Disasters of the 20th Century

Posted on Wed, April 5, 2017

Les Désastres du XX Siecle

When the soldiers of Europe marched off to war in the late summer of 1914, most expected an adventure that would last mere weeks or months. By the end, in November 1918, millions had been consumed by four years of grinding, mechanized warfare. Casualties, military and civilian, numbered nearly 38 million—more than 17 million dead and 20 million wounded. The psychological and emotional toll was incalculable. Some of the stone carvings capture the enormity of the catastrophe.  

A skull wearing the goggles of a gas mask looks at us hauntingly from the past.

This elaborate carving documents the sinking of the French ship, Liberte, in 1917. The translated inscriptions read:

 “La Liberte leaving the world”

 “Sun of my youth”

 “Disasters of the 20th Century”

The work speaks to this soldier’s grasp of the enormity and far-reaching impact of loss during the war.

World War I trenches at night in Massages, France

View at sunset from inside an original World War I German bunker on the mountain top battlefield at Hartmannswillerkopf located in Southern Alsace near the German and Swiss borders.

Photographs by Jeff Gusky

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