World War I: America in The Great War
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Date(s) - 01/06/2023 - 10/06/2023
All Day

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World War I History Tour: An American Journey through "The Great War" in Partnership with SMU's Center for Presidential History

JUNE 1-10, 2023

Southern Methodist University’s (SMU’s) Center for Presidential History’s Dr. Jeffrey A. Engel and Essential History Expeditions’ Dr. Brian DeToy are pleased to partner for an onsite exploration of America’s involvement in The Great War. This trip is open to SMU students, faculty and friends of the university as well as all EHE guests. This trip represents the fifth partnership between CPH and EHE and all guests — whether affiliated with the university or not — have found the partnership to be a fabulous collaboration. A connection with SMU is not a requirement to join this trip.

It has been just over 100 years since the guns fell silent and World War I ended. Still, the events of that era continue to shape and affect our world today. Four major monarchies and empires collapsed in history’s greatest shift in European and world power. The United States and the Soviet Union became major global players out of the ashes. The new map of the world created from the war continues to have significant impact on current events.

The war had been underway for nearly three years when the United States entered WWI on the Allied side in April 1917. However, it would be another year until the American forces finally made their impact on the battlefield. And it was a decisive impact that demonstrated the unflinching resolve of freedom-loving peoples and brought an end to the bloodiest conflict in human history to that point. If your mind is set on a belief that World War I was nothing but static trench warfare and no movement, you will be surprised to encounter the American fighting forces involved in one great maneuver offensive after another. We now, at the centennial, have the incredible opportunity to follow in the footsteps of these young Americans in the Great War tour. In fact, in some of the places we will be there on the same dates as in June 1918!

This America in World War I history tour will bring guests to the verdant fields; and villages, towns and cities where the youth of America made their most indelible mark. From the Big Red One in the first fight at Cantigny, to the Marines at Belleau Wood; from American infantrymen assaulting the lines at St Quentin Canal and the St Mihiel Salient, to the largest battle in American history in the Meuse-Argonne. From the story of the Lost Battalion, to Sergeant York’s exploits, to the four Roosevelt brothers, and so many other iconic stories and sites. We will also pay respect to our allies by visiting the British battles at Mons and Ieper/Passchendaele, the Canadians at Vimy Ridge, the Australians in the Somme and the French at Verdun.

The World War I history tour unfolds over nine days with stories of all the allied participants as well as those of the German defenders. In addition, Essential History Expeditions guests will visit amazing heritage sites in the regions where the Americans fought, including:

  • Ieper/Ypres: the Flemish town that saw non-stop fighting from 1914 through 1918. Its famed Cloth Hall and Menin Gate Ceremony will inspire you. For the British, there is no more sacred place in all the war. Four American divisions fought here in the summer and fall of 1918.
  • Epernay: the justly famed Champagne district where we will visit the “capital” of Epernay and its vineyards, gastropubs and more.
  • Compiegne: where the Germans surrendered in WWI and the French initially surrendered in WWII. It is also an amazing small city of rich history including the capture of Joan of Arc, and where Louis XIV and the two Napoleons had chateaux and palaces.
  • Reims: the city of Kings! In its great Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims nearly every French monarch was crowned over the long centuries. We will also visit Eisenhower’s final WWII headquarters, including the map room where the Germans surrendered to the Western Allies on May 8, 1945 (V-E Day!).

The rich farmland, the quaint villages and the dramatic hills and forests of France create an incredibly memorable backdrop for this World War I centennial history tour.

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Jeffrey A. Engel is founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and a Senior Fellow of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. Author or editor of ten books on American foreign policy, his latest is When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War.

Essential History Expeditions’ president, expert historian and guide, Lt Col (Ret) Brian DeToy, PhD served as Director of the Defense & Strategic Studies program at the United States Military Academy, West Point from 2007-13. He has appeared in numerous documentaries for programming such as History, Discovery, A&E and Military channels. He is also an accomplished author and presenter at international history conferences.

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Dr Brian DeToy Essential History Expeditions


My son and I just returned from the World War I trip. It was better than I ever imagined. Everything was absolutely beyond what I had envisioned. Brian made the history come alive, and Sheryl attended to every little detail. I could have spent another week or two with them. 5 stars is not enough. Can’t wait to go with them again.

