French troops testing their respirators at Verdun

French troops testing their respirators at Verdun

French troops testing their respirators at Verdun

Here we see French troops testing their respirators before going to the front at Verdun during 1916


The Sentinel of Verdun

To French infantrymen in Verdun’s trenches early in 1916, cow- ering under German artillery, machine guns, flamethrowers and gas attacks, the appearance of a bright red airplane over- head symbolized salvation rather than defeat. At the time Manfred von Richthofen, the future “Red Baron,” was an unknown excavalryman without a single aerial victory to his credit. And this red biplane bore on its wings and tail not the black cross of Germany but the tricolor of France. In the cockpit was the poilus’ guardian angel, Sub-Lieutenant Jean Navarre, the“Sentinel of Verdun,”whose presence above the lines proclaimed to all that, as French General Henri Philippe Pétain had declared of the Germans, “They shall not pass.”

Guardian perhaps, but Jean Marie Dominique Navarre was no angel. He and his twin brother Pierre, the eldest of a wealthy paper manufacturer’s 11 children, had been an inseparable pair of enfants terribles, kicked out of some of France’s best schools. Pierre eventually went on to study engineering and Jean to a college of aeronautics—briefly.“I have not stopped yearning to become a pilot,” Jean wrote, “despite the calculations and other approaches I am forced to swallow. I do not want classroom aviation. I have to fly.”

At flight school he proved to be a natural, soloing ahead of schedule—and against orders. After the war began, Navarre won his military wings before mastering navigation. (On his way to join his new unit in a two-seat Maurice Farman MF.7, he and his copilot became lost. “Were we in France, were we over the enemy?” he wondered. “I had no idea!”)

Not one for chauffeuring officer-observers over the lines and merely waving at enemy aircraft, Navarre went up alone armed with a carbine. Happening upon a German Taube, he later recounted:“The enemy is coming towards me, turns, gets alongside me and waves in greeting. He too is alone. As a hello, I gave him my three rounds.” The rifle took both hands as soon as Navarre let go of the stick, his Farman got away from him. The Taube escaped.

Matching fighting pilots to fighting planes, Captain Charles Tricornot de Rose of France’s fledgling Aéronautique Militaire put Navarre in a new Morane-Saulnier L. Called the “Parasol” for its single overhead wing, the two-seater had a reputation for spins and fatalities. Navarre found its fault instinctively: “The wings are twisted into a spin because they are warpable,” he said. “They form a propeller, and the joystick is thrown violently into the pilot’s knees. The key is not to adjust the warp, which is impossible, but the rudder and dive.”

Even famed prewar aviator Roland Garros was impressed at Navarre’s newfound skill, remarking, “If he does not kill himself, he will surpass us all.”

But in addition to testing aircraft, Navarre was also testing his expertise with women and alcohol, with mixed success. He quickly ran afoul of the Parisian gendarmes. Rather than toss him in jail, however, they simply decanted the youthful aviator back at his base in time for the dawn patrol.

On the morning of April 1, 1915, Navarre went up with SubLieutenant Jean Robert as his observer. When they met a German Aviatik B.I over Merval, Robert broke out a carbine. Navarre shouted: “Not yet! I’ll tell you when!” The Aviatik dived away, but Navarre went after it, closing to within 30 feet before crying, “Go!”

Two of Robert’s shots hit the Aviatik’s radiator, and one struck its pilot in the shoulder. The Germans landed behind Allied lines and were taken prisoner. Robert and Navarre were both awarded medals, promoted and credited with one full victory apiece. Navarre was evidently relieved that no one had died in the engagement. “What good is it to kill for the pleasure of killing,” he commented, “when one can triumph peacefully?”

Later that same day Garros, who had fitted a Hotchkiss machine gun to his Parasol and steel bullet deflectors to its prop, shot down a German Albatros. And two days later prewar stunt pilot SubLieutenant Adolphe Pégoud scored his fifth victory (though some of his claims would have gone unconfirmed by later standards). With these developments, that first week of April 1915 marked the birth of both the archetypal fighter plane and the fighter ace. Jean Navarre would make legends of both.

Navarre’s superiors hoped their new hero would set an example, and so he did—just not a good one. The Germans had by that time learned to avoid Parasols, but Navarre found new uses for his plane: stunting over his airfield, against orders joyriding with brother Pierre, who was stationed nearby with the 6th Engineer Regiment and putting on aerobatic demonstrations to impress the girls of nearby Amiens. He topped it all off by buzzing a contingent of visiting British officers, swooping down so low that they dived into the mud. “My military record has a good chance to be too small to contain all of my punishments,” he wrote. “And to crown it all, not the slightest enemy in the air.”

Finally he snagged a wingtip and cartwheeled his Parasol while he and an observer were trying to hunt ducks…in midair. At the hospital de Rose railed,“Are you satisfied?” Navarre later complained to squadron mates, “If only we had the ducks too!”

He redeemed himself by volunteering for special operations, including one of the first balloon attacks (a failure) and secret missions over the lines to insert spies and saboteurs. On his return from one mission he couldn’t resist doing a bit of stunting over the German aerodrome at Laon. “Nobody thought to fire on me,” he reported. “I was so proud.”

After he learned that two of his former passengers had been caught and shot, Navarre refused further spydropping missions. Despite that, his exploits earned him the Legion of Honor and his commanders’ grudging respect. “With Navarre, I am always taken by surprise,” noted de Rose.“At the moment we are to sign his arrest order, we are obliged to turn it into a citation.”

When Pégoud was shot down and killed on August 31, Navarre suddenly became France’s leading aviator, as popular with the press as he was with the ladies and bartenders. He demanded a new single-seat Morane-Saulnier N, nicknamed the “Bullet” by the British. Though difficult to fly, the monoplane featured a streamlined fuselage and shoulder-mounted wings that made it fast, strong and maneuverable. And it had a forward-firing gun with Garros-style deflectors.

On October 25, when Navarre caught an LVG C.II over Château-Thierry, the German observer hammered out some 300 rounds but failed to get in a single hit on the Frenchman’s Morane. Navarre fired a mere two bursts—just eight shots total (the Hotchkiss only held 24 per clip)—putting half into the Germans’ engine. On landing to take the LVG’s crew prisoner, Navarre learned that his fame had spread across the lines. “We know you well on our field,” the Germans told him, “and your little monoplane is dreaded by all. We prefer to have been shot down by you rather than another.”

Navarre’s three confirmed victories put him two ahead of Sergeant Georges Guynemer and Adjutant Charles Nungesser. Navarre and Nungesser soon became as famous for their drinking and womanizing as for their exploits in the air. But the shy, fatalistic Guynemer didn’t fit in with their lifestyle—perhaps the reason why, in February 1916, he was the first to become an ace.

Navarre, meanwhile, upgraded to a compact little Nieuport 11 Bébé (Baby), almost as fast as the Bullet but sturdier and better at turns and climbing. Its Lewis gun, mounted atop the upper wing to fire over the propeller, had a 47-round magazine. Navarre found it “much more convenient” for shooting down Germans.

On February 21, he downed a two-seater behind enemy lines near Badonviller, though it was unconfirmed. By then he and France had bigger worries: That morning at 7:15 the Germans had unleashed a daylong, 800-gun artillery barrage to light off the apocalyptic Battle of Verdun. Pétain put de Rose in charge of France’s air war, telling him: “I am blind. Sweep the skies for me. If they chase us out of the sky, it’s quite simple—Verdun will be lost.”

Those in the trenches—on both sides—knew when Navarre arrived. With his Nieuport’s fuselage and wheels painted in French red, white and blue, he performed daily stunts over the lines, literally flying le tricouleur for all to see. As usual, his superiors took a dim view of such antics. And as usual, Navarre didn’t care.

Already airborne at dawn on February 26, Navarre spotted three German two-seaters sneaking low across the lines and decided,“Let us teach them that I don’t get up early for nothing.” His mere appearance behind one of the German planes inspired its crew to land and surrender. But instead of receiving praise for a bloodless victory, Navarre was punished for flying without permission.

As he headed off to barracks arrest, however, a flight of nine enemy bombers appeared overhead. Navarre leapt back into his Nieuport and caught up with them just as they unloaded over Ancemont. When one bomber turned into his attack, Navarre waited until the last instant, then snapped off five rounds. The bomber rolled wheels-up and plunged into a wood.

French troops stripped the dead crew, and when Navarre arrived on the scene they offered him a bloody German tunic as a souvenir.“I was sick,” he remembered.“It was enough to have killed the unfortunate. I did not want to bring in such tragic evidence.” It was his fifth victory. Rather than see their new ace under arrest, headquarters quietly replaced his squadron commander.

Now at the height of his powers, chasing Germans by day and mademoiselles by night, Navarre set Paris aflame as the enemy never could. Rather than wear a flying helmet in the cockpit, he donned a lady’s silk stocking over his coiffure.“Navarre goes hatless,” gushed the Paris Journal, “…the hair brushed back from his brow and seeming swept by a tornado of air.”

The transfer of his brother Pierre from the infantry to a pilot’s seat in a neighboring squadron was cause for celebration. But on March 8, in one of his first dogfights against a Fokker E.III Eindecker, Pierre was hit three times and nearly died from a severed artery. It was a grim reminder of the deadly game they were playing.

