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WWI Journal

22 February 1916

Dear wonderfully new, blank journal,
The Germans have done it, they’ve attacked. Rumors have been spread for ages but now the German chief-Erich Von Falkenhayn- has attacked. North of Verdun-sur-meuse. It began yesterday-21st February. Blasted Germans!!!! Verdun has always been important to the French! The papers-if they can be relied upon-are saying that the Germans could be trying to take Verdun to get closer to Paris. As if! I am determined to do whatever I can to prevent this and stop the Germans. I hate being stuck here-cooped up in the house like the chickens, doing common jobs for mother. It is worsened when I think about all I could be doing. I could be fighting! Defending my country. Proudly. Like a man. And like my father would have wanted. I know my mother depends on me-more than ever since Fathers passing-but I want to live my life and right now my country needs all the men it can get on the front lines. I pity mother, but Henri is now 13 years old. I was already doing double his work when I was his age, and I feel certain that he is old enough to take on my duties if I leave. I feel mother babies him-my brother was always rather delicate-I get that- but he must face the world at some point and it may as well be now, while our great country of France is at war. Mother cannot shelter him forever. I just must –must- convince mother-she cannot argue with me now, especially in light of my 18th birthday two weeks ago. My country needs me and I must fight-I MUST! I have already talked to Pierre Masson-my closest friend-and we will enlist gogether if all goes well with mother. Wish me luck!
















Adrien Duval

23 February 1916
Journal,

I have done it! Mother is convinced-I will be a French soldier. I will fight for General Philippe Pe’tain-who has been placed in charge of the defense of Verdun and all the forts there. It sickens me-Falkenhayn thinks he will be able to take forts-approximately 20-with ease! Us French will not give in! And definetely not without a fight! A fight no easily won! We will win! Sorry, ranting, anyways-through much shedding of tears, mother has given her blessing and I will go to war. Pierre is as well. Poor “little” Henri looked shocked and frightened as a toddler without his teddy bear when I told him. I had a talk with him and I think I stressed the importance of the battle enough. He seems to be understanding a bit better now. He certainly looked determined to take care of mother and little Elaodie. Elodie is my sister of 9 years-shes a tough one Elodie. She looked like she wanted to join in on the fighting, and I bet she would if she could. But I told her what she needed to do and promised to write her whenever possible. I am certain that I will mi my family, but I will return once the world war is over! Henri – delicate though he may be – will take good care of mother, and Elodie too. Mother has started working more, so hopefully money on’t be an issue. I have left them all my savings as ell. I’m also sure mother’s boring church friends will care for my family in my absence. The one thing I will never-ever understand about my mother is her obsession with that dusty church! Ever since Father passed, she seem to be at church whenever she isn’t working or with us. I don’t understand, but I suppose if it makes her happy. . .Anyways, I must pack now. Pierre and I leave early tomorrow morning. Adrien Duval
























24 February 1916
Journal


Saying goodbye to my family was harder than I envisioned – but was nessesary. Pierre and I are on our way! It’s hard to believe that we are actually going and doing something we talked about in our youth. We have known each other since I as younger than Elodie – hard to believe. Another thing that’s hard to believe is Falkenhayn’s plan. Pierre and I have been discussing it and the war. Falkenhayn believes that taking the forts near Verdun and “bleeding us hite” will be the turning point of the war and will hellp them to win. I don’t think that this will be as easy a victory he thinks. But who knows? The battle is still raging after its beginnings on the 21st. The battle is along the East bank of the Meuse River. Before the battle began the commander-in-chief – Joseph Joffre – received word and started gathering men, where I come in. Pierre has said that his uncle told him we would be fighting. I don’t know what to expect, all I know is that I feel prepared for whatever this battle may throw at me. I will fight well for my country!























Adrien Duval























26 February 1916
Journal –



War is different then my wildest dreams. It’s so much harder than anything I had “prepared” myself for. Pierre and I are shocked. The battle here in Verdum is not going as well as the papers have told us. The Germans have captured almost ten thousand of our men-TEN THOUSAND! And Fort Dounamount has fallen. THE Fort Douamount! The scary thing is that Douamount is only 5 miles away from Verdun. I don’t understand how I thought war would be easy. Re-reading thee last pages has made me realize how dumb I was-or ignorant really! I truly felt like I could single-handedly wipe out the entire German army. Now that I here on the front lines I feel differently. I’m terrified. Even thought I would never admit it. I miss home. I wih I had been more understanding of Henri, spent more time with Elodie, appreciated mother’s cooking. I can already see that I won’t have much time to write these next few weeks-but I can have that I have the chance to see my family again.







