soldiers sitting near a fire in France during World War I

'The most beautiful burial ground in the world': French Lorraine during WWI

A journalist and explorer documents life on the frontlines as war consumes everyday life for French society.

Flanders is a mud-hole and Champagne is all chalk, but Lorraine is an enchanting land, with harmonious hills and noble trees and fern-bordered streams rushing to the Rhine.

Photograph by Harriet Chalmers Adams, Nat Geo Image Collection

This is the story of my journey to Nancy, Lunéville, and Gerbéviller, in Lorraine—that part of France where the first American soldiers have fallen.

I entered the French military zone as a war correspondent, equipped with a magical little yellow book which carried my photograph and the facts about my nationality, place of birth, magazine affiliation, and residence at home and in Paris. It had ushered me safely past innumerable gendarmes and sentinels on the way to Compiègne and Rheims, even to frontline trenches in Champagne; now it brought me to Nancy, in northeastern France, the most beautiful town in the Republic, capital of historic Lorraine.

On this particular trip the passport permitted a traveling companion, so an American girl engaged in Paris war work went with me. This was her first glimpse of that mysterious precinct known to few civilians beyond its guard-girded borders—"The Military Zone."

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