“Over There,” The Doughboys in the Great War Itinerary [HR]
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Travel and Recovery
Arrive by 10:30 AM and clear customs on your flights from the USA. Here you will be met in the arrival hall by our travel manager and taken to the hotel in Ypres for some sleep and free time prior to our 5 PM opening reception, lecture, and dinner, where you will meet your fellow travelers and the support staff. You will receive your package of maps and other support material. Hotel, reception, and dinner are included.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
8:30 AM. Let’s get cracking right away. We are near the epicenter of the war, and we will focus on “The Ypres Salient” and, after a short introduction, we will travel to the bloody lines around Ypres, the American Cemetery at Flanders Field, the bloody fighting around Passchendaele, and Tyne Cottage. The war had been a hideous bloodbath for the British, and we open in their primary sector. The American 37th and 91st Divisions got here in the twelve days before the Armistice. You will immediately see that the American military presence had spread across the front, and even though their time in theater was much shorter than the other main combatants, they are major combatants in areas that heretofore were populated by British, French, and Commonwealth soldiers. We will also visit the Flanders Field Museum before returning to our hotel. There you will freshen up and enjoy a quiet dinner on your own or with some of your new friends prior to attending the Menin Gate Ceremony at 8 PM. This beautiful and moving tribute is to the soldiers who fell in defense of their country in the Great War. Hotel, breakfast, and lunch are included.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
The Western Front
7:30 AM. The American buildup was impressive—14,000 in France by June 1917 and over a million by May 1918. Organizing them into five major divisions, Pershing resisted efforts of the French and English to use the Americans as replacement brigades. Instead, he focused on organization, training, and sustenance. Using Allies’ supplied weapons, including tanks, planes, and artillery, planners crammed every spare berth on every ship that would float with manpower. Once in France, roads were cut from ports, engineers added ship berths, and at full mobilization 10,000 American soldiers were arriving in France daily.
We will drive to Perrone with stops en route at Thiepval to see the Memorial to the Missing at the Somme and Vimy Ridge to see the Memorial to the Canadian Missing. You’ll see how the American Monument Commission and the Allied Commissions have done these warriors well with these pristinely kept and awesome memorials to what transpired there.
We will overnight in Perrone. Hotel, breakfast, and lunch are included; dinner is on your own.
Friday, October 19, 2018
Our excursion today will focus on the battles collectively known as The Somme. We will start by visiting the Great War Museum and then, after leaving Peronne, we will look at the first action of an organic American unit, the 1st Division under French command at the battle of Cantigny in May 1918. This Allied victory cost the Americans 200 dead and was preceded by a severe gas attack by the Germans. The Americans seized the village and the high ground approximately 1.25 miles from their stepping off point, holding it against numerous German counter-attacks.
We will then continue on to Villers Bretonneux (the Australian National Memorial), Hamel, and Bray. You will think you are viewing a moonscape as the land, still scarred after 100 years, is dreadfully torn up—take a look at the Lochnager Crater. As we see monuments to Kiwis from New Zealand, South Africans, and an American Monument at Bellincourt, there will be no doubt in your mind that this was a world war. Our main focus will be on the US 27th and 30th Division’s Somme offensive on September 24-30, 1918. We will return to our Perrone hotel. Hotel, breakfast, and lunch are included; dinner is on your own.
Saturday, October 20, 2018
The Second Battle of the Marne
7:30 AM. The first three days of this trip should have given you pause to reflect on the scope of the field of operations in this war. They were massive and complex. This day will be no different as we open with the great German counter-offensive known as the Second Battle of the Marne on July 15, 1918. This was the final German offensive, and when it stalled, French General Ferdinand Foch, the Allied Commander in Chief, commenced a counterattack that drove back the Germans with the heavy support of American forces, including the 3rd Division “Rock of the Marne” and eight other American Divisions including Buffalo soldiers from the 92nd and 93rd Divisions and some newly introduced Renault FT tanks. By the time the counter-offensive petered out, the Germans were finished and the final Somme battles, which would end the war, were at hand.
Leatherneck alert! We will pick up the United States Marines and the 2nd Division at Belleau Wood. This June 4-10, 1918, epic is legendary in the Corps. After a visit to the Aisne-Marne Cemetery and the German line along Hill 204, we will take in another legendary battleground—Chateau Thierry, where on May 31, 1918, the U.S. 3rd Division blunted the German offensive and forced the Germans to rotate the axis of their advance. Both of these battles display the Germans’ Spring offensive and the Allied armies’ response. In this push, the Germans using newly arrived divisions from the Eastern Front were able to push to within 60 miles of Paris. Hoping to destroy the Allied forces in the British sector prior to an effort to clear Flanders, the Germans did not count on the stubbornness of the newly Americans and other Allied forces. By June 8 the front was again static, but the Allies were weakened by massive mustard gas attacks. We will finish our day at the Oise-Aisne Cemetery, near where the 13th-century Fère-en-Tardenois Château is located. Another 6,000 Americans rest in that sacred soil. Then it is overnight in Reims. Hotel, breakfast, and lunch are included, with dinner on your own.
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Operations in the Champagne Region
7:30 AM. We have moved from the British sector into the French sector, and they bled as much if not more than the British. When Americans began to arrive in the theater, the Allied Commander wanted to feed the new American troops in as replacement troops for the European casualties. Pershing quickly got a handle on the effort and worked mightily to hold the American force integrity together. We will see French defensive lines and hear of the horrific casualty counts—you will meet the French Foreign Legion and will visit Fort de la Pompelle as we consider the French experience before the arrival of the Americans.
