October 1916

Philippe Pétain and the Trench of Bayonets

There is a special place nearby the Douaumont Ossuary, surrounded by a legend. The area, strategically important as direct access to Souville and then Verdun, now houses a monument, the Bayonet Trench. The story tells that during the Battle of Verdun the German artillery made an entire trench collapse on the heads of the French soldiers, burying them alive, and leaving only the bayonets comes out from the ground. Others argue that the Germans, astonished by the strenght of the soldiers, buried them. Whatever the case, in 1920 an American general decided to build a monument around the trench, still be visited today. The bodies of the soldiers were moved to Douaumont Ossuary, but the bayonets are still there.

Philippe Pétain (1856 – 1951) is considered one of the heroes of Verdun: celebrated for his tactical acumen and his strong charisma, commander of the French resistance of the crucial battle, is also know for the attention to his soldiers, whom recognized him with a lot of confidence. The Air Force, wich played a key role in the fighting, was coordinated by Pétain, as well the logistic for supplies, reinforcements to the front line and aid for the injuried. The air control was essential for the French general so much that in 1917 he said: “Aviation has acquired a fundamental importance; has become one of the essential factors for success... We must absolutely dominate the air”.