By the time Jean returned from overseeing his brother’s recovery, things had changed. The day of the lone air hero was already done. De Rose was assembling fighter units into squadrons and squadrons into fighter groups. Guynemer and Nungesser, both wounded, had been put out of action. Only Navarre still stood out in the crowded skies. He’d had his Nieuport, fitted with the first synchronized Lewis, painted red for all to see. (Young Richthofen, flying two-seaters from just across the lines, surely took note.) That spring of 1916 over Verdun would cement the Navarre legend for all time.

Yet to some onlookers it seemed that for Jean Navarre some of the fun had gone out of it. One of the first aviation artists, Lieutenant Henri Farré, recalled that he was flying as an observer, hard pressed by a German Rumpler C.I, when, “What should I suddenly see, high in the air above us, like a meteor—Navarre, in his red airplane…a veritable bird of prey, swooping down on the poor Rumpler, almost touching it with his wings.” One burst from the Nieuport sent the German down in flames. On landing, Farré sought out his savior to thank him, but Navarre just shrugged it off, saying,“I was sure that you were going to be attacked, so I kept on flying 2,000 yards above you.”

“Then you made use of us as bait?” Farré asked. “Absolutely,” Navarre replied.

Perhaps Navarre also sensed that his own end was near at that point, since death was all around him. On May 11, Major de Rose, who had so often admonished him for his daredevil antics, died while demonstrating a Bébé. (Under stress, those early Nieuports were notorious for shedding their lower wings.) And on the 19th, Navarre and Lieutenant Georges Boillot, Nungesser’s squadron commander and a good friend to both fliers, attacked an Aviatik C formation over Chattancourt. Navarre shot one down for his 10th victory, but his triumph as the Allies’ first double ace was short-lived. That same day Boillot went up alone and was caught by five Eindeckers, shot down and killed. Navarre and Nungesser reportedly circled over his funeral, dropping flowers.

Navarre was by that time spending all night carousing and all day in the air. His superiors and fellow pilots warned him to ease off before something gave way, but he seemed driven. “I fly because I must,” he once said, “but this killing is not a matter a man can be proud of.”

On June 17, he scored his 12th victory (not counting some seven known only to the enemy). But then, when Navarre and two squadron mates closed on a German two-seater, its observer concentrated his fire on the red Nieuport. Before Navarre could get off a shot, he was struck a tremendous blow. “I understand [I have been hit]!” he recalled. “But I feel no pain. My first instinct is to shoot…I want my revenge immediately. At this point, I feel like coughing, and wiping my mouth with the back of my glove, I realize that I am spitting blood like water.”

The bullet had pierced his arm and lodged in his chest. Semiconscious, he crash-landed behind French lines and was rushed to a hospital. His stay there apparently brought out the old enfant terrible. Navarre’s petulance and fits of rage soon made the youthful pilot as infamous among the medical staff as he had been among the Germans. Perhaps it was due to a concussion suffered in the landing, or the alcohol-free hospital diet. More likely it was the knowledge that while he lay in bed the Battle of Verdun was being won without him, that both Nungesser and Guynemer had returned to action and were leaving him behind in the victory count.

“The sudden stop in my hard work brought me down completely and made me another man,” he admitted. “Especially when, to my misfortune, I was sent to a hospital in Paris.”As soon as the ace was able to get around, he received the last thing he needed: constant invitations to dinners, parties and fêtes, not to mention his old watering holes. He wasn’t physically up to his old escapades. And his condition only worsened on November 15 when his brother Pierre died in a crash while retraining.

At this point Navarre’s revelries took on a destructive bent. Celebrity turned to notoriety, and the Sentinel of Verdun became the “Mad Flyer of France.” Being barred from his old haunts did nothing to improve his outlook. In that era, psychotherapy was no more advanced than aviation, but today the diagnosis seems obvious. Post-traumatic stress. Survivor guilt. Death wish.

Navarre’s superiors, who had for so long turned a blind eye to his indiscretions, now recalled him to duty but kept him grounded for his own good, with predictable results. Navarre borrowed a plane to try his old stunts, only to reopen his wounds at 9,000 feet and barely get back down alive.

At the prospect of losing his flying skills, Navarre seems to have suffered a breakdown. It took him months in a sanitarium to pull out of his downward spiral. Not until March 1917, having sworn off alcohol, did he go back to the front. He even flew a few patrols, but scored no more victories.

In April, while his plane was undergoing routine repairs, Navarre went out for the evening in Paris and ran into some old friends. Drinks were had, one thing led to another and he ended up driving his powerful Hispano-Suiza sports car down a sidewalk. When gendarmes converged on the scene, Navarre actually ran over one of them. Fortunately, his Hispano was high-sprung, and he even stopped to help the policeman up. But when the lawmen attempted to arrest him, a fight broke out. Navarre jumped back behind the wheel, and Paris was treated to a scene of its air hero pursued by police on bicycles, trying to shoot out his tires.

This time he went not to the hospital but to prison, accused of attempted homicide. The authorities eventually excused him on grounds of mental instability. He was remanded to family care, returning to duty just a few weeks before the war’s end.

France was willing to forgive him, and Navarre, who had been named chief test pilot for Morane-Saulnier, was revered as an ace among aces. When it came time for the Bastille Day 1919 victory parade down Paris’ Champs-Élysées, he was as insulted as any French flier to learn that aviators would have to march with the infantry. Far better for one of them to fly through the Arc de Triomphe! And Navarre was still regarded by experts as the best pilot in the service.

“It’s crazy,” Robert Morane warned him, pointing out the Arc’s inner walls were “not even 17 to 18 meters” apart.

“You are mistaken,” Navarre responded. “There are only 12.7 meters. My plane is 8.5 meters [wide]….I will succeed.”

He practiced for the attempt between phone poles located near a local aerodrome, barreling his Morane-Saulnier AI parasol monoplane again and again under the wires. The inevitable happened around 3 p.m. on July 10, just four days before the parade and a month shy of Navarre’s 24th birthday.

Afterward, newspapers reported that France’s hero had given his life avoiding a collision with less experienced pilots. Witnesses claimed his engine lost power at the critical moment. Some said he came in too high, catching his Morane’s overhead wing on the wires others that he did not climb quite high enough and caught its landing gear. Regardless, the Morane was seen to veer left, lose speed, sideslip and pile into a wall at the edge of the field.

It’s been less than 100 years since Navarre’s passing. Now, as remote-controlled drones are beginning to dominate the battlefield, the age of the fighter ace seems to be drawing to a close. But so much of the past century has turned on air power, and today’s world owes much to men like Jean Navarre—among the very first of the few who lived fast, flew high, fought hard and died young.

Don Hollway points out that he has enough stories for two articles on Jean Navarre’s exploits. For further reading, he recommends: Jean Navarre: France’s Sentinel of Verdun, by Jim Wilberg and, for those who read French, Jacques Mortane’s Navarre: Sentinelle de Verdun.

Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.


History - Tension and Causes of Events in WW1 (1894 - 1918) - The 1st World War Stalemate (Review)

- Germany would attack France via Belgium with 5 huge armies in order to avoid the forts and French troops gathered on the border between France and Germany.

- Germany would swing round and capture Paris before the French would defend it.

- They would transfer East via train to defeat the Russian 'steam roller' (army) who they thought would take six weeks to mobilize.

- Britain sent 80,000 men within 2 weeks of the start of war and marched down north-east to Germany slowing them down (they responded so quickly as they had an agreement to defend Belgium if invade many years before during the London Treaty).

- Britain and France were able to stop Germany at the Marne but they couldn't defeat Germany so the war continued.

- Defensive tactics were more successful than those for attacking (trenches/machine guns/barbed wire) as attacking heavy led to casualties.

- They were all zigzag shaped which limited the damage artillery shells could do and meant it was harder for the enemy to capture the whole thing.

- New shells, mines and trench mortars rained down, especially prior to attack when a 'barrage took place. Steel helmets were given out in 1915 and camouflage was introduced.

- Shells destroyed drainage causing a sea of deep mud and shell craters. Lines of barbed wire protected the trenches and in places (eg at the Battle of the Somme) these could be up to 30 metres thick.

- Sanitation in the front line was a problem and the smell of sewerage, rotting corpses and unwashed soldiers was appalling. Soldiers had lice and would often use a candle to burn along the seams of their uniforms in an effort to kill them.

The French General Petain was i/c defending Verdun and he moved ammunition and supplies along the 'Sacred Way' the main route into Verdun.

- After 5 months the Germans stopped the attack and Petain was a national hero. 315,000 French men died and 280,000 Germans.

- His aim was not to capture land but to force the French into a position which was indefensible.

- Shells were unable to destroy the 30 metre swathes of barbed wire, it just bounced up and down but remained intact.

- On the first day, soldiers were sent over the top into no man's land wearing heavy backpacks. Their weapons were not loaded, they expected the German trenches to be destroyed. Their orders were to occupy and rebuild the trenches they had destroyed.

- The Germans waited until the bombardment stopped and then readied their weapons for attack.

- On the first day of the Somme 20,000 British soldiers were killed, another 40,000 were wounded. It was impossible to stop the attack as communications were so poor during the battle.

