In April 2023 Knee Deep Into History guided a group of twelve participants on a battlefield tour, with a focus on the Yankee Division’s 102nd Infantry Regiment during WW1. A unique battlefield tour! It was timed to coincide with a 100th anniversary celebration. Most participants had a family connection to the regiment and/or Yankee Division—but with varying degrees of military knowledge. The tour was designed as a fundraiser for a pioneering teen archeological program. Designing a tour for such a diverse group that offers time for walks on the battlefields, commemoration activities and European cultural experiences is something that we take pride in providing at Knee Deep Into History. We hope you enjoy this photo essay of the 2023 Yankee Division Battlefield Tour.
Background: The Seicheprey Raid, Fountain and Rededication
The night of 19/20 April 1918 the German forces opposing the American 102nd Infantry Regiment prepared a trench raid as a welcome party for the regiment. This raid resulted in 434 casualties—58 killed, 145 wounded and 231 missing—and it cemented the relationship between the village of Seicheprey and the State of Connecticut. In 1923 Connecticut Doughboys raised money to install a fountain in the town, aiding it during the post-war reconstruction. In April 2023 the Town of Seicheprey rededicated that fountain and renamed a street in honor of the Yankee Division. In addition to the usual dignitaries, four tour members who serve or had served in the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard participated, wearing their dress blues, making quite a splash.
Battlefield Tour Philosophy: Getting Participants into the Field
Knee Deep Into History’s battlefield tours include walks of moderate length and duration, giving participants the opportunity to experience the battlefield as the Doughboys did. Our walks included: an underground tour of the Froidmont Quarry (barracks) in the Chemin des Dames Sector (February-March 1918); Belleau Wood, where the division replaced the Second Division (June 1918); the St. Mihiel trenches along the Tranchée de Calonne (September 1918); and the Bois d’Ormont, where the division struggled to advance (October-November 1918).
Battlefield Tour Philosophy: Commemorating the Fallen
We balance the battlefield walks with opportunities to commemorate and remember the fallen who are buried in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s overseas cemeteries. Activities at these cemeteries included wreath laying, gravestone rubbing and participation in end-of-day flag lowering. There was not a dry eye in the cemetery as tour participant Karen Zimmitti laid a wreath at her uncle’s grave and read a letter that he had written to his mother just five days before his death. Visiting his grave had been a life-long desire.
Battlefield Tour Philosophy: Bridging Cultures
KDIH builds in cultural activities too. Among them, we organized a champagne tasting and a visit to Dragées Braquier in Verdun, a famous manufacturer of Jordan Almonds. We select family-owned European hotel/restaurants so that participants can enjoy traditional, local meals.
Raising Funds for History
Finally, we are proud to have designed a tour that raised $3,100 for the Connecticut State Library’s Digging Into History program. In this program, Connecticut’s high school students had the opportunity to travel to Seicheprey, France, in 2019 and to rebuild a section of WW1 trench with their French counterparts. This summer, French students are coming to Connecticut to participate in a Revolutionary War archeological project in Bolton, Connecticut.
Have you ever thought about visiting the battlefields of WW1 or WW2? Do you have a relative in whose footsteps you would like to follow? Are you passionate about military history? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, join a KDIH battlefield tour and let us get you knee deep into history!
|After decades of personal battlefield tours, Randy Gaulke quit his job as a financial analyst in Manhattan and spent eight months in France in 2017-18 as a freelance guide during the World War I Centennial.
He subsequently founded Knee Deep Into History, with a philosophy of getting clients into the field on a small-group tour designed for the military history enthusiast. Equally important is the attempt to tell both sides of the story and to help Americans bridge cultures. Most tours are led jointly with European guides, including retired Bundeswehr officer and historian Markus Klauer. The groups enjoy family-owned European hotels and restaurants.
Experience a military history tour that brings the battlefield to life! Learn more at www.kneedeepintohistory.com
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.