But the extreme devastation of Verdun is what preserved its future as a forest, says Joseph Hupy, an aerial systems expert at Purdue University who also wrote his doctoral thesis on Verdun. After the battle, the site was considered a huge mass grave, and was also bedeviled by all that unexploded ordnance. “People were forcibly ordered not to return, not to rebuild,” Hupy says. “Throughout France there was this attitude of not giving up, but they looked at Verdun and how trashed it was and thought, ‘What’s the point?’” So the officials simply gave the land over to forest, sure that the area would be forever devastated.
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