Battle of Verdun - 100th anniversary (21 February - 18 December, 1916)

Winston

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https://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/verdun-100-years-ago-another-barbaric-folly-of-the-great-war/

Verdun: They Shall Not Pass
By Eric Margolis
February 26, 2016

VERDUN – One hundred years ago this week, German artillery launched a mighty barrage of one million shells at French defenses on the wooded hills and deep ravines above the ancient fortress city of Verdun. The thunderous explosions of the “trummelfeuer” were heard 160 km away.

By the second year of World War I, static trench warfare extended along the Western Front from the Belgian coast to Switzerland – a bloody modern version of medieval siege warfare. Neither the German Empire nor the Allies could impose a decisive victory. Suicidal frontal attacks against machine guns and field artillery slaughtered hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

German army chief Eric von Falkenhayn decided to bleed the French Army to death by attacking a position it could not cede – Verdun. Heavy artillery and poison gas were his weapons of choice. Battles of attrition are the last resort of poor, unimaginative, brutal generals.

The initial German infantry attack fell on the Bois de Caures, defended by two French battalions of Col. Emile Driant. His valiant defense delayed the German attack, but Driant was killed and his two battalions wiped out.

The French commander, Gen. Nivelle, ordered his 2nd Army: “No surrender; no retreat, not even an inch. Die where you stand.” And it did.

The Germans pushed south towards the city, fighting for every meter of ground against fierce French counter-attacks. On 4-5 June, the Germans poured 100,000 poison gas shells – chlorine, cyanide, mustard, phosgene – onto the only 4km of French front, then launched infantry assaults. The French soldiers had no gas masks. Thousands died in agony or were blinded. Yet they held.

Shells churned the battlefields into vast quagmires of putrid mud, rotting corpses and hundreds of thousands of horses, overhung by a toxic miasma of lethal gas. Troops went days without food or medical attention; they drank from shell craters filled with rotting corpses – or, very often, drowned in them. Flamethrowers inflicted frightful casualties. Shells poured down around the clock. Every tiny elevation, every fort, became a little Thermopylae.

Twenty forts built in the 1880-1890’s to defend Verdun, and believed obsolete, became the epicenter of the battle. The most attacked were legendary Moulinville, Souville, Douaumont, Vacherauville, Froidterre. Two, Thiaumont and Tavannes, were ground to dust.

At the height of the German attack on Fort Vaux, over 2,000 heavy shells were exploding every hour on the superstructure of the little fort, including 420mm one-ton monsters. When we talk today about soldier’s combat stress, think of the garrison of Vaux, burned, gassed, starving, poisoned by CO2, dying of thirst, drinking their own urine and fearing they would be buried alive if the fort collapsed.

The fort’s last messenger pigeon struggled to French lines, then died of smoke poisoning. His statue sits near the fort’s entrance. When the French commander, Sylvain Reynal finally was forced to surrender, he cockily told the German Crown Prince, “you did not defeat us; it was thirst.”

For the next ten terrible months, millions of German shells churned up the ground, pulverizing French positions and their defenders. French artillery fiercely riposted. French counter-attacks lost huge numbers of men. The French effort to recapture Fort Douaumont alone cost 100,000 casualties.

Three-quarters of France’s army (8 million men by 1918), an entire generation of French men, was rotated through the hell of Verdun, ensuring that the entire nation would feel its horrors. Units stayed at the front until they lost 60% casualties.

Almost every village in France has a war memorial with the names of its sons killed at Verdun. The grim heights above Verdun became France’s Calvary. The French army’s pledge, “they shall not pass” became France’s national oath and the new commander Marshall Petain’s rallying cry.

The Germans, as always fighting like lions, lost some 700,000 casualties. Fighting like tigers, the French finally held the last defense line before Verdun. Nearly one million French soldiers were killed, wounded or mutilated for life at Verdun. France suffered another million dead during the war, many in the suicidal offensive at the Chemin des Dammes.

At war’s end, there were not enough young Frenchmen to plow the fields or father babies. France’s heart had been torn out. In May 1940, German panzer units, using new fluid tactics of rapid movement and close air support, captured Verdun and its rearmed forts in only 24 hours.
 

tightwad

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Very sad. What a waste of life. Truly cannon fodder. Thanks for posting.
 

