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Then and now: France's World War I battle-scape

| Thursday, May 24, 2018, 8:09 a.m.
This combo of two photographs shows, at left, Estella Margaret Kendall at the grave of her son, Harry N. Kendall, in 1931, located in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, eastern France, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, at right, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at left, Estella Margaret Kendall at the grave of her son, Harry N. Kendall, in 1931, located in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, eastern France, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, at right, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows German prisoners captured in Battle of Argonne by 35th Div., drawing water from a well for their mess, dated Nov. 9, 1918, in Pierrefitte-sur-Aire, eastern France, top, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later, on March 26, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows German prisoners captured in Battle of Argonne by 35th Div., drawing water from a well for their mess, dated Nov. 9, 1918, in Pierrefitte-sur-Aire, eastern France, top, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later, on March 26, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, and provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, Gen. Pershing, center right, addressing officers of the First Division on April 16, 1918 before they leave for the line in Chaumont-en-Vexin, 60 kilometers (38 miles) north of Paris, France, and below, a view of the same location 100 years later on April 14, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, and provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, Gen. Pershing, center right, addressing officers of the First Division on April 16, 1918 before they leave for the line in Chaumont-en-Vexin, 60 kilometers (38 miles) north of Paris, France, and below, a view of the same location 100 years later on April 14, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, Britain's King George V, center left 1st row, on Aug. 6, 1918, as he visits the 33rd Div. and distributes honor medals in Molliens-au-Bois, northern France, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, Britain's King George V, center left 1st row, on Aug. 6, 1918, as he visits the 33rd Div. and distributes honor medals in Molliens-au-Bois, northern France, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows a 4th of July Parade in Paris, France, top, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, dated July 4, 1918, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on May 21, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows a 4th of July Parade in Paris, France, top, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, dated July 4, 1918, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on May 21, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, members of Company A, 110th Engineering, 35th Division, on Oct. 7, 1918, assembled for the first time since the battle of Argonne, in Conde-en-Barrois, Meuse region, eastern France, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 26, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, members of Company A, 110th Engineering, 35th Division, on Oct. 7, 1918, assembled for the first time since the battle of Argonne, in Conde-en-Barrois, Meuse region, eastern France, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 26, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, top, the first American wagons to enter Stenay, Meuse region, eastern France, on Nov. 11, 1918, under the command of Lieut. R. M. Huten, Company A, 353rd Regiment infantry, 99th Division, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location nearly 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, top, the first American wagons to enter Stenay, Meuse region, eastern France, on Nov. 11, 1918, under the command of Lieut. R. M. Huten, Company A, 353rd Regiment infantry, 99th Division, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location nearly 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, the wounded being treated by the 110th Sanitary Train, 137th Field Hospital, 35th Div., dated Sept. 20, 1918, in an old church in Neuvilly-en-Argonne, eastern France, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, the wounded being treated by the 110th Sanitary Train, 137th Field Hospital, 35th Div., dated Sept. 20, 1918, in an old church in Neuvilly-en-Argonne, eastern France, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows the 104th Infantry Supply Train, 35th Division, on Oct. 7, 1918, passing through Conde-en-Barrois, Meuse region, eastern France, top, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 26, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows the 104th Infantry Supply Train, 35th Division, on Oct. 7, 1918, passing through Conde-en-Barrois, Meuse region, eastern France, top, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 26, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, celebrations or armistice by Company A, 353rd Regiment Infantry, 89th Div., on church steps on Nov. 11, 1918, which they reached at 11:00am, in Stenay, Meuse region, eastern France, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows, at top, celebrations or armistice by Company A, 353rd Regiment Infantry, 89th Div., on church steps on Nov. 11, 1918, which they reached at 11:00am, in Stenay, Meuse region, eastern France, provided by National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows the first American trucks to enter Beauclair, Meuse region, eastern France, on Nov. 4, 1918, with supplies for soldiers, top, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows the first American trucks to enter Beauclair, Meuse region, eastern France, on Nov. 4, 1918, with supplies for soldiers, top, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later on March 25, 2018. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows a street scene in Bouillonville, eastern France, top, and the hill in the background which protects the village from German shells, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, dated Sept. 20, 1918, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later, on March 26, 2018. Bouillonville was the center of the medical unit for a large part of the German Army. Many medical supplies were found and the medical units were using the German hospitals the same day the drive started. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
This combo of two photographs shows a street scene in Bouillonville, eastern France, top, and the hill in the background which protects the village from German shells, provided by the National World War I Museum and Memorial, dated Sept. 20, 1918, and, below, a view of the same location 100 years later, on March 26, 2018. Bouillonville was the center of the medical unit for a large part of the German Army. Many medical supplies were found and the medical units were using the German hospitals the same day the drive started. (National World War I Museum and Memorial via AP, AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)

PARIS (AP) — U.S. troops fighting in France in World War I found a landscape ravaged by trench warfare and chemical weapons, churches gutted by bombs and used as makeshift hospitals, and villages turned into military prisons.

A century later, those same verdant fields, rebuilt churches and quaint villages greet American tourists and other world travelers, showing barely a trace of what they endured.

The Associated Press has revisited sites across the former Western Front as the U.S. commemorates fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, and Europe prepares to mark 100 years since the war's end. The AP looked afresh at scenes from 1918 in the Ardennes, Somme, Argonne and Meuse regions, captured in images held in the archives of the U.S. National World War I Museum and Memorial.

The Americans arrived late in the war, in 1917, and gave crucial help to Britain, France and other allies fighting Germany.

The wartime gloom lifted briefly when U.S. troops marched in a Fourth of July parade in the summer of 1918, through a Paris whose historic buildings and cobblestone streets stand little changed 100 years later.

To the north and the east, allied troops were struggling to push back the front line, which had nearly reached the French capital.

Near Verdun, U.S. soldiers ran through the main street of Exermont trying to escape German fire, as a comrade-in-arms lay motionless nearby. Today, children ride a toy tractor past the same spot.

In a war that claimed some 14 million lives — 5 million civilians and 9 million soldiers, sailors and airmen from 28 countries over four years — and left 21 million wounded, the town church in nearby Neuvilly-en-Argonne became a field hospital for U.S. troops.

Bombed out and full of rubble, it was still the sturdiest building in town. Patients lay on the floor in rows, exactly as the reconstructed pews now stand today.

Just a week before the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice that ended the war, hundreds of American supply trucks rumbled through a muddy street in Beauclair.

Today cars ride along its asphalt, past a monument to villagers lost in what's known in France as the “Guerre du 14-18,” or “the War of 1914-1918.”

Every village here has such a monument, the names of the dead etched in memoriam.

American military engineers crisscrossed northern France to rebuild bridges, roads and other essential infrastructure, some of which still stands.

Some details are gone, however. The well where German prisoners drew water in Pierrefitte-sur-Aire, watched over by an American soldier, is now covered in pavement.

On the day of the armistice, American soldiers celebrated victory with war-weary villagers in Stenay. Today, children run carefree up the church steps where the revelers stood.

Of the 4.3 million Americans who took part in World War I, more than 300,000 were killed or injured.

Many rest at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. It is the largest U.S. cemetery in Europe to this day.

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