Verdun, Passchendaele, Berlin, Cassino

One of the great things about being a military historian is that you get to ask yourself and others a lot of “what if” questions. They don’t really solve any mysteries but are fun to run through, and help your understanding of certain situations.

Just recently I was doing a purge of my library at home as I need to do every five years or so. I took stacks and stacks of books to Half Price Books and got a little scratch from the sale of those. Others I sent to my friend Carl to get them out of my house as a Christmas present.

We had an email conversation about some of the books and he wasn’t sure where to start with the reading – a book about Verdun, Passchendaele, the fall of Berlin or the Battle of Cassino. I responded that none of those are very happy reading and that in particular the book about Verdun was quite a sober read.

We went back and forth a while and the topic rolled around to which battle, if you had to pick, would you choose to be at. I chose Cassino. My reasoning was that the survival rate, IIRC, was higher at Cassino than the others, although there was a very high rate of head, eye and skull wounds at Cassino due to all of the ricochets and fragments caused from shells and bullets hitting the hard rock face of that hill.

For Berlin, if you were a male fighting at that time, you would either be killed or sent to the Gulag, so your survival chances are pretty close to zero there. Verdun, misery to the nth degree. Passchendaele (third Ypres), I always think of this before and after photo. None were pleasant, to say the very least.

So I put it to you ChicagoBoyz military historians, if you were faced with this awful choice, which one would you pick to have to attend? Verdun, Passchendaele, Berlin, or Cassino.

3 thoughts on “Verdun, Passchendaele, Berlin, Cassino”

  1. Damn you beat me to this post :). Actually you had a leg up because I wanted to re-read the 4 books to make sure my thoughts were up to date.

    I read the Cassino book most recently so that hell was fresh in my mind, and perhaps that is why I had a hard time “choosing” it as the preferred battle. Of course Berlin was out so it would either be Verdun or Passchendaele, and since Verdun is literally symbolic with meat grinder disasters (like Titanic to hubris) I figured possibly Passchendaele might be a candidate. But now I am reading that book first and I probably have to go with Cassino…

  2. Cassino, on the Allied side. It was not the wholesale slaughterhouse that the others were. Also, prisoners were not treated barbarically, as at Berlin. Also, it was not a ceaseless artillery duel like Verdun, Passchendaele where the odds were that you’d ultimately get tagged by something. The Germans were outgunned at Casino, so unless you had the misfortune to be in one of the Allied assault formations you might not be in anything like the statistical danger range that the other three battles involved. If you did assault, odds are you would get evacuated and decent care, not bleed out helpless in the mud of no-man’s land.

    Still, I like option 5 best of all. Right here in the Heartland, no one shooting at me.

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