Here come the Yanks: April 6, 1917

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The U.S. Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, bringing America into the war that had consumed Europe and dragged in countries on every continent, including Japan.

The National World War Museum and Memorial will commemorate the anniversary today with a ceremony at the museum that will tell the compelling story of the U.S decision to enter into the Great War through a unique multi-media program including significant and representative American writings of a century ago, including selections from speeches, journalism, literature and poetry, as well as performances of important music of the time. Invited participants and guests include the President of the United States, international Heads of State and diplomats, military leaders, veterans’ organizations, and national and state elected officials.

President Donald Trump will not attend as he will be hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping today.

The commemoration will include flyovers by U.S. aircraft and Patrouille de France, the precision aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force, as well as the U.S. First Infantry Division Band and Color Guard, Native American Color Guard, and Army and Air Force legacy units that served during World War I.

You can livestream the ceremony at https://www.theworldwar.org/april6.

 

 

 

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Pack your little kit, show your grit!

Do your bit! It’s not too late to join up  — on the 2017 trip to the battlefields in France. From Meuse-Argonne.com:

Hello, readers!  Space is still available on the World War 1 Historical Association’s June 2017 Pilgrimage to the Western Front, but the deadline for reserving your seat is December 31, 2016!  So don’t put off your decision-making too long; and please share this post with your friends who might be interested in the tour!!  Details can be found at our website:  http://ww1ha.org/2017-ww1-battlefield-pilgrimage/.

Tour Guide’s Skill Set

This tour is being led by webmaster Randal Gaulke.  Many readers know that Randal has been traveling to the American battlefields of France almost annually since 1986.  In planning the 2017 tour he has been working with Paul Guthrie and John Snow, both directors of the WW1HA, to plan the tour.  Paul has organized / overseen seven tours for the WW1HA and its predecessor organization, and John Snow has traveled to the area frequently, too.  Randal has outlined his experience in an October 8, 2016, blog post that can be accessed here:  http://meuse-argonne.com/?p=1603.)

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Randal Gaulke gives a talk in 2007 on the map in the Mont Sec Memorial to U.S. troops in the St. Mihiel Salient. (Blogger’s note: That is Susan in the center of the photo with the suspiciously red hair.)

Endorsement From a 2017 Participant

Through this website, Randal also has the opportunity to help planning trips, including Valerie Young; who is booked on the 2017 tour.  She has written this endorsement:

Randy has been an invaluable resource to me this year in the planning of my personal journey to the Meuse-Argonne to bring to life the grandfather I never knew. His website was my initial introduction to his vast knowledge of the history and geography of the area. His recommendations for books, maps, other websites, and travel insights were tremendously helpful. We then had a lunch meeting where I shared my ideas about an individual journey; his great awareness and input validated my confidence and respect for him, his commitment to the Meuse-Argonne, and his desire to enable others to experience it as he has for so many years.

With Randy’s help, I was able to “follow in the footsteps” that my grandfather took nearly 100 years ago. Randy helped me find a guide/driver and accommodations, and provided important information on specific battlefield monuments and sites related to my grandfather’s infantry unit. His detailed knowledge of the area is essential to anyone planning a trip there. I am now writing about my grandfather’s military journey, and look forward to joining the tour in June 2017.

Making It Personal to the Participant

All of the organizing and presentation of history aside, there comes a time on a tour when a person is just struck by something that resonates with his / her soul–and that is why reading history or exploring Google Earth does NOT provide the same experience as a pilgrimage!

For the webmaster, one such occasion was listening to a Volksbund (German War Graves Association) employee talk about the last (annual) visit of an aging spouse to her husband’s grave at the cemetery.  She knew she would be meeting him again soon.

For two members of the 8th Kuerassier Regiment on the 2005 tour, it was touring Helly Ravine near Fort Douaumont.  Following their visit, they questioned whether reenacting was just playing cowboys and Indians; and they had a new-found understanding of the terrible conditions for the soldiers during the Verdun battle and during the Great War in general.

Additional Information on the Guide

In addition to presenting the events and their significance, the battlefield tour guide must become quite proficient in logistics:  One has to schedule visits, hotels, bus timing, etc.  To do this, one has to know the region and its people and be able to speak the language.  One also needs to be organized, to be financially savvy and to understand how to model / consider risks.

