Explore battlefields, military cemeteries, World War I museums, memorials, and monuments as you trace the footsteps of those who sacrificed so much. In Paris, discover the influences of French culture on American veterans who stayed on after the war and made their presence felt through dance, music, entertainment, and intellect. 


This program is available to members of NMAAHC exclusively as a benefit of membership for a limited period of time.

Starting at: $6,750 Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 African American soldiers marching in France during WWI  Arc de Triomphe in Paris  Stained glass window of the cathedral in Reims  The trenches used near Argonne during World War I  The landscape of a World War I battlefield near Verdun  World War I cemetery at Verdun  Bunker near Verdun

The Great War in France

The African American Experience

9 days from $6,750

Explore battlefields, military cemeteries, World War I museums, memorials, and monuments as you trace the footsteps of those who sacrificed so much. In Paris, discover the influences of French culture on American veterans who stayed on after the war and made their presence felt through dance, music, entertainment, and intellect. 


This program is available to members of NMAAHC exclusively as a benefit of membership for a limited period of time.

or Call 855-330-1542

Overview

On the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, you are invited to explore the battlefields of France where many African Americans bravely fought and helped shape post-war Europe. Learn how the United States’ declaration of war on Germany on April 6, 1917, ultimately resulted in nearly 200,000 African Americans serving overseas; from the early stevedores who arrived in June 1917 to the last Graves Registration soldiers who departed in 1919. Over that period, roughly 37,000 African Americans also served as combat soldiers in the 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions. During their service, these Services of Supply (SOS) and infantry troops brought a culture to France (and Europe) that influenced generations for decades. Learn the personal histories of war heroes like Corporal Freddie Stowers, fighter pilot Eugene Bullard, and Private Henry Johnson. Plus, understand the contributions of African American women, such as Addie Hunton and Kathryn Johnson, and the influences of private citizens, such as Henry O. Tanner. Discover the reciprocal influences of French culture on American veterans who stayed on after the war and made their presence felt by inspiring Parisians with their dance, music, entertainment, and intellect. 

To see itinerary, please click on an option below.

Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 — Depart the U.S. and Arrive Paris

Arrive at Charles de Gaulle International Airport and transfer to the Hotel du Collectionneur, a stylish, Art Deco hotel located on the Right Bank. For those who arrive by mid-afternoon, embark on a walking tour with a local guide to explore the Champs Elysees, Parc Monceau, and the Arc de Triomphe. Enjoy a welcome reception and dinner together tonight. (R,D)

Day 3 — City Hall Exhibit and Lafayette Escadrille Memorial

After breakfast, gather for an overview of the program with a presentation by your Smithsonian Journeys Expert, Krewasky Salter. Depart for Hôtel des Invalides, an impressive complex of buildings encompassing the heart of French military history. Begun by Louis XIV as a hospital and retirement home for French soldiers, and where Napoleon was buried in the great crypt, today it houses the Musée de l’Armée, famous for its military collections from the middle ages to World War I and II. After lunch, pay your respects at the Lafayette Escadrille Monument on the outskirts of Paris, in Marnes-la-Coquette. More than 250 American pilots served in the French Air Force’s special Lafayette Escadrille squadron, created in 1916. Learn about Eugene Bullard, an African American pilot who is memorialized there. When war broke out, Bullard volunteered for the French Army and was wounded fighting at Verdun. Afterward, he joined the French Air Force and became a daring pilot. He was awarded Knight of the Legion of Honor, France's most coveted award, by General Charles de Gaulle.   (B,L)

Day 4 — Paris / Meaux / Château-Thierry / Verdun

Check out of the hotel and take a short drive this morning to Meaux, a historic town near Paris, to visit the Musée de la Grande Guerre, one of the largest World War I museums in the world. Enjoy lunch at a local brasserie before departing for Château-Thierry and the American Memorial. At this site in July 1918, the American 3rd Infantry Division fought alongside the French to stop the German advance at the 2nd Battle of the Marne. See the fountain erected in memory of Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin, a World War I pilot, who was shot down over the German lines. Next, visit the Memorial of Dormans, commemorating the two battles of the Marne. Continue your journey across Champagne and Lorraine to Verdun. Check into your hotel. Before dinner, gather this evening for a presentation by special guests from the American Battle Monuments Commission for an overview of the decisive battles that took place in the region. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Verdun

