June 17, 2019 Ypres BE

We only moved about 50 kilometers today to the town of Ypres.  I picked this stop because I was interested in a Commonwealth War Ceremony they have there every night.  

Walking to town we came across this very healthy looking sheep who winked at Ton.

Ypres was right on the front lines during WWI and was pretty much fought over for the entire war.  In total there were over 1 million casualties in what was called the Ypres Salient (bulge) with over 850,000 combined casualties in a 3 month period in 1917.  Ypres was also the first use of poison gas on the western front.  The entire town was leveled during the course of the war.

After the war the Belgian government rebuilt the city including duplicating the Cotton  Hall and belfry as well as the Cathedral as they stood before the war.  Both buildings are impressive sites today.

The reconstructed Cotton Hall and Belfry rebuilt after WWI.  The original building was rubble after the war.

While French and Belgian troops fought extensively in this area for the allies, a large contingent of British and Commonwealth soldiers fought here.  After the war the Belgian government reconstructed the Menin Gate into the city as a war memorial to the Commonwealth and British soldiers who were killed in this area but whose bodies were never properly identified.   The monument has over 50,000 names on it from all over the British Empire.  There are soldiers from Canada, Australia, India, Burma, and South Africa as well as Great Britain on the memorial.

You can see the endless lists of names on the wall, thru the door is a similar wall with more names, over 50,000 in total.

As a tribute to these men who were lost; every night the Fire Brigade in Ypres has a ceremony called “The Last Post”.  At 8pm buglers from the Fire Brigade play the Last Post (the British version of Taps.) inside the Menin Gate.  Tonight we attended the ceremony and it is very moving.  As we were waiting we heard people from Canada, Australia, and Britain talking about the ceremony and why they were attending.  It is a fairly simple but moving ceremony as different groups bring wreaths to present at the Gate.  Tonight it was school groups in their uniforms presenting the wreaths.  We were very impressed that this ceremony is still being carried out over 100 years after the end of WWI.  

April 30, 2019 Chateau-Thierry FR

We slept in a bit as we are still fighting jet lag, but around 9am we decided to get up and get going.  We had a quick last chat with Thom and Kathy before they took off, we hope our paths cross again on our tours.

We decided to hit the Lidl on the way out of town now that we had taken stock of everything we had left behind, we had a few more food items we needed.  We also stopped at the €2 store for a USB splitter for our cigarette lighter, Ton was skeptical but so far it is working great.

Our plans for today was a place that I have wanted to visit since we started visiting France.  Belleau Wood is one of the most famous battles that the Marine Corps has participated in.  The battlefield is located near Chateau-Thierry.  During the battle the Marine Brigade which was attached to the Army 2nd Infantry Division was assigned to first stop a German advance on Paris and then regain some of the ground that had been  lost including a hill top forest/hunting preserve called Belleau Wood.  At the end of the 15 day battle the Marines had over 6000 casualties including 1060 dead.  They fought so ferociously the Germans said it was like fighting Teufel Hunden, which got translated as Devil Dogs, a nick name the Marine Corps carries until today.  The French were so impressed with the valor of the Marines that they renamed the wood, and when you enter the memorial the entrance says Belleau Wood in English, and Bois de la Brigade de Marine (The Wood of the Marine Brigade) in French, as it was renamed.

Ron standing next to a French 75 gun in Belleau Wood, this was also the main artillery piece for the American Forces in WW1.

For a place with such a violent history the wood today is a quiet park, there are some remnants of the trenches that were hastily dug during the battle, and some impact craters from artillery rounds.  Other than that it is an amazingly quiet place with beautiful vistas of the countryside including a wheat field that the Marines had to advance several hundred yards thru under machine gun fire to reach the wood.  The story is that when they were faltering in the wheat field Sergeant Major Dan Daly rallied them by shouting “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever!”

Next to the wood is the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery which has 2289 graves of Americans killed in Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry including 3 sets of brothers.

