From Maine to France and Somehow Back Again – World War I biography

LEWISTON, Me – A special perspective about World War I, was presented in a biography, written by the grandson of the Maine veteran, John M. Longley, of Maine,

Mark D. LeBlanc and John M. LeBlanc

From Maine to France and Somehow Back Again: World War I Experiences of John M. Longley and the 26th Yankee Division. (L’Heureux photograph)

who served in “The War to End All Wars“.

When World War I (1914-1918) history is discussed, I immediately reflect on my husband’s family. In fact, my father in law, William L’Heureux, from Sanford, was a World War I veteran, having served with the 73rd Infantry.  Although his service was brief, because the war ended soon after he enlisted, another family member did not survive.  Sadly, Napoleon Morin, my husband’s uncle, was killed in France during the Battle of Château-Thierry (1918) and his remains are interred at the Aisne-Marne Cemetery, in Chateau Thierry.

There is extensive personal research documented in Longley’s grandfather’s biography, “From Maine to France and Somehow Back Again: World War I Experiences of John M. Longley and the 26th Yankee Division”.  Mark D. LeBlanc, Ph.D., described his grandfather’s experience with the Infantry while serving in the trenches in France. Indeed, LeBlanc’s grandfather fought at Chateau Thierry and he, almost miraculously, survived.

Dr. LeBlanc is a professor of computer science at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusettes. He co-authored his grandfather’s biography, in a chronicle about World War I, with his brother, John M. LeBlanc.

Mark D. LeBlanc presented some of his research and spoke about his informative book on August 9, at La Racontre, a program open to the public and held monthly at the Lewiston Franco-Gendron Center, on Cedar Street.

LeBlanc spoke about the historical account he wrote by following his grandfather’s World War I experiences. His work included visiting the exact places where the military experiences and events happened.  Moreover, he also has audio recordings made with his grandfather, whereby the daily activities and experiences of a World War I trench soldier are remembered and described.

To set the tone for one hundred years ago and prior to then, when the United States was preparing to enter World War I, the Executive Director of the Franco-Gendron Center, Mitch Thomas, who is a talented entertainer, performed some of the songs associated with the history about this period. He simultaneously played the piano and sang the lyrics to familiar World War I songs, like “Over There”, by George M. Cohan, in combination with LeBlanc’s talk.

Author of From Maine to France

Mark D. LeBlanc is a professor of computer science at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. Contact leblanc_mark@wheatoncollege.edu (L’Heueux photograph)

One hundred years ago, “All America knew the nation was at war”, LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc begins his grandfather’s history in Anson, Maine, when the then 19 year old John M. Longley listened to the heated debates about whether or not the United States should (or should not) enter to help the French in World War I. Clearly, the American forces were needed to save France from the advancing German army that was militarily fixated on the goal of capturing Paris.

In his presentation, LeBlanc said, “Answering the call (from France), the men from all around New England mustered.  They were to be convoyed to France, their ships dodging the German submarines that lurked in the Atlantic and in the English Channel.”  He paraphrased from news accounts published at the time, that….”The people of France were polite like the landscape…..from the French soldiers to the women and children in small villages, the people and the landscape gave American reinforcements to aid in the war the glimpses of hospitality and scenery that reminded them of their New England homes….”

Nevertheless, the horrors of going to war were pervasive in all the soldiers experiences. World War I saw fighting where technologies were as much the enemy as were the opposing military. “Men fought against technology and machines,” said LeBlanc.  In fact, World War I was the first time that aircraft carriers were built and used  in military operations. World War I aviation included the use of aircraft in reconnaissance and in combat, during “dog fights”.

From the onset of Langley’s pre-war conversations, experienced in Anson, moving into basic training in Massachusetts, sailing the Atlantic to the French trenches and participating in the fighting at Chateau-Thierry, LeBlanc’s biography presents a detailed recreation of World War I, through meticulous documentation and research. For my own family, it’s possibly a mirror to reflect on how my husband’s Uncle Napoleon made his tragic journey. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, it’s possible the two men, Morin and Langley, even sailed to France in the same transport ship.

I recommend “From Maine to France and Somehow Back Again” because of the portrayal of World War I through the voices and memories of a veteran, even hearing voice recordings of his grandfather’s experiences. An exhibit of World War I items accompanied the talk. They were collected by Zac LeBlanc, Dr. LeBlanc’s son.

Included in the biography are documentation, pictures and communications dispatches, giving substance and perspective to each of the book’s chapters.

John M. Longley’s World War I biography is a researched tribute to all who fought in “Le Grande Guerre”.  Congact Professor Mark D. LeBlanc at leblanc_mark@wheatoncollege.edu

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.