Category: france

                                                       “Still standing in lonely majesty”

“It is the most imposing building I have ever seen. It stands there towering above that ruined and desolate
city like some grief stricken mother who has lost all her children.”

Mary Pretlow, YMCA worker visiting Reims, France – Hampton Roads Chronicles

“The cathedral is still standing in lonely majesty
above the devastated town… and rests on solid and unshakeable
foundations. It still reveals the beautiful proportions and
noble harmony of its portals and towers… Once a work of love, enthusiasm,
and faith, yesterday the target of hatred and contempt, today the object of
astonishment and admiration.”

WW1 – Reims
on Fire

Photo 1: Sunday, September
14 1919
, Journée du Souvenir (Remembrance Day) in Reims, on the parvis of the
La Contemporaine – Photo 2: “The Remains of the Cathedral” was
taken in summer 1919, by an American soldier visiting Reims.

                          September 15 1919, FAREWELL to Blue-Horizon

“And so, leaving their blue-horizon uniforms,
the survivors became civilians again…”

Comment sortir
de la guerre
– Photo :
September 15 1919, France, two French soldiers celebrate their demobilization – Archives

Note: “blue-horizon” was the color of the Fench soldiers’ uniforms

                         ‘This summer we had a crop of what we called
“Armistice babies’

‘How I wish you could see the way in which my little ones
are gaining in weight as a result of what I am doing for them. My records comprise
today 75 babies, 178 children from two to six, and 534 school children. A
number of these, a large number, have goats and chickens and rabbits or are
being supplies regulary with Powdered or Malted milk
or condensed milk and cocoa, or other portable supplies, and their mothers follow
with eagerness the gains in their weights, comparing them with the standard
weights on the big card and praying for the day when their child’s weight will
reach that standard.

I have worried over a three weeks old baby: he was given
everything needed in the way of nursing bottles and
nipples, and the simplest formula but it just
doesn’t thrive. At three months he weighs less than eight pounds. And a
charming baby too. So I just asked the mother to give him to me to take him to
the hospital at Blérancourt and let them keep him until he was older and

The baby is now in the care of an English nurse, and thriving
because everything is regular and roomy and quiet and rightly done. So he is
going to live.

None of my seventy odd babies has
died this summer.’

Late summer 1919, Mary Breckinridge, American nurse & midwife in Blérancourt, France.
“She traveled to rural France after WW1 to work for the American Committee for
Devastated France
. Caring for infants, children, and mothers on the brink
of starvation and poverty in the wake of destruction and occupation,
Breckinridge began to practice the public health outreach that she would
eventually implement as the first of its kind in the United States” – Letters from Devastation: Mary Breckinridge in
the Aisne, 1919
– Photos: Mary Breckinridge, nurses, and physicians,
of the American Committee, at work, in and around, Blérancourt, France – Ministère de la Culture, France

                                                              “Godspeed Mon Ami”

1st 1919
– Arrived in Brest this morning on scheduled time at the
station. I was greeted by Marshal Foch who had come down to Brest the night
before to say goodbye. The marshal made a very nice address complimenting me
upon the way I handled the task before me during those past two years. In my
reply, I emphasized the honor I felt in having him personally come to bid me
Godspeed. I also touched upon the cordial relations between France and the
United States and expressed a sincere hope for the continuance of this

At 3 o’clock
the Leviathan began its homeward journey. There were a number of small French
destroyers with bands aboard which came out alongside
and circled about us as
we left. I was very touched when I noticed that the marshal had boarded a small
French ship and had come alongside just as we were leaving to wave goodbye

As we were
leaving the harbor of Brest I went up on the Captain’s bridge where I could better wave to the people who had come out to say good-bye this last time.’

American General Pershing bidding farewell
to France – John J.
Pershing Diary. July 31,1919-July 11,1920
– more about this historic
farewell “Marshal Foch Bids General Pershing an Affectionate Farewell”—Photo:
September 1st

1919, Brest, The Final Handshake –

Digital Collections

– Also, YouTube  “Pershing’s Farewell to France”

Note: Although Pershing embarked for home on September 1st

American troops remained in France through the end of the year. And according
to the terms of the Armistice, American soldiers occupied a zone in
the Rhineland
until 1923.

