Bomb Ponds, 2009 © Vandy Rattana
On 15 March 1969, a secret bombing of (politically neutral) Cambodia by the U.S. was authorised by then President Richard Nixon. Beginning with a stage called Operation Breakfast, the following four-years saw the dropping of 540,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia and the killing of anywhere up to 500,000 civilians.
One of the remnants of these bombings are bomb ponds, craters formed by bomb impacts which over time fill with water to create artificial ponds.
Six thousand miles northwest of Cambodia, in the forests of Germany, similar artificial ponds can be found. Though these bomb ponds date to around 30 years earlier and are the products of allied bombing runs carried out over Germany during WWII.
#66 (Mascheroder Holz) © Henning Rogge
#83 (Beerenbruch) © Henning Rogge
They are also markers. Markers in the earth of a certain type of human activity – war. Enabled by technological progress, from the first discovery of flight to the development of Boeing B-52 bombers, and facilitated by human-human moral distance which grants as permissible, yet regrettable, the deaths of thousands of civilians as a cost of war.
As 20th century (or anthropocene) pockmarks, bomb ponds are a visible reminder of the longevity of scars inflicted by war. They are messages stored by the soil waiting to be re-found and placed within the human archive as a particular legacy of war and a certain kind of warfare.