- Haig was criticised by ex-soldiers, politicians and in the press. He was nicknamed 'Butcher of the Somme'. He had warned politicians prior to the attack that that heavy losses were necessary for the war to be won.

- This was the darkest hour of the French Army. From now on the French relied on the British to take on the Germans.

- The Third Battle of Ypres began with the detonation of 19 mines at a place called Messines Ridge. It had been a wet summer and the soldiers struggled to move across the battlefield as the trenches quickly became a mass of mud.

- He promised to stop the battle if casualties were high and predicted only 10,000 deaths. The Battle began with an artillery bombardment on 16th April.

- 1 million French men then attacked. Nivelle did not keep his promise and over 100,000 men became casualties in the first 5 days. On 15th May Nivelle was sacked.

- The Schlieffen Plan would have meant victory for Germany in 6 weeks. They had not stocked up on raw materials needed to fight in a lengthy conflict. Surrounded by enemies on land the Germans were cut off from the rest of the world at sea.

- The Royal Navy had control of the North Sea, the English Channel and the Eastern Mediterranean. The effects of the blockade were gradual, but were decisive at the end of war.

- Admiral Beatty (Britain) set out with a fleet of cruisers. 31st May Beatty saw and directly attacked. The Germans fell back so that Beatty would be drawn towards the rest of the fleet.

- HMS Queen Mary (British ship) was destroyed by Germany and Beatty retreated bringing the German fleet towards the rest of the British fleet just over the horizon.

- 23 Aug 1914 at Heligoland Blight the Germans lost 3 cruisers and a destroyer.

- 1 Nov 1914 the Battle of Coronel was a defeat for the Royal Navy off the coast of Chile.

- British merchant ships were converted to Q-Ships (heavily armed anti-submarine vessels. When the U-boat surfaced Q-ships would destroy them. U-boats sank British ships but also those from neutral nations like America. America joining).

- During April 1917 870,359 tons of British shipping was destroyed. There was only 3 weeks' of food supplies left.

- The Russians were under increasing pressure from the Ottoman Empire, the British and French were worried that if the Germans beat the Russians they would have to fight the whole German army.

- They would capture the forts that controlled the sea route. They would then march overland to capture Constantinople.

- 'Easterners' believed that the war could be won by defeating Germany's allies known as 'props'. (Included Winston Churchill / David Lloyd George)

- It became clear that the Turks were on the alert for an attack. April the land attack began and many of the allied troops landed in the wrong area causing confusion.

- Sir Ian Hamilton was on a boat miles away from the attack and communications were once again poor, he was unable to coordinate things effectively.

- In some places there were no Turkish defenders but allied troops were stuck waiting for instructions. In other places the Turks were ready and waiting and so many men were killed the sea turned red with blood.

- In August 2000 allied soldiers were landed on Suvla Bay. The plan was to march inland 6km and to occupy the low hills there. The troops would unite and attack from there.


100 Years of Respiratory Protection History

In 1919, the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) initiated the first respirator certification program. Several months later, on January 15, 1920, this federal body certified the first respirator. To recognize the important milestones of the past 100 years, this webpage documents a general historical overview of respiratory protection research and the evolution of the certification program as undertaken by the U.S. federal government.

Respiratory Protection History Prior to the 1800s

Pliny the Elder, photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Around the world, scientific minds recognized the need for respiratory protection long before the U.S. Bureau of Mines. The history of respiratory protection traces back as far as Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), a Roman philosopher and naturalist, who made use of loose animal bladder skins to filter dust from being inhaled while crushing cinnabar, which is a toxic, mercuric sulfide mineral used at the time for pigmentation in decorations. Many centuries later, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) recommended the use of wet cloths over the mouth and nose as a form of protection against inhaling harmful agents (Spelce et al., &ldquoHistory,&rdquo 2018 Cohen and Birkner, 2012).

Further scientific inquiry and discovery led to the use of early atmosphere-supplying respirators. While ancient divers used hoses and tubes for supplied air, seventeenth century scientists added bellows to these devices as a way of providing positive pressure breathing. Although science has made advancements over time, the need for proper respiratory protection became increasingly apparent. In the 1700s, Bernadino Ramazzini, known as the father of occupational medicine, described the inadequacy of respiratory protection against the hazards of arsenic, gypsum, lime, tobacco, and silica (Spelce et al., &ldquoHistory,&rdquo 2018 Cohen and Birkner, 2012).

While these scientific discoveries and advancements to respiratory protection were pivotal, the most important date for respiratory protection was still to come.

Nealy Smoke Mask from The National Fireman's Journal December 8, 1877

The 18 th and 19 th centuries achieved the development of what we would recognize today as respirators, far surpassing the use of animal bladders and wet cloths. In 1827, the Scottish botanist Robert Brown discovered the phenomenon known as the Brownian movement &ndash the theory that collisions of rapidly moving gas molecules causes the random bouncing motion of extremely small particles. Understanding the behavior of small particles, the properties of filter media and their interactions led to the first particulate respirator. In the mid-1800s, German scientists conducted studies with industrial dust and bacteria and their relationship with respiratory health. In 1877, the English invented and patented the Nealy Smoke Mask. The Nealy Smoke Mask used a series of water-saturated sponges and a bag of water attached to a neck strap. The wearer could squeeze the bag of water to re-saturate the sponges to filter out some of the smoke. (Coffey, 2016 Cohen and Birkner, 2012 Kloos, 1963).

On July 1, 1910, the U.S. Department of the Interior established the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM). The USBM worked to address the high fatality rate of mineworkers. In 1919, the USBM initiated the first respirator certification program in the United States. In 1920, MSA Safety Company manufactured the Gibbs respirator. This closed-circuit self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) operated on compressed oxygen and a soda lime scrubber to remove carbon dioxide. (Spelce et al., 2017). According to MSA Safety Company, industries, fire departments, and health departments were the first to utilize the Gibbs Breathing Apparatus (WebApps.MSANet.com). The U.S. Navy requested a respirator comparable to those used for emergency escape purposes for mineworkers, leading to the invention of the Gibbs breathing apparatus, named for United States Bureau of Mines engineer and inventor W.E. Gibbs. Gibbs also created a respirator specifically for aviators (Spelce, et al., 2017).

World War I presented a new kind of threat to soldiers &ndash chemical warfare gases, such as chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas. The U.S. War Department asked the USBM to develop gas mask standards. Military equipment at the time did not account for protective masks or respirators. Combat equipment did not include respirators until World War II (Caretti, 2018). As a result, chemical warfare in WWI accounted for 1.3 million casualties and approximately 90,000 fatalities. This amounted to about 30% of all casualties during the war (Fitzgerald, 2008).

World War I respiratory protection, photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Additionally, WWI troops from all over the world helped a new influenza virus spread. The lack of vaccines and respiratory protection contributed to high fatalities from the flu virus. The U.S. reported the first flu symptoms in March 1918. In October of 1918 alone, the flu virus killed 195,000 Americans resulting in the San Francisco Board of Health recommending the use of masks in public spaces. The pandemic flu began to decline in early 1919. The flu caused approximately 50 million deaths across the world, including 675,000 in the United States (&ldquo1918 Pandemic,&rdquo 2018). The spread of the pandemic flu at this time displayed the need of additional respiratory protection and research needed in healthcare settings.

While the flu pandemic exhibited a need for healthcare respiratory protection, researchers at the time still largely focused on the respiratory protection of mining. On March 5, 1919, the USBM produced Schedule 13, &ldquoProcedure for Establishing a List of Permissible Self-Contained Oxygen Breathing Apparatus.&rdquo Schedule 13 set the first set of regulations for human testing of protection of self-contained breath apparatus respirators and certification thereof (Kyriazi, 1999). Finally, on January 15, 1920 the USBM certified the first respirator, the Gibbs breathing apparatus. (Spelce et al., &ldquoHistory,&rdquo 2018 Cohen and Birkner, 2012). The Gibbs breathing apparatus, originally designed for mine work, became the first approved respirator for industrial work. (Spelce, et al., 2017).

Gibb&rsquos Breathing Apparatus

During World War I, the U.S. government sought improvements for respiratory protection across several industries as well as the military. The passing of the Overman Act of May 20, 1918 by President Wilson gave authority for the Army to lead the research efforts in respiratory protection in order to engage in chemical warfare and defense. However, this delegation of research power was short-lived, and the USBM regained the primary task of mine safety research. (Spelce, et al., 2017).

The USBM developed Schedule 14 shortly after for the certification of military-use gas masks. Over time, the USBM altered Schedule 14, &ldquoProcedure for Establishing a List of Permissible Gas Masks,&rdquo several times. Initial modifications to it included acknowledgement of the 1941 USBM &ldquoFacepiece Tightness Test&rdquo which tested the detectable leakages and freedom of movement of the user (Spelce, et al., &ldquoHistory&rdquo (Cont.), 2018).

