Red Roses for Heroes

 It was spring 2004 almost one year after the American-led invasion of Iraq – a policy that was not well accepted in France. We had not sensed any hostility from the French people towards Americans, but many were clearly unhappy with the actions of the American government.

We had been touring battlefields near Chateau-Thierry and in particular Belleau Wood, the scene of the United States Marines’ month long struggle to capture that tough piece of terrain from entrenched German defenders. Our accommodations were to the east of Chateau-Thierry in a small B&B owned by two Americans who had spent their professional careers working in Paris. They retired to enjoy the rural French lifestyle and ran the B&B as a sideline. On the evening that we arrived, over a glass of white wine, they told us the following story.

The French are great for commemorations of the events of the two world wars. The First World War is remembered each year in every town and village on 11 November typically with a simple commemoration at the town’s war memorial followed by a vin d’honneur – a mini reception of Champagne and canapés held in the village hall. Cities frequently celebrate with elaborate parades and ceremonies, such as that at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  To a lesser extent, the Second World War is commemorated on 8 May. American contributions to both wars are recalled during ceremonies at the nineteen American military cemeteries in Europe on Memorial Day in late May. Continue reading

Captivity of Jeanne d’Arc

03c Captivity of Jeanne d’Arc: 18 June 1430 to 25 December 1430
Region: Picardy, Nord Pas-de-Calais, and Haute-Normandy
Country: France

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” [This battlefield is not included in Fields of War.]

Summary: After her capture at the gates of Compiègne by Count Jean II of Luxembourg, Jeanne d’Arc was held captive at several locations while negotiations for the payment of a ransom took place. Eventually the Duke of Bedford purchased her from Count Jean and she was released into English custody.
This Virtual Battlefields Tour traces Jeanne’s route as she was moved towards English held territory along the Channel coast, then as the English moved her to Rouen, their capital in France.


View Jeanne in Captivity- A Virtual Battlefield Tour by French Battlefields ( in a larger map

Capture of Jeanne d’Arc

After the elimination of the English threat to the Loire valley, Jeanne pressured the Dauphin to seek his rightful throne as king of France. Two months later, amidst great pageantry, she stood beside the new king at his coronation as Charles VII in Reims Cathedral, the traditional location for crowning kings of France.

Compiegne, one of the earliest royal cities in France, retains numerous large buildings that date from the 15th century or earlier. The city provides an opportunity to view original structures dating from this period.

03b Capture of Jeanne d’Arc at Compiègne: 18 June 1430
Département: Oise
Region: Picardy
Country: France

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” [This battlefield is not included in Fields of War.]

Summary: In March 1430, Jeanne left the court to help with the defense of Compiegne against attack by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, an English ally. On 23 May she led a sortie against the besiegers. Jeanne became trapped and taken prisoner by the men of Count Jean II of Luxembourg when the gates closed during her force’s retreat.

Charles made no attempt to rescue his heroine, mainly due to court intrigue against her by those jealous of her increasing influence. In November, she was sold by Jean to the English, as was the custom of the time for important captives.

View 03b Capture of Jeanne d’Arc at Compiègne: 18 June 1430 in a larger map

Easter in Soissons

The Chemin des Dames battlefield is frequently overlooked by English-speaking visitors. That is unfortunate. The Germans had been ensconced on an 18-mile irregularly-shaped ridgeline that overlooked the Aisne valley for almost three years. During their occupation, they prepared extensive defensive positions both on the ridge and in caves and tunnels dug into the sides of the hills. The French Army decided to attack those strongpoints in April 1917. Everything was against their success; the strategic plan, the terrain, and the weather. The Nivelle Offensive was a disaster for the French, costing them almost 200,000 casualties and inciting a widespread army mutiny. Continue reading