WEST FRONT ITINERARIES

WEST FRONT ITINERARIES

2 weeks itineraries from Lille to Mulhouse

GREAT WAR VISITS – US SITES AND MUST SEES

Le Hamel Memorial

Region: Hauts-de-France (previously, Picardie)

Department: Somme

It is said that the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918, lasted no longer than took 93 minutes. According to one source from the official ‘War Diary’ the 44th Australian Infantry Battalion required only 85 minutes to complete their mission objectives. Starting at 3.10 am, then moving around Le Hamel village, the Western Australians advanced uphill, and by 4.35 had driven the Germans from a series of trenches and dugouts on top of the hill. There today stands the Australian Corps Memorial, with sweeping views across the valley of the Somme, a fitting place at which to remember the victories of the Australian Corps in France in 1918.

Cantigny American Memorials

Region: Hauts-de-France (previously, Picardie)

Department: Somme

The World War I Cantigny American Monument is located in the village of Cantigny (Somme), France. This battlefield monument commemorates the first large offensive operation by an American division during World War I. It stands in the center of a village which was captured during that attack. The village was completely destroyed by artillery fire. The location of Cantigny on high ground was an essential location for German forces. Its seizure by the Americans would weaken the effects of the German offensives in that sector. The 28th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division, reinforced by companies of the 18th Infantry Regiment, led the attack. Its assault began at 6:45 a.m. on May 28, 1918.

Support included American and French artillery, mortars, machine gun, flame throwers, and tanks. Although they encountered heavy German resistance, the 1st Division units prevailed, seizing all objectives by noon. German counterattacks and heavy artillery bombardments continued for three days. The 1st Division units held firm to the ground they had gained. On June 2, the 1st Division assumed control of more of the sector, releasing French units to fight elsewhere.

The monument consists of a white stone shaft on a platform surrounded by an attractive park, developed and maintained by ABMC. The quiet surroundings now give no hint of the bitter hand-to-hand fighting which took place nearby many years ago. The World War I Cantigny American Monument is located in the village of Cantigny (Somme), France about four miles northwest of Montdidier, France on route D26 from Montdidier to Ailly-sur-Noye, France. It is about 66 miles north of Paris via Chantilly or Senlis, France. The Cantigny Monument is on the west side of highway D26, four miles northwest of Montdidier.

Château of Blérancourt, Franco-American Museum

Region: Hauts-de-France (previously, Nord-Pas-de-Calais)

Department: Aisne

No other museum in France focuses on the relationship of France with another country. The Franco-American Museum highlights the centuries-old strategic relationship between France and the U.S. through artwork, documents and memorabilia. They depict the critical aid France gave to the insurgents during the American Revolution and that of Americans who assisted the French in both World Wars. One can also enjoy the artistic exchanges between the two countries.

The Museum offers an eclectic presentation of American artists who often studied and mastered their art in France, as well as French artists who’ve been inspired by America. This is not the Louvre, yet the Franco-American Museum presents little-known treasures: Likenesses of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington by noted French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon; paintings by Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, Romaine Brooks, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder; as well as Paul Colin’s poster project for La Revue Nègre, the first appearance of singer/cultural phenomenon Josephine Baker in France. An amazing WWI collection including an American Field Service ambulance—a model T Ford—as well as poignant photographs and films showing the devastation in Picardy and the reconstruction work achieved by American women volunteers that demonstrate the important French-American connection.

Visitors will be amazed to discover how the buildings on site first served as headquarters for Anne Morgan and her American women volunteers during World War I to coordinate ambulances (with the American Field Service) and heal wounded soldiers. Anne Morgan would later make the château the seat of operations post-WWI to rebuild Picardy with her women volunteers. Since the Museum is located at the site of significant WWI battles, they will know much more about the history regarding the two countries. It’s considered the “land of memory” because of WWI and WWII, the numerous battlefields, cemeteries and monument.