The graves are simple Crosses and Stars of David with the name of the man, his unit, and his home state on them.  They tell a very simple story quite movingly.  The most haunting are those that say here lies an American Soldier known only to god, for those who could not be identified.
The chapel on site on the side of Belleau Wood overlooks the grave sites.  Inside is a simple chapel with the names of over 1060 soldiers, sailors, and Marines, who are missing from the battles in this area.  

The final stop for us on the day was the Chateau-Thierry monument which is on a hill overlooking the city.  It was built after the war to commemorate the Americans and French who fought together.

It is a relatively simple monument listing the battles and the major units of the American Expeditionary Force in World War 1.  It was designed by a French-American architect Paul Cretics who served in the French Army during the war.  After the war he returned to the US and designed a war memorial for the state of Pennsylvania before designing this one.

As with every one of the American Cemeteries we have visited in France they are immaculately maintained, and the French staff obviously takes great pride in their work.  Everyone on site that we spoke to including the security guards immediately switch to English when they realize you are American.  They bend over backwards to help you with your questions.  It is really a moving experience.  Tonight we are parked in an aire in Chateau-Thierry but the monument is visible on the hill above town.

September 28, 2018 Dinan FR

Today we enjoyed Brittany.  We had to make a decision, who said there is no stress on these trips.  We are really enjoying Brittany and the weather is great.  But to really explore Brittany is going to take another 3 or 4 days, and we will still be 3 or 4 days from Spain.   We are now on the 11th day of the trip, and we are no closer to Spain than when we arrived.  France is addictive.  So we had to decide whether we spend time here in Brittany, or head south towards Spain.  After much talk and discussion we decided today was going to be the only day in Brittany and we were going to head to Spain.  

The next trick was getting diesel.  Suddenly our credit cards have stopped working at gas stations. We have had no problems with our cards until now.  A quick call to one of our credit cards confirmed we were good, and they did not even see the attempt to charge that was rejected.   After a couple of attempts today we found a fuel station that would take one of our cards, we were under a quarter tank so it was expensive to fill up.

Leaving our campground we saw a nice windmill near the road so we swung in.
While we were there the French Army decided to stage a paradrop for us, Ron was thrilled.  These guys landed right next to Mont St. Michel.

Having made the decision, Brittany is making it hard to leave.  We started the day at St. Malo which is a port town.  St.  Malo was pretty much leveled during WWII as the German garrison would not surrender. After a substantial siege the Allies finally took it.  So except for the city walls the city has pretty much been rebuilt since WWII.  But they did a great job of rebuilding the old city within the walls of the fort.  

Part of the fort at St. Malo.

We spent most of our time in St. Malo walking the battlements of the fort.  St. Malo was  a fortified port for 500 years.  Some of the forts were built by the man who is considered by many to be the greatest fort builder in the western world, Vauban.  They are indeed impressive, and were even able to pretty much withstand 20th century weapons during WWII.  In addition the natural setting on the Bay of St. Malo is really beautiful.  We really enjoyed St. Malo.  

One of the forts designed by Vaubin.  The bird in the foreground seemed very happy to have his photo taken.

Brittany was originally settled by Celts, and St. Malo has a strong connection to Wales.  Ron believes his family name is originally Breton so it is a special place for him.  They are famous for a cake called Kouign Amann.  That is a good celtic word and we could not master how to pronounce it, but it tasted good.  It tasted a little like an apple fritter.

We had the smallest Kouign Amann.  A prize for anyone who can pronounce this.

Our last stop for the day was Dinan which unlike St. Malo was bypassed during WWII and has a lot of its original buildings.  It is also a fortified town, but here we focused on the town and enjoyed walking down the narrow streets within the fort and enjoying the timbered buildings.  

Some of these wooden houses date from the 1500’s.

September 26, 2018 Coleville FR

We are still on the Normandy peninsula basically moving from the area of Utah Beach to Omaha Beach.  We got a late start as we decided to take care of some housekeeping chores in the morning.  After Ton paid some bills and we knocked out a load of laundry we headed out for Omaha Beach.

When we arrived at the center of Omaha Beach it was quite crowded with several bus loads of Americans taking their lunch break al fresco around the memorial.  We poked around for a while and mourned with a fellow Oregonian about the football teams loss on Saturday to Stanford.

