World War I was an appalling waste of life. There is very little that is positive which can be said of the leadership on either side of the conflict. They were all equally retarded. In all, at least 9.8 million soldiers died. Many of them, despite their shiny buttons and smart uniforms, suffered the inglorious fate of rotting where they fell with no marked grave. Even today, large mass graves are periodically discovered, evidence of pointless slaughter and the subsequent disposal of the dead by piling them in shell craters.
The worst part is that many of these men did not die immediately. Veterans spoke of a cacophony of noise after wave attacks where injured men cried for help as they slowly died over hours and sometimes days. Occasionally wounded men would manage to drag themselves out of no-mans-land back to their trenches, but more often than not they would add to the decaying mass of humanity lost in the kill zone.
Around 300,000 men perished at Verdun between February and December of 1916. At least 400,000 more were wounded. The battlefield was only small relative to the number of casualties, all of the fighting occurring along a front 20 miles long and never more than six miles deep.
Around 100,000 remains are estimated to be still missing in the battle area. A common French/German Ossuary was built in the 1920s and houses the remains of 150,000 unknown victims of the fighting recovered during the 1920s and 1930s. The image above is of a pile of bones exhumed around Verdun in the 1930s, bound for the Ossuary.
Verdun was a German initiated campaign designed to lure French forces into an engagement of attrition. The tactic had worked well on the Eastern Front the previous year, and effectively reduced Russia’s offensive capacity for the rest of the war. But at Verdun the Germans found themselves in a muddy wasteland where troop movements were almost impossible. A stalemate ensued which both sides tried in vain to break. Despite the situation quickly being recognised as futile and irrelevant to overall strategy, no one had the sense to return to their strong points and try a breakthrough elsewhere. For a total of ten months men were poured into a meat grinder. By December both sides had returned to their original lines, neither side having gained any strategic advantage. Given the Germans failed to achieve any desired outcomes, it was acknowledged at the time by the German High Command as a defeat, and is officially recognised as such. Verdun proved to be one of the costliest and longest battles in history.
Verdun was the scene of the first battlefield uses of the flamethrower and phosgene gas. Phosgene was intended to render French gas masks ineffective, but the Germans over calculated its effectiveness. It made very little impact on the battle except to hinder visibility, but wiped out the foliage and poisoned the soil for decades.
Everyone loved the flamethrower however, and by World War II they were employed by all major powers, despite general calls for the weapon to be outlawed.
Following is a gallery of pictures from the battle. It is difficult to appreciate the scale of carnage at Verdun, and snapshots from points in time can never convey the absolute misery and terror of protracted conflict. War serves no greater good and should be avoided. There are no heroes or victors. Only the dead and those lucky to survive random, legalised murder.
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