World War I had brutal battles fought in the trenches. One of the longest-running battles was one fought in Verdun.
Battling The Germans
The Germans wanted to take out the French Army, and they decided that taking them on in Verdun would do the trick and would push the British out of the war. However, it turned into quite a lengthy battle.
The German forces would fight the Allies for ten months in the fortress-like city. The two armies fought in a 20-kilometer section across the Meuse River.
The Germans initially surprised the French when they attacked on February 21, but they gave it their all. Both armies had massive casualties, with the Germans losing 137,000 men and the French losing 162,000.
The lengthy 1916 battle went for 300 days. Between the Germans and the French, 60 million artillery shells were used, and poisonous gas was in many.
The sheer amount of artillery shells led to the brutal deaths of over 600,000 soldiers at Verdun and more than 1 million at Somme. The other problem was many ordinances did not explode, and they just lay there all over the battlefield undetonated.
Post War Efforts
After the war was over, the French sealed off many battle zones that were not fir for habitation. The quarantined areas were either completely demolished or could no longer be farmed.
Those who had originally lived within the Zone Rouge were relocated to other areas. Unfortunately, many villages no longer existed. When all was said and done, the French government determined that nine villages would never be rebuilt.
They are now known as the “villages that died for France.” Signs and street markers are the only indicators that they used to be thriving villages filled with people.
Villages in the Yellow and Blue zones rebuilt as their residents returned. But there are still some hazards in these areas, and each year there is an “Iron Harvest.” Hundred of tons of war material and ordnance are gathered and destroyed. The Harvest itself doesn’t always go off without a hitch, and there is usually a tractor that gets destroyed.
The victims of the war still receive reparations 100 years later from the French and Belgium governments. Since there was a massive amount of cleanup, the French created the Department of Demining post World War II and have lost 630 minesweepers while clearing the areas.