Dragon’s Cave, Chemin des Dames Museum

Region : Hauts-de-France (previously, Nord-Pas-de-Calais)

Department : Aisne

The Chemin des Dames or “Ladies Trail” derives its name from the daughters of King Louis XV, Adélaïde and Victoire, who often took this path to visit Château de la Bove near Vauclair Abbey.

Made famous during the First World War, but also marked by the Battle of Craonne (Napoleon I), the Chemin des Dames is located on a strategic plateau.

The “Dragon’s Cavern” or the Chemin des Dames Museum is a must-see. A former stone quarry transformed into a barracks by the Germans and which changed hands numerous times during the war. The cavern was a veritable underground village. Central to your visit, the museum is full of information. There you’ll find maps, guides and exhibitions that will allow you to better understand the memorial trail. The museum also organizes temporary exhibits along the 35-km Chemin des Dames path.

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery,

Region: Hauts-de-France (previously, Nord-Pas-de-Calais)

Department : Aisne

With headstones lying in a sweeping curve, the 42.5-acre Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in France, sits at the foot of Belleau Wood. The cemetery contains the graves of 2,289 war dead, most of whom fought in the vicinity and in the Marne Valley in the summer of 1918. The memorial chapel sits on a hillside, decorated with sculptured and stained-glass details of wartime personnel, equipment and insignia. Inscribed on its interior wall are 1,060 names of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. During World War II the chapel was damaged slightly by an enemy shell.

Belleau Wood adjoins the cemetery and contains many vestiges of World War I. A monument at the flagpole commemorates the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured much of this ground in 1918.

Belleau Wood

Region: Hauts-de-France (previously, Nord-Pas-de-Calais)

Department: Aisne

Belleau Wood is located on the high ground to the rear of Aisne-Marne American Cemetery south of the village of Belleau (Aisne), France. In the center of the road leading through the woods is a flagpole and a monument commemorating the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured this area in 1918.

It commemorates the actions of the 4th Marine Brigade of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The 2nd Division attacked German positions beginning on June 6, 1918. The 4th Marine Brigade liberated Bouresches that day. Its 5th and 6th Marine Regiments fought in Belleau Wood through most of June 1918.

Their gallant actions resulted in the Battle of Belleau Wood ending on June 26. On June 30, 1918, the Commanding General, French 6th Army, officially renamed Belleau Wood as “Wood of the Marine Brigade.”

The 2nd Division sustained casualties of 8,100 officers and men during the intense fighting in this vicinity during June 1918. Vestiges of trenches, shell holes, and relics of the war to include weapons found in the vicinity, may be seen near the marine monument, which was erected by the U.S. Marine Corps.

Château-Thierry American monument at Hill 204

Pompelle Fortress

Region: Grand Est (previously, Champagne-Ardenne)

Department: Marne

Set high above the road from Reims to Châlons-en- Champagne, the Fort de la Pompelle forms part of the ring of fortifications built to defend Reims after France’s disastrous defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The Fort de la Pompelle, alternatively known as FortHerbillon, was part of a system of forts known as the Séré de Rivières, named after the general who initiated the building of this belt of forts, designed to defend Reims. The defensive line comprised seven major forts and seven smaller, supporting forts, of which de la Pompelle was one.

The German offensive of 1914 captured many of the forts of the Séré de Rivières, which were then used by them as bases. The Fort de la Pompelle was surrendered to the Germans without a fight on 4 September 1914. However, this was a short-lived occupation as, following the First Battle of the Marne (5-12 Sept 1914), the fort was retaken by the French 138th Infantry after a fierce struggle.

Thereafter, the Fort de la Pompelle remained a key point in the defence of Reims, and suffered heavily from numerous German attacks. Infantry assaults, heavy bombardments, gas attacks, mines, and tanks all failed to break the fort’s stalwart resistance.

This defensive effort was shared among half of the French forces, with 180 regiments having, at some time, provided the garrison. These forces included two special Russian brigades, sent by Tsar Nicholas II in 1916, which in January 1917 successfully defended against a German gas attack. A monument that commemorates the Russian involvement in defending the fort was set up in the grounds in September 2012.