This morning, experience a guided tour of the bastion and underground casements at Fort Douaumont. Learn about the merciless bombardment of Verdun by German forces during what was a 303 day battle in 1916. The battle of Verdun was one of the most costly in human history.  Afterwards, we visit the Douaumont Ossuary and Fleury-devant-Douaumont, one of the lost villages of Verdun. After lunch we visit the Verdun Museum, a memorial to commemorate the Battle of Verdun. Enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at leisure.  (B,L)

Day 6 — The Meuse-Argonne Offensive

The attack in the Meuse-Argonne region was the largest and most successful American battle of the war and greatly contributed to the Allied victory. Begin at the renovated Meuse-Argonne American Military Visitors Center for an overview of the battlefield, led by a local guide. Learn about the stories of the African Americans in combat and those who worked as graves registration soldiers. Hear the tales of the “Gold Star Mothers” and explore the Meuse-Argonne American Military Cemetery, the largest American military cemetery in Europe. Most of those buried here fell in the offensive of 1918, including the US Army’s African American 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions. It is also the resting place of Corporal Freddie Stowers of the 371st Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division. Stowers, who was killed in action on Hill 188 on September 28, 1928, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush. Lay a wreath at Corporal Stowers’ headstone. before departing Meuse-Argonne Cemetery for Montfaucon Monument and site of the 92nd Infantry Division battles. Known as the “Buffalo Soldier Division,” the 92nd was composed of draftees and served as part of the First Army’s reserve during the Meuse-Argonne battles.

Next, visit the dense woods of the Argonne Forest near Champagne, to see the battle sites of the 93rd Infantry Division, known as the “Blue Helmets.” The 93rd Division was never made part of the larger US effort, but its regiments fought successfully under the command of several French Armies. Learn about Private Henry Johnson who served in Company C, 369th Infantry, 93rd Division, a hero who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Barack Obama on June 2, 2015. Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 15, 1918 while on sentry duty. While in the Argonne Forest, discover some of the well-preserved trenches and cave systems.

Return to the hotel. Before dinner, gather for a discussion on the often overlooked military support roles African Americans played in WWI. Learn about the impact and the legacy of the African American community in post-war Paris. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Verdun / Sommepy Monument / Reims / Paris

Check out of your hotel and depart Verdun this morning heading to Reims. Trace the final weeks of the war in the region. Visit the Monuments in Séchault commemorating the 369th regiment and the Monthois Monument commemorating the 372nd Infantry of the 93rd Division. Lay a wreath at the Monument to 371st Regiments at Ardeuil-Montfauxelles. Then, pay your respects at the Sommepy Monument that honors African American soldiers of the 369th, 371st and 372nd Infantry Regiments who fought alongside French Troops. The 369th, or “Harlem Hellfighters” Regiment, included Medal of Honor recipient Private Henry Johnson. Lastly, visit Côte 188, a hill where an intense battle between African American troops, led and inspired by Corporal Stowers, and German soldiers, resulted in the capture of Hill 188 and heavy German casualties. In Reims, enjoy lunch on your own before visiting the cathedral, one of the great symbols of the war.  Before returning to Paris, stop at a traditional Champagne wine cellar for a tour and tasting. After checking into your hotel, enjoy a free evening. (B)

Day 8 — African-American Influences in Post-War Paris

Although African Americans had made their way to France well before the war, the culture began to thrive in Paris during the 1920s. Enjoy a specially guided walking tour including the historical sites of Montmartre and La Pigalle, where jazz clubs like Ada Smith’s Chez Bricktops and Le Grand Duc once stood, and where Josephine Baker and Cole Porter performed. Famous musicians, such as Sydney Bechet, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong followed in their footsteps. Afterward, head to Montparnasse and St. Germain, the heart of the thriving arts and literary scene in the 1920s. Learn about Henry Ossawa Tanner, an African American artist who moved to France in 1891. His paintings now hang in several American museums, including the White House. For his Red Cross work during the war, Tanner was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Enjoy your last afternoon in Paris at leisure before gathering for tonight’s farewell dinner at one of Paris’ iconic jazz clubs, Duc des Lombards. (B,D)

Day 9 — Depart for the U.S.

After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the U.S.  (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)