Standing on Omaha Beach in front of the Sculpture to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the battle.

Done with Omaha we headed over to the American Cemetery in Coleville.  This cemetery is maintained by the US Battlefield Memorial Commission and is the final resting place for over 9000 soldiers and sailors from the battles around Normandy.  After the war the families of the fallen were given a choice to have the bodies shipped home or buried in place,  so this does not represent all of the Americans killed in the battle.  

The view towards the memorial and reflecting pool.

The visitor center and the grounds are inspiring and a true honor to the young men who are there.  The visitor center has an excellent display about WWII and D-Day.  After you walk thru the visitor center you enter the grave sites, and the location overlooks Omaha Beach and the Atlantic.  The site is immaculate and clearly lovingly taken care of by the French staff.

The grave markers go on forever.

When we completed the tour at the cemetery we headed into Bayeux which is about the only major city that was not leveled during the invasion.  It is also famous for the Bayeux Tapestry which is a famous medieval artwork.  As we entered the city we made a quick stop at a Carrefour Market to re-stuff the refrigerator.  We headed into the city but just missed our opportunity to see the tapestry as the museum was closing.  We took a quick walk to look at the Norman style Cathedral, and then headed back to François for the night.

A gargoyle on the Cathedral at Bayeux.  They are not only an interesting feature but actually serve as the drains for the gutters when it rains.

September 25, 2018 St. Mere-Egliese

Today we covered the most distance we have covered in one day on the trip, about 200 miles.  We got up a little early, and the trip was pretty easy as the roads were frequently 4 lanes wide, and we did not have very many small villages to pass thru.

Our target for the day was Utah Beach from the Normandy invasion in 1944.  Our first stop of our D-Day tour was at the Airborne Museum at St. Mere-Eglise.  St. Mere-Eglise was the initial focus of the 82nd Airborne Division during the invasion.  It is said to be the first town in France to be liberated by Americans during WWII.  The museum itself is well done, focusing on the issues of the airborne forces during the invasion.  It mostly covers the 82nd Airborne, but does also give information about the 101st Airborne.  It is an interesting collection of equipment, weapons, and stories.  One of the most interesting exhibits attempts to give you the feel of doing a night drop from a C-47 transport plane.  It is quite interesting and gets your attention.

A US Sherman tank on Utah beach, this one is painted in the colors of the French LeClerc Division which landed here, and passed thru St. Mere-Eglise.

We also visited the church in town which is famous for the story of one paratrooper John Steel who had the misfortune of getting hung up on the steeple of the church where he was shot in the foot by a German, and played dead for several hours hanging in the air above the center of town.  If you have seen “The Longest Day” movie about D-Day you will probably remember this story as it is featured in the movie.

The church at St. Mere-Eglise, note the replica of the parachutist hanging from the church.

We ended the day at Utah Beach to see the monuments there, and to walk on the beach.  The monuments and displays we saw today were really touching, and shows the deep respect and thanks the French have for the Americans who landed here.

Ron standing on Utah Beach, evaluating the suitability of the beach for an amphibious landing.
Nothing to do with D-day, we saw this horse and rider driving thru the surf.  We have no idea why.

October 16, 2016 West Yellowstone MT

The plan for the day was to go to Yellowstone and stay at Hardy Campground.  When we woke up in the morning we decided that we had not done Little Big Horn Justice so we decided to detour there on the way out of town.  

We checked out the movie the Park Service has which is well done in trying to present the story from both sides.  Then after the movie there was a Ranger talk which was also excellent.  We ended the visit with a walk up to the last stand site.  Our little detour cost us half a day and it was almost noon before we took off for Yellowstone.  

We busted along as fast as we could but it was not as fast as we would have liked as there was a considerable wind blowing the entire way which meant we were moving along considerably slower than the 80mph posted speed limit.

We finally arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs around 3:30 pm, only to see that Hardy Campground had closed that day for the season.  With a 60% chance of 1 to 3’ of snow forecast we had a choice of staying at Mammoth Hot Springs and risking the park service closing the road across the park for part of the day, or heading for West Yellowstone and staying in a commercial campground.  We opted for caution and headed over to West Yellowstone.

