We traveled along the historic Western Front in Northeastern France to learn about the history of World War I, visiting battlefields, memorial sites and places where Americans fought alongside millions of men from more than 30 other nations in one of the most violent and deadly wars on the planet. And though we’d done our research prior to the journey, we were still surprised by some of the sites we encountered.
Here are some of the most surprising and fascinating historical stops with ties to The Great War.
#1 Bealleau Wood
Travelers today can visit Bealleau Wood and see the trenches where American marines earned the nickname the Devil Dogs for their intense and heroic fighting, a moniker that lives on today. Over the course of several weeks in June 1918, Americans, including those from the 4th Marine Brigade of the US Army’s Second Division, fought in one of WWI’s most brutal battles, the Battle of Belleau Wood. The woods have been renamed in honor of the Marines and a nearby fountain commemorates their nickname.
#2 Caverne du Dragon
A location of lengthy fighting in Northeastern France was along the Chemin des Dames, a strategic plateau where underground quarries would be utilized by soldiers during The Great War. One of these quarries, Caverne du Dragon, is open to the public and travelers can take a tour to see where in 1917 both French and German troops would fight during an epic underground battle.
Verdun is the final pick on our list, but not because of the site itself, but how travelers can explore here. Hiking, horseback riding and cycling are popular ways to discover this battle site, one of the most important for French troops during WWI. Not only can travelers bike across forts and forests, but you can step inside historic forts with chilling reminders of battles past.
It’s all part of the more unusual things to see and do while learning about The Great War in France.