Rites of War
0 Weissdorn mit den roten Beern,
was wird der Fruhling uns beschern?
(o hawthorn with your berry red,
What will spring bring instead?)
"Der Frontsoldat," Christmas 1914
. . .
But many there stood still
To face the stark, blank sky beyond the ridge,
Knowing their feet had come to the end of the
Often during the scientific, chemical "cubist" warfare, on
nights made terrible by air raids, I have thought of the
Sacre . . .
The artillery barrage is deafening. When the air is still, the din can be heard faintly in
London and Paris. Sometimes the pounding lasts for days. In June 1916 at the Somme it
continues for seven days and nights. Field artillery, medium artillery, and heavy
howitzers. The fifteen-inch-caliber gun of the British can fire a shell of fourteen hundred
pounds. "Big Bertha" of the Germans, with a caliber of seventeen inches, can project a
missile weighing over a ton. At Verdun in 1916 the Germans bring in thirteen of these
twenty-ton monsters. Each is moved into position by nine tractors; a crane is required to
insert the shell. The impact of this shell annihilates buildings; it shatters windows in a
two-mile radius. In August 1914 these huge machines of war had demolished the
purportedly impregnable forts of Liege. As the Krupp guns "walked" their shells toward
the final target, Belgian defenders inside the forts went mad.
For concentrated attack there is usually one field gun for every ten yards under fire, and
one heavy—six-inch caliber and up—for every twenty yards. When the huge shells burst,
they ravage the earth with their violence, hurling trees, rock, mud, torsos, and other
hundreds of feet into the air. Craters the size of swimming pools remain. When a
lull comes and the rains return, men bathe in these cavernous holes. The small and
Rites of War
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