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[From the Archive]

My Two Visits to Verdun


commenced in February. It was over the Voie Sacrée that the gallant Twentieth Corps — the corps d’attaque that has been used as the drivingwedge in every big assault since the Marne — was rushed to check the Crown Prince’s army at Fort Douaumont. This was the road over which, night and day, a steady trail of motortrucks passed like a series of never-ending freight trains during the early weeks of the German thrust at Paris through Verdun.

Colonel Bunau-Varilla — one of the engineers of the French Panama Canal, and now in charge of the system of aqueducts that supplies a million gallons of water daily to the Verdun army — had been added to our expedition. To his presence was due the constant ceremonial that marked our onward progress. One respectful salute came from an unexpected source: a squad of German prisoners. They were marching in double column and were mud-stained and weary. As they passed us a voice from their midst gave the command, “Augen links!” and with some eighty eyes fixed at us steadily, we breezed ahead. Their tattered uniforms were faded to a butternut gray, a few wore the skull-cap with a red band, others the new German trench helmet that is shaped like a medieval casque. They looked thin and poorly nourished, and from the dead look in their faces, kultur seemed to have drilled the souls out of them.

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