-Adrien Duval










28 February 1916

Journal



All around me. All I hear. All I see. All I smell. All I feel. The whole world around me. Its all death and pain and fear and suffering. Guns being fired. You know each on could be the end of a life. Yours? The acrid smell of smoke. Explosions. Men being torn apart. Blood splattering, blood gushing, blood, blood, blood, blood. At first I couldn’t take it. The noise or the sight – but I made myself be brave and strong. Thinking of what I am fighting for. For my country and to protect mother, Henri, Elodie, Pierre, my comrades around me. All fighting for something. But no matter what “good” things we are fighting for, more and more are dying each minute. I am realizing that it is all dumb luck that I am not hit and killed. It’s a strange feeling to not really be able to control whether you live or die. It’s funny that you think that you will survive if you fight well enough – but it’s not the case. There are flame throwers and grenades and gas attacks, and you can’t stop a bullet. Can’t believe I ever thought I could. Every gunshot and explosion seems to rock me and I am terrified of the unknown of death. I don’t know if I will die – but I can’t help thinking that I will be one of the lucky ones, and live. But then again – does anyone – any of us soldiers either French or German- wake up and think, “I will die today”? No! Of course not! You wake up and think, “I will live another day.” No one expects death..




















Adrien Duval











































2 March, 1916
Journal,



I’m amazed at ho dirty you’ve become – crinkled torn pages, dirt and blood splattered. But I suppose this doesn’t matter. I don’t know why I keep writing in you anyways. It’s quite stupid really. But I suppose it keeps me feeling human. It’s all instinct and robotic motions when you’re fighting. Soldiers are being killed-lives lost…but you don’t tink about it, even if they are on your side. You just clear away the bodies and hope-desperately-that you don’t know any of them. There are a lot of bodies. Luckily-there’s that word again-none of the bodies is Pierre, or myself. I did recognize Jean though-he was in my class at school. We talked a few times, laughed at teachers, made jokes, that sort of thing. I suppose we had a friend ship of sorts-nothing like I have with Pierre-but still. I don’t get it. I don’t understand, can’t comprehend-how could this be happening? I hope that this is really “the war to end all wars” because war is-war is-hatred and pain, and dark clouds and red blood-everywhere-and lifeless bodies. Piles and piles. War is ugly. But I suppose that the silver lining of war is that it helps you realize how good you had it before the war-if only you had realized.








-Adrien Duval










4 March, 1916
Journal,

It seems that Falkenhyn’s plan was better thatn I thought because we are still fighting this wretched battle. The noise of battle is a constant conceding din-I feel almost used to it now though. But then again-it kind of goes I spurts how I feel about this all. I am dirty, hungry, and truly exhausted both physically and emotionally. I do’t know if I can take this-despite it being an “off day” yesterday. It felt so good not to fight! I felt sick today watching more and more die. I feel glad when men are killed quickly by gunshot, but sick when it I slow and pain filled. I sat ith a dying man today. Right I the trenches. He asked me to send a letter to his family but…I don’t know if I can stand to do it. I wept as he died-his staring eyes blank. I didn’t know him well at all, yet I saw him as a person, with a name, a life, a family he was fighting for. He was not just another soldier to me. That made me think about uniforms-I talked about this with Pierre, he doesn’t like talking about war much-but I think it feels good to write down my thoughts. Makes me feel like I won’t forget, because some things aren’t meant to be forgotton. Any way, I thought about uniforms. It made me think. Does it matter what color uniform a man has on? If he is French or German? Does a mans life matter more if he is on a certain side? I don’t think so. I may have used too…but no more. I wonder-what is the point of life? It must not matter much if we all kill each other for a war. I can hardly remember what we are fighting for anymore. Well, I do…but somehow it doesn’t seem as important anymore. I wonder how mother’s God could allow this. Maybe there is no God.








Adrien Duval










6 March, 1916
Journal,

No place is free of corpses. I don’t know how many are dead but Pierre is missing. I couldn’t find him after the battle today. We do get separated sometimes during battle-but I always find him after. I am angry. I’m worried deep down but I am angry. I feel like a blazing flame thrower that the blasted Germans are so fond of using on us. I am angry. Pierre has always been there for me, and we were supposed to go home together. Not anymore. No. Pierre can’t be dead. He will show up. I’m certain of it. General Robert Nivelle talked to the troops today. He gave us a speech about how good we were today and to keep fighting , not to give up, all that junk. He also said that we were firing almost 100,000 artillery shells a day-100,000 ADAY! I wonder howmany hit their targets. I wonder how many I have killed. Gave me something else to keep me up at night. I must go and find Pierre. He will be found. I will find him myself-even if it takes me weeks to do it. Because Pierre would do it for me. I will even pray to mother’s God. If he I there perhaps he will answer.








