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This documentary is about the Battle of Verdun fought from February to December of 1916. It was the longest battle of WWI. The German high command attacked Verdun in hopes that the French would drain their men and resources to recapture it. The film was created by National Education Television and was one of eight films about forces that have influenced the development of 20th Century western civilization (:58). The film opens with pedestrians looking down upon the memorial for an unknown soldier whom had fallen at the Battle of Verdun at the Arc du Triomphe (1:42). Statues of soldiers commemorating the battle are in an area called the ‘war belt’ consisting of the desolate villages left in the wake of the battle (2:29). Photographs of men in trenches during the battle follows (3:42). During this battle, 1,220,000 men perished (4:21). Chief of German General Staff Erich von Falkenhayn (6:08) came up with the plan to target strategic areas in France that would encourage the French to send all of their men to defend and would therefore ‘bleed France dry’ and never planned to actually capture Verdun (6:25). The Meuse river is seen which cuts through the area (6:42). Germans planned the attack for months, setting up 1,000 heavy guns in the woods outside of the city (7:10) as well as constructing 10 new rails lines. The French were ill-equipped with 34 battalions to the German 72 battalions (7:21). The attack began on February 12th, 1916 (7:35) though it snowed that night and continued to snow for a week which held the attack up (7:48). Once the snow cleared, the German’s continued attacking and photographs of explosions and long-range guns are seen (8:45). It would last for 10 months and in the process, nine villages were completely decimated (10:52). One of the towns, Fleury, was captured and recaptured 16 times until being completely ruined (10:59). Julian Fessler, Second Lieutenant of the 239th Infantry and his German cousin both fought in this battle and were both wounded (11:05); Julian having his leg shattered on June 23rd, 1916 in Fleury. Thirty years prior, the French had built what was known as the strongest fort in the world, Fort Douaumont (12:56) eight miles from Verdun. The German 24th Brandenburg regiment located the fort (13:25) and sent three of the men to capture it which they did within an hour (13:40). France was forced to turn their own guns against Douaumont recapturing it in October, eight months and 100,000 men later (14:47). On June 11th, 1916 the 3rd Company of the 137 Regimental Infantry were holding a line of trenches (15:23). After a night of continuous heat from German artillery, only two men survived and gun tips are seen on the parapet of the trench as most had been buried alive (15:46). The land around Verdun was ruined (16:48). Corporal Robert Dreyfus of the 16th Division of the 5th Infantry arrived with his battalion during the night (16:58). He was under constant enemy fire when he landed and to this day, he is still unsure where his battalion located (17:15). Cannoneer Berthold Becker of the 38th German Regiment (17:34) was wounded and captured by the French near Fort Vaux. After his capture, he returned to his home in Westphalia, Germany and has never left and refuses to visit Verdun (17:58). Dietrich Emmerich of the 24th Bradenburg (18:17) was one of the occupying troops that had spent eight months in Fort Duoaumont and he also refuses to visit Verdun (18:36). Private Breton of the 2nd Battalion of the 42nd Division, was born in Verdun, fought there and continued to live there afterwards (18:46). He carried the battalion flag into the battle (19:00). A montage of close up shots of French soldiers follows (20:18). Between the two countries, 420,000 dead were identified (23:59) and 800,000 were gassed, missing, or unidentified dead (24:05). Since the conclusion of the battle, an additional 150,000 unidentified corpses were drug up from the battle ground (24:11). Shells left over from the battle, which had not previously exploded, have killed and injured countless farmers and their family members (24:21). The last reported casualty was in the spring of 1964 (24:30). In the military cemetery of Verdun, 6 of the 7 unidentified soldiers are buried with the seventh resting under the Arc du Triomphe (26:10). The gates guarding the city of Verdun are shown (27:27) which the German’s blasted through in June of 1940 as the second world war began. The credit screen follows (28:21). It was produced by Lane Slate (29:08)

This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD and 2k. For more information visit

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