The scars on the landscape have faded, the roar of battle has been forgotten, and the machinations of generals and commanders and sacrifices of soldiers have slipped into the history books, but the places remain. Alfred Bullesbach set out to photograph the locations of 34 famous battles and the result is the stunning and thought-provoking Battlescapes.
Bullesbach is not a historian; he is a photographer and he approached each battlefield with a landscape photographers eye. In some cases, there are elaborate memorials or large formal cemataries; at other sites there is no evidence whatsoever that a battle took place there. Sheep graze on the grass covered trenches of the Somme where 1.5 million men lost their lives. A lush and peaceful forest stands were the Americans and Germans fought the bloody Battle of the Bulge.
Perhaps most poignant are the numerous sites from the Great War (World War I); men were buried where they fell, many of their names unknown. Small cemeteries, containing several dozen to just a few graves, have become part of the landscape, surrounded by farm fields and pastures. Each grave is still meticulously tended, with flowers and carefully mown grass.
All of the battlesites pictured are located in Europe, so Americans were only involved in the later wars (World Wars I and II), but you will have encountered many of the names in your history books – Alesia, Hastings, Agincourt, Blenheim, Waterloo. The photography is stunning with large panoramics and as well as more intimate studies for each location. A guide to visiting the battlefields concludes the book.
D-Day was June 6th, 1944. This year marks its 65th anniversary. For those who served so long ago, let us take a moment to remember them. As members of that generation die out, we lose those incredibly precious first-hand accounts. For those of us born later, we can always rely on the history that has been faithfully recorded in books and videos.
Check out D-Day:Reflections of Courage, a DVD put out by BBC Video. Shot on location and told from the various point-of-views of American, British, French and German participants, it is an excellent overview of this historic day.
If you prefer a written version, try Ten Days to D-Day by David Stafford. The Normandy invasion was the largest single-day amphibious invasion of all time, landing 160,000 troops on that fateful day in June. An operation that large, involving several different governments and armies required unprecedented planning. Told from several points-of-view, from the Generals and Presidents to the soldiers and civilians, this is a gripping story of courage and sacrifice.
You might also want to take a look at The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, the acknowledged classic of the invasion. Ryan interviewed participants shortly after the war while memories were still fresh and skillfully weaves their personal stories into the overall history. A must-read for history buffs.
And watch for the ongoing Honor Flights, now being conducted throughout the country (Davenport just sent a group in April; another is scheduled for October) Volunteers fly veterans of World War II to Washington D.C. to visit the recently built World War II Memorial. All expenses for the veterans are paid by contributions – a small return to these everyday heroes from a grateful nation.