Forgotten History: The Capture of Fort Douaumont

Welcome to out first episode of Forgotten History! This will be an occasional series looking at interesting events and places in military history. We will begin with the capture of Fort Douaumont on February 25, 1916…

This video was made possible by Military History Tours, and it is the first of a bunch you will be seeing from their Spring 2018 tour of American WW1 battlefields in France. If you are interested in seeing places like this (or WW2, or Korea, or many others) firsthand yourself with a guided tour, check them out: https://www.miltours.com/.

 

24 Comments

  1. Interesting. Today is also the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Berlin airlift, so something WW2 related would have been appropriate.

  2. That was awesome. I still remember touring Douamont back in 1970 as a boy. I don’t recall the French guides telling that story tho, theirs was one of derring-do and heroic assaults with machine guns blazing and flags waving and lots of “iIls ne passeront pas!”

  3. This is an excellent addition to the FW series. There is virtually limitless material to take advantage of, especially in old continent. Go for it Ian!

    • May I add … the Great War front was not just in western part of Europe. They were in east part of Poland, Tyrol and Italo-Slovenian frontier, among other places. While visiting south front memorials in 2015 I was stunned by their timely presence. It may of interest to some that memorials with fallen A-H and Italian soldiers were decorated by recent visitors. People of current Europe do have appreciation of the sacrifices their predecessors made.

      • ” fallen A-H and Italian soldiers”
        According to: https://tanks-a-lot.tumblr.com/post/175214272192/greatwar-1914-mountain-warfare-on-the-italian
        To this day, the frozen corpses of Italian and Austrian soldiers show up every summer in the Alps.
        This war is called Great for good reason, as it took part in many places in world. For examples of combat outside Europe see:
        Actions of Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in Deutsch-Südwestafrika, despite outnumbered and with no supplies from outside, managed to successfully fight against Allied (mainly British) forces, as side notice Germans tried to resupply his forces using L 59 airship, but it fail to do that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LZ_104_(L_59)
        Caucasus Campaign – fought mainly between Russian Empire and Ottoman Empire
        Siege of Tsingtau
        Sinai and Palestine Campaign

        • Visit to museum in Kobarid, Slovenia gave me idea (in addition to reading I have done beforehand) what that war was about – it was fought by any and all means. They fought in alpine terrain in deep sub-zero temperatures, they fought in caves they dug out and later blew up, they fought in terrain where they could not dig themselves in because it was mostly rock.
          https://www.kobariski-muzej.si/museum/general_information/

          I still recall what my grandpa told me; they often changed hand in holding an important point several times a day – fort and back. I also saw an eerily looking memorial to Germans who took part in fall of 1917 which precipitated Italian defeat. No one seems tended for it. Most decorated were graves of Hungarian soldiers by their traditional tricolor band. At one sample surviving fortification, right on border line, we met an Italian mountaineer and had a friendly chat with him… if that was the case 100 years earlier!

          • “eerily looking memorial to Germans who took part in fall of 1917 which precipitated Italian defeat”
            This reminded me about Ghosts of Menin Gate by Will Longstaff.
            Great War have also impact on visual arts, as first European apocalyptic war, if that is good moniker. Big shift from bright and cheerful vision of future of dawn of 20th century, like for example:
            https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/france-in-the-year-2000-1899-1910/
            to everyone is doomed or something similar.

          • Those images are driven by state of technology at the time, as far as artists were able to perceive it. I am afraid (and we have clear signs of it) the future will be more and more not only under influence of technology, but psychology and its sophisticated manipulation. That way there will be almost near full assurance that a dissent will not exist. Will are entering the robotic age.

          • armistice in November of (1919)… to be 1918
            Turk war of independence started in May of 1919.

  4. Ian: it really pleases me that you continue to extended forgottenweapons out to the history of where and when weapons were used, especially as you seem to have done it with France in the First World War.

    I thought I had a reasonable knowledge of the Western Front, but this video is a bit of a wizz-bang landing in my comfortable WWI entrenchment of knowledge, now exposed as an unsupported British outlook.

    I thought I knew about Verdun, and I did know that the Somme was to relieve the French Army at Verdun, but I now see that I clearly know less than the 56 old men at Fort Douaumont.

    • “I thought I had a reasonable knowledge of the Western Front, but this video is a bit of a wizz-bang landing in my comfortable WWI entrenchment of knowledge, now exposed as an unsupported British outlook. ”
      I would says that having fully complete knowledge about Great War, even if limited to one aspect (say for example aerial warfare) there is still many many many information.
      I think that this: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00682095/document is interesting article, as its analysis of songs of that conflict.

      • It is a peculiar part of human nature that it tends (mostly in aftermath of it) to reflect on war as something quaint or even entertaining, especially for those on winning side. Of course, the reality is in stark contrast.

        Certainly no one with right mind wants to replay it.

      • This is a great academic source with multi-faceted objective. Unfortunately I could not enlarge text to read it comfortably. But yes, I recognise that there is lot of manipulation behind popular war songs going in several directions. Most notorious being “Long way to Tipperary”; on one hand it mentions the dearest of feelings (or urges if you will) and on the other appealing to what system portrays as a patriotic duty – which at the moment are given priority. Clearly, this is a sample of song made on political order.

        • “Unfortunately I could not enlarge text to read it comfortably.”
          I wouldn’t except that, file I linked is pdf just with text so it should magnify without jagging. Try to download that file and open with some pdf viewer. If that it is impossible try to highlight interesting fragment using mouse (left button down and move over text), copy and paste into some text editor.

  5. Hello Ian, are you still in France? Have you considered visiting “Dig Hill 80” in Begium?
    I am just back after spending a week on the dig, it was a major German command post from 1914 until 1917 when it was taken at the battles of Messines Ridge.
    They continue to look for all support.
    Cheers, Dave.

  6. My childhood encyclopedia had a series of reconnaissance pictures of Douaumont as the bombardment progressed. The outline was so obscured by the last one that I doubt I could have picked out the borders of the works without having seen the previous images.

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