In 1916, the Battle of Verdun took place in northeastern France. It was the longest sustained conflict of World War I; the battle lasted 300 days and resulted in the deaths of more than 300,000 French and German soldiers. In some ways, France is still recovering from the effects of World War I, which ultimately ended in 1918. Shortly after the war, the French government designated a 42,000-acre territory surrounding Verdun as the “Red Zone.” Access to the area has been restricted due to the high number of unexploded bombs and shells, as well as the fact that the soil is contaminated with arsenic. Although France's munitions clearance agency has been trying to clean up the site since 1945, it’s estimated that this process could take up to 300 years.
More about the Battle of Verdun:
- Approximately 15% of the 40 to 60 million shells fired during the Battle of Verdun are thought to remain unexploded.
- Nine nearby towns were permanently destroyed during the Battle of Verdun, but they still appear on French maps and have volunteer mayors.
- The remains of 130,000 unidentified casualties of the Battle of Verdun are stored at Douaumont Ossuary, a memorial located near the battlefield.