I took this picture in 1958. It’s a small part of the Verdun battle field where in WW-l, the Germans fought the French for 303 days, the longest battle in that war. 143,000 soldiers were killed.
I was one of 26 pilots in the 23rd Fighter Squadron stationed at Bitburg, Germany. There were many other fighter squadrons scattered around Europe, and we needed a gunnery range.
So a very narrow swath of a dirt road was cleared of mines all the way to the end, where a makeshift tower was erected. A chair and a radio were its only inhabitants. I stood duty as range officer there several times. It was a terrible job. Big red signs were planted every 200’ or so along the road going in, DANGER – DO NOT GET OFF OF THE ROAD. I didn’t.
Occasionally, a strafing F-100, using ball ammo, would hit some kind of live ordinance that was hidden just under the ground surface of that seemingly extinct battle field, causing an explosion. And once again the echoes of 1916 would rumble across the serene French country side, causing temporary panic in the local kitchens.
In some places the residuals of war last on for many years after the formal fighting has stopped. Verdun is one of them.
Plato said, “Only the dead will know the end of wars.” When are we going to stop this madness? f