Because of the horrific casualties of WWI from chemical warfare, armed forces on both sides of the battlefield refrained from using chemical agents during WWII. Both sides shared the paranoia that the enemy had more harmful chemical warfare agents (Chauhan, 2008). As the world entered World War II, the U.S. Navy&rsquos use of asbestos increased for insulation purposes for pipes in naval vessels. It was not until 1939 that a Medical Officer for the U.S. Navy recognized the need for crew to wear respirators when cutting and wetting amosite and other asbestos containing insulation. Later, as the U.S. entered World War II, Fleischer et al. released a study acknowledging the dangers and risks of dust exposures in asbestos insulation manufacturing. However, even after the publication of the Fleischer et al. study in 1946, the U.S. Navy continued to use asbestos with the additional warning that &ldquoexposure to asbestos dust is a hazard which cannot be overlooked in maintaining an effective occupational-hygiene program.&rdquo The Navy continued to recommend confinement of pipe covering operations, and the use of respirators and ventilation (Barlow et al., 2017).

1930s Mask, photo courtesy of Caretti

In the early 1930s, the Hawk&rsquos Nest Tunnel disaster occurred in West Virginia. The estimated death toll, one of the worst in American industrial history, ranges from roughly 700-1,000 deaths of the 3,000 who worked underground. The tragedy of this disaster expedited the publication of the USBM&rsquos first approval of dust/fume/mist respirator approval standards in 30 CFR Part 14, Schedule 21 (USBM 1934). &ldquoThe USBM had already developed standards for and approved oxygen breathing apparatus (1919), gas mask respirators (1919), and hose mask respirators (1927). By 1937, the Bureau expanded its schedule for testing hose masks to include a variety of supplied-air respirators including Type CE abrasive blasting respirator&rdquo (Spelce, et al., 2019). Schedule 21 describes several types of respirators, including Type A, B, C, combinations of A-C, and D (Spelce, et al., 2019). The original Schedule 21 from 1934 included the following requirements:

  • Exhalation valves were required, and inhalation valves were optional
  • Added Pressure-Tightness Tests to assess the fitting characteristics of the respirator
  • Revised the Direct Leakage and Man Test (coal dust test) by eliminating work exercises
  • The high concentration silica dust defined the test period as one 90-minute test, not three 30-minute test periods
  • Eliminated the low concentration Silica Dust Test
  • Water Silica Mist and Chromic Acid Mist Tests defined the sampling period after 156 minutes and after 312 minutes, respectively
  • Added a Lead Dust Test
  • Eliminated the Lead Paint Test

Revisions to Schedule 21 expanded in 1955 under 30 CFR 14 to include the approval respirators with single use filters and reusable filters. Among these, there are two classes of respirators, including approval for protection against Pneumoconiosis and approval against dust that were not more toxic than lead. These approvals expanded to also included protection against lead fumes, silica, and chromic acid mists (Spelce, et al., 2019).

The USBM began to set stricter regulations on respirators during WWII. It established &ldquocertain basic requirements applicable to all types of respiratory equipment. These requirements are as follows: (1) They must give adequate protection (2) they must be reasonably comfortable and physically convenient to wear (3) they must provide an acceptable period of protection and (4) they must be constructed of durable materials. (IC 7130, August 1940, page 5)&rdquo (Spelce et al., 2018 D&rsquoAlessandro, 2018). The regulation of respiratory protection permitted the standardization of higher quality respiratory protection.

After WWII and the use of chemical gas in warfare, researchers continued their work on improving respiratory protection for soldiers. The events of World War II and the boom of industry on the home front exhibited a need for improved respiratory protection in industry. Americans on the home front went to work on the production lines to aid the war effort, ushering in a booming era of industry and manufacturing. However, those workers inhaled high amounts of asbestos due to poorly regulated working conditions. Early accounts from turn of the century industrial hygienists documented the dangers of airborne asbestos in working environments, but it was not until the mid-1950s that prolonged exposure to asbestos caused widespread concern. Research efforts still did not fully serve this need until even later, in the 1960s and 1970s. &ldquoWith the introduction of the membrane filter sampling method in the late 1960s and early 1970s, asbestos sampling and exposure assessment capabilities advanced to a degree which allowed industrial hygienists to more precisely characterize the exposure&ndashresponse relationship&rdquo (Barlow et al., 2017).

Non-combatant mask, circa 1940, photo courtesy of Caretti

Researchers performed tests on respirators to measure protection, but their levels of protection were unregulated. There was not yet a system in place to set a threshold standard of protection nor any regulatory body in the manufacturing of respirators. The respirators used in different settings, such as in construction or commercial farming, lacked regulation to ensure necessary protection against the airborne hazards in these types of settings.

Further, Schedule 21B in 1965 expanded. These changes include (1) extend certification of approval to respirators designed to protect against dusts, fumes, and mists that are significantly more toxic than lead (2) permit certification of combinations of dispersoid-filter and other types of respirators (3) revise current tests to realize accuracy and speed of testing and (4) revise the fees for inspection and testing (USBM, 1964) (Spelce, et al., 2019). This provided further regulation and protection for industrial workers&rsquo respiratory health.

&ldquoThe use of respirators continued unregulated until the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was enacted in 1969, resulting in regulations governing the certification and use of respirators in the mining industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), was promulgated in 1970&rdquo (Cohen and Birkner, 2012).

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, &ldquoThe Congress finds that personal injuries and illnesses arising out of work situations impose a substantial burden upon, and are a hindrance to, interstate commerce in terms of lost production, wage loss, medical expenses, and disability compensation payments&rdquo (91 st Congress, 1970). Further, the OSH Act of 1970 acknowledges a need for regulation in the safety and health of working citizens to preserve &ldquohuman resources.&rdquo The document sets standards for work places to maintain as well as formulate a regulatory body to oversee the adherence to these standards. The OSH Act not only sets standards to protect workers from physical injury and disease, but also acknowledges the necessity to protect workers from psychological harm in the workplace, such as anxiety linked to physical injury risk at work.

The OSH Act also established the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as a research body focused on the health, safety, and empowerment of workers to create safe and healthy workplaces (NIOSH, &ldquoAbout&rdquo). OSHA and NIOSH continue to be important organizations that assist in safety recommendation and regulation in the workplace, in the area of respiratory protection as well as other areas of personal protective equipment.

&ldquoCongress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1970, and gave it the responsibility for promulgating standards to protect the health and safety of American workers. On February 9, 1979, 29 CFR 1910.134 gained recognition as applicable to the construction industry (44 FR 8577). Until the adoption of these standards by OSHA, most guidance on respiratory protective devices use in hazardous environments was advisory rather than mandatory&rdquo (Department of Labor, 1998). OSHA reprinted, without change of text, 29 CFR Part 1926 with the General Industry Occupational Safety and Health Standards in 29 CFR part 1910. This has since become a set of OSHA regulations (&ldquoEditorial Note,&rdquo 1978).

In 1994, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report entitled &ldquoGuidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Health-Care Facilities, 1994.&rdquo This document revises the 1990 tuberculosis (TB) guidelines in response to an outbreak in 1991 and studies from 1985 that show a multi-drug resistance to the bacterium that causes TB. These guidelines emphasize importance of healthcare professionals&rsquo proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically respiratory protection. Areas of emphasis for respiratory protection include ventilation, donning, use, and doffing. Finally, the guidelines address the need to maintain a full respiratory protection program within healthcare settings, ensuring all healthcare workers train in proper PPE use. This is of particular importance for healthcare workers that move from department to department, such as therapists, dieticians, maintenance, interns, etc.

As respiratory protection became mandatory, the importance of a tight and proper respirator fit increased. In 1995, OSHA revised the certification regulations for fit testing. This led to further research in 1996 regarding exposure in the workplace, causing researchers to use simulated workplace protection factors and exposure simulations (Cohen and Birkner, 2012 Department of Labor, 1998).

&ldquoOn 10 July 1995, the respirator certification regulation, 30 CFR 11, was replaced by 42 CFR 84 (NIOSH, 1995). The primary regulatory changes introduced by 42 CFR 84 are associated with a new approval concept, performance requirements for particulate respirator filters, and instrumentation technology. 42 CFR 84 updated filter requirements and tests to provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the filter based upon its efficiency to remove particulates of the most penetrating size from the ambient air regardless of the particulate composition and toxicity (NIOSH, 1994). The approval philosophy for filters changed from minimum requirements considered safe to breathe for various types of dust/fume/mist respirators to acceptable filter efficiency levels against laboratory generated aerosols with particles of the most penetrating size&rdquo (Spelce, et al., 2019).

The OSHA respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, published on January 8, 1998, replaced the agency&rsquos original standard promulgated in 1972. The rule standardized regulations for respirator use in all industries, including maritime, construction, and general industry. However, this did not include updates for the respiratory protection of the healthcare industry, which at this time still functioned under 29 CFR 1910.134 regulations. While this new development did not include the use of respirators in the healthcare setting, it did effectively progress industry, manufacturing, and construction towards a more healthy and safe work environment.

The necessity for respiratory protection in the healthcare setting came to the forefront of concern with the outbreak of tuberculosis in the 1990s. According to the TB Respiratory Protection Program in Health Care Facilities: Administrator&rsquos Guide, &ldquoThe use of respirators in the health care setting is a relatively new but important step forward in the efforts to prevent the transmission of tuberculosis (TB). Air-purifying respirators provide a barrier to prevent health care workers from inhaling Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The level of protection a respirator provides is determined by the efficiency of the filter material and how well the facepiece fits or seals to the health care worker&rsquos face. A number of studies have shown that surgical masks will not provide adequate protection in filtering out the TB organism. Additionally, surgical masks are not respirators and therefore, are not NIOSH-certified and do not satisfy OSHA requirements for respiratory protection&rdquo(1999).

