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Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 18854

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

From Bosnia to Flanders-Marne the Turning Point of the Conflict-The Conquests of Servia and Rumania-The Fall of Bagdad-Russia's Women Soldiers-America's Conscripts.

The end of August, 1917, found twenty-one nations in a state of war and five in what might be termed a condition of modified neutrality, with nearly 40,000,000 summoned to arms and 5,000,000 killed in bitter warfare.

This was the fiery reflection of the shots which caused the death of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, of Austria, in the quiet little town of Serajevo, the capital of Bosnia, in June, 1914. And so, with their backs to the wall, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Turkey and Bulgaria faced Servia, Russia, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Montenegro, Japan, Italy, Portugal, Rumania, the United States, Cuba, Brazil, Greece, Siam, China and little Liberia, while Guatemala, Panama, Haiti, Uruguay and Bolivia stood by in a position of neutrality, but for the most part indicating a willingness to help the Allies.

And in those elapsed three years after the Bosnia tragedy an Emperor of Austria had died; a Czar had stepped from his throne, and a King had been compelled to toss aside his crown. Prime Ministers and Ministers of War in all of the principal countries, who held the confidence of their peoples when the war started, were no more.

Cabinets had been dissolved and new ones set up, statesmen brushed aside and commanders of the war forces compelled to step out that others might carry on the battles.

Though it was Austria's ultimatum to Servia which precipitated the world-wide struggle, it was Germany that took the first step and crossed the French frontier with its armed forces. After Servia refused to accede to all of the demands of Austria-Hungary and war had formally been declared by the latter country, Russia began a partial mobilization of her armed forces, since she had given warning that she would extend protection to Servia. Germany retaliated by calling together her warring forces and declaring war on the Czar; France came to Russia's aid. Then when Belgium refused to permit the German army to pass through the country and Germany disregarded international treaties and invaded the territory, Great Britain declared war upon the Kaiser, and Montenegro aligned itself with the Allies.


Germany's action and subsequent events prove that the war lords had planned to capture Paris by a swift attack from the north, before France could gather her forces to resist and before Russia was prepared to assist. Belgium, however, proved a stumbling block. The natives, battling like demons for the protection of their homes and honor, held the Teuton hordes at Liege for several weeks, or until the famous fortifications there were reduced, and then the terrible machine of the Germans swept forward until the soldiers were within fifteen miles of the French capital.

It was here, within a few hours' march of Paris, that the French and Allied troops showed their real metal. General Joffre met the German hordes beside the River Marne and with his troops began the battle which was to guarantee the security of the French capital and result in the routing of the army of Von Kluck, regarded as the pick of the Prussian forces. In the famed battle of the Marne there were fought a number of separate engagements, which have been termed the battles of Meaux, Sezanne, Vitry and Argonne.

The German forces were driven back step by step to the north bank of the Aisne, where the army was able to entrench itself and the Germans and the Allied forces began digging themselves into the ground in a manner that had never before been practised in warfare.

While Germany was striking at France, the Russians had invaded Austria, capturing Tarnapol and Lemberg and investing the great fortress of Prezemsyl. Austria was compelled to call upon Germany for assistance and four German army corps, under Von Hindenburg, were drawn from East Prussia and went to the rescue. Instead of trying to stem the progress of the Russians, he made a counter offensive with Warsaw as the objective. Russia was compelled for a time to abandon its positions and retreat, and Von Hindenburg got within seven miles of Warsaw before the Russians rode down upon his forces with 100,000 horsemen and compelled retreat. Von Hindenburg's strategy had, however, been successful, and his action on the Eastern front at this time marked the first step toward his pre-eminence as a military commander.


During 1915 the Allied forces were able to do little more than hold their positions. Lord Kitchener