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Aftermath: The Remnants of War

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  401 ratings  ·  45 reviews
In riveting and revelatory detail, Aftermath documents the ways in which wars have transformed the terrain of the battlefield into landscapes of memory and enduring terror: in France, where millions of acres of farmland are cordoned off to all but a corps of demolition experts responsible for the undetonated bombs and mines of World War I that are now rising up in fields, ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 12th 1998 by Vintage (first published September 1996)
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Aidan Blake
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as supplementary material to Dan Carlin's excellent Hardcore History Podcast, specifically his series "Blueprints for Armageddon" and "Ghosts of the OstFront", in which he references and recommends this book. This book was highly informative and engaging. It addresses unexploded WWI ordnance in France, the untouched skeletons of WWII German soldiers still laying outside of Stalingrad, unexploded ordnance and the effect of "The American War" in Vietnam, mine clearing in Kuwait fo ...more
David Slayton
Mar 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Fascinating Study of the Lingering Effects of War

I read this book out of curiosity and found it captivating, especially the section on Verdun. Highly recommend to anyone who studies history, especially the World Wars. It was a long while ago and still I think about it all the time
Nancy Regan
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Second Battle of El Alamein became known, courtesy of Winston Churchill, as "not the end...[nor] even the beginning of the end, but ...perhaps the end of the beginning". Writing fifty plus year later, in 1996, Donovan Webster reframes my view of "the end of the beginning". After finishing Aftermath, I see the Paris Peace Treaties as the earliest possible date for the end of the beginning, the beginning, that is, of the war on the environment that the World War I leave-behinds conduct effortl ...more
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing

In the aftermath of war, countries and their people are left to pick up the pieces after the devastation. Most countries given time are able to rebuild and live a semblance of a normal life again. For many countries however, the remnants of war survive long after the last shot is fired and the last body crashes to the earth.
This book takes us around the world. From France to Russia, Vietnam to Nevada, and far flung Kuwait in search of the how today’s survivors live with the scars of the past
Alex Etheridge
Aug 03, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2022
Not the main point of this book, but I really enjoyed learning about WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Desert Storm as Webster talked through the unintended consequences of each war. One-sided to be sure, but hard to argue against the brutal and many atrocities of war that are still affecting nations 20-80 years after the wars ended.

For example, it is predicted that bombs from WWI and WWII throughout France, many still active,, will take another 100 years to clean up--a job where current workers cleaning
Adam Marshall
This is a very good book. Even though this book is from over 20 years ago, Landmines and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) continue to plague many of the conflict zones of which Webster wrote. If you are interested in how you can help solve this problem, please visit for more information.

Currently, there is a campaign to make the world landmine-free by 2025. This is an issue we can all solve together. Please help by donating, writing your elected representatives, and passing this in
Jesse D
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book after listening to various episodes of Dan Carlin's Hardcore History in which he mentioned the book. Rarely mentioned when talking about war history is the physical effect that takes place on various battlefields and terrains. It was fascinating to learn what still remains on the World War battlefields after all these years. This book should be required reading for anyone who has an interest in war history ...more
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly gripping account of what happens to battlefields after the war is over. It looks at the work needed to clean them up and dispose of the ordinance left behind. From the unexploded artillery shells that still turn up to this day in the fields of France, to the disposal of chemical weapons in accordance with disarmament treaties, this is utterly fascinating stuff.
Mattthew McKinney
Jul 01, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I first heard of this book while listening to Dan Carlin’s excellent history podcast “Hardcore History.” In it, Dan quoted passages from Aftermath concerning the bone fields leftover from the battle of Stalingrad and Operation Barbarossa, which still littered the Russian countryside more than 50 years after the end of the conflict. I picked up the book last year expecting it to be a bit dry. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover it was equal parts travel log and history, with fascinating i ...more
David Hill
May 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
In this book, the author takes us on a personal guided tour through some of the battlefields that saw action in the wars of the last century. This is more like a journalistic effort than a scholarly work - the book has no index, notes, or bibliography. This is not to say it's not a worthwhile work, but more an effort for me to categorize it properly.

We start off meeting the men in France who recover, disarm, and destroy unexploded munitions from World War I, then proceed to the bone-filled field
Jon Haase
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well-written look at the remnants of War left after the last shells have fallen. Having seen remnants of war in Vietnam, I have a first-hand appreciation for what a grave problem this remains in many places in the world. Thankfully, in Europe there is a professional program to remediate these hazards, but in many parts of the world there isn't. This is a great look that's the world we live in, how will conflict like World War I and Vietnam have left incredible amounts of unexploded Ordnance, a ...more
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
An absolutely fascinating look at how war impacts the area long after the active fighting has ceased. From bunkers to mines, bodies to tanks, so much remains behind to be cleaned up, or covered up and forgotten.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Siberia, enough so that I’m doing further research in efforts made to clean up the area after the publish date of this book.