In 2001, Congress requested the creation of a division within NIOSH to focus on the improvement and research of PPE and personal protective technologies (PPT). This division, the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) conducts scientific research, develops guidance and authoritative recommendations, disseminates information, and responds to requests for workplace health hazard evaluations.

The focus for respiratory protection research shifted drastically in the early 2000s when national tragedy struck. On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Shanksville, PA, and Washington D.C. led to first responders in these cities, as well as nationally, to jump into action. The employees of NIOSH NPPTL also mobilized. According to NIOSH NPPTL employee Robert Stein,

&ldquoIf anyone ever doubted the potential for impact on a vast scale, those doubts should have been firmly dispelled the morning of September 11, 2001. I was sitting at my desk that was in building 02 at the time when I got a phone call from one of my colleagues who was off site that day. He said, &ldquoThey are flying planes into the World Trade Center.&rdquo I had already heard the news that an airplane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers, but his was the first voice to identify and call it out as an intentional act. Things started to develop rapidly after that. The personnel at the newly formed lab gathered to develop response plans. Response planning quickly evolved into planning for communication contingencies as we got word that government sites would be evacuated. Obedient to the directions to leave the work site, several of us mustered at the nearby home of one of our colleagues to finish up with our what-if&rsquos and how-to-get-in-touch-with&rsquos. It was an eerie ride home, very confusing to the senses travelling under the beautiful blue skies of a perfect late summer day, but with such serious and unknown threats seemingly looming everywhere.

Even while there was still a ban on commercial flights, NPPTL sent two individuals to the World Trade Center site to help with respiratory protection issues as they were occurring. Not only were they able to provide immediate assistance at the World Trade Center site, but the first-hand experience they gained observing the difficulties encountered trying to provide respiratory protection to such a large number of first responders, recovery workers, law enforcement personnel, and other workers involved in the response helped to shape technical and policy decisions for months and years afterwards. The entire lab dedicated long hours in order to complete new statements of standard for respirator types with protections appropriate to protect first-responders involved in terrorist incidents, and then approve respirators so those new standards would actually result in providing appropriate respiratory protection for those workers.&rdquo

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the PPE used by first responders became a top priority for NIOSH, as it emphasized the PPE needed to protect those risking their own lives in order to save lives. In the weeks after September 11, the New York City Fire Department&rsquos Bureau of Health Services (FDNY-BHS) and NIOSH launched a collaborative study. This study researched the effectiveness of personal protective equipment, including respiratory protection, and the occupational hazards and exposures of these first responders. The results indicated that many firefighters did not use adequate respiratory protection during the first week of the rescue/recovery operation (MMWR, 2002).

First Responders using inconsistent respiratory protection practices, photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A study researched seven first responders to the attacks in New York on September 11 and their exposure to the dust at Ground Zero on September 11 or September 12. All were non-smokers or had only smoked in their distant past. The results of the study showed that all seven first responders developed some form of lung disease after their exposure to the dust at Ground Zero (Wu, et al., 2010).

Research suggests the rate of respiratory illness was so high due to a lack in use of respiratory protection. According to firsthand accounts by P.J. Lioy and M. Gochfeld in their 2002 article &ldquoLessons Learned on Environmental, Occupational, and Residential Exposures from the Attack on the World Trade Center,&rdquo an alarmingly low number of individuals were using respiratory protection in the field at Ground Zero, and many that had respiratory protection were not wearing it (Crane et al., 2012).

The work to improve respiratory protection and subsequent guidance on use of respiratory protection has continued well after 2001. In 2005, NIOSH released its &ldquoInterim Guidance on the Use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Full Facepiece, Air-Purifying Respirators/Gas Masks Certified under 42 CFR Part 84.&rdquo According to NIOSH NPPTL employee, Jeff Peterson, &ldquoI would certainly say that one of the biggest accomplishments in the field of respiratory protection is the development of the voluntary NIOSH CBRN requirements.&rdquo

The CBRN requirements answered the need of emergency responders to maintain knowledge of PPE in a time of increased global terrorism. This interim guidance document provided guidelines for the selection and use of NIOSH-approved full facepiece, tight fitting, non-powered, air-purifying respirators (APR) for protection against quantified CBRN agents.

Following September of 2001, NIOSH and The RAND Corporation developed multiple volume reports dedicated to protecting emergency responders (Szalajda, 2008). NIOSH also developed three CBRN standards. The first requires that self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) meet CBRN protection standards because it &ldquois used where the respiratory threat level is unknown or known to be immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH)&rdquo (Szalajda, 2008).

Secondly, NIOSH developed a standard for a full-facepiece, air-purifying respirator. &ldquoThe CBRN APR full-facepiece respirator is widely used by multiple responder groups. It provides a lower level of protection than the SCBA and its use is generally allowed once conditions are understood and exposures are determined to be at levels below those considered to be IDLH&rdquo (Szalajda, 2008).

The third priority was that air-purifying and self-contained escape respirators meet CBRN standards. This enabled a more general workforce, rather than those solely focused on first responders, to use PPE safely in a CBRN terrorist incident. As addressed by Deputy Director Jon Szalajda, NIOSH NPPTL &ldquocontinues to develop criteria for additional types of respirators in response to responders&rsquo needs for appropriate respiratory protection against the anticipated hazards faced in performing rescue and recovery operations resulting from viable terrorist threats, as well as HAZMAT incidents&rdquo (Szalajda, 2008).

Nurse demonstrating the donning of PPE worn by healthcare providers when treating an Ebola patient in a medical intensive care unit (ICU), photo courtesy of the CDC

In 2015, the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard Z88.2 updated the standard practice for respiratory protection. The Z88 Committee established the standard in 1969, with revisions in 1989 and 1992. The Z88.2 standard &ldquosets forth minimally accepted practices for occupational respirator use provides information and guidance on the proper selection, use and maintenance of respirators, and contains requirements for establishing, implementing and evaluating respirator programs. The standard covers the use of respirators to protect persons against the inhalation of harmful air contaminants and against oxygen-deficient atmospheres in the workplace&rdquo (ANZ88.2-2015, 1.1).

From 2014-2016, a global epidemic of the Ebola virus disease spread to the United States. During this time, proper PPE use in healthcare settings became a paramount concern, as the highly contagious virus spreads from contact with blood and other bodily fluids. Because of the virus&rsquo highly contagious nature, the CDC recommended the use of a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator, or higher level of particulate filtration, or a powered air-purifying (PAPR) when caring for a Person Under Investigation (PUI) for the Ebola virus disease or a person with a confirmed case of the virus. Further, the CDC released guidelines for the disposal, cleaning, and disinfection based on the type of respirator worn by a healthcare worker when treating an Ebola patient. (Frequently Asked Questions, Ebola, 2018).

In 2019, &ldquoNIOSH NPPTL continues to provide national and world leadership in respirator approval, research, and standards development to support the workers who rely on respiratory protection,&rdquo states NPPTL Director, Dr. Maryann D&rsquoAlessandro. Such research includes understanding respirator comfort, fit, and usability stockpiling of respirators and rapid respiratory protection training in healthcare settings.


7 Reasons to Visit Lorraine, France

What comes to mind when you think of the region of Lorraine, France? If you thought immediately of quiche lorraine, you’re not alone- though the people there do question how the cheese and bacon quiches got that name as neither is in an authentic quiche lorraine! I admit going into my trip with Atout France, Lorraine Tourism and Meuse Tourism that I didn’t really know what to expect from Lorraine, aside from knowing that it was an important site in World War I. For all its sad history, Lorraine is just as charming and interesting as its fellow regions, with plenty to offer no matter if you’re a history buff like me or simply want to experience more of France at its most authentic. Not convinced yet? Here are 7 reasons why you should visit Lorraine, France:

1. The region is full of adorable towns and villages!

Because Lorraine has passed hands so many times- less than a century ago it was still part of Germany, having been reclaimed after the Franco-Prussian war- the architecture varies in style depending on when different sections were built. The city of Metz, for example, is the capital of the region and dates back 3,000 years it was a major city in Gaul and, later, the Roman Empire. Wandering through the city, you can pass through centuries separated by just a few streets- from the medieval Porte des Allemands to the eclectic Alsatian-like houses along Avenue Foch built during the German expansion of the city to the little streets of the imperial quarter that could be a side street in Paris or Aix-en-Provence. Given that it’s only a little over an hour away from Paris by train, it’s the perfect spot for a weekend getaway, as it’s still largely undiscovered by the hordes of tourists visiting the capital. We didn’t get a chance to explore Verdun because of the weather, but I’ll be back to check out the underground citadel!

2. It’s also steeped with history…

The region was the location of some of the most important- and bloodiest- battles of World War I. Of those, the most famous are the 10-month Battle of Verdun, and the Meuse-Argonne offensive, named for the French department Meuse and the Argonne forest, which was the French-American part of the major Allied offensive that finally put an end to the war.

Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery

Even a century later, the events that occurred throughout Lorraine still permeate the edges of modernity. Certain parts of the landscape are still off-limits, littered with unexploded shells now covered by grass and leaves. The indentations in the ground that one might normally chalk up to normal variants in the landscape are shallower than they were 100 years ago but were originally caused by heavy shelling.