Randal has all of these qualifications.  He has arranged many details  for the second half of the 2007 Western Front Association USA Branch’s tour and other tours.  Randal was the coordinator for the WW1HA’s 2015 Symposium in Lisle, Illinois; which featured eight speakers and almost 100 participants over two days.  Randal’s profession as a high-yield bond analyst and his work as Treasurer of the Great War Association, Chairman of the Finance Committee at his previous church and Treasurer of Troop 56 BSA Millington, NJ has also helped him develop the skills necessary.

Again, it needs to be emphasized that Randal worked with the WW1HA and its directors to plan the trip.

Take Action Today!

Please reserve your space today;  Please tell your friends about this opportunity;  and please contact Randal with any questions:  lavarennes@meuse-argonne.com or 908-451-0252.

 

News from the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission has picked ‘THE WEIGHT OF SACRIFICE” for the new national World War I Memorial project.

“THE WEIGHT OF SACRIFICE” was selected from a group of five Finalists and culminates an open, international design competition that has run since May 2015. The Commission’s decision endorses the recommendation of the design competition’s independent jury.
“We were thrilled by the quality and creativity by all the submissions in this competition,” stated Commissioner Edwin Fountain, who directed the competition. “This selected design concept reflects a high level of professional achievement.”
Imagery of “THE WEIGHT OF SACRIFICE,” and of the other four Finalists, can be found here  www.ww1cc.org/selection
The design concept was submitted by Joseph Weishaar, an architect-in-training currently located in Chicago, Ill., and collaborating artist, veteran sculptor Sabin Howard, of New York. Mr. Weishaar received his professional architecture degree at the University of Arkansas in 2013.
Mr. Weishar’s full professional team, necessary to implement the design concept, includes the Baltimore architectural firm GWWO Inc.; landscape architect Phoebe Lickwar, and engineering consultants Henry Adams LLC, Keast & Hood and VBH.
Regarding the World War I Memorial, Commission Chair Robert Dalessandro stated, “Those five million Americans who served in uniform during World War I literally changed the world. This new landmark in our nation’s capital will be a worthy expression of their great legacy.”
The location for the new World War I Memorial is Pershing Park, in downtown Washington, DC, bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th and 15th Streets NW. The park is one block from the White House, adjacent to the Willard Hotel and the District of Columbia’s Wilson Building.
This site was designated by Congress in 2014. The Centennial Commission is a Congressional Commission set up in 2013 to ensure a suitable observation in the United States of the centennial of World War I.

World War One Historical Association 2015 Seminar

Anzac Day

Anzac Day 2015 at Gallipoli. Taken by David Pedler

2015 League of WWI Aviation Historians and World War One Historical Association Collaboration Symposium
Lisle, Illinois, Oct. 2-3
1915: Warfare Evolution; New Tactics and Strategies

In conjunction with the WWI Centennial Commission; the League of World War One Aviation Historians and the World War One Historical Association will present their Collaboration Symposium at the Hilton Lisle/Naperville.

The symposium’s 1915 focus covers a broad range of topics including aviation and significant battles and events of the second year of the First World War. For a
list of the featured speakers, some of the best historians, writers and researchers in the world, go to ww1ha.org/2015-annual-conference.

The Hilton Lisle/Naperville provides easy access to the 1st Infantry Division Museum at Cantigny Park, Wheaton, IL where we will spend Friday afternoon touring
the museum and grounds.

The registration fee of $210 (US) per person includes luncheon, dinner and transportation to and from the hotel to the museum on Friday, Oct. 2; lunch on Saturday; admission to all presentations, reenactor and model displays, and much more. The cost to add a guest for the Friday night dinner is $40 (US).

Symposium registration fees will increase to $250 (US) per person starting Sept. 10,
so act now for the lower rate.

Accommodations are at the Hilton Lisle/Naperville, 3003 Corporate West Drive in Lisle, Ill. Call 630-505-0900 and ask for the favorable “WW1 Seminar” rate of $99 per night (with free parking) to reserve a room for Oct. 1-3. A limited number of rooms have been secured, but the cut-off date to reserve rooms at this rate is Sept. 10.

Consult the WW1HA website at www.ww1ha.org for details and a registration form, or email our Symposium Chairman, Randy Gaulke, at lavarennes@meuseargonne.
com. All registrations will be handled through WW1HA.

Poppies at the Tower

Here are the photos I took at the Tower of London of the art installation “Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red.” I photographed the workers installing poppies, people watching and the spill of poppies from the Tower onto the moat.