The winter comes early in Montana.

October 15, 2016 Hardin MT

After a week in Tioga while Ron earned his keep for the month working we moved on to our vacation.  The plan for this week includes, Yellowstone and Grand Coulee Dam in Washington and whatever else we come up with.

After a leisurely start in the morning we drove to Hardin Montana to see the Little Bighorn National Battlefield.  It was a wonderful Indian Summer day with puffy cumulus clouds in a wonderfully blue sky.  The battlefield was quite well done.  While it was like most battlefields a somber place, it is also a place of great natural beauty especially with fall colors.  We really enjoyed ourselves today.

The plan for tomorrow is to head towards Yellowstone and hope the good weather holds for another day.

Part of the Little Big Horn Battlefield.

August 11, 2016 Lake Stanley ID

Today we started heading home.  From where we were we had two options to get home one way was to head for I-84 at Boise and the other was to take I-90 to Spokane and head south.  After some discussion Ton decided we had not ever stopped in Boise even though we had driven thru it at least 10 times.  

After that decision we decided to take the back way.  After taking the Interstate thru Butte a city we both remember as being particularly ugly, we took some back roads thru some hills and small valleys. We came into the Big Hole Valley and ran into the Big Hole Valley National Battlefield Monument.  The battle of the Big Hole Valley was between the 7th Infantry and the Nez Perce Indians.  The story of the Nez Perce is very sad as they were a pretty peaceful tribe forced off their lands and were essentially just trying to retain some freedom off the reservation.  The Monument is very well done as are most National Park operations.  Of course we are biased but we think the National Park Service is one of the best things going in our country.

After that we drove down the Salmon River Scenic Highway the opposite direction we had gone a few days before.  At Sydney we turned onto the Big Pine Scenic Highway and pulled into a beautiful Forest Service Campground at Lake Stanley.  We had Lake Stanley and an incredible view of the Sawtooth Mountains right outside the back of Scout.  

Lake Stanley with a great view of the Sawtooth Mountains.

October 16, 2016 Yellowstone NP

The plan for the day was to go to Yellowstone and stay at Hardy Campground.  When we woke up in the morning we decided that we had not done Little Big Horn Justice so we decided to detour there on the way out of town.  

We checked out the movie the Park Service has which is well done in trying to present the story from both sides.  Then after the movie there was a Ranger talk which was also excellent.  We ended the visit with a walk up to the last stand site.  Our little detour cost us half a day and it was almost noon before we took off for Yellowstone.  

We busted along as fast as we could but it was not as fast as we would have liked as there was a considerable wind blowing the entire way which meant we were moving along considerably slower than the 80mph posted speed limit.

We finally arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs around 3:30 pm, only to see that Hardy Campground had closed that day for the season.  With a 60% of 1 to 3’ of snow forecast we had a choice of staying at Mammoth Hot Springs and risking the park service closing the road across the park for part of the day, or heading for West Yellowstone and staying in a commercial campground.  We opted for caution and headed over to West Yellowstone.

Scout in a commercial campground in West Yellowstone.

June 4, 2019 Colditz GE

When I was 11 or 12 my friend John and I were totally fascinated with the story of Colditz Castle and the allied prisoners of war who were held there during the war.  The Germans designed the POW camp at Colditz to hold the most difficult prisoners, people who had attempted multiple escapes or were just a large scale pain to the Germans.  John and I read the book by one of the prisoners called Escape from Colditz and spent a large part of the summer pretending to be prisoners trying to escape from Colditz.  Today I got to visit the real thing.

It was not on the plan, but when we were traveling from Dresden to Leipzig the other day I saw the exit on the Autobahn for Colditz and told Ton the story and she insisted that we visit it.  It was a short drive down from Leipzig with the only adventure being Greta insisting there was a road to follow when there was not one, after 10 minutes or so of circling Greta’s imaginary road we followed our noses and eventually found our way to Colditz.

