While on a visit France in 1960, I was urged to see the town in Lorraine where long and dreadful fighting occurred . 163,000 killed, 216,000 wounded.
Before reaching Verdun I stopped at a sign that read Here Lies Fleury. A town made extinct by constant bombardment of cannon fire until the soil was in fact soilless. It was contaminated by corpses, explosives, and poisonous gas so no farmers could take up their work. It is officially designated as a village that died for France. No seeds were left in the soil, it was without tilthe, without material to grow anything. Can you imagine looking at a barren location pockmarked with no vegetation since 1916. That is a span of 44 years.. I felt terrible sadness in my core. When I got to Verdun it was similar but there were trees and grass. In the center of town is a very large concrete looking building called Fort Douaumont. It looked like a tomb. It was now a museum/mausoleum. It was pervaded with death. I saw dioramas and descriptions of the battles. I came away with an intense disgust with the thought process of the generals in that time. It wasn’t far from the Napoleonic strategy of lining the men up and let the enemy shoot at them and when they fell bring up the next line of cannon fodder. Thank you Marshalls Petain and Margin. So stupid, Such disregard for human life. Young lovely men, obviously strong and able, the men that should be fathering the next generation were decimated. I looked at the men in Paris in 1960 after 2 wars of carnage to the prime breeding stock,if you will, and the men that were left were unfit and produced unfit babies. Homely men, ungainly, gawkey men. That’s what war does to a nation’s men. I was looking at them as a 20 year old American girl. So, after the war is over what do you have? Destroyed buildings, laid waste land and pitiful beings to sire the next generation. Sounds ripe for a Hitler to move in. I should add, nearby was the Marginaux Line which was interesting if you read about the war. It was supposed to keep out tanks. It is like rows of giant jacks, the kid’s game jacks.
Later on the trip I walked the beaches of Normandy. Landing craft were still there partially submerged in the sea. Hitler’s bunkers were very much there and you could see the destruction our Navy waled upon them by their deeply gouged surface. One could go in and walk around these fortresses and they smelled of pee, so they were still good for something