It was very moving to walk around and overhear conversations: My granddad was in the King’s Rifles, my great-uncle was in the Navy, my grandmother always said, and more.

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Planning the best battlefield pilgrimage ever… (hopefully)

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By Randal S. Gaulke

Organizations throughout Europe are busily preparing for the Centennial Commemorations of World War 1. The famous Ossuaire de Douaumont, outside of Verdun, and other memorials are being cleaned; signage and brochures are being refreshed; and reenactments and commemoration ceremonies are being planned. This is a perfect time for Americans considering a visit to the battlefields or a pilgrimage to their ancestor’s war to plan a trip. While it might seem a daunting task initially, the reader might just find that it is the journey, and not the destination, that brings the most pleasure.

Planning a battlefield tour requires several skill sets including knowledge of the sites and events that the reader wants to explore; some knowledge of the language and culture, and some knowledge of the local area. With the help of the Internet and translation tools it has never been easier to piece together the details needed to plan a meaningful trip “Over There.”

Before looking at each skill set, the planner should understand the limiting factors: What is the tolerance of one’s travelling companions? How much time can realistically be planned? What are the priority sites to be visited? Answering these questions can reduce the stress that inevitably arises when it takes longer to find the town, trench line, cemetery, etc. – or when one heads 100 kilometers in the wrong direction.

What is the purpose of the trip? Is it to survey the major battlefields of the war, visit a specific battle in depth, or retrace an ancestor’s wartime experience? There are scores of books and websites available on the war, covering the full range of topics. The trick is finding the resources that are most helpful. The best overall book for visiting American battlefields is “American Armies and Battlefields in Europe,” first published in 1938 and re-published in 1992. Its suggested one- and two-day tours are just as valid today as when they were first published. If more detail is needed, select a book or two on a specific battle, a regimental or divisional history, and a good biography or two.

The Internet can help guide planners; and don’t forget the used book sites www.abebooks.com and www.choosebooks.com. Scanning bibliographies and link pages can also alert the planner to other relevant materials.

It is highly recommended that the planner should gain at least some basic language skills and some understanding of the culture. Taking a French-for-Travelers course or an introductory-level Berlitz course will ease the frustration level of trying to communicate. Understanding foreign culture is equally important. The author takes a quick read through Polly Platt’s (somewhat dated) “Savoir Flair! 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French” before every trip. Rick Steves’ publications and videos also offer solid advice for the independent traveler.

Planning the itinerary comes next, and again the Internet can be a great starting point for finding lodging, exploring sites to visit, etc. Google Maps helps one plan routes and appreciate distances between sites. For driving, the Michelin Orange Series 500 (1, 200,000) maps are recommended. Traveling from Paris to the Meuse-Argonne and Verdun requires map numbers 514 (Ile-de-France), 515 (Champagne-Ardenne) and 516 (Alsace, Lorraine.) The maps can be ordered easily online, or they can be purchased at the many oasis (Aires) on France’s Autoroutes. For battlefield exploring, the IGN Blue Series (1, 25,000) maps the most useful — after one has learned how to read them. They can be ordered on line (www.ign.fr), or they can be purchased at the Maison de la Press in larger French towns.

The most important tip: Bolster the research by taking advantage of the many experts. Who are these experts? They are authors, armchair historians, tour guides, battlefield enthusiasts, etc. Where can they be found? The Internet is the best place to look. Two associations that come to mind are the U.S.-based World War One Historical Association (www.www1ha.org) and the U.K.-based Western Front Association (www.westernfrontassociation.com). Both of these organizations have websites, publications, local branches and knowledgeable members experienced in visiting battlefields. Many French towns and Departments (i.e. states) have tourism websites, too, including the Department of the Meuse (www.meusetourism.com/en). Finally, many individual enthusiasts or associations have knowledge on very specific areas, and they are often glad to share that interest with others.

Tower of the Ossuaire at Verdun by jameswberkThis is the tower of the Ossuaire de Douaumont, where bones found on the battlefield around Verdun were gathered and laid to rest. Nearly 300.000 French and German soldiers went missing during the 10-month battle.

 

Blizzard in the Dardenelles

We woke up to heavy snow this morning — halfway through April. Clearing off the car was a challenge, and then there was ice to scrape off the windows. I saw a container garden of daffodils and snowdrops that were frozen solid.

