The Fort Douaumont has changed my entire idea of what happened between France and Germany during WW1. Basically, our common idea of “history” is just BS. The pictures are only glimpses that explain nothing. One has to come here, read the topography and the documents. It’s mindboggling.
The fort Douaumont is around 400 meters long and covers three hectares. It was designed to be manned by about 800 men.
In the fall of 1914, only 57 French soldiers defended the fort. On February 25, 1916, a heavy German bombardment drove the small number of French defenders away from their positions. A small group of 10 German pioneers made their way into the ditch.
French troops in the nearby town of Douaumont believed them to be a returning French patrol and did not fire on them. Sgt Kunze made his way into the northeast casemate. (I believe the second from the left in the panorama.) Fearful of an ambush, his men followed only later.
Then another group under a lieutenant entered the fort. The two groups advanced underground through the tunnels, taking the garrison prisoner. The only casualty was a scraped knee. What was considered the strongest fort in the world had been captured by a small group of Germans in an amazing feat. German schoolchildren were given a day off and all the country was celebrating.
Near the northern tip of the fort is the 75mm gun turret along with the nearby armored observation post. The turret held two short barreled 75mm guns and could be rotated 260 degrees and raised or lowered by hand cranks.
The Germans subjected the fort to fire from 420mm weapons, the massive ‘Big Berthas’ successfully used against the Belgian forts. Later, the French used their 400mm weapons against the fort. Incredible amounts of earth were blown off the top.
Machine Gun Turret and Armored Observation Post
Armored Observation Post. German 420mm artillery shells have removed much of the top.
Incredible amounts of earth were blown off the top of the fort, as can be seen here, in this case exposing the reinforced concrete cylinder that an armored observation post rests on.
Some direct hits.
Millions of munitions were fired over the course of the 2 battles of Verdun. Although much of the fort’s interior can be visited, some sections are unstable from the massive bombardment the place was subjected to.
They say that there are probably many thousands of unexploded shells in the area. 80,000 dead soldiers are estimated to remain unburied in the fields surrounding Verdun.
I had to ask about this contraption. The guide said, “Lavabo” (laundry).
In the course of 100 years, the dripping water created these stalagmites.
The bunk beds are still there
The Germans occupying the fort endured an incredible disaster on May 8, 1916 when an accidental explosion in a grenade depot started a fire in the flamethrower depot. Something between 800 and 900 men were killed. Of those, 679 are buried behind this cross. Around 1,800 were injured in the incident
God is on our side, right?
A German 420mm round made a direct hit on a casemate on December 16, 1916. All 21 Frenchmen inside were killed as the casemate collapsed. Seven bodies were not recovered and still lie behind the walled off entrance on the left.