Dartmouth's Daily Blog
News, commentary, criticism and praise for the College on the Hill, enlivened with history, culture and travel when we feel so moved.
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The Somme and Verdun
A family visit this summer to the WWI battlefields of northern and eastern France: the Somme and Verdun. The trench warfare in these places was some of the bloodiest (and most unproductive) combat in history. Four observations:
In the Somme, which we visited first, traces of the war — other than monuments, cemeteries, and several memorial parks — have all but been erased by the industrious farmers of Picardie. The re-building of villages, the tilling of fields of sugarbeets, wheat, potatoes and other crops, and the regrowth of forests over the past ninety years have restored the once lunar-like landscape to its former productive state. However, if you look for grazing cows, you can find expanses of unworked pasture that are still marked every few yards by the indentation of shell craters. The contrast is moving.
At Thiépval in the Somme and at the Douaumont Ossuary outside Verdun, the names of some 72,000 and 130,000 men, respectively, are noted on soaring monuments: the killed and missing-in-action with no known place of rest.
At the German cemeteries in the Somme, the wooden grave-markers (invariably crosses at the time of interment), were replaced in the 1960’s by stone crosses or personalized headstones. At the cemetery at Fricourt, we saw more than a smattering of Star of David grave markers. Hitler fought in the Somme, and he visited this cemetery during the Nazi occupation of France. One wonders if the future Führer had Jewish comrades-in-arms in the trenches. By all accounts, Jewish men of draft age fought bravely on the German side in WWI.
The gravestones in the British cemeteries were put in place in the early 1920’s, and at that time the next of kin were invited (for a fee) to have a few words of their choosing inscribed on their loved one’s marker. At the La Chapelette cemetery outside of Perronne in the Somme we saw an inscription which seems to me to well summarize the transition between the attitudes of two different eras:
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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