Adrien Duval









7 March, 1916
Journal,

I can no longer take this war lifestyle. I have not found Pierre but am grateful that it is a no fighting day. I till can’t take this war. The world has no color. Not that I really noticed the color before coming to the trenches. The only colors I see here are dull-dull blue of the sky, dull muddy brown trenches, dull greenish brown of dying grass, dull dirty uniforms, dull dirty eyes, and bright red. The bright red that covers everything. I hate red. No sign of Pierre. I am going to search through the hospital now. Its my last hope. I wish Falkenhayn had never decided to kill as many French as possible and I wish that Retain would just let us go home. There is so much I want to do in the world. But now for Pierre. I will write later if there is time.
(later: still 7 March, 1916)
Pierre is alive but injured. I am so glad to have found him- even if he is hurt. Better hurt then dead. It is at times like these that I think that there may be a God-though I question why he lets things like this happen if he really is so great and good like Mother tells me. Anyway, Pierre is wounded above his left knee, which the doctors amputated. It hurts me to see Pierre in such pain. I could do little to help. All I could do as visit. I talked about everything. From this war to the other lifetime that was our childhood. The games we would play and the mischief we would cause. Like that time we rode our bikes through batty old Mrs. Grisel’s fence. I tried to help Pierre see better day and want to get well again- but as I looked into his eyes they were cold, bitter, and dead. The same eyes I see when I look at my comrades, and in the mirror. Are eyes really the window to the soul? If so I think that all of us are weighted down with the memories of this war. I think that once Pierre is stable enough they will send him home and then I will be completely alone.










-Adrien Duval

8 March 1916
Journal,

We had a gas attack today. Blasted Germans sent mustard gas over in shells. We had to evacuate the trenches and get to high ground. We also had only 15 seconds warning to get our gas masks on. Some of us were lucky- others weren’t. The gas can really sneak up on you sometimes- it’s hard to see. It’s a dirty weapon. Men were staggering around, dying, and I could do nothing. Pierre was sent home today- before the attack thankfully. Dear God I hope he makes it. I sent with him another letter to my family. But right now I still have a horrible headache courtesy of the gas masks. Another burden for the soldier. My feet also hurt and I can hardly write for tiredness. My whole body-dirt and blood encrusted- is sore from sleeping on this rock hard ground. I don’t know how long this battle can last. The Germans give no sign of giving up- but then again neither do we. Who has more dead? Us or them? No ideas here. All I know is war. And war is stupid. Who cares? No one thinks about death until too many are dead. And for what? A war. A stupid war over inches of ground a day. I’m sure it’s a noble death. Sure people can think that. But you die scared and alone and not really very brave. All this war over a group of forts. Does anyone stop to think about why we must kill each other? Should I?








-Adrien Duval










11 March 1916
Journal,

My section of the trenches was under a flamethrower attack today. I nearly died many time- I would’ve died if it wasn’t for a brave soldier called Pieter. He selflessly risked his own neck to save mine- and it worked. Pieter claims this was “God’s doing” not his. I think he’s just being humble. But we talked together today over “dinner” and we agreed to stick together. It feels good to rely on someone again, and to have them rely on you. I’ve missed Pierre so much these past few days- Pieter will never replace him- but I think that we could become friends. If it’s even possible to make friends in this awful place. I still am shaky after today. I could sleep for a year. If Pieter had not come when he did I could be … no. I don’t even want to think about it. I just know that I hate the flamethrowers. A safe thought. But I saw too many soldier- human candles- torches- lit afire- screaming. I doubt I will ever get the sounds of battle from my mind. Imagine being normal after this. What would I be doing if I weren’t here? Working for Mother in the garden? Playing tag with Elodie and Henri? Anything would be better than this. Anything. Will this war ever end? What about this battle? Will it end, or will it go until we are all corpses? Corpses rotting on this battle scarred, artillery shell covered ground.










-Adrien Duval

12 March1916
Journal-

Life is fleeting. I don’t know why I am alive while others are dead. Forever. Why me? Hy was I saved by Pieter while Pierre lost a leg? He will never be the same. Why me hen there must be thousands of bodies around me? Is it God as Pieter keeps urging me to accept? I don’t like him pushing me toward religion. But no matter how annoying I brush it off because I really need a friend like Pieter- even if he is a religious nut like Mother. I used a body as cover from fire today- I hardly noticed. But I don’t think the smell will ever leave. The earth shakes. Loud bangs like those from guns are not natural. What would I give to hear a bird sing? Or hear Mothers voice? Or eat something decent for a change? Or sleep well with no nightmares? I feel like I’ve been here forever. Does it matter? No- I could die- but does it matter? Who cares? My life is important to me but not to the Germans. Why should they care? Especially since I have killed a countless number of their soldiers. I wonder how many of the soldiers I killed have families. Children? How many lives have I changed? How many has this battle changed? The whole war? It sickens me. I am disgusted.