But, to paraphrase another blogger (That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele). this snow is nothing compared to Gallipoli. The Dardanelles’ average temperature in November is a tolerable 54 — jacket weather, we would say. But on Nov. 28, 1915, the peninsula was hit with a blizzard.

The Australian, New Zealand and other British troops began landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 — with another monthly average in the 50s — but the summer months were extremely hot and many soldiers developed dysentery and typhoid fever, because of the flies flourishing on the unburied, decomposing dead.

But the weather was hot, then it was warm, then it was cool — and then there was a horrific thunderstorm with rain so heavy that many men drowned in their own trenches.  The next day, the blizzard hit.

Here is one New Zealander’s account, from the Poverty Bay Herald, posted by the National Library of New Zealand: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=PBH19160205.2.39

More accounts and discussions can be found at the Great War Forum: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=166263&page=2

Snow at Gallipoli

April 25 is a day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders, and it’s also commemorated by the Turks.  Ceremonies around the world are very moving. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stb0asxF6bM

Put it on your calendar — and hope for better weather.

 

 

 

On the Meuse-Argonne battlefield

The Allies, including the Americans, attacked on the Meuse-Argonne in France on Sept. 26, 1918, and fought on there till the end of the war.

One of the most famous incidents of the battle was the losing of the Lost Battalion (not a battalion and not lost, as Clive Harris, Battle Honours guide, likes to shout).

Here’s a good link about that aspect of the battle.

http://www.homeofheroes.com/wings/part1/3_lostbattalion.html

And here’s the memorial:

Lost Battalion

(OK, this is a serious story of perseverance, etc., but isn’t it amusing that there’s a memorial to the Lost Battalion marked with an arrow?)

Here is the monument to honor the American capture of the high ground at Montfaucon, about six miles from the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery. The monument has 264 steps up to a 360-degree observation platform.

Montfaucon memorial

The memorial towers over the ruins of the church — all that is left of the village.

Ruins at Montfaucon

Welcome to Hartmannswillerkopf

Hartsmann_20 Hartsmann_14 Hartsmann_16 Hartsmann_15 Hartsmann_24 Hartsmann_25 Hartsmann_26 Hartmanns_cross1 Hartsmann_28Like Le Linge, Hartmannswillerkopf is high ground that the Germans held and the French attacked right under their noses — and under their guns. But the Germans had another advantage besides position:

Logistics.

German supplies were less than 5K away, French more than 20.

The fighting here was intense from the start of the war into 1915, when each side realized the other wasn’t going anywhere and the real action was elsewhere. The French launched major offensives at Artois and Champagne

Visiting Le Linge battlefield

Le Linge ridge was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in Alsace, which the French were determined to take back at all costs, while the Germans were fighting for ground that had been their homeland since the 1870s.

Ill-fated French ridge.jpgLooking at the French lines from Le Linge ridge. If the French had fallen back to that ridge in the distance, they could have held this part of Alsace, but the government decreed that every inch of France was sacred, so they had to continue their attack up the slopes.

Le Linge German concrete work.jpgGerman fortifications on the Le Linge battlefield.

Germans over the top in LeLinge.jpgSteps for clambering out of the trench to attack the French.

Le Linge battlefieldMap of the battlefield at the memorial.

Le Linge request for respect.jpgA reminder, mostly for schoolkids, that this ground still holds the remains of many soldiers and must be treated as a cemetery.

Le Linge German soldier remains.jpgThe remains of an unknown German soldier, killed in 1915, were found here in 2010. The ground is uneven because of shell holes.

Remains found along Le Linge road,jpgThis soldier’s remains, found here along the French lines, were identified. He was buried in a French cemetery.

Le Linge barbed wireSAM_0431French barbed wire to defend against the Germans. The French had to attack the Le Linge ridge up a hill that was nearly vertical and blocked by their own, as well as German, wire like this.

German cemetery at Hohrod.jpgGerman cemetery at Hohrod, down from Le Linge ridge. Jewish soldiers’ graves are marked with tombstones, not crosses. They are often found with stones on their top edges, signifying that someone has come to visit the graves.

Observation post turned Hohrod vemetery entrance.jpgThe entrance to the cemetery was once a bunker that served as an observation post.

Le Linge looking back at French linesLast view of Le Linge. All is peaceful. Ninety-nine years ago, these farms and villages were nothing but smoking rubble.