Thursday, July 21, 2011

France VI: WWI Verdun

General thoughts about WWI sites:

1. We did not get enough WWI history in school, we skipped right to WWII.
2. The sites, even 100 years later are very powerful and very sad.
3. The scope and amount of destruction is unbelievable.
4. There was no skill that could possibly increase your chances of living, it was pure random luck where the millions of bombs fell.
5. It amazes me how well they care for the cemeteries on a daily basis, and how integrated all of them are for French and German soldiers. It is really like the horror of war transcended which side you happened to be on.
6. We all agreed that we could not imagine modern society giving the same degree of sacrifice and dedication.

Near Amiens we came across a monument dedicated to the first place the US entered WWI to help the French. While there, we met a man who was trimming the hedges around the monument. My friend started talking to him about the site, and next thing I know he told us he was going to open the museum for us to see.
In hindsight, I did not get enough pictures to do this justice, however by museum it was his garage with his car parked in it and around it was tables of artifacts.
He had pictures of Eisenhower coming to visit the site.

He had all kinds of things found in the fields around here.

Yes, these are WWI unexploded ordinances at the front of his car in the garage.

Here is a nearby cemetery, the white crosses are French and each Gray cross is 2 Germans. It was interesting to see most of the French dies in 1914 at the start, and many of the Germans were 1918. It seemed to come in waves with the tide of war.

Then we went out to Verdun in Eastern France. Verdun is a small city with nearby forts that the Germans thought would be easily taken, hard to reinforce and on the main roads to Paris. They did not anticipate the response of the French. In this countryside over 300,000 people dies in under 1 year. Nearly 2/3 of all French WWI soldiers saw time at Verdun as they had to keep rotating troops to keep moral high due to the high kill rates in Verdun.
We went to the museum which had a movie, many of the soldiers wrote that the land looks like the moon, like they were already in hell and they could never imagine anything ever growing here again.

Everything today looks like golf bunkers due to the amount of exploded shells here. Even today they said it was common for farmers and off trail hikers to be injured by unexploded shells.

Here is the Ossuary, a huge church built to house the unidentified remains of over 130,000 French and German soldiers.

Here is part of the cemetery outside of the Ossuary, that has over 100,000 known soldiers who died here.

And yes here are the bones in the windows of the Ossuary of the unknown.

Inside each block is an engraving of a soldier.

For the lucky who survived, they have some pictures of them then and now.

Then we went out to some of the 16 villages that were destroyed in the war and never resettled. A forest has grown up around them, but they have created markers to represent where each house used to stand.
Today each village only has a small new chapel and the remains of what is left.

Each white marker used to be a house before the war. They posted signs on them like "This used to be the Bakery or a Farmer's house"

Then we came across the first monument built for this area. A barage of shells buried an entire trench, killing everyone. They only found it because the bayonets of their guns were sticking out of the ground. So they built a memorial around the trench and left it intact.

You could spend a week here and not see everything. Every small road has a sign here or there saying some trench or remains of the war 100M into a trail in the woods.
Here I am in the remains of a WWI trench. This one was built after the French started to trun the tide and was used for communication between the forts.

More random remains of trenches in the woods.

1 comment:

Dale said...

Wow, pretty eye opening.