One of the longest and most costly battles in human history, the Battle of Verdun began on February 21, 1916 and lasted over 303 days resulting in over 975,000 casualties on both sides. Although the French were ultimately able to stem the German advance, the cost in human life and materiel to both sides was staggering. The defending commander Marshall Philippe Petain, “The Lion of Verdun,” who famously exclaimed “ils ne passeront pas!” (“they will not pass”) (see nos. 125–7, 129), was viewed as a national hero by the French. His later role as head of state for the Vichy government during WWII led to his conviction of treason and sentence to death, later commuted to life in prison.
Death pumping blood over desolate battleground; within curve: .VERDUN.DIE.WELTBLUTPUMPE.1916 (“Verdun, the world’s blood pump”)