Monday, November 9, 2009
During the three days my friend Ed Lenert and I drove to various battle sites in northern Europe at the start of our monthlong adventure, we often relied on Ed's GPS-enabled Apple iPhone for navigation -- and to show us where we were when we got lost. With gasoline being as pricy as it was -- we'd paid $75 for the fuel every time we filled the tank of our Ford Fiesta -- we were eager to minimize the amount of time we spent driving the wrong way. In the photo above, I'm holding the phone as Ed drives.
The Battle of Verdun was the most critical battle of WWI and resulted in 306,000 men killed in action. It was fought between the German and French armies, from Feb. 21 to Dec. 18, 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in NE France. The battle ended in a French victory, because the German High Command failed to achieve its two strategic objectives: to capture the city and to inflict a much higher casualty count on its adversary. But the victory came at a high price, with 378,000 French casualties, of whom 163,000 died. Germany suffered 330,000 casualties, of whom 143,000 died. Verdun was the longest battle of WWI and one of the most devastating in history. It was also the first battle to see large-scale use of industrial weapons; more than 60 million artillery shells were exchanged by both sides during the battle. In France and Germany, the Battle of Verdun has come to represent the horrors of war.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
On the way to the Verdun battlefield in October 2009, I came upon a cemetery containing the remains of 14,000 American soldiers who died during a WWII battle in northern France. I Googled the battle at the time and learned that most historians concluded it served no real purpose for either side. In other words, 14,000 Americans and thousands of Germans died for nothing. Because of its insignificance, the battle has long since been forgotten. And I am sorry to report that I cannot now remember its name or the name of the cemetery.