Indentations in the landscape from shelling on Fort de Vaux

To understand how relevant a century-old war can still be in modern times, you MUST visit the museum Romagne 14-18 to see Jean Paul de Vries’s collection of items and artifacts collected from within a 5km radius of his home in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. It contains over 200,000 objects, he estimates, and he found 95% of them himself- horseshoes, shovels, boots, wagons, canteens, even an old typewriter with mangled keys. If he’s available, ask Jean Paul himself to show you around the museum- it’s his descriptions of these seemingly random objects that give a humanity to the war that may not otherwise be felt.

3. …that can be seen at every turn…

Quite literally, every turn! The main highway between Verdun and Bar-le-Duc was known as the Voie Sacree, or Sacred Road, given its name after the war for the role it played in the Battle of Verdun. It was the only reliable way for troops and supplies to reach Verdun since the Germans made the city impossible to reach by train. Now markers periodically dot the roadside, reminding drivers in their modern cars of the vehicles that had once rolled their way down the same roadway, carting men and arms to and from one of the most terrible battles on the Western Front.

From the upstairs terraces at the very modern Verdun Memorial Museum, you can see the Douaumont Ossuary in the distances. Looking like nothing more than another war monument, the ossuary in fact contains the bones of 130,000 unidentified soldiers from both sides, collected after the Battle of Verdun and laid to rest on the top of the hill, in front of the largest French cemetery of WWI, full of crosses representing 16,142 French soldiers, identified by their uniforms.

4. …or you can go looking for it.

If you prefer to see the more hidden sites of the war for yourself, there are a number of old forts, trenches and tunnels that you can explore. One such location is the Butte de Vauquois, or Vauquois Hill, where French and German forces battled it out for three and a half years. The butte is one of the best existing examples of how much damage modern industrial warfare can do- the crater in the middle of the hill was created by the German soldiers setting off sixty thousand kilograms (66 tons) of explosives in an attempt to destroy the hill itself- and the hill and tunnels are still much as they were a century ago, with barbed wire emplacements outlining the hill and glass bottles lying untouched in the tunnels and underground rooms. You’ll need to go with a tour guide, as the entrance of the tunnels isn’t easy to find, and it’s even more difficult to find the exit once you’re underground! If you’re looking to go really in-depth (literally and figuratively) with the history of WWI, it’s an incredible place to visit.

Metal spikes and barbed wire on the edge of the crater on Vauquois Hill

Interior of German tunnels

5. But if you need a tastier side of history, you can go eat some candy!

Take a tour of the Dragées Braquier factory, which has been creating the verdunoise specialty since 1783. Dragées are sugar-covered almonds, and these versions were officially created in 1220 by an apothecary in Verdun wishing to preserve his almonds by coating them in sugar. Now they are traditionally given out at weddings and baptisms, and the factory makes many varieties- chocolate covered, nougatine, even metallic ones using real edible gold and silver dust to coat them. The tour explains how the treats are made as you walk through the factory and watch the magic in action.

Revolving copper drums coat the almonds in sugar- or chocolate!

At the end, you can head into the shop before the exit and buy some to take home! And yes, there’s a spot to taste test before you buy.

6. There’s plenty of culture to be had besides the historical parts.

The Centre Pompidou in Metz is a modern art museum that hosts temporary exhibits year round- you could come multiple times a year and never see the same thing twice! The museum itself was designed by two architects, one French and one Japanese, with a unique roof structure that was inspired by a Chinese hat found in Paris by the Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban.

Interior view of the Centre Pompidou Metz roof from upstairs terrace

The current exhibits, lasting until 8 January 2018 and 5 March 2018, focus on Japanese architecture and art, respectively. My good friend Sophie of Solo Sophie and I were thrilled to discover an exhibit of famed artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors called Fireflies on the Water, hidden away on an upper floor.

7. And you can stay in some pretty stellar hotels as well!

During our long weekend in Lorraine, we stayed in two lovely hotels- Les Jardins du Mess, which was a bit more modern, and Château des Monthairons, a chateau-turned-military-hospital-turned-hotel. Both were wonderful, with comfortable beds and delicious restaurants. I would recommend Les Jardins du Mess to someone who wanted to stay in the town of Verdun and have a lovely view over the river from their balcony! Château des Monthairons is great for someone with a car looking for a more secluded getaway.


The Somme witnessed the first ever use of tanks in warfare. On 15 September, the British launched their new weapons. Shocked German soldiers saw large armored vehicles rolling towards them across the mud, heavy guns blazing.

The tanks faced some difficulties, as did everyone fighting in that muddy, broken ground. But their presence helped with the capture of High Wood and a breakthrough into the German third line.

The Somme became the testing ground for one of World War One’s greatest innovations.


The long lines of death

The long and dismal annals of European military history had seen nothing comparable with the western front. British troops likened it to a "great sausage machine", consuming lives in the hundreds of thousands while remaining stubbornly in place. From autumn 1914 two opposing lines of trenches stretched some 475 miles from Switzerland to the Channel coast. Offensives staged by both sides saw maximum advances of just six miles up until Spring 1918. These events still fall - just - within the memory of human beings now living. How could they have happened?

It was not meant to be like this. We now know that many planners foresaw that a European conflict, far from being over by Christmas, would be long and bloody. Yet the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5 had demonstrated that while entrenched defenders with modern firepower could wreak havoc on advancing infantry, the attackers could still eventually prevail. Berlin's war plan - conventionally dubbed the Schlieffen Plan after the strategist who devised it, though subsequently much modified - envisaged sending most of the German army westwards and invading Belgium to outflank France's border fortresses. Its French counterpart, Plan XVII, also provided for an opening attack, yet proved disastrous. Germany, briefly, seemed closer to victory than it ever would again. In contrast to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, however, the French commander, Joseph Joffre, kept his nerve and redeployed his forces via a network of strategic railways. The Germans, conversely, were up to 100 miles beyond their railheads in September when the French counter-attacked at the Battle of the Marne. And also unlike 1870, this time the French were fighting not alone but alongside Russia and Britain. Once they had stopped the initial enemy break-in, the military balance would move their way.

Trenches saved lives

After the Marne the Germans fell back to the river Aisne and dug in. Both sides then leap-frogged towards the sea, entrenching as they went. The first months of open campaigning claimed the heaviest casualties of the entire war. Trenches - for all their notoriety - saved lives. They also enabled Germany to hold its gains with a minimum of strength while up one-third of its army fought elsewhere.

The invaders ensconced themselves along a line of ridges, affording observation for their artillery and obliging their enemies to attack uphill. To their initial defensive position they added two more: belts of barbed wire - an import from the American prairies - protected heavy machine guns that could fire 60 rounds a minute, supported by quick-firing field guns that deluged attackers with explosives and shrapnel. As balloons and aircraft surveyed the entire complex, it was almost impossible to mount a surprise attack, and railways could shuttle in reinforcements faster than attacking infantry could pick their way forwards. The opposing armies were too large to outflank, and industrialised logistics (symbolised for British soldiers by tinned stew and apricots) made it possible to supply them all year round, with no need for retreat into winter bivouacs.

Crippling disadvantage

The Germans had overrun most of Belgium, including the coastline opposite the Thames estuary and France's richest industrial provinces. Negotiating on these grounds would place London and Paris at a crippling disadvantage. Unless they took the initiative, they would leave Germany free to do so.

During 1915 the Germans drove deep into eastern Europe. The French feared the Russians would drop out the British had similar fears about the French. Yet to dislodge the occupiers, the Allies had no choice but to deploy mostly poorly trained and under-equipped - albeit enthusiastic - citizen armies.

The nearest equivalent to today's cruise missiles and smart bombs were howitzers and heavy guns (over six-inch calibre) firing high-explosive shells. Their manufacture was slow and intricate, and it took years before the Allies had adequate numbers of them and their crews had learned the skills required to operate them. By comparison with the second world war, 1914-18 aircraft were underpowered and had little ground attack potential, their primary functions being photographic reconnaissance and directing artillery. Poison gas, though introducing a new dimension of horror, was quickly countered by the introduction of respirators. Tanks became available in appreciable numbers only in 1917, and even then were prone to breakdown, were easily knocked out by enemy fire, and advanced at little more than walking pace. Although all these technologies eventually helped to break the stalemate, they were embryonic in the war's middle years.

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) commanded after December 1915 by Sir Douglas Haig, rose gradually from six divisions to more than 60 (nine of them from the Dominions), and its section of the front lengthened from 25 miles to 100. But until 1917 the French took the lead in Allied strategy, attempting ever more ambitious linked attacks in the hope of destabilising the Germans' system of reinforcement. Thus in September 1915 a British attack at Loos (the battle that claimed the life of Rudyard Kipling's son Jack) led the way for a French one in Champagne, which got stuck on the second line.

A new kind of battle

For 1916 the Allies planned synchronised assaults by Russia and Romania in the east, Italy in the Alps, and Britain and France advancing side by side astride the river Somme. But it was the German commander Erich von Falkenhayn who struck first. At Verdun, between February and July, he launched a new kind of battle, which saw hundreds of thousands of men firing millions of shells at each other for weeks on end in a killing ground only a few miles square. Yet Falkenhayn's plan to commit a minimum of infantry and to "bleed white" the French with his superior guns did not pay off. German casualties soon rivalled French ones, and he was ill-positioned to meet the Allied summer offensives.

