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Serving in Bavaria during the last years of the Cold War, the battalion’s officers took a bus trip to Verdun, for a professional development weekend. The terrain, even in 1988, was a stark, silent testament to the horror that reigned between trenches in the Great War. Moonscape? Try golf ball, for the ubiquity and closeness of deep dimples in the ground. Thirty more years have not erased the scars.
The French designated the swaths of land “Zone Rouge.”
Zone Rouge (English: Red Zone) is a chain of non-contiguous areas throughout northeastern France that the French government isolated after the First World War. The land, which originally covered more than 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq mi), was deemed too physically and environmentally damaged by conflict for human habitation. Rather than attempt to immediately clean up the former battlefields, the land was allowed to return to nature. Restrictions within the zone rouge still exist today although the control areas have been greatly reduced.
The “zone rouge” was defined just after the war as “Completely devastated. Damage to properties: 100%. Damage to Agriculture: 100%. Impossible to clean. Human life impossible.”
The land is carpeted in green, but you could not take two steps in any direction without climbing or descending in and out of the old artillery shell craters. As President Trump meets with the North Korean dictator, it is worth reflecting on what wars fought with massive artillery, and air power, can do. Life goes on, nature renews growth, but time does not heal all things.