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June 1st, 2017

Reflecting on Charles O’Brien

This Memorial Day, our group of eight visited the burial site of First Lieutenant Charles O’Brien, a Pennsylvania native and a Bucknellian in the Class of 1909, at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. Lt. O’Brien was one of the countless men and women to put their country and its values above all else and serve in the First World War. Lt. O’Brien’s story in WWI was short but powerful, because of his dauntless courage and inspiration. These qualities are some of the reasons why I was compelled to learn more about him and his pre-war story/life. It was haunting to stare […]

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May 31st, 2017

Bucknell, the Liberal Arts, & WWI

Where did history happen, what history do we consider to be significant, who are ‘we’, and what can history do for us? As a geographer involved with this project, I have found myself considering these essential and interrelated questions, as we have all struggled to make sense of the massive scale of death associated with WWI, and to somehow find some meaning in it. So where did WWI history happen? Here I would argue it’s all about perspective, and for most people in the world, WWI history happened somewhere else -far beyond respective nation state borders. The result is that […]

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May 31st, 2017

In Flanders Fields Museum

On May 30th, our group took a drive into the Belgian city of Ypres where we visited the museum that now inhabits the reconstructed Cloth Hall. Personally, I had mixed feelings about the museum and its presentation of the conflict. The museum is made very dark due to subtle shades that cover the building’s windows. As you walk through the exhibits, solemn, dramatic music plays through speakers overhead.  Each display features haunting descriptions of the many recovered artifacts and their uses, stressing the deadliness of each item. The central piece, to me at least, is the film which shows actors […]

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May 30th, 2017

Samogneux and Poisoned Apples

On Sunday, 28 May, our group visited Samogneux, a ruined village near Verdun. When we say ‘ruined village’, we mean it without qualification. In 1916, Samogneux ceased to exist; one of the first villages attacked during the Germans’ Verdun Offensive of February through December 1916, Samogneux, which sits within a shallow ravine cascading down the side of a tall hill north of Verdun, became a lunar ruin, every house destroyed to its collapsed foundations, every tree obliterated, every blade of grass burned away. It is still within a ‘red zone’ of uninhabitable spaces; no one may live there still, so […]

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May 29th, 2017

Thomas Agnew: A Bucknell Ambulance Driver

This Memorial Day Weekend, there was one particular veteran who I sought to remember and honor. I have been researching the life and service of Thomas Wesley Agnew, class of 1920, since the winter. I chose to follow Thomas’s story because he was a volunteer in one of two Bucknell ambulance units that served in Europe. Furthermore, Thomas had graduated exactly 100 years before my expected graduation in 2020, a fact that made him seem more “real” to me. Over the past two days, we have visited two locations where Thomas served. The first was located in Samongneux, where French villagers were evacuated […]

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May 29th, 2017

Memorial Day at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery

Unless one has a completely cold heart, it is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by what the Bucknellians in World War I group encountered today in what was an emotionally overwhelming series of visits to places of memory and remembrance. We ended our day emotionally exhausted and physically tired, with the fortune of our good hosts at the wonderful Le Cheval Rouge hotel in Sainte-Ménehould to help us recover over a dinner of camaraderie, lots of water, and profiteroles. As others have noted, we began our day at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, where we observed the Memorial Day ceremonies. Speeches, taps, […]

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May 28th, 2017

Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day, the Bucknellians in World War I team visited the Meuse-Argonne American cemetery to attend a special ceremony and visit the graves of two Bucknell veterans who rest there. Despite the heat, there was a surprisingly good turn out of both French and American attendees. The ceremony, performed in both French and English, featured invocations, blessings, and addresses from numerous public figures, including the Chargé d’Affaires at the American embassy in Paris, Ms. Uzra Zeya. The most moving part of the ceremony was, in my opinion, the playing of Taps and the National Anthems for both the United States and […]

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May 27th, 2017

La Butte de Vauquois

This afternoon our guide, Dr. Thomson, took us to Vauquois, a rural French village on a hill turned World War I battle site. Dr. Thomson explained to us that the hill had originally held a small community, but the desolation caused by artillery shells, mining, and trench building caused the hill to significantly shorten and become too dangerous for habitation. Because it was in close proximity to the Argonne Forest and relatively accessible, Vauquois was a combat site for the entirety of the war. When the mobility of the early 1914 battles gave way to the permanence of trench warfare, […]

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May 27th, 2017

The Argonne Forest

Today, in scorching heat, our team hiked approximately two miles to St. Hubert’s Pavilion in the Argonne Forest. This forest was the site of a major offensive for the American forces and one of Bucknell’s own, Dwite Schaffner, received the Medal of Honor there. The forest is still too dangerous to enter unless you stick to the designated paths because of the many grenades and artillery shells that remain in the ground nearly one hundred years later. Because of this, the forest is largely untouched and unused, giving it a uniquely tranquil quality. It is hard to imagine a large-scale […]

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May 27th, 2017

Visiting St. Thibault

I wish I could have posted this yesterday but the internet connection was a little iffy, however may 26th was a great day for developing the picture of Lieutenant George Wilson Potts, the Bucknellian that I chose to research before our trip. We visited the area that he likely fought for against the Germans after American troops descended from St. Thibault towards the Marne River. The area was a bridge that was essentially the only way over the river and the only way for either side to advance. This was where Lt. Potts earned his silver star for his valor […]

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