We just got back from the D-Day/Normandy trip with our family. Since our five kids are now between ages 27 & 17, it was likely our last vacation with the whole family. Two friends of our children joined us. Perfect falls short of describing it. There were excellent accommodations, comfortable transportation to the sites, tasty meals, completely thorough presentations of the history with a personal touch and fine company to share. It all went off like clock-work – even bathroom breaks. Sheryl & Brian have this wired and are experts at their craft. Worth every dime and beyond our wildest expectations – we were thrilled to have this experience for our family. It was a stress-free trip and the standard by which all other vacations will be judged.

It is a shame that rating Essential History Expeditions is limited to only five stars. EHE earns a constellation of positive recognition. Brian is learned in history of great depth as well as the ability to impart such knowledge in a clear and enthusiastic manner. His knowledge is not limited to the topic at hand, in this case EHE’s D-Day tour, but of eclectic history over the ages. We passed a street in France and when someone mentioned the name of the street Brian entertained us with an impromptu mini lecture on the person after whom the street was named, who they were and what they did that earned a street. We visited Mont Saint-Michel whose groundbreaking occurred in the 10th century and the ribbon cutting ceremony centuries later and yet once again Brian provided great insight into the history and events surrounding this island commune. Sheryl, Brian’s most capable and gracious business and life partner, made a complex trip look easy. A most worthy and appreciated skill. Be it lodging, box lunches, transportation (impromptu or otherwise), it all just magically happened(!). I have never been so well cared for on a hosted trip. I learned so much from this trip of a lifetime while being well cared for and socializing with well matched people of similar interests all of whom immensely enjoyed the camaraderie. We all were guided through the shadow of history of very brave people, soldiers as well as civilian; Allied as well as Axis and we were honored to do so. I encourage you to experience Essential History Expeditions. It could be your trip of a lifetime as well.


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Essential History Expeditions Tours
WWI History Tour
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WWI France Tour Meuse Argonne
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Essential History Expeditions history tour

Day 1, June 1: Brussels and Welcome

  • Arrival and lunch on your own.
  • Afternoon meeting at our central Brussels hotel, with introductions to the expedition and each other.
  • Walking tour of central Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Occupied by the Germans throughout most of the war, today it is home to the European Union and NATO, among other international institutions. We will see the Royal Palace, Grand Place, the Mannekin Pis and more.
  • Social hour and group dinner in central Brussels.
  • Hotel: Marriott Grand Place or similar

Day 2, June 2: Mons, Passchendaele and Ieper/Ypres

  • Breakfast, check-out and depart lodgings.
  • Drive to Mons and visit St Symphorien military cemetery. Here the soldiers are almost equally divided between Germans and Commonwealth. In addition, the first Commonwealth soldier to be killed in the war (August 1914) and the last Commonwealth soldier killed (November 11, 1918) lie here. The battlefield at Mons was Britain’s first in the war. After briefly holding up the German advance, the BEF began its long retreat toward Paris.
  • Visit a portion of the battlefields near Ieper/Ypres. The Americans participated in the last major offensive that crossed the Scheldt River in the war’s final days.
  • Visit Ieper/Ypres. Three battles for this Belgian town (the last is sometimes called Passchendaele, as well) were some of the bloodiest and hardest fought of the war. We will visit the Passchendaele Museum for lunch on your own and tour of its magnificent collections including a WWI trench system. Visit Essex Farm British cemetery, where John McCrae (of “In Flanders Fields” poem fame) is buried.
  • Social hour and group dinner in Ieper.
  • Attend 8pm ceremony at the Menin Gate for the soldiers of Ypres (a nightly tradition for 100 years).
  • Hotel: Ariane Hotel or similar in Ieper

Day 3, June 3: Vimy and Arras

  • Breakfast, check-out and depart lodgings.
  • Visit sites associated with the siege of Ieper, including American actions at the Kemmelberg and Messines Ridge (scenes of some of the largest mine warfare in the entire conflict).
  • Drive to Vimy Ridge Canadian Memorial, one of the most moving national monuments anywhere. Discuss the battle that helped establish Canadian national consciousness.
  • Group Lunch near Vimy.
  • Afternoon drive to Arras and visit Commonwealth battles sites in the vicinity including the huge underground barracks complex and subterranean warfare.
  • Social hour and group dinner in Arras.
  • Hotel: Best Western Plus The Fairway or similar in Arras

