014 - Excursion - Half Day Oise-Aisne American Cemetery Tour
Oct 16 2014 - Transfer - Compiegne to Reims
Oct 16 2014 - Excursion - Lunch on Excursion
Oct 16 2014 - Excursion - Dinner at Hotel
Oct 16 2014 - 2 nights in Champagne at Hotel de la Paix - Standard Room - BB - 12 x Room
                               - Includes breakfast
Oct 17 2014 - Excursion - Half Day Belleau Woods Battlefield Tour
Oct 17 2014 - Excursion - Lunch on Excursion
Oct 17 2014 - Excursion - Visit to Chateau-Thierry Monument
Oct 18 2014 - Transfer - Reims to Verdun
Oct 18 2014 - Excursion - Dinner at Hotel
Oct 18 2014 - 4 nights in Meuse at Chateau des Monthairons - Standard Room - BB - 12 x Room
                               - Includes breakfastOct 19 2014 - Excursion - Half Day St. Mihiel American Cemetery Tour
Oct 19 2014 - Excursion - Lunch on Excursion
Oct 19 2014 - Excursion - Half Day Mont Sec Memorial Tour
Oct 19 2014 - Excursion - Dinner at Hotel
Oct 20 2014 - Excursion - Half Day Meuse-Argonne Cemetery Tour
Oct 20 2014 - Excursion - Lunch on Excursion
Oct 20 2014 - Excursion - Half Day Montfaucon Memorial Tour
Oct 20 2014 - Excursion - Dinner at Hotel
Oct 22 2014 - Transfer - Verdun to Paris

For more details
Please download the PDF at 
to read the complete itinerary.
For reservations and more information, please contact:
Trista Gage
Custom Travel Consultant
Tel: +1 (800) 423-4236
Fax: +1 (281) 371 2514

Saturday, March 8, 2014

18+ Days In AEF's footsteps, Verdun to Fort Douaumont, lost villages and Ossuary

In center of Verdun stands a statue to its citizens
who endured attacks on their city during
La Grande Guerre. She is dressed in period clothing.
  My husband's and my visit to Verdun included not only The Citadel but a trip up into the hills which surround that very important city. Nestled as it is in the hollow of the Meuse, Verdun offers an easy access down that river into the heart of central France. Holding it from all attackers was a vital strategy for the French in any conflict.

Today, the old city is a vibrant place, peaceful on the quai beside the flowing waters of the Meuse. At the medieval bridge stands the carved monument to the French Soldiers who served and defended the city throughout the four years of war.

Five French soldiers on the Quai in Verdun: Artilleryman, Miner, Cavalryman, Poilu, Airman

Land near Fort Douaumont marked by foxholes and shell craters.
    Driving up into the hills surrounding the city, we passed numerous placards naming villages destroyed, their inhabitants never to return to their land. (In fact, on the cover of my novel HEROIC MEASURES, is one such landscape.) But as we drive, we also notice another heart-rending quality. The land is pockmarked still with foxholes, trench lines and huge shell holes. We are reminded visually that men fought, suffered and died here. In fact, remains of many of them are still being unearthed today. Only months ago, a person walking the dense forests here came across a shallow grave containing the skeletal remains of quite a few French soldiers. do enlarge the photo here to see the contours I write of.
    Fort Douaumont was one of a series of battlements ringing the city of Verdun. Today, only two remain, Douaumont and Vaux.

Built in late 1880s, Douaumont is underground. Carved into the hillside, it is bone-chillingly cold, damp, foul smelling and in general extremely unpleasant. Yet, thousands of French served in this fort and fought in some of the most bitter and costly engagements of the war. If you visit—and I suggest you do—you will definitely want to take a tour. Especially interesting to me are two areas: the gun turret room and the latrines. But you definitely come away from here stunned that men endured such hardships for long months at a time.
Entrance to Fort Douaumont
     A short drive away lies the Ossuary and Cemetery. Finished in 1932, this mausoleum houses the remains of an estimated 130,000 French and German soldiers who fought over Verdun and at the surrounding areas in the four years of la Grande Guerre. (An estimated 700,000 French and German fought over Douaumont, incurring more than 230,000 casualties.)
    A truly enormous building, the Ossuary overwhelms you with grief to stand and consider the loss of so many whose names are unknown but whose loss certainly grieved those who did know them, yearn for them and suffer at their passing. The tower stands 150 feet high, truly colossal as you stand beneath it.  The cloisters to each side reach over 450 feet long.
Central tower of the Ossuary. This scaffolding you see 
herewas a renovation begun for The Centenniel.

 Surrounding this structure is the largest French cemetery for those who died in World War One. More than 16,160 men repose here. One plot contains those whose names are known. Another, those who are known but to God. When the Ossuary was built, families of those deceased whose names were known contributed to the fund to bury those whose names were not.
Front entrance to Ossuary

Here pictured are a few of the graves. But other separate sections include a plot for Jewish soldiers and another for muslims.  France had one of the largest contingents of colonial troops fighting with French nationals during the war.

To one corner of the cemetery is this fine sculpture of a French soldier at rest at last.

French soldiers buried individually in front of Ossuary.
French soldiers buried at Ossuary, Known Only to God.

French soldier at peace in cemetery at the Ossuary.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Pooches, canaries, pigeons and horses: Animals who served in World War One

Canaries who sang to wounded on hospital trains!

French Blue Cross Hospital for sick and wounded horses.
     We talk so often of the millions who died during la Grande Guerre. Twenty-two million soldiers and pilots. Six million civilians whose homes and farms were shattered, traipsed over, bombed, exploded in mines. Entire towns were obliterated, all  their residents fleeing the carnage. Many of those towns never were reinhabited. In fact, in eastern France, on many hillsides only a placard marks the site of where a prosperous village one stood.
     But animals served the war too. Millions of them. Canaries not only sang to wounded, but also pidgins carried messages. Dogs ran No Man's Land with messages, aiding chaplains whose grim duty was to find the wounded and the dead amid the hideous debris in the killing fields. Horses too served by the hundreds of thousands. These noble animals not only rode in early cavalry charges, but also pulled huge guns and hauled thousands of pounds of shells, bullets, rifles and even food to those in the front lines. One endearing photo here shows the hundreds of ill and wounded horses in the Blue Cross Hospital of the French.
     In the American Army was one extraordinary Sergeant. A terrier named Stubby served first in the Chemin des Dames area in 1917. Yes, he was an American pooch who even captured a German soldier in the Argonne all by his little ferocious self!
     With acute hearing, he warned his comrades about in-coming shells and often ran with men into No Man's Land. For all these feats and more, Stubby earned the Medal of Honor from the American Humane Society. Shown above in his uniform, he wears his medals proudly. After all, a guy must dress correctly when he is to stand in review…or meet the president, as he often did!