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Memories of France on the Anniversary of Armistice or Rememberance DayTim King Salem-News.com
World War One's four years of deadly carnage ended on this day in 1918.
(SALEM, Ore.) - One of the most dangerous battlefields I have ever spent time on may not have been in Iraq or Afghanistan, where I covered present day combat operations; it likely was in France where I visited World War one battlefields in several locations, but primarily in the Romagne vicinity where many Americans fought and died.
I stayed in Verdun, a city where history is vast and thickly laden with blood and death and courage and honor. It was during this very time that my sons watched a TV program in the U.S. about how more civilians were dying from unexploded ordinance in the Verdun region than anywhere else on earth.
In retrospect, having spent time in Afghanistan, where one-legged people consider themselves lucky and are sadly not rare to see, (land mines are everywhere, thanks to the ten-year Soviet invasion) I have to say that the competition for death by prior war ordinance is fierce.
But in Afghanistan, and Iraq, there are bases, either large ones well protected for the most part, or smaller ones called FOB's )forward operating bases) and most of the military troops spend time 'behind the wire' as they say.
In WWI, the only wire was either barbed, or used for communication. That barbed wire we all saw in the history books, is wadded up and laying generally where the soldiers of that war placed it. Farmers and others came along later and did their best to contain it, but they didn't remove it, or the foxholes, or the trenches, etc.
I visited Fort Duamont near Verdun and saw amazing fortifications still in place and nobody around to tell a person where they could and could not go. In France it doesn't necessarily fascinate the local people, not the way it does for a history student who has always wanted to see and experience these places.
The war that the Germans fought against allied forces was not something that most of us today could imagine, even the Veterans of the current wars. That isn't to say that combat is any less deadly, etc., but in WWI there were few breaks, there was little in the way of sanitation, and there were nasty terrible weapons like gas that crippled men from the inside out.
I'll never forget reading about how soldiers who would get an occasional pass from the long raging battle at Verdun to visit Paris, would arrive in new uniforms, freshly bathed, yet they still carried the smell of dead bodies they lived with in the trenches, and people would separate themselves from these soldiers sometimes out of revulsion.
World War One was a war of attrition, it heavily impacted the birth rate in France and Germany and would set into motion the stage for World War Two, one that was not based in stupid needless politics, but Genocide and unacceptable Human Rights violations.
I can't help finding war fascinating, I try not to ever promote the concept, however I agree that at times it is necessary to fight. At the same time I far more strongly believe that we have absolutely lost our sense about when and how war should be employed.
With regard to World War One, the primary focus of my studies has been the aviator Frank Luke Jr., an Arizona cowboy who became the nation's number one Ace prior to his death on the outskirts of a town called Murvaux, that very much reminds me of Oregon. I have included photos of myself in this place and with the Mayor of Murvaux. Ultimately I collaborated with Author Blaine Pardoe who wrote the fantastic book on Frank Luke titled: 'Terror of the Autumn Sky'. I've included a link to a report on that and also on another WWI pilot I have studied somewhat extensively, and that is the only African-American pilot in the war period, and his life might be the most amazing of all.
Our writer and friend, David MacMillan, the world adventurer, is originally from Australia, one of so many nations that participated in this way and paid greatly. Dave's words and choice of poetry are an honorable close to this article
David L Macmillan - "11th, hour 11th day, 11th month the end of WW1 but the following poem is of significance to all of the fallen of all nations in all the wars since"
They went with songs to the battle; they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; they fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.
(Laurence Binyon 1869-1943)
More Salem-News.com stories about or that reference, the First World War:
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