‘They served in a land where wine and beer are common

We who came from a country of hard liquor learned that the French
took their wine with their meals. Our habit was one extreme or the other;
either hard liquor or nothing. Our soldiers who had been brought up as
teetotalers, when they served with French units and were given the French pinard,
found it unpalatable. It soured their stomach. Americans did not take their
hard liquor with their meals. When we had it for a party at home we served it
as cocktails on empty stomach instead of taking it with our food. Ask any
doctor which is the healthier of the two customs if you insist following one or
the other…’

Drink Lessons from France –
Frederick Palmer,

WW1 War correspondent – The American
Legion Weekly — Photo: American ambulance drivers sharing an al fresco meal
with beaucoup pinard and Champagne – Amherst Black Cats

                                                         ‘Rex was the star of the day’

‘On Sunday August 24th 1919, the entire town of Chateauroux
celebrated with panache the return of its beloved poilus. Dressed up to the
nine, the Castelroussins (habitants of Chateauroux) crowded the streets to party all day,
all night. Following the VIPs’ speeches and the military parade,  the poilus and
their beloved mascot, Rex, gathered for a très joyous banquet. Camera-ready Rex
was undoubtedly the star of the day.’

Châteauroux – les fêtes du retour des poilus – 24
août 1919
– Image: Rex, the star of the day – See video of that special day here.

                                     “It was not
hard to enjoy life in such a heavenly place”

‘Biarritz – Instead of
taking a leave at the end of four months, we were sent to Biarritz
at the foot of the

Pyrénées. This was purely an enlisted man’s leave
area. 2000 coming in each week. My duties were the same as at any leave
area—picnics, games excursions and dances. It was not hard to enjoy life in
such a heavenly place. There were American and French families there who
entertained the boys continually, opening their villas and gardens to them. The
Hotel du Palais, built as a villa by Napoleon for Eugenia, was open for dances,
the Country Club offered its links and tennis courts—in fact, there was nothing
denied. Add with the Scrap Iron Jazz, a band of corking fine men, and the Foecy
equally fine men, from the University of Michigan, giving us music that
simply made our feet jump, we never tired of dancing!’

1919, American lady working
with the YMCA in Biarritz – The Crescent of Gamma Phi Beta, Volume 21

Photos: circa
1919 and later, Hotel du Palais, Biarritz: “Few hotels in
the world can claim a more storied past than the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz,
where the G7 rich nation leaders will sit in splendor to discuss
world poverty this weekend” (The Guardian) –  Biarritz
coast, beach, boardwalk, pre & post WW1, on Gallica – YouTube “Leave Activities in the A.E.F., 1919” @2.38 “never get tired of

                                                             “FAREWELL! FRANCE”

“6 a.m. all packed ready
to move out at 7 a.m. Brest Casual Co: #2791 18th – Hiked down to dock at 7
O’clock waited around till 3 in the afternoon.  The rest of the bunch
comes down in trucks and go aboard the same boat with us.  Holland Line
ships “Zeelandia”.
Takes 12 or 13 days to make the trip. oh-la-la!!!”

American soldier Ervin Earl Putnam’s WW1 Diary July-August 1919 –  Photos: August 22 1919 & summer 1919, Brest harbor, American troops aboard USS Zeelandia, casting a last look at France – @ Green Lake
Postcards & Kansas Historical Society

“Meet me at the

‘A word about the Fountain
of Elephants because for the Americans it was the center of the town. This
large white monument with four life-size bronze elephants surrounding it, is
most imposing, the more so because there is continually pouring from the mouths
of these elephants, streams of water. This unique monument is in honor of a noted
benefactor of the town Count de Boigne who spent many years in the Far East.
There, by the fountain, the little steam tram usually put off or took on its
largest number of passengers. There the American bands played and the French
folk gathered about them. One would usually say "Meet me at the


WW1 Addie Hunton,
American YMCA worker in Chambery, a leave area for the American soldiers – TWO
. – Photo:1918 & 1919, American soldiers in front of the fontaine des
elephants in Chambery, France – University of Minnesota Libraries & Robert Slawson @ Justin

                                                   “DON”T BE ANGRY, ONLY AMAZED”

“At Peronne the retreating Germans left a large wooden sign
on the ruins of the Hotel de Ville. The sign read: NICHT ARGERN, NUR WUNDERN (Don’t
be angry, only amazed) – After three months in Germany, I realize how
universally applicable the sign is. The whole character of the people,
their outlook on life, and their social relations, were so unlike anything I
had ever dreamed of, that I could not analyze the soul beneath it all. Before it one stands aghast, perplexed over the possibility of its
being real. Of this German soul, as well as of its works on the field of
battle, one can only say: ‘Nicht argern, nur wundern!’”

1919, The Atlantic Monthly – Photo: After WW1, Peronne, Northern France, “Don’t
be angry, only amazed” – This photo can be zoomed in here