Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Belleau Wood, 1918/1981


The first time I travelled to Europe was in the late spring/early summer of 1981. An undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill, I had to keep a journal as part of the requirement for completing the double-credit summer class. Here's a sample (France, May 1981):

Belleau Wood

The curator was surprisingly anti-war, stressing in detail war’s horrors. It was a perfect horror story, this articulate older man telling us of the grimmer side of the Great War in the front room, while outside the battlefield was covered with darkness and rain.

Having finished gruesome stories about rats and disease, he led us into a back room that housed hundreds of wartime artifacts. Some of the shells were still live. After this we plunged into the rain and Belleau Wood, where wild boars still roam. It was a dreadful, eerie place. Two guns sat back in the woods along with thousands of still missing bodies. Bits of rotted wood, black with iron from shell fragments littered the ground. Shell holes half full of blackened water were everywhere. And the caretaker continued about the battlefield horrors. It was a nightmare.

We swung around and looked at a bunch of artillery gathered at a car turnaround, then headed back down to the cemetery. I walked down the aisles, looking for a familiar last name or town, sickened by the prospects for yet another horrible war. . .


Today's Rune: Joy.

Birthdays: Kōbō Abe (1924-1993); Tammy Faye LaValley Bakker Messner (b.1942); Wanda Sykes (b.1964); Bret Easton Ellis (b.1964); Peter Sarsgaard (b.1971); Rachel Weisz (b.1971) .

Adieu!

8 comments:

JR's Thumbprints said...

Too bad "The Shrub" didn't take this same field trip; he may have learned a thing or two.

Charles Gramlich said...

I enjoyed this blast from your past. It must have been a bit eerie considering the weather and the stories.

Anonymous said...

No mention of chemical warfare(chlorine gas)the kind Iran is using against us in Iraq.

Johnny Yen said...

Every year or two, a French or Belgian farmer is blown to bits when his tractor runs into a shell in the ground. There are still huge swaths of Europe that are filled with shells.

The waste of any war is horrific, but the stupid waste of men and talent in WWI was unbelievable.

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