Blanc-Mont American Monument at Sommepy-Tahure

Region: Grand Est (previously Champagne-Ardenne)

Department: Marne

The World War I Sommepy American Monument commemorates the achievements of the American units that served in combat with the French Fourth Army during the summer and fall of 1918. More than 70,000 Americans served in the region during this time.

The monument, situated on Blanc Mont Ridge, is surrounded by vestiges of World War I trenches, dugouts and gun emplacements. It is essentially a tower of golden-yellow limestone with an observation tower on top affording an excellent view of the battlefields. Inside the entrance to the monument is an inscription describing American operations in the vicinity. The monument’s site was captured by American troops.

42nd Division, July 15-18, 1918: Upon learning of a German offensive planned for mid- July, the French requested reinforcements. The U.S. 42nd Division entered the line near Souain. The German offensive struck after midnight July 14-15. Soldiers of the 42nd Division held fast against German attacks until the offensive ceased on July 17.

369th, 371st, and 372nd Infantry Regiments, Sep. 26-Oct. 8: These regiments of the U.S. 93rd Division were attached to French divisions serving west of the Argonne Forest. When the Allied offensive began on September 26, the 369th Infantry liberated the town of Ripont. The 371st and 372nd Infantry fought from September 28, advancing slowly northward. The 372nd Infantry held a position near Monthois from October 2 to 7.

2nd and 36th Divisions, Sep. 29-Oct. 28: The U.S. 2nd and 36th Divisions were attached to the French Fourth Army for the offensive starting on September 26. On October 2, the 2nd Division entered the line slightly north of Sommepy. The division’s attack against Blanc Mont Ridge on October 3 was made by its Marine Brigade on the left and the Infantry Brigade on the right. Within three hours they seized the crest. For seven days they held on while advancing northward against German counterattacks.

The 36th Division relieved the 2nd Division on October 10. Its units advanced to Machaut on October 11, continuing to the Aisne River by October 13. On October 27, the 36th Division drove the Germans north of the Aisne River. It passed into reserve status on October 28.

Montfaucon d’Argonne American Monument

Region: Grand Est (previously, Lorraine)

Department: Meuse

The World War I Montfaucon American Monument is located seven miles south of the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial and 20 miles northwest of Verdun, France.

It consists of a massive granite doric column, surmounted by a statue symbolic of liberty, which towers more than 200-feet above the war ruins of the former village. It commemorates the American victory during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive during the period September 26, 1918 to November 11, 1918, when the American First Army forced the enemy to conduct a general retreat on this front.

On the walls of the foyer are an engraved map of the operations with a narrative and a special tribute to the American troops who served here. The observation platform on top of the memorial is reached by 234 steps and affords magnificent views of this battlefield.

Vauquois Hill

Region: Grand Est (previously, Lorraine)

Department: Meuse

Dominating the entire Argonne eastern region, Vauquois was considered on both sides as an exceptional observation point and a strategic barrier.

On 24th september 1914, the Germans occupied this hill and made it into a genuine fortress.

On 4th March 1915, after several offensives, the French took hold on the hill. The war of position was about to start.

The soldiers went underground and dug out miles of galleries ans ramifications in order to infiltrate the enemy’s network and to cause a maximum amount of loss using tons of explosives.

Vauquois hill thus became a real anthill composed of several underground installations spread over several levels (more than 17 kms of shafts, galleries and ramifications).

One of the most significant places of mine warfare (an inventory was made indicating 519 explosives : 199 German and 320 French), Vauquois was freed on 26th September 1918 by the Americans. Still intact from the Great War, Vauquois hill has been listed as a Historic Monument.

Montsec Memorial

Region : Grand Est (previously, Lorraine)

Department : Meuse

The World War I Montsec American Monument is located on the isolated hill of Montsec (Thiaucourt), France. This majestic monument, commemorating the achievements of the American soldiers who fought in this region in 1917 and 1918, dominates the landscape for miles around. It commemorates reduction of the St. Mihiel Salient by the U.S. First Army, September 12-16, 1918, and operations of the U.S. Second Army, November 9-11. It also honors combat services of other U.S. divisions in this region and in Alsace and Lorraine. Names of nearby villages liberated by American troops are carved upon the outside frieze.

