In the Trenches

A majority of the locations I’ve visited in Europe have had a museum, statue, plaque, or some component of written information from which I gather data. Embracing the interdisciplinary nature of my research, however, I have recently ventured into an abbreviated form of historical archaeology in which I got down and dirty with my marines in the trenches of France.

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The Simple Truth is Truth Resists Simplicity (And So Does Research)

I had already put in a good deal of legwork on my project (refresher: “On the Warpath: In the Footsteps of the American Combat Infantry in the World Wars”) before it was approved. I already had a file folder with letters from around fifty Marines from which I could pull for World War I. As you may recall from my previous post I am also fortunate enough to have gained the resources of a small British nonprofit, The Friends of the Assault Training Center, whose archives include lists of units that passed through the ATC and into Normandy. I had already mostly mapped out the locations in which I was likely to stop off to hit archives, battlefields, memorials, and museums around Europe in quest of further information and material. This is a huge project to undertake, but I was feeling reasonably confident about my chances of success when I dove into more detailed research this week.

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On the Warpath

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, as a matter of fact, it was a mostly cloudy early afternoon in February when I walked into the Tourist Information office in the small town of Combe Martin in North Devon, England. It did turn out to be pretty dramatic, though. As I looked for a map that would tell me how to access the nearby coastal cliff hiking path, I struck up a conversation with a man standing nearby. He “detected a North American accent,” which led to a discussion of my study abroad term and area of study. This in turn found us marveling at the serendipity that had brought together a (novice) U.S. military historian and a British WWII hobbyist employed by a small nonprofit that preserves the Assault Training Center, where American troops perfected their amphibious assault techniques before launching into Normandy on D-Day.

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