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Private Tour of Meuse-Argonne Battlefield area near Verdun

I will be travelling to France next year and would like to visit the area near Verdun where my grandfather fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from September to November 1918 (52nd Pioneer Infantry Regiment; Fifth Army Corps, Verdun Sector; First Army of the Allied Expeditionary Force). Can anyone recommend an English-speaking private guide for a day tour of the battlefield and surrounding area and any recommendations for staying in Verdun? Thanks very much.

Posted by
14580 posts

I can suggest a book on that battle (you most likely have read it already anyway as it was published ten years ago).

It's called , "To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918" by EG Lengel. Lengel was a professor at UVa. when he did this book.

There are works covering battles and operations from a certain perspective or experience, such as that of the German perspective on the Western Front or that of the British. Lengel's in-depth treatment covers the event as seen and experienced by the US soldiers.

Posted by
672 posts

Thanks very much to each of you for taking the time to reply. Since it has been 6 months since I originally posted this, I have already booked a guide. Ms. Lamousse was my first choice based on RS reader recommendations, but unfortunately she was not available for the dates of our visit. (Maybe the next time?) From being an active RS Forum participant for many years, I know that Fred possesses great expertise on WW1 and WW2 (ETO) and am going to purchase his suggested book. I also recently purchased "Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing's Warriors Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I" (2016) by Mitchell Yockelson, and have read NY Times writer Richard Rubin's "Last of the Doughboys". I am currently reading his other WW1 book "Back Over There" - both are excellent! I "discovered" some of his NY Times articles on the centennial of WW1 while surfing the internet. Rubin has a great writing style that really engages the reader, and it was hard to put the books down. To my fellow Pennsylvanian Jeff: Thanks very much for your guidebook suggestion, but unfortunately I found it was available in Kindle only on Amazon.com (I am a book guy). To address the issue of what Division the 52nd PIR may have been assigned to, I believe that PIRs were typically not assigned to Divisions, but were directly assigned to Corps or Armies. This was because of the nature of their work as jacks-of-all-trades (filling shell holes in roads, burying dead, shuttling munitions to the front, and anything else that needed to be done). I think the best description of PIRs is that they were pseduo-Engineers, but did what the Engineers wouldn't do. Pershing's Pioneer Infantry of World War I (1982) by Moses N. Thisted was recommended to me by folks from the National WW1 Museum when I was trying to find out more about where the 52nd PIR operated during the Meuse-Argonne. It provides a lot of info about PIRs, but unfortunately, little specific info about the 52nd. I knew virtually nothing about WW1 six months ago, but am diving into it head first in order to have some knowledge about what I will be seeing in May.

Posted by
672 posts

@Jeff: Thanks very much for letting me know. Will definitely get a copy.

Posted by
672 posts

@Jeff: Thanks very much for the recommendation. I failed to mention that our guide recommended Les Jardins du Mess hotel in Verdun, as we will spend one day with him in the Verdun area and the next day in the Meuse-Argonne V Corps area. It looked very nice and had good reviews on booking.com.

Posted by
14580 posts

"I knew virtually nothing on WW1 six months ago...." That's irrelevant, we all have to start sometime, my compliments on your pursuing this topic. In that case, I would heartily suggest C. Barnett, "The Swordbearers: Supreme Command in the First World War" 1963, focusing on the first chapter to get an over-all balanced picture and the last chapter, seen from the German perspective on operational planning and politics. What I don't recommend at all, "The Guns of August"...my two cents.

I know your primary emphasis and concentration is the on role undertaken by the US military in 1918. The work I recommended above provides a wealth of primary sources in that regard. There are times where war history becomes too narrowly focused, eg, just operational history.

I suggest also looking up Pershing's memoirs as well as that of George Marshall, Marshall's WW1 memoirs.

Thanks for the compliment, Robert.

Posted by
672 posts

@Fred: Thanks very much for the additional suggestion!