It consists of a classic circular colonnade with a broad approach stairway. Within its center is a bronze relief map of the St. Mihiel salient, illustrating the military operations that took place there. The monument was slightly damaged during World War II, but has been repaired. From this vantage point the trenches used during the fighting can be seen.

The Butte of Montsec (alt.1,230 feet) was a strategic position from early history. The Gaulois and Romans exploited its location. Messages were sent from it to distant heights, as smoke in daytime and fires at night. A fortified castle, Chastel Montclin, was built here in

the 8th Century. Subterranean passages were discovered in the 19th Century. From 1914 onward, the Germans constructed tunnels, underground shelters, and trenches in the hill.

Allied counteroffensives in mid-1918 eliminated most German salients on the Western Front. But the St. Mihiel Salient remained. Its elimination was critical.

August 10, 1918: The U.S. First Army was activated, commanded by General John J. Pershing. It included fourteen American and four French divisions. Its mission: reduce the St. Mihiel Salient.

September 12: Aerial and artillery bombardment of German positions began at 1:00 a.m., and the main ground attack at 5:00 a.m. The advance was rapid on all axes. The 2nd Division liberated Thiaucourt by midday. The 89th Division advanced across ground that became the St. Mihiel American Cemetery. The 42nd Division reached the Bois de Thiaucourt.

September 13: The 26th Division entered Vigneulles. Its patrols met 1st Division soldiers, closing the salient. Combat continued for three more days.

September 16: The St. Mihiel Salient was erased. More than 550,000 Americans and 110,000 French fought in the offensive. Many units battled next in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, starting September 26.

October 16: The U.S. Second Army held the sector until November 9. Then its U.S. and French divisions attacked northeastward into the Wöevre Plain, bolstering Allied offensives ending with the Armistice on November 11.

The World War I Montsec American Monument is located on the isolated hill of Montsec (Thiaucourt), France 12 miles southwest of St. Mihiel American Cemetery and 10 miles east of the town of St. Mihiel. The entrance to the memorial’s access road is immediately west of the center of Montsec Village, France. The Montsec Monument, atop the Butte Montsec, is reached via Highways D 12 and D 119 to Montsec, then a road up the hill.

Verdun battlefield

Region : Grand Est (previously, Lorraine)

Department : Meuse

This World War I siege stemmed from German General Erich von Falkenhayn’s edict to elicit major bloodshed from the French defense of the fortress complex around Verdun. German forces advanced quickly in February 1916, claiming Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux after brutal subterranean melees. Despite coming within two miles of Verdun cathedral, the Germans called off their offensive in mid-July, and Falkenhayn was relieved of his position. The French retook their forts and pushed back the line, and by the time their forces ground to a halt in December, both sides were left with more than 600,000 casualties.

On February 21, 1916, more than 1,220 guns around an eight-mile perimeter opened fire. It was the sort of drenching shellstorm that would distinguish the battle. Verdun did act as a “suction cup”: three fourths of the French Western Front divisions would eventually serve there. But even from the start, the “Meuse Mill” did not achieve the five-to-two kill ratio Falkenhayn had predicted. The attackers soon forgot this object. Orders went out to take French positions “without regard to casualties.” At the end of the first week, the Germans had advanced six miles; a few men walked into an almost undefended Fort Douaumont and took possession. For the French, that marked the low point. Fighting degenerated into isolated struggles for shellholes, forcing the French into an impromptu but successful defense-in-depth. At the beginning of June, the Germans took another key stronghold, Fort Vaux, after hideous subterranean melees. A few of their troops actually reached a point from which the twin towers of Verdun cathedral were visible, two miles away. Then, on July 14, the Germans called off their offensive. Falkenhayn was dismissed shortly after, largely for his failure at Verdun.