Day 4, June 4: The Somme, Cantigny and St Quentin

  • Breakfast, check-out and depart lodgings.
  • First we drive to and visit Cantigny – site of the American’s first battle, May 1918, where the 1st Infantry Division (the “Big Red One”) help stem the major German Spring Offensive that is designed to end the war!
  • Next up is the Somme – site of the incredible offensive in July 1916, the defining moment of the British participation in the Great War. Over 57,000 British soldiers fall as casualties the first day, as do an addition 14,000 French and Germans. But the weight of this attack, in combination with the intense fighting going on simultaneously at Verdun, leads the Germans to make strategic errors that bring the Americans into the war. Our focus will be on the 1918 Australian battle at Villers-Bretonneux. The incredible Australian National Memorial is located here, as well.
  • Group Lunch in the nearby town of Corbie, outside of which the Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was shot down and killed in April 1918.
  • Drive to and visit the battlefields along the St Quentin Canal (September-October 1918) – the Americans, alongside Australian and other British troops, break through the Hindenburg Line in the last months of the war, turning the stalemate into a race toward Germany.
  • Visit the Somme American Cemetery, where the first American officer killed in the war is buried (Lieutenant Fitzsimmons – the famed Denver hospital is named for him).
  • Continue on to Reims.
  • Social hour and group dinner.
  • Hotel: La Caserne Chanzy Marriott Autograph Collection or similar in Reims

Day 5, June 5: Reims and the Champagne Region

  • Breakfast
  • Morning walking tour of Reims, one of the most famous and beautiful cities in France:
    • The Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims, which played an important ceremonial role in French monarchical history as the traditional site of the crowning of the kings of France.
    • Surrender Museum, a former school building, where the Germans surrendered to Eisenhower on May 8, 1945 in the map room that remains set as it was on that day!
  • On your own day all afternoon to explore this historic city and/or to take a champagne tasting tour in one of the world’s most famous wine regions! In Reims, famous champagne houses such as Taittinger, Mumm and Veuve Clicquot offer tours and tasting rooms.
  • Dinner on your own in Reims.
  • Hotel: La Caserne Chanzy Marriott Autograph Collection or similar in Reims

Day 6, June 6: The Marne and the Aisne-Marne Offensive

  • Breakfast
  • In Belleau Wood (June 1918) – we will see the 2nd Infantry Division and its attached Marines counterattack into the thick forest where the Germans have approached near the Marne. To this day it remains sacred ground for the “Devil Dog” Marines.
  • American Aisne-Marne and German Cemeteries at Belleau Wood.
  • Chateau-Thierry (May-June 1918) – The 3rd Infantry Division (the “Rock of the Marne”) stops the German attack and the tide of the battle shifts to the allies. This is a major turning point.
  • Group lunch in Chateau-Thierry.
  • Continue along the Marne River to Epernay for a delightful Champagne tasting and tour of the vineyards and cellars at the world-famous Moet & Chandon vineyard.
  • Dinner on your own in Reims.
  • Hotel: La Caserne Chanzy Marriott Autograph Collection or similar in Reims

Day 7, June 7: The Aisne-Marne and Oise-Aisne Offensives

  • Breakfast
  • Aisne-Marne and Oise-Aisne offensives (July-September 1918) – the Americans’ first major Army-size attack drives the Germans back in the summer of 1918. These are slogging battles that see the Americans push deep into the German lines. One of the major assault units is MacArthur’s 42d Infantry (the “Rainbow Division”) and we will follow its advance, including a visit to the famed Croix Rouge Farm where lies the division’s moving memorial. We will have a boxed lunch on the battlefield this day.
  • Visit the small village of Chamery and the Roosevelt Family memorial fountain, placed in honor of their son, Quentin, an Army pilot shot down and killed nearby in July 1918.
  • Visit Oise-Aisne American Cemetery.
  • Visit the riverside towns of Fismes and Fismettes, scenes of some of the bloodies urban fighting of the war, where the American 28th Division fought German stormtroopers to a standstill.
  • Group dinner in Reims.
  • Hotel: La Caserne Chanzy Marriott Autograph Collection or similar in Reims