Highly recommended for military history buffs as well as social history, for views into jobs produced by the need to take care of
Mike Fendrich
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a story. The aftermath of war. The massive piles of bones in Verdun and from the Germans invasion of Russia and siege of Leningrad, Agent Orange in Vietnam, land mines EVERYWHERE, chemical weapons. It is amazing what can come out of the mind and heart of man. And then someone has to clean it up (or maybe not). What a sobering book.
Byron Allred
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book.

I only wish this book was longer. I'd never read about the aftermath of battles - the cleanup and removal of bodies and weapons - until now. Supremely fascinating, and written with depth and emotionally charged feelings from people that have to do the cleanup. Again, I only wish this book longer.
Tracie Payne
Apr 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I’ve never thought about what happens when the war is over. It’s fascinating what remains of wars fought almost a century ago. I’m grateful we’ve never had wars in our own country, and pray that we never do.
Ryan Silve
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A horrifying tabulation of the detritus of (relatively) modern warfare that should prove sobering to any saber-rattling readers. If this book needs anything, it’s an updated edition.
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely one of the more powerful and haunting books that I have read. Especially the first two chapters. Well worth a read.
Michael Morgan
Dec 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The pain that continues long after the war engine is cold... Great read
Aneshia Knepper
Dec 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Got this book from Dan Carlin, it was a great read!
Jun 15, 2022 rated it really liked it
Such a fascinating book. I picked up on the recommendation of Dan Carlin and I wasn't disappointed at all. It's so crazy how much was left behind after wars and what needs to be done to clean up. ...more
Paul Elliott
Aug 03, 2022 rated it it was ok
Intriguing idea but I found the writing style to drag a bit.
Kristin Strong
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is proof that, in the words of William Faulkner, "The past isn't dead. Actually, it's not even past."

We live today with the fallout (see what I did there) of other times when war raged somewhere in the world. Donovan Webster takes us on a trip through the 20th century's conflicts, beginning with World War I and concluding with then-ongoing efforts to dispose of the United State's obsolete chemical and toxic weapons stockpiles.

In France, he accompanies the nation's de-mining squads as t
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Many history books spend a great deal of time on the events leading up to a war which is necessary but personally, I have always been interested in what happened after the guns go silent and the treaties are signed. What happens after everyone goes home? What if they have no home to go home to? What is the effect on communities where a percentage of their young men are lost, or even in some cases if the town itself is lost?

Donovan Webster wondered the same thing. Traveling to France he wandered
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
An interesting book about battlefields generations after a war. Most military histories discuss what happened during the battle on a location and then move on when the armies do. But the effects of modern war can linger on for generations.

Webster visited battlefields in France, Russia, Vietnam, Kuwait, and even the chemical weapons disposal site in Utah and writes about what he found.

In France, Explosive Ordnance teams are still locating and disposing of bombs and shells from the battlefield o
An excellent read. Donovan Webster's premise is there are certain left behind issues from military action that need to be addressed from unintended consequences. Webster skillfully takes the reader through the remnant of war and the after affects on the populace both physically and psychologically. Aftermath: The Remnants of War looks at the devastation of munitions of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Gulf War, and chemical weapons along with the effects that still affect the long quiet battlefields. What is ...more
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
We all know that war happens and assume that when one is over, that's it. Life goes back to normal. Webster shows that this is definitely not the case--not with any war. He begins with WWI then each subsequent chapter moves on to the next war, ending with the Gulf War. (The final chapter is a description of the chemical weapons destruction facility in Tooele, Utah.) In each chapter, Webster visits a country that was involved in the war (France--WWI, Russia--WWII, Vietnam--Vietnam War, Kuwait--Gu ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
The most sobering book I have ever read. Webster explains the inner workings and effects of 20th century weapons in a way that is both exhaustive and horrifying.

Webster also has a way of capturing settings and moods perfectly with artful descriptions of even the most mundane (describing a mans facial expression of disgust as ‘throwing accordions of wrinkles into his cheeks and closing the fleshy flaps over his eyes’ etc).

Before reading this I had a rudimentary understanding of unexploded ordnanc
Martin Landry
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
An amazing book that should be mandatory reading for all weapons designers, I would recommend it to any student of human conflict or with in an interest in the social consequences of modern warfare. Would have rated it 5 stars, however there were a few places where I felt the author could have done a bit more research, and perhaps did not in order to avoid contradicting anecdotal evidence. On the other hand, I am writing this with the benefit of hindsight, if I had read the book at its release I ...more
Nicholas Prior
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend Aftermath: The Remnants of War to anyone who is remotely interested in warfare or how combat has been conducted in the last 110 years. I could also recommend this book to anyone who might be interested in the clean up efforts after wars have taken place. It goes into great detail about the clean up effort underway in parts of France to rid the landscape of explosive shells left over from both world wars AND the Franco Prussian war that are STILL on going...
Aug 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Good book, very interesting. Formed part of the basis for Dan Carlin's Hardcore History episode, Ghosts of the Ostfront. A compelling read, makes plain the great advantages of living in the country that doesn't get invaded, but does the invading. I don't think it had this political slant as it's basis, but it certainly makes plain that terms of the "great game" living in the u.s. has been a pretty good deal. ...more
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