Day one on the Somme - July 1 - is remembered as one of the greatest tragedies in British history, but it marked only the beginning of months of pounding, which for the first time created a sense of crisis in Berlin. A new team of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff replaced Falkenhayn. They shortened their front by retreating to a newly prepared position (known to the British as the Hindenburg line), and unleashed a campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare against Allied and neutral shipping - a fateful miscalculation that triggered America's involvement in the war.

Hindenburg and Ludendorff feared the Allies would renew their simultaneous pressure in spring 1917, but instead the coordinated strategy fell apart. Revolution in St Petersburg crippled Russia's war effort, and although in April the British attacked at Arras and the French on the Chemin des Dames ridge, the latter offensive proved one mortification too many for the French infantry. Their mutinies that summer signified not a refusal to defend their country but a protest against any further great attacks, a protest that their new commander, Philippe Pétain, heeded.

In such dire circumstances Britain arguably needed to do something, but the new offensive urged by Haig and approved by the war cabinet - the third Battle of Ypres, more usually known after its last phase as Passchendaele - made matters worse. By striking towards the Germans' coastal bases in Flanders, Haig assaulted one of the strongest sections of their line, protected by deep echelons of pillboxes. Even without the intervention of torrential rain and mud, the enterprise proved beyond his army's strength.

Historians have commented on the "short-war illusion" prevalent in 1914 among politicians and the public. This illusion proved tenacious and the conflict was prolonged by a succession of incremental choices to persevere into the next campaigning season in the hope of better fortune. Each new harvest of casualties, meanwhile, heightened the obstacles to compromise. By 1917 the short-war illusion was being usurped by a long-war one, with governments foreseeing a struggle dragging on into 1920, while the private letters of ordinary soldiers and civilians betrayed doubts it would ever end. Yet developments in 1918 actually prefigured the much more mobile operations of 1939-45. Between March and July, five great German onslaughts advanced by distances of almost 50 miles, but subsequent Allied counter-attacks advanced by up to 100, recapturing the lost territory and finally bundling the invaders homewards.

The final gamble

Ludendorff had gambled on a last attempt at victory before the Americans arrived in strength. As of March 1918, only 250,000 US troops had reached Europe, and at first the burden of the fighting again fell on the French and British. Lenin's seizure of power in Russia, followed by a ceasefire, allowed Germany to transfer enough men westwards to regain numerical superiority, and Ludendorff believed new tactics would bring him success. The key innovation was a massive bombardment - delivered not over days but hours - meticulously prepared by cover of night, fired without warning and therefore able to restore surprise. Gas shells silenced the Allies' artillery, and a rolling barrage - a curtain of fire advancing before the infantry - immobilised the defenders' machine guns until the attackers were upon them.

By 1918 both sides were abandoning continuous trenches in favour of mutually supporting strong points, which the German storm troops infiltrated before follow-on forces mopped up. These methods proved stunningly effective in breaking into the Allied positions, but after reaching more open country the Germans lost impetus, essentially because they had too few horses and vehicles to bring on their guns before the Allies could regroup and strike back. By the summer their casualties numbered more than one million - and many survivors realised the game was up.

After July 1918, tens of thousands of Germans surrendered every month. Moreover, Ludendorff's offensives accelerated the nightmare he had hoped to forestall, as Americans were rushed across the Atlantic to swell the ranks. By November US troops outnumbered British, and in just two months of heavy fighting they took losses comparable with the casualties later suffered in Vietnam.

Technological and tactical innovations were coming to fruition. The Allies replicated German artillery methods, had overwhelming air superiority and hundreds of tanks. In September the British fired two million shells in 24 hours before breaking through the Hindenburg line. A supreme commander, Ferdinand Foch, now orchestrated the Allies' strategy, and they could overwhelm even the strongest defences. It was no longer conceivable that Germany might defeat them.

In these circumstances Ludendorff opted for damage limitation, appealing to President Woodrow Wilson for a peace based on the moderate American programme known as the Fourteen Points. The Allies, after hard internal bargaining, agreed, though only with the accompaniment of ceasefire terms that rendered Germany helpless. Early on November 11 the Canadians retook Mons, the Belgian mining town where the BEF had first seen action 51 months before. Two hours later the firing ceased.

Remote and alien landscape

The war on the western front was a desperate contest between evenly matched opponents, German military effectiveness offsetting greater Allied manpower and resources. Until autumn 1918 neither side wrote off hope of winning. It unfolded at a moment of transition, when battlefield mobility and manoeuvre were impeded and new technologies that would restore them were underdeveloped.

Yet strategic explanations of the deadlock only take us so far. Both sides felt that they were fighting for enormous stakes. The German leaders aimed to carve out buffer states on their western and eastern borders, and to expand their global naval and colonial reach. They feared that even a drawn outcome would jeopardise their rule at home. The Allies fought not only over territory, but also to punish aggression and to uphold the western liberal order against the first of the 20th-century challenges to it.

In pursuit of these objectives, both sides enjoyed not merely acquiescence but also willing support from millions of their citizens, even in the face of monstrous suffering. Today the western front may seem a remote and alien landscape, but behind the military confrontation lurked a political one whose relevance continues today.

David Stevenson is professor of international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of 1914-1918: The History of the First World War (Penguin Books, London, 2004).


Primary Documents - Erich von Falkenhayn on the Battle of Verdun, 21 February 1916

Reproduced below is German Army Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn's account of the German offensive launched against French-held Verdun on 21 February 1916.

Often described as the greatest battle of the war, casualties on both sides were immense. Falkenhayn's stated intention was to "bleed France white" in the latter's defence of Verdun.

Such virtually proved to be the case - although the scale of German losses brought Falkenhayn much criticism. Indeed the failure to capture Verdun ultimately resulted in Falkenhayn's removal as Chief of Staff and Paul von Hindenburg's installation (along with Erich Ludendorff).

The text below essentially comprises Falkenhayn's rationalisation for the Verdun offensive.

Click here to read Crown Prince Wilhelm's summary of the battle. Click here to read Wilhelm's summary of its abandonment. Click here to read von Hindenburg's decision to call off the offensive. Click here to read Erich Ludendorff's dismissive view of the battle. Click here to read Joseph Joffre's August 1916 summary of the battle. Click here to read British newspaper baron Lord Northcliffe's despatch during the early days of the battle. Click here to read a French memoir of the German attack on Le Mort Homme in May 1916. Click here for a memoir of the struggle for Fort Douaumont the same month. Click here for a memoir of the German assault upon Fort Vaux in June 1916. Click here to read General Millerand's official account of the see-saw fighting at Thiaumont in July and August 1916. Click here to read a semi-official German historian's account of the end of the battle. Click here to read General von Zwehl's memorandum issued immediately before the French recapture of Forts Vaux and Douaumont. Click here to read Ludendorff's statement regarding the loss of Forts Vaux and Douaumont. Click here to read French General Pierre Dubois's view of the German approach at Verdun. Click here to read a French staff officer's account of the recapture of Fort Douaumont in October 1916.

Erich von Falkenhayn on the Battle of Verdun

For the assault on Verdun the supply of ammunition considerably exceeded the quantity which all previous experience suggested as likely to be needed. Similarly, every demand for labour and equipment was complied with.

In order to divert the attention of the enemy from all these preparations, the other armies in the West were charged with the task of keeping him busy by small enterprises on their sectors.

In this they acquitted themselves in exemplary fashion. On the 9th of January the Third Army attacked at Maisons de Champagne, on the 12th of February at Ste. Marie a Py, and on the 13th of the same month at Tahure.

On the 28th and 29th of January the Second Army had a fine success at Frise, south of the Somme. The Sixth Army struck on the 26th of January at Neuville, on the 8th of February to the west of Vimy, and on the 21st of February east of Souchez.

Gaede's Army Detachment pushed forward into the French lines near Obersept on the 13th of February. Everywhere the appointed objectives were reached, and the enemy suffered heavy losses.

The relatively slight German losses sustained on these occasions were justified, for it is highly probable that these operations materially contributed to mask our plans. In return, it was only in the nature of things that larger operations other than the main attack already planned should be discountenanced.

When the Third Army inquired whether it was still to undertake a big attack on its sector, it was informed accordingly, and the following remarks were added in explanation of the plans to be followed in the Meuse sector:

"Our precise problem is how to inflict heavy damage on the enemy at critical points at relatively small cost to ourselves. But we must not overlook the fact that previous experience of mass attacks in this war offers little inducement to imitate them. It would almost seem as if the questions of command and supply in these attacks were insoluble."

On the day appointed for the opening of the attack the condition of the ground in the Meuse district, soaked with continuous rain, prevented any movement of the troops, while the poor visibility in the cloud-laden sky made artillery work impossible. Not till the middle of the month did the weather improve sufficiently to admit of the bombardment starting on the 21st of February.

The successful infantry attack on the following day was carried out with an irresistible impetus, and the enemy's first lines were simply overrun. Nor could the advanced fortifications, constructed in peace, stop the brave attackers, although these works were not much damaged by our artillery.

