In 1916, some of the most appalling battles in human history took place on the Western Front. The Battle of Verdun became for the French what Gettysburg is for Americans; Verdun symbolized for the French the strength and fortitude of their armed forces and the solidarity of the entire nation.
The goal of the German commander was not territory, but to bleed his enemy to death. The battle lasted nine months and in the end the front lines were nearly the same, while over 300,000 French and Germans were killed and over 750,000 were wounded.
The British offered the same unspeakable sacrifice at the river Somme, where another million died, and at Ypres [Passchendaele], in Belgium, a graveyard for half a million more. As the slaughter continued with no significant gains in territory by either side, the men in the trenches kept their sanity by using music, theater and trench newspapers to replicate the world they left behind.
Top Photo: Soldiers advancing, near the Somme, France, 1916