Where? Why There? The Meuse Argonne

In this activity students use ArcGIS online to explore the physical and human features of the Meuse Argonne battlefield. The goal is for students to gain an appreciation for the challenges the American Expeditionary Forces met in what is considered the largest offensive in American Military history.

Guiding Questions

  • Where was the Meuse Argonne battlefield located?
  • How large was the Meuse Argonne battlefield?
  • What challenges did the American Expeditionary forces face in defeating and taking control of this area?

Learning Outcomes

The student will be able to:

  • Explain where the Meuse Argonne region is located.
  • Observe and explain the role that towns, hills, farms, rivers, and railroads and the major heights played in shaping this battlefield.
  • Identify and explain some of the challenges the American Expeditionary forces faced during the outset of this battle.


  1. Pass out the “Where? Why There?” directions and question frames to each student.
  2. Have students go to http://arcg.is/27jIBoC, and load the “Where? Why There? The Meuse Argonne” web map. (Do not use Internet Explorer. It has compatibility issues with ArcGIS Online.)
  3. Demonstrate for the students how to use the interactive map. If necessary distribute a copy of the Getting Started with ArcGIS Online handout. 
  4. Have students navigate the ArcGIS Online map and activities using the “Where? Why There? student instructions and answer sheet.  Monitor student progress and provide technical, content, and geographic analysis support while they complete the activity.


When the students have completed the activity review the question answers by using the ArcGIS Online map as visual aid to facilitate discussion and explanation.  Key discussion points to cover while reviewing the answers should include, but not be limited to:

  • The Meuse Argonne region was located in a very hilly area that was heavily fortified by the Germans.  If the Germans broke through this area they could easily take Paris.  Likewise, if the American and French forces could push the Germans out of this area they could deeply influence a surrender.
  • This battlefield was a very large, highly fortified area full of towns, hills, trenches, roads, and railroads.  The only way to take it would be to get out of the trenches and go on the offensive.  Hence the name, Meuse Argonne Offensive.
  • There were 5 important “heights” that needed to be taken in order to control this region. They were:  Montfaucon, Romagne Heights, Heights of the Meuse, Argonne Forest, and Barricourt Heights.
  • General Pushing hoped to capture this area in about 6-7 days.  It will really take 6 weeks!  The next mapping activity will visualize and help explain how this battle played out.


Students will complete the attached worksheet and the teacher will review and grade their answers and contributions to the classroom discussion.


  • If needed you can complete this activity as a teacher-led lesson using one computer and overhead projector.
  • Complete the  webGIS lessons, “It’s Now or Never: The  Meuse Argonne Offensive,  Honoring Service, Achievements, and Sacrifice:  A WWI Virtual Field Trip, and/or Geography is War: The Lost Batallion

Materials Needed