WW I The Western Front 1914-1918

It has been a moving few days for me beginning with my train trip from the Gare de l’Est in Paris to Metz, France and from there by rented car to experience some of the areas of the Western Front of World War One.  The two main areas that I visited, the so-called Saint Mihiel Salient and the Meuse-Argonne were places where US forces fought in 1918.  I know that most of you probably couldn’t care less about these events of 100 years ago but here in the Lorraine region of North Eastern France there are memorials, cemeteries, museums and even the trenches where the soldiers of both sides-the Germans and Austrians versus France, England and in the final year of the war the USA also.  Every city, town and tiny village in France has a memorial to those who died in Le Grande Guerre as the French refer to WW I. It is estimated that over 34,000,000 people, soldiers and civilians died in WW I, a truly mind boggling number, hard to really comprehend.  I am not going to bore you with details of the battles which involved US forces but I have selected a few of the more striking and poignant photographs which I took between Monday 9/19/16 and Wednesday 9/21/16. Just a few brief words of orientation, Saint Mihiel is a city on the Meuse River that was the apex of the salient or bulge in the German lines that the Americans and French reduced in the fall of 1918.  The Argonne refers to the Argonne Forest that was the territory that the Americans and the French reclaimed from the Germans in the final few months of the war.  The most heart rending places to me were the trenches where soldiers of both sides lived and died in heat, cold, mud, water, lice and the overwhelming fear of immediate death.  I found the trenches of the so called “bois brule'” or “burned woods” to be the most striking with indications of the way in which the soldiers created whole underground cities, particularly the Germans who built concrete bunkers in and under their trenches and the French who used wood to reinforce the trench walls.  Many trenches however were no more than simple trenches dug into the earth anout 6-8 feet deep and with walls and floors of nothing more than French soil.  Although now grown up with dense and quite beautiful forests this area was a ghostly “no man’s land” caused by constant artillery shelling, machine gun and rifle fire which completely destroyed everything in sight leaving an enormous area of complete devastation.  The two major US cemeteries Saint Mihiel and Muese-Argonne with their rows upon rows of white crosses and the occasional Stars of David brought home to me the magnitude of human sacrifice that our country gave, in what was called at the time, The War to End All Wars!!  If only!!  I am back in  Paris today, my last day to spend in the lovely “artists” apartment of Floriane.  Tomorrow I will transition around the corner to 13 rue Marie & Louise under the auspices of Eric even a little closer to the Canal St. Martin.

 

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