The castle has been in existence since the middle ages, and was for a short while the home of Augustus I of Saxony.  After a while it fell out of favor as a royal residence and became at different times a hospital, prison, and mental hospital.  When the Nazi’s came to power it was used as a concentration camp, before being converted to a prisoner of war camp in 1939.  During the war it held prisoners from many different countries including Poland, Holland, Belgium, the US, and Britain, with the British making up the bulk of the  prisoners.

The courtyard of Colditz Castle, which during WWII was a POW camp for recalcitrant officers.

 

A formation of prisoners in the Castle courtyard during the war.

Today we were fortunate to be the only ones on our tour of the castle which was led by an Englishman named Alex who had married a local Saxon girl.  He did a fabulous job of showing us around the castle explaining the living arrangements of both the prisoners and the guards.  He talked about the various escape attempts.  The most fascinating was the French tunnel which as you would expect was the work of the French prisoners held there.  They dug this tunnel for over 9 months and covered over 500 feet going up and down around the stone that the castle rests on including cutting thru the original wooden supports that were adjacent to the chapel.

A vertical shaft of the French tunnel.
A horizontal shaft of the French tunnel that was uncovered during renovation.

The German government has spent a lot of money fixing the castle in addition to the museum they have converted the old German guard quarters/Mental Hospital (under the East Germans) into a hostel.  If you are in the area we recommend it.  It was nice to see a place that had given me a great adventure one summer when I was a kid.

June 3, 2019 Leipzig GE

Spent the day touring around Leipzig which is a nice city.  This is an up and coming city in Germany, which means it still has a little roughness around the edge which we liked.  Dresden’s downtown felt like it had completed it’s makeover, in Leipzig it felt like it was well on its’ way but still in progress.

We went to St. Thomas Church which was the base of J.S. Bach for many years.  As we entered the church a youth orchestra was beginning to practice for a concert.  We sat and listened to them for a few minutes which seemed a fitting way to pay homage to Bach.  

Bachs’ statue in front of St. Thomas church.

Leipzig embraces its’ role in the downfall of East Germany, and as you walk around town you see plaques telling stories about key events in 1989.  It is humbling for me to walk the ground to see the role that common people played in bringing down a government with the repressive power of the old East German government.

This cross is part of the story of the revolution of 89, as people would come to the church to leave messages for friends as well prayers.

Leipzig is also the site of one of the great battles of the Napoleonic era.  At Leipzig Napoleon was defeated by the combined army of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden. This defeat led to his first exile.  There is a huge monument to the battle on the edge of Leipzig.  While the scale is massive, (it takes over 500 steps to reach the top) the aesthetics of the monument were not to our taste.  We gave it a quick walk around without buying a ticket to go inside, and moved on to one of our favorite activities.

This massive monument to the Battle of Leipzig was finished in 1913.  Huge statues and huge blocks of stone.
This picture is from  Auerbachs Keller that has been operating since the 1400’s, they claim you cannot say you have visited Leipzig unless you visit here, so we had to stop.  It is supposed to be Faust and the Devil on top of the barrel.

Our last stop was at a brewery in an old train station near downtown.  Bayerischer Bahnhof Brewery is one of the originators of Gose style beer.  We usually don’t much like sours but this one was good and Ton claimed it helped with her allergies so we had a second round.  The brewery is located in one of the old train stations in town, the station was closed down around 2001, but the entrance hall was a historical site so it was saved and eventually converted to a brewery.  It may be the nicest brewery we have ever visited and we have visited a few!

The exterior of the brewery.
The interior.

September 26, 2018 Coleville FR

We are still on the Normandy peninsula basically moving from the area of Utah Beach to Omaha Beach.  We got a late start as we decided to take care of some housekeeping chores in the morning.  After Ton paid some bills and we knocked out a load of laundry we headed out for Omaha Beach.

When we arrived at the center of Omaha Beach it was quite crowded with several bus loads of Americans taking their lunch break al fresco around the memorial.  We poked around for a while and mourned with a fellow Oregonian about the football teams loss on Saturday to Stanford.

Standing on Omaha Beach in front of the Sculpture to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the battle.

