In Flanders Fields – The Flanders Field American Cemetery

11 April 2017

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

– John McCrae   

As a student in elementary school in the 1950s, I was expected to learn “In Flanders Fields.” Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae wrote it on 3 May 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. I don’t remember particularly relating to his words, or even poppies. After the past few days, after seeing “row on row” of soldiers who died, after walking in the trenches and “between the crosses,” this poem symbolizes so much more to me today.  (more…)

The Ypres Salient and Last Post

9 April 2017

The day dawns sunny and warm, the sky a clear blue. The fields are a scene of tranquility. Spring is blooming and trees are budding. The roads of Belgium are filled with great squadrons of cyclists. The ducks and swans share the waters with the occasional fisherman or boat. Church bells peal in the distance; nearby it is birds I hear.

The day is too beautiful to be marred by sadness as I descend into the tunnels and trench fortifications of Dodengang along the Ypres Salient. No sound of the booming German guns; no threat of sharp shooters. It is warm and sunny in the trenches without a hint of water or ankle-deep mud.  (more…)

The Somme – Fighting The Great War

8 April 2017

It would be hard to choose the most brutal war, the most dehumanizing war, the most wasteful war. Perhaps Belgium should have the right to declare it. The Great War, World War Two, the Napoleonic wars, were savagely acted out on its flat, soggy soil. The farmland over which I watch the dairy cows graze, the white cherry trees blossom, and the plethora of blooming flowers is known as the Battleground of Europe. This idyll is deceiving.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly”

Every town and village has a monument. Enter a battlefield area, a killing zone, you will find cemetery after cemetery: here the Commonwealth, there a Canadian, around the corner graves of Australians, two miles on silent stones bear witness to the slaughter of Germans, South Africans, Americans, New Zealanders who came here from Gallipoli, Czechoslovakians, Polish, and Belgian. “The War to end all wars” ultimately would involve five continents and thirty-two countries, each loosing thousands of lives. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row….” (more…)

Verdun – Fighting The Great War

Men who fought here called it ”The Meat-Grindr.”  6 April 2017

I drive the Western Front. Names of towns and their historic significance batter me: Passchendaele, Ieper, Lille, Vimy, Peronne. VERDUN! 

“They shall not pass.” 

This is the infamous Argonne; it breaths the words of Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front.” It is quiet, but the serenity is deceiving. This soil has probably seen more mayhem and death than anywhere in the world. The men who fought here called it “The Meat-Grinder.”  (more…)

World War Two: The Ardennes and Battle of the Bulge

5 April 2017

I drive the Ardennes. Miles and miles of stunning emerald green fields, the cherry trees a splash of white, just flowering out. Other trees are still in dormancy and an elegant contrast with the green and the white. Cows graze the fields, white too against the green grass. I drive along ridges, the earth dropping precipitously into what is the Meuse Valley where hundreds of thousands of men have fallen in battle. (more…)


4 April 2017

Any kid knows of Napoleon and Waterloo. Of a right age when Waterloo is mentioned, some may think of ABBA. Even older? How about Stonewall Jackson or Ferlin Husky? I remember all of them, but mostly I think of the extraordinary general who was Napoléon Bonaparte. (more…)


3 April 2017

Brussels has changed since I last visited. In fact, Brussels was the first “out of country” event I ever experienced. Way back in 1972 this novice traveler landed in Brussels with too much baggage, too high of heels, and too many whistle-provoking clothes. Google Maps wasn’t even close to being realized. 

Today, I am back. One little bag, sensible shoes, too old for whistles and using my Google Map to navigate the short distance to my wonderful Hotel Agora Brussels Grand Palace.  (more…)