Now it was the turn of the French. In the autumn they retook Douaumont and then Vaux. By the time their advance ground to a halt in mid-December, they were close to the line where the battle had started ten months earlier. Casualties for both sides totaled between 600,000 and 700,000 and were roughly equal. (The total casualty figure for the entire war in the Verdun sector approaches 1.25 million.) Even today the skeletons of Verdun still surface, to be added to the towering bone piles in the basement of the Douaumont ossuary.

Fort de Troyon – Saint Mihiel American Cemetery

Region : Grand Est (previously Lorraine)

Department : Meuse

The World War I St. Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in France, 40.5 acres in extent, contains the graves of 4,153 of our military dead. The majority of these died in the offensive that resulted in the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient that threatened Paris. The burial area is divided by Linden alignment trees and paths into four equal plots. At the center is a large sundial surmounted by an American eagle. To the west is a statue of a World War I soldier and at the eastern end is a semi-circular overlook dominated by a sculpture representing a victory vase.

Beyond the burial area to the south is the white stone memorial consisting of a small chapel, a peristyle with a large rose-granite funeral urn at its center, and a map building. The chapel contains a beautiful mosaic portraying an angel sheathing his sword. On two walls of the museum are recorded the names of 284 of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. On the wall facing the door is a large map of inlaid marble depicting the St. Mihiel Offensive.

Hartmannswillerkopf Memorial

Region : Grand Est (previously, Alsace)

Department : Haut-Rhin

During the First World War, the Hartmannswillerkopf, a rocky mountain spur dominating the Alsace plain to the south of the Vosges, occupied a strategic position. More than 150,000 men belonging to regiments that came from the whole of France, in particular the Chasseurs et les Diables rouges (Chasseurs and Red Devils) of the Colmar regiment, fought there for four years in order to re-conquer the Alsace. Around 25,000 officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers fell on the “Vieil Armand”, as the poilus or foot soldiers christened it. Situated in the Vosges mountain range at an altitude of 956 metres, the Hartmannswillerkopf site is one of four national monuments of the Great War, during which time it was a strategic battleground. About 25,000 French soldiers died on the slopes of the “Vieil Armand”. Listed as a historic monument in 1921, it has been developed thanks to a national fund under the noble patronage of the President of the Republic and five Marshals of France. Several buildings were constructed between 1924 and 1929 at this important place of remembrance and the whole place was inaugurated in October 1932 by the President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun.

MORE TO VISIT :

Pays de Meaux Great War Museum

National Necropolis in Notre-Dame-de-Lorette

Battles of the Marne Memorial in Dormans

Pays de Meaux Great War Museum

Art Nouveau in Nancy

Douaumont Ossuary

City of Troyes

Bar-le-Duc Renaissance Heritage

ACCESS FRANCE FROM THE US

More than 50 daily flights from major American airports:

Around 12 airlines flying to Europe daily from the United States of America: Air France; American Airlines; British Airways; Delta; United Airlines; Continental Airlines; US Airways; Iberia; XL Airways; Alitalia; Lufthansa; Air Tahiti Nui.

Examples of connecting flights:

XL Airways : Daily LAS / CDG (around 15h00) / Delta + Air France (AF) + Alitalia: 6 x Daily JFK / CDG (around 08h00) / American Airlines (AA) + British Airways (BA) + Iberia + XL Airways: 3 x Daily JFK / CDG / Delta + AF: Daily SFO / CDG (around 12h00) / United Airlines: Daily SFO / CDG / Delta + AF: 2 x Daily LAX/CDG (around 12h00) / Tahiti Nuit: Daily LAX/CDG / AA + AF + BA + Delta: 3 x Daily CHI/CDG (around 09h00) / Delta + AA + BA: 2x Daily and 1 seasonal MIA/CDG (around 10h00) / Delta + AF + Alitalia: 3 x Daily WAS/CDG (around 09h00) / Delta + AF + AA + Alitalia: 5 x Daily BOS/ CDG (around 08h00) / More flights: www.atoutfranceusa.com/ marche-us/dessertes-aeriennes