-Adrien Duval










15 March, 1916
Journal,

No fighting today. A blessed relief. I was put on grave digging duty today. As was Pieter. We buried so many men. We talked as we did this- about the war and other things. We both agreed that this battle seems like a stand-still. The Germans aren’t gaining ground and neither are we. General Petain says that the German loses rival our own. I doubt that there will be a family in both France or Germany who has not lost somebody by the end of this battle. Pieter and I don’t agree about everything though. The main thing we disagree upon is religion. We talked about God today. Or rather I put up with Pieter’s talk. I don’t know what to believe or if I want to believe anything. It all started when I was blabbing about stuff when we were digging. I was ranting about the pointlessness of life. After all life must not be worth all that much if we can kill so many a day. ‘is there a point?’ I asked. All the death I’ve witnessed, being constantly on the brink of death has changed me and made me wonder. Pieter told me today that there is a God. He talks about God differently- as if he knew him. Pieter told me that God created us for a reason. He said that God had made us perfect, but we had ruined that by sinning and now we were separated from God. I rolled my eyes and asked what this had to do with me. Then Pieter goes off into a story- he said that it was like we were in the bottom of a deep trench- so deep that we can’t climb out. The trench was a horrible place- yeah tell me about it- but if we could just get out of the trench then we could be in Paradise with God. But again Pieter says that the trench is too steep to climb out of alone- no matter how hard we tried. I told Pieter that his story was stupid and to stop trying to relate religion ith war and trenches- makes no sense. But Pieter- the stubborn guy- tells me to hear him out and keeps talking! He said that the trench we were stuck in was really the sin separating us from God, and that God’s son- Jesus- was like a ladder to get us out of the trench- if we surrendered our live to him. He said that the Jesus had sacrificed himself to save me- to take away my sin- that it was a free gift…I don’t know. I don’t really get it. Is ot possible that Mothers “dusty church” has the answers after all? Pieter certainly seems to think so. He told me to talk to him of I wanted to know more. I guess It gives me something to think about.








-Adrien Duval










18 March,1916
Journal-

Battle “normal” as ever. I feel we gain ground inches at a time. Each inch costs us terribly though. Piles of lives for a mere inch of land. What has the world come to if all these lives mean nothing? I don’t know. Pierre and I talked today about hat we anted to do when the “war to win all wars” was over. Pieter wants to be a doctor and “do some good in the world.” I told him he should be a preacher. I don’t think I would like to be a doctor. Not the type of thing I’m good at it. I probably wouldn’t be smart enough either. I got alright grades in school but…who knows. I just want to go home. Away from the flashes and bangs and screaming of war. Home. Safe with Henri, Elodie, Mother and Pierre. When I get home- if- I don’t know hat I will do. I’d be happy to just be with my family, do “common jobs” for Mother, and maybe even pluck up enough courage to ask Michele Renaulds to dance. I want to be normal again. Not a solder. Will I get the chance?








-Adrien Duval






Dear Mrs. Duval, Henri, and Elodie,

I have never written a letter such as this before. But I made a promise and must keep it. I am so terribly sorry, but Adrien has been killed. We promised each other we would do this if anything happened. I am so sorry. So so sorry. Adrien talked of you all constantly and I know that he missed you. He died in the best possible way, it was swift and painless. I wish there was something I could do to make everything better. The only thing that I could say that could possibly help is that Adrien and I talked about God a lot before he died. He told me that you were a believer Mrs. Duval, so I hope that this can be a comfort to you. I told him what he needed to do to be saved. I don’t know if he prayed or not- but e can hope, right? I have included Adrien’s journal, which I found in his pocket. I am so truly sorry. I will be praying for your family.
May God bless you,


Pieter




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This article has 3 comments. Post your own!

BlueDolphin612 said...
May 1 at 7:30 pm:
In the first journal entry I think the character used too much exclamation mark. But otherwise, I think it is really good. I love historica fiction!!
 
Luckytheinvisiblefloatingwalrus replied...
yesterday at 8:12 pm :
Thank you soooo much for reading my story and posting a comment! I've never written anything like this before and was grateful for the feedback! (oops there I go with more explanation marks... I do have a problem with that.) :) Thanks again and have fun writing! 
 
BlueDolphin612 replied...
today at 6:45 pm :
Of course... you too!  
 
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