Daddyisabar

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It was in August 2014 I did a commemorative Big Bertha rocket for the 100th anniversary of Liege and flew it at NARAM. How time flies! Already the 100th of Verdun. Unlike the Belgian forts the French forts did not collapse under the Big Berthas. Was not being buried alive a blessing for the French? The Big Berthas were mostly useless after that.

What rocket to Fly for Verdun? Maybe a rocket that gets shorter in height just like the hill tops were reduced in height due to shelling. The rocket must be bled white. Many motors must be attrited. You must go over the top and get your baptism of fire. Launch off the cold steel. The French did put rockets on their airplanes about that time!
 

Winston

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It was in August 2014 I did a commemorative Big Bertha rocket for the 100th anniversary of Liege and flew it at NARAM. How time flies! Already the 100th of Verdun. Unlike the Belgian forts the French forts did not collapse under the Big Berthas. Was not being buried alive a blessing for the French? The Big Berthas were mostly useless after that.

What rocket to Fly for Verdun? Maybe a rocket that gets shorter in height just like the hill tops were reduced in height due to shelling. The rocket must be bled white. Many motors must be attrited. You must go over the top and get your baptism of fire. Launch off the cold steel. The French did put rockets on their airplanes about that time!
Nice idea to do some sort of commemorative launch.

Scars of World War I: The Battlefield of Verdun (modern photos)

https://www.amusingplanet.com/2015/08/scars-of-world-war-i-battlefield-of.html

A documentary I just found based upon a great book. Haven't watched it yet, but intend to. Free streaming to Amazon Prime members:

Aftermath: The Remnants of War

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002OEGU5Y/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20
 
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Daddyisabar

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Hitler decided to attack Stalingrad in a decisive manner because he would not tolerate another Verdun. Only one road to Verdun that almost the entire French Army rotated through. When I am down in the swamp recovering a rocket and my foot gets sucked in by the mud I think of Verdun.

I like it in the Movie Joyeux Noel where the Frenchmen involved in the heinous actions of December 1914 get sent to the Verdun sector. All three sides, French. German and Scottish had to work hard to cover that one up.

Maybe a "mud" payload that is actually delicious chocolate pudding and gummy worms?
 

Daddyisabar

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I missed Second Ypres last May, should have done an "In Flanders Fields" theme with red poppies for that one. Well I guess there is always Third Ypres. And then this July. . .
 

Winston

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Hitler decided to attack Stalingrad in a decisive manner because he would not tolerate another Verdun. Only one road to Verdun that almost the entire French Army rotated through. When I am down in the swamp recovering a rocket and my foot gets sucked in by the mud I think of Verdun.

I like it in the Movie Joyeux Noel where the Frenchmen involved in the heinous actions of December 1914 get sent to the Verdun sector. All three sides, French. German and Scottish had to work hard to cover that one up.

Maybe a "mud" payload that is actually delicious chocolate pudding and gummy worms?
I own the Joyeux Noel DVD. Amazing what can happen when opposing sides aren't ideological or religious fanatics. "Well, I say, this Christmas celebration and the football games were jolly good fun, but my officers tell me I really need to get back to horribly killing you, ol' chap. Well, kill you later, alligator." "Kill you in a vile, krocodile."

I thought about a remembrance rocket on my drive to Hobbytown USA.

I like your idea for it to be painted all white. Perhaps a small, minimum OD rocket preferably launched to an altitude far out of sight, poppy shaped red parachute or red poppy pattern on 'chute, last launch of the day, no attempt at tracking or recovery. On it, for anyone who might find it, something like: "Launched to the winds in remembrance of the over 700,000 casualties in the Battle of Verdun, 21 February through 18 December 1916." Day, month, year order is European and military. Month, day, year is only used by Belize, Federated States of Micronesia, and the United States according to wikipedia.

Remembrance poppy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_poppy
 

Daddyisabar

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You could also paint it Sky Blue, the color of the French uniforms that were to blend into the sky as they attacked in mass and charging above ground!

A hybrid rocket painted Mustard Yellow with a black Totenkopf. Yell Gaaaaaaass when it is launched. Then some famous poetry readings.

So much fun to be had with WWI rocketry!
 

Blackleaf99

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"Suicidal frontal attacks against machine guns and field artillery slaughtered hundreds of thousands of soldiers." Previous century war tactics, against modern century weapons. A sure recipe for disaster.

Thanks for posting this one Winston.

Every 11 November during my working years, I would announce to my coworkers, 'Today at 11:00, on the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns finally fell silent.' Absolutely 100% of my coworkers had no idea what I was talking about.
 
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