Day 8, June 8: Verdun and the St Mihiel Offensive

  • Breakfast
  • Verdun – site of the epic French defense and victory in 1916; this battle shapes the remainder of the war through its intense fighting and the incredible casualties sustained by both French and Germans. We will visit the incredible museum, walk the forests and see the famed forts of Vaux and Douamont.
  • Group Lunch at café in the destroyed town of Douamont.
  • St Mihiel Salient (September 1918) – Before the major offensive can be conducted by General Pershing’s Americans in the Argonne Forest, he first has to eliminate a bulge in the allied lines. The attack succeeds when the Americans break into the salient led by Colonel George Patton’s tanks. We will visit a number of sites in the battle area, including the commanding heights of Montsec.
  • Visit St Mihiel American Cemetery.
  • Social hour and dinner on your own in Reims.
  • Hotel: La Caserne Chanzy Marriott Autograph Collection or similar in Reims

Day 9, June 9: The Meuse-Argonne Offensive

  • Breakfast
  • Meuse-Argonne Offensive (September 11 to November 1918) – the largest American battle in history, and the biggest American contribution to Allied victory. This day will find us at many remarkable sites, including Harry Truman’s artillery battery, Sergeant Alvin York’s capture of 132 Germans in his one-man crusade, and the incredible story of the Lost Battalion and its fight.
  • Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery – the largest resting place of Americans in Europe.
  • Montfaucon Monument and Sommepy Memorial – dramatic monuments to the Americans in the Great War. Montfaucon was a significant German defensive position and its capture and control will allow the Americans to advance deep into the heart of the German line, breaking it apart for the final drive to victory!
  • Social hour and final group dinner.
  • Hotel: La Caserne Chanzy Marriott Autograph Collection or similar in Reims

Day 10, June 10: Surrender at Compiegne and Paris

  • Breakfast, check-out and depart lodgings.
  • Visit the Butte de Chalmont, where an impressive hilltop monument commemorates the Allied victory in the battles of 1918.
  • Drive to Compiegne to visit:
    • Historic town of Joan of Arc.
    • Château de Compiègne, a royal residence built for Louis XIV and restored by Napoleon.
    • Railway car site for the surrenders in November 1918 and June 1940. The victory monument placed here by the people of Alsace and Lorraine is a truly dramatic image. A tremendous museum has recently opened at the site.
    • Lunch on your own in one of the numerous restaurants in the center of the beautiful town.
  • Drive to Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport to drop guests with flights that day, while the others will return to central Paris and end of the expedition.
Reims History Tour


  • Ten days, nine nights touring
  • In-depth guided tours with professional historian Dr. Brian DeToy and Dr. Jeffrey Engel
  • Visit to major World War I battle sites
  • Visit local French cultural/historical sites, including a Champagne tour and tasting at the renowned Moet & Chandon vineyard
  • Transportation by luxury bus throughout trip
  • Optional opportunity to role-play an important character in World War I or French cultural history
  • Majority of all meals as identified on itinerary (alcoholic drinks are excluded)
  • All entrance fees for group activities
  • Gratuities for docents and restaurants
  • Personalized tour support
  • Travel insurance available through Travelex (contact Sheryl at for a personalized quote)
  • Itinerary subject to slight changes
World War I tour


  • Let’s set up a conference call! We would love to chat with you and answer any questions you may have.
  • Complete the contact form below and let’s set up a call.


  • Pricing: $5,450 per person, double occupancy; single occupancy supplement $750.
  • Pricing Students: $3,995 per person, double occupancy.
  • $1,000 per person deposit due upon registration.
  • See Terms & Conditions for payment schedule and cancellation policy.
  • Active duty and career retired military, and current and career retired educators receive a 5 percent discount.
  • All repeat Essential History Expeditions guests receive a 10 percent discount on this expedition.
World War I: America in The Great War 01/06/2023 - 10/06/2023 All Day World War I: America in The Great War World War I: America in The Great War It has been just over 100 years since the guns fell silent and World War I ended. Still, the events of that era continue to shape and affect our world today. Four major monarchies and empires collapsed in history’s greatest shift in European and world power. Mission Critical Systems 01-06-2023T00:00 01-06-2023T23:59 Active Active 01-06-2023 Active $0.00 01-06-2023
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