Done with Omaha we headed over to the American Cemetery in Coleville.  This cemetery is maintained by the US Battlefield Memorial Commission and is the final resting place for over 9000 soldiers and sailors from the battles around Normandy.  After the war the families of the fallen were given a choice to have the bodies shipped home or buried in place,  so this does not represent all of the Americans killed in the battle.  

he view towards the memorial and reflecting pool.

The visitor center and the grounds are inspiring and a true honor to the young men who are there.  The visitor center has an excellent display about WWII and D-Day.  After you walk thru the visitor center you enter the grave sites, and the location overlooks Omaha Beach and the Atlantic.  The site is immaculate and clearly lovingly taken care of by the French staff.

The grave markers go on forever.

When we completed the tour at the cemetery we headed into Bayeux which is about the only major city that was not leveled during the invasion.  It is also famous for the Bayeux Tapestry which is a famous medieval artwork.  As we entered the city we made a quick stop at a Carrefour Market to restuff the refrigerator.  We headed into the city but just missed our opportunity to see the tapestry as the museum was closing.  We took a quick walk by the Cathedral to look at the Norman style Cathedral, and then headed back to François for the night.

A gargoyle on the Cathedral at Bayeux.  They are not only an interesting feature but actually serve as the drains for the gutters when it rains.

September 25, 2018 St. Mere-Eglise FR

Today we covered the most distance we have covered in one day on the trip, about 200 miles.  We got up a little early, and the trip was pretty easy as the roads were frequently 4 lanes wide, and we did not have very many small villages to pass thru.

Our target for the day was Utah Beach from the Normandy invasion in 1944.  Our first stop of our D-Day tour was at the Airborne Museum at St. Mere-Eglise.  St. Mere-Eglise was the initial focus of the 82nd Airborne Division during the invasion.  It is said to be the first town in France to be liberated by Americans during WWII.  The museum itself is well done, focusing on the issues of the airborne forces during the invasion.  It mostly covers the 82nd Airborne, but does also give information about the 101st Airborne.  It is an interesting collection of equipment, weapons, and stories.  One of the most interesting exhibits attempts to give you the feel of doing a night drop from a C-47 transport plane.  It gets your attention.

A US Sherman tank on Utah beach, this one is painted in the colors of the French LeClerc Division which landed here, and passed thru St. Mere-Eglise.

We also visited the church in town which is famous for the story of one paratrooper John Steel, who had the misfortune of getting hung up on the steeple of the church where he was shot in the foot by a German, and played dead for several hours hanging in the air above the center of town.  If you have seen “The Longest Day” movie about D-Day you will probably remember this story as it is featured in the movie.

The church at St. Mere-Eglise, note the replica of the parachutest hanging from the church.

We ended the day at Utah Beach to see the monuments there, and to walk on the beach.  The monuments and displays we saw today were really touching, and shows the deep respect and thanks the French have for the Americans who landed here.

Ron standing on Utah Beach, evaluating the suitability of the beach for an amphibious landing.
Nothing to do with D-day, we saw this horse and rider driving thru the surf.  We have no idea why.


April 30, 2019 Chateau-Thierry FR

We slept in a bit as we are still fighting jet lag, but around 9am we decided to get up and get going.  We had a quick last chat with Thom and Kathy before they took off, we hope our paths cross again on our tours.

We decided to hit the Lidl on the way out of town now that we had taken stock of everything we had left behind, we had a few more food items we needed.  We also stopped at the €2 store for a USB splitter for our cigarette lighter, Ton was skeptical but so far it is working great.

Our plans for today was a place that I have wanted to visit since we started visiting France.  Belleau Wood is one of the most famous battles that the Marine Corps has participated in.  The battlefield is located near Chateau-Thierry.  During the battle the Marine Brigade which was attached to the Army 2nd Infantry Division was assigned to first stop a German advance on Paris and then regain some of the ground that had been  lost including a hill top forest/hunting preserve called Belleau Wood.  At the end of the 15 day battle the Marines had over 6000 casualties including 1060 dead.  They fought so ferociously the Germans said it was like fighting Teufel Hunden, which got translated as Devil Dogs, a nick name the Marine Corps carries until today.  The French were so impressed with the valor of the Marines that they renamed the wood, and when you enter the memorial the entrance says Belleau Wood in English, and Bois de la Brigade de Marine (The Wood of the Marine Brigade) in French, as it was renamed.

