Activities

Honoring Service, Achievements, and Sacrifice: Virtual Field Trip to the Meuse-Argonne Battlefield

Guiding Question:

How does physical evidence help us understand the service, achievements, and sacrifices made by American Expeditionary Forces during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and along the Western Front during World War I?

Overview:

In this activity students use an ArcGIS Online Story Map to take a virtual field trip to the Meuse-Argonne battlefield where they explore the experiences of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Students have the opportunity to see 3D visualizations of World War I (WWI) tunnels, trenches, bunkers, and ruins; follow a go-cam video showing where American doughboys, as American soldiers were known, fought; and learn why American Battle Monument Commission (ABMC) monuments and cemeteries were established along the Western Front to commemorate American service, achievement, and sacrifice during WWI.

Activity

Historical Context

After the end of WWI, the U.S. Congress established the ABMC to create war memorials and permanent U.S. military burial grounds in honor of those who lost their lives on foreign soil.

The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France, which covers 130.5 acres, has more than 14,000 graves, the largest number of American military dead in Europe. Most of them lost their lives during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of WWI.

Seven miles south of the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery is the WWI Montfaucon American Monument. The 200-foot granite Doric column towers over the ruins of the former village. It commemorates American victory at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from September 26, 1918 to November 11, 1918, when the American First Army forced the enemy to retreat, helping to lead to the Armistice.

Objectives

At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Identify and explain what evidence from WWI is still present on France’s landscape 100 years later.
  • Identify the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, explain why it was built along the Western Front, and discuss the role it serves today.
  • Use primary source evidence to explain the significance of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, and Montfaucon American Monument.
  • Use primary source evidence to identify examples of service, achievement, and sacrifice during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
  • Explain why the Medal of Honor was awarded to Freddy Stowers and other American soldiers.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear among the key details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.Geo.1.9-12. Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their political, cultural, and economic dynamics.
D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
D2.His.14.9-12. Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects on events in the past.
D2.His.15.9-12. Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.

Lesson Preparation

Procedure

Activity (60 minutes)

  • Pass out the Honoring Service, Achievements, and Sacrifice Student Directions and Worksheet to each student.
  • Have students go to the “Honoring Service, Achievements, and Sacrifice” Story Map.
  • Demonstrate for the students how to use the interactive Story Map.
  • Explain that the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was one of the largest land offensives in American military history and helped bring an end to WWI. The battle took place along one of the most highly fortified areas of the Western Front and resulted in over 120,000 casualties. Following WWI, the U.S. Congress established the ABMC to serve as the “guardian of America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials and to honor the service, achievements, and sacrifice of U.S. Armed Forces.” During the next 45 minutes (teacher discretion) the students will interact with this map and take a virtual field trip to visit the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the Montfaucon American Monument, and key sites.
  • Have students navigate the Story Map using the Honoring Service, Achievements, and Sacrifice Student Directions and Worksheet. Monitor their progress by providing technical, content, and primary source analysis support.

Closure: When students have completed the activity, review questions and answers while projecting the ArcGIS Online map. Highlight areas mentioned during the discussion/review. Key discussion points include, but are not limited to:

  • What did you learn about WWI and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive during the “field trip?”
  • What evidence is still visible on France’s landscape that reminds us that the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the site of one of the most important battles of WWI?
  • What did you discover that indicates service, achievement, and sacrifice by American forces?
  • Point out the five important heights that helped control the region: Montfaucon, Romagne Heights, Heights of the Meuse, Argonne Forest, and Barricourt Heights.
  • Why is Stowers important in American history? Did anything surprise you about his story and Medal of Honor? How about the other headstones and soldiers you visited during the field trip? What did you notice?
  • What role do you think ABMC cemeteries and memorials play in commemorating American service, achievement, and sacrifice?

Assessment Materials

  • Students complete the attached Honoring Service, Achievements, and Sacrifice Student Directions and Worksheet. Teachers review and grade their answers and contributions to classroom discussion.

Methods for Extension

  • Students may complete the following ABMC lessons about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive: “It’s Now or Never: The Meuse-Argonne Offensive,” or “Geography is War: The Case of the Lost Battalion.”

Adaptations

  • The class can complete this activity using one computer and LCD projector.