We will start with the American 42nd Division on July 15-18, 1918, followed by the U.S. 2nd Division operating with the 4th French Army on October 2 through 10, 1918. We will then stop at the American Monument at Sommepy. This diverse day then picks up the fighting of 369th, 371st, and 372nd Infantry Regiments of the 93rd Division on September 26 through October 7, 1918, and the 368th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division on September 26 through October 1 at Binarville.
A visit to the German and French graveyards document the intense fighting in and around Sommepy and Ardeuil.
We will spend tonight and the next three nights in Verdun. Breakfast, lunch, and hotel are included, with dinner on your own.
Monday, October 22, 2018
The French and German Battle of Verdun
While this may be a Doughboys tour, we cannot ignore the massive and unbelievably intense fighting in and around Verdun. While fighting at Ypres was at a level of intensity that is hard to conceive, Verdun may have been the most dramatic and hardest battles of the entire war. The entire day is spent in and around this region, first visiting the Fleury Memorial Museum (Mémorial de Verdun). We will then visit and discuss the totally devastated town of Fleury and visit a series of redoubts: Forts Douamont, Vaux, and Souville. You also will visit the monument to the April 4, 1916, disaster at the Tavannes Tunnel. We finish our day at The Underground Citadel of Verdun. Hotel, breakfast, and lunch are included, with dinner on your own.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
The St. Mihiel Salient
When we think of Ypres and Passchendaele and the field of poppies, it is hard to remember that we only spent three days in that area. On this tour, we will be spending four nights in Verdun alone, and there is a reason for that. For Americans, this is the most intense of many intense battles. You will be awestruck by the number of horrific battlefields we visit from early in the morning until we break tonight and spend our third night in Verdun. There will be a fourth. You want American combat here along the St. Mihiel Salient, you will get it.
Until now, American forces had been under the overall command of Allied officers and served a support role. In this campaign, General Pershing commanded a force of American troops augmented by 48,000 French troops. The outcome was a smashing American victory due primarily to Pershing’s carefully planned campaign and his integration of various maneuver systems. At stake, a residual position from an earlier German success that created a salient bulge in the Allied lines. The position cut the communications between Nancy and Verdun from early 1914 until Pershing went after it in the fall of 1918.
This campaign was noteworthy for the manner in which the Americans neutralized the German trenches and moved within them. Aggressive and inspired small unit leadership under men such as Colonel George Patton consistently produced superior results. Our day will take us throughout the region to many key sites with the campaign that ran from September 12, 1918, until the end of the war. We will overnight again in Verdun. Breakfast, lunch, and hotel are included, with dinner on your own.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
You will be struck by the broad range of battlefields and campaigns that the American Expeditionary Force fought in during 1918. Does the Meuse-Argonne mean anything to you? Of course, it does! Within 10 days of the completion of the St. Mihiel Salient offensive, Pershing and the American army took up positions to support the French sector between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest. The objective would be to slice in behind the German main line along with attacking forces in Flanders, forcing an expeditious evacuation of the German army along the entire front.
The position Pershing chose to assault had defensive works four lines deep and was impressively emplaced on commanding terrain that also had some extraordinarily well defended individual positions. The timetable was difficult, and because Americans were still involved in the St. Mihiel Salient, Pershing assigned the task of rotating out 220,000 French troops and bringing online 600,000 American troops into the staging area for the assault to Colonel George C. Marshall. Aligned under the I, III, and V Corps, Pershing’s target area was a 20-mile front of the 60 miles that he held. Properly executed, Pershing would link up with the French 4th Army and cut a critical railroad supporting the main German lines.
As the attack stepped off, the inexperienced American combat troops punched through the first two German lines within a week but bogged down in front of the third. Pershing rotated them out and replaced them with his rested veterans from other fields. The remainder of October found the going hard, but the third German line was broken and a country boy by the name of Alvin York had killed in one day 15 Germans and captured another 132 men.
On November 1, the army had been strengthened, support roads constructed, a second U.S. Army had become operational, and Pershing, who was now an Army Group Commander, ordered the V Corps to spearhead an assault on the final German line 6 miles distant. Reinforced, they succeeded, and both they and the Americans’ III Corps were driving farther into the German reserve area when hostilities ended. Pershing had used 1.2 million men, suffered 117,000 casualties, and defeated 25 percent of the entire German force on the Western Front. The Doughboys had been heard! We will visit the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Sedan. Hotel in Verdun, breakfast, and lunch are included, with dinner on your own.
Thursday, October 25, 2018
The withdrawal of the Russians from the war (because of their own emerging revolution) caused the Kaiser of Germany to declare that Germany had been stabbed in the back. The war would need to end, and the Allies—particularly the French—extracted a hasty and punitive peace. It would form the basis for the intense interwar period and would lead to the reciprocal humiliation of France after Hitler overran them. We will visit the sites associated with the Armistice en route to Compeigne. We will stop and visit one of the world’s great cathedrals in Reims and see the statue of Joan of Arc—the heroine of the country. We will spend the night in Compiegne, where we will have a farewell banquet. Hotel, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included.
Friday, October 26, 2018
We have reached the end of the road and what a consolation prize—Paris, The City of Light. We will pay our respects to American GI’s and Doughboys buried there, and then you will have the afternoon to absorb the city. Perhaps you will want to extend a few days to take in the many sites in and around the city. You can shop or maybe visit the Eiffel Tower or the great Louvre Museum. Hotel and breakfast are included, with lunch and dinner on your own.
Saturday, October 27, 2018
After breakfast, you can either say farewell or extend your trip as you please. Those heading home will make their way to the airport with Gloria’s and Jim’s assistance, where your homebound flight awaits. Those who wish to extend their travels, bon voyage and be safe. You will have completed an American Military Pilgrimage—100 years on. Breakfast is included.
More information to come.
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