Ron standing next to a French 75 gun in Belleau Wood, this was also the main artillery piece for the American Forces in WW1.

For a place with such a violent history the wood today is a quiet park, there are some remnants of the trenches that were hastily dug during the battle, and some impact craters from artillery rounds.  Other than that it is an amazingly quiet place with beautiful vistas of the countryside including a wheat field that the Marines had to advance several hundred yards thru under machine gun fire to reach the wood.  The story is that when they were faltering in the wheat field Sergeant Major Dan Daly rallied them by shouting “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever!”

Next to the wood is the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery which has 2289 graves of Americans killed in Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry including 3 sets of brothers.

The graves are simple Crosses and Stars of David with the name of the man, his unit, and his home state on them.  They tell a very simple story quite movingly.  The most haunting are those that say here lies an American Soldier known only to god, for those who could not be identified.
The chapel on site on the side of Belleau Wood overlooks the grave sites.  Inside is a simple chapel with the names of over 1060 soldiers, sailors, and Marines, who are missing from the battles in this area.  

The final stop for us on the day was the Chateau-Thierry monument which is on a hill overlooking the city.  It was built after the war to commemorate the Americans and French who fought together.

It is a relatively simple monument listing the battles and the major units of the American Expeditionary Force in World War 1.  It was designed by a French-American architect Paul Cretics who served in the French Army during the war.  After the war he returned to the US and designed a war memorial for the state of Pennsylvania before designing this one.

As with every one of the American Cemeteries we have visited in France they are immaculately maintained, and the French staff obviously takes great pride in their work.  Everyone on site that we spoke to including the security guards immediately switch to English when they realize you are American.  They bend over backwards to help you with your questions.  It is really a moving experience.  Tonight we are parked in an aire in Chateau-Thierry but the monument is visible on the hill above town.

June 17, 2019 Ypres BE

We only moved about 50 kilometers today to the town of Ypres.  I picked this stop because I was interested in a Commonwealth War Ceremony they have there every night.  

Walking to town we came across this very healthy looking sheep who winked at Ton.

Ypres was right on the front lines during WWI and was pretty much fought over for the entire war.  In total there were over 1 million casualties in what was called the Ypres Salient (bulge) with over 850,000 combined casualties in a 3 month period in 1917.  Ypres was also the first use of poison gas on the western front.  The entire town was leveled during the course of the war.

After the war the Belgian government rebuilt the city including duplicating the Cotton  Hall and belfry as well as the Cathedral as they stood before the war.  Both buildings are impressive sites today.

The reconstructed Cotton Hall and Belfry rebuilt after WWI.  The original building was rubble after the war.

While French and Belgian troops fought extensively in this area for the allies, a large contingent of British and Commonwealth soldiers fought here.  After the war the Belgian government reconstructed the Menin Gate into the city as a war memorial to the Commonwealth and British soldiers who were killed in this area but whose bodies were never properly identified.   The monument has over 50,000 names on it from all over the British Empire.  There are soldiers from Canada, Australia, India, Burma, and South Africa as well as Great Britain on the memorial.

You can see the endless lists of names on the wall, thru the door is a similar wall with more names, over 50,000 in total.

As a tribute to these men who were lost; every night the Fire Brigade in Ypres has a ceremony called “The Last Post”.  At 8pm buglers from the Fire Brigade play the Last Post (the British version of Taps.) inside the Menin Gate.  Tonight we attended the ceremony and it is very moving.  As we were waiting we heard people from Canada, Australia, and Britain talking about the ceremony and why they were attending.  It is a fairly simple but moving ceremony as different groups bring wreaths to present at the Gate.  Tonight it was school groups in their uniforms presenting the wreaths.  We were very impressed that this ceremony is still being carried out over 100 years after the end of WWI.