On February 25th the 24th (Brandenburg) Infantry Regiment stormed the Fort Douaumont, the strong and reputedly impregnable north-eastern pillar of the Verdun defence system.

Simultaneously the enemy gave way in the Orne valley as far as south of the Metz-Verdun road, so that the German front here also moved forward to the foot of the Heights of the Meuse.

From many signs it was clear that this powerful German thrust had not only shaken the whole enemy front in the West very severely, but that its effects had not been lost on the peoples and the Governments of the Entente.

However, the Headquarters Staffs of the Army Groups considered it necessary to stay the forward movement against the Heights. Violent - one may say desperate counter-attacks by troops collected in extreme haste from all parts of the front had begun. They were repulsed everywhere with very heavy loss to the enemy.

The situation might have changed, however, had we not brought up our artillery, which had been unable to follow fast enough over the still barely passable roads, and assured the supply of ammunition and food.

Meanwhile the enemy had with astonishing rapidity brought a number of powerful batteries of artillery into position behind the Marre ridge, on the western bank of the river. Their half-flanking effect made itself severely felt on our assault troops.

The discomfort caused by these guns had to be stopped. This could not possibly be effected from the right bank of the Meuse, for here we had our hands full in dealing with the enemy forces immediately confronting us.

The only means available - as had been foreseen and prepared for - was to push forward the German front on the left bank so far that its artillery could deal with the Franco-British guns on the Marre ridge more effectively than before. We now had troops available to carry out this necessary movement.

Apart from a weak attempt in Champagne, there had been no relief attacks by the enemy in any other sectors, and our observations showed that no preparations for any immediate attack of this sort were in hand. Indeed, it had become highly improbable.

The French had nearly got together the whole of their reserves from the rest of their front, and had quickly handed over to the English the sector near Arras, formerly held by them, in order to provide the wherewithal to hold their positions in the Meuse sector.

The English had been compelled, by taking over the Arras sector, to extend their line so much, that nothing on a big scale from this direction was to be apprehended. To be sure, the formation of Kitchener's conscript armies in England was proceeding vigorously. Thus it was to be anticipated that the forty to forty-two English divisions, whose presence on the Continent had been established, would be nearly doubled at no very distant date. Whether, and when, these new troops would become fit for use in an offensive was still, however, a matter of uncertainty.

In these circumstances the question that had to be considered by G.H.Q. was whether to intimate that the continuance of the operation on the Meuse would be abandoned, and a new enterprise started on another front.

This measure would have meant a complete departure from the views on which the attack north of Verdun was based. Nor was there any reason for doing so. We had hitherto achieved what we had set out to achieve, and there was every reason to hope we should do so again in the future.

As a matter of fact, that is what actually happened. No offensive elsewhere had particularly good prospects. The enemy still held their line in great strength. The English, for example, had from seven to eight men to every yard of their front.

Success was to be gained against positions so strongly held as these only by employing the artillery we had concentrated on the Meuse. Further, it would have meant a great loss of time, and the enemy would assuredly have taken advantage of this to transfer his reserves likewise. It was therefore decided to renounce the idea of changing the scene of operations.

The attack carried out on the 6th of March and in the succeeding weeks on the west bank succeeded to this extent, that the French were thrown out of their foremost lines with heavy casualties every time.

Owing to the peculiar confirmation of the country we could not use these successes to bring our artillery far enough forward, and consequently the preparatory work here had to be continued. Intense fighting lasted for the whole month of April on the western bank. Not till our occupation of the main portion of Hill 304, on the 7th of May, was there any momentary pause in our attack in this sector.

The conduct of the actions in the Meuse sector was at first directly in the hands of the H.Q. Staff of the Crown Prince's Army Group itself. But with the extension of operations some relief of the burden on this Staff became necessary. Accordingly, in March, while preserving its control, we put General von Mudra in command on the right bank, and on the left General von Gallwitz, whose command of the Eleventh Army in Macedonia was taken over by Lieutenant-General von Winckler.

As already stated, there had been a temporary cessation of our attack in the western sector but it must not be assumed from this that things had become absolutely quiet there.

Here, as on the eastern bank, the fighting raged continuously and more fiercely than ever. The French saw to that with their practically incessant counter-attacks. The artillery battle never stopped.

The raids of the defenders were generally relieved by big thrusts carried out by forces far superior to those of the attackers. For example, a particularly resolute thrust was made on the 22nd and 23rd of May in the region of Douaumont, and for a time our hold on the armoured fort was in danger.

For our part, we usually confined ourselves to sending our opponents home with bloody pates, recovering from him such small patches of ground as he might have gained here and there, and, where necessary, effecting slight improvements in our positions.

Nevertheless, this fighting without visible or - for the man at the front - tangible result afforded the sternest test imaginable of the capabilities of the troops. With very few exceptions they stood the test most brilliantly.

The enemy nowhere secured any permanent advantages nowhere could he free himself from the German pressure. On the other hand, the losses he sustained were very severe. They were carefully noted and compared with our own which, unhappily, were not light.

The result was that the comparison worked out at something like two and a half to one: that is to say, for two Germans put out of action five Frenchmen had to shed their blood. But deplorable as were the German sacrifices, they were certainly made in a most promising cause.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy

A 'Tracer' was a phosphorescent machine-gun bullet which glowed in flight, indicating course as an aid to artillery.

- Did you know?


Dec. 15, 1916 | France’s Decisive Attack in Battle of Verdun

Kriegs-Bild- und Filmamt The German infantry attacks with hand grenades during the Battle of Verdun in March 1916.
Historic Headlines

Learn about key events in history and their connections to today.

On Dec. 15, 1916, the French launched a counterattack against German forces that would bring an end to the Battle of Verdun three days later, thus ending the longest and most costly battle of World War I.

The New York Times quoted a report released by the French War Office: “The attack started at 10 o𠆜lock. The enemy’s front broke down everywhere to a depth of about three kilometers. …We have taken a great many prisoners, whose exact number has not yet been determined. … We have taken or destroyed numerous pieces of heavy and field artillery and also a considerable quantity of material. … Our success is complete. The troops have given vent to great enthusiasm. Our losses are slight.”

The battle had started 10 months earlier, when Germany launched a surprise attack on Verdun, a town in northeastern France with a large fortress and many outlying forts. The town held great symbolic value for the French, and the German leadership anticipated that the French would go to great lengths to defend it, diverting troops from other parts of the Western Front. Furthermore, the town lay in the middle of a French salient, or part of the line of battle that projects closest to the enemy. The Germans hoped to surround and destroy the French forces.

Germany began its bombardment of Verdun and its outlying forts on Feb. 21, 1916. The French defenders suffered heavy losses and became disorganized, while German troops managed to advance to within only a few miles of the town. However, the French received reinforcements and were able to launch several successful counter-attacks that checked the German advance.

Over the next several months, German forces advanced very slowly and both sides suffered a large number of casualties. In June, the Germans launched a concentrated offense on the town, but the French held. On July 1, the Battle of Somme began in northern France, which forced Germany to divert troops and artillery, diminishing its chances to capture Verdun.

In October, the French began a counter-offensive that began to drive back the German line. In the final push of Dec. 15 to 18, the French pushed the Germans back two miles and reclaimed all of the forts surrounding Verdun.

In total, more than 160,000 French troops and 140,000 German troops were killed or went missing. Though it was technically a French victory, neither side gained ground.

Connect to Today:

A 2008 New York Times editorial stated, “What we are likely to have forgotten is the horror the Great War stirred in those who witnessed it.” And, in Adam Hochschild’s 2011 book “To End All Wars” on World War I, an excerpt of which appeared in The Times, he writes, “[T]his is a book about those who actually fought the war of 1914-1918, for whom the magnetic attraction of combat, or at least the belief that it was patriotic and necessary, proved so much stronger than human revulsion at mass death or any perception that, win or lose, this was a war that would change the world for the worse. Where today we might see mindless killing, many of those who presided over the war’s battles saw only nobility and heroism.”

Why was “the Great War,” considered a turning point in modern human history? Given what you know about the 20th century, how has our understanding of war changed since World War I? Do you think your own perception of war would have been different in 1914 than today? Why or why not?


World War I Quiz

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the event that launched the world into a war that would span more than four years and occupy every ocean and nearly every continent of the world. But do you know which terrorist group was responsible for the assassination of Ferdinand?

This was the war that pitted the Central Powers (Germany. Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire) against the eventual winners, the Allied forces. But with advancements in warfare strategy and military technology, more than 16 million people, soldier and civilian alike, died by the end of the war, leaving many to wonder if there ever was a winner.

This was the war to end all wars, yet would sadly be repeated with even worse carnage 20 years later. How much do you know about the first world war? Well, you're about to test your limits. Do you know which weapon discovered by the Greeks was never implemented in warfare until World War I? Or, can you recall the nickname for the famous German fighter ace later parodied by a comical dog?

The history of World War I is a horrific time in history, but thanks to buffs like you, we'll be cautioned against repeating the past. Are you ready to arm the trenches and take up this quiz? It's time to lead the attack!


Watch the video: As German and French forces prepare for the battle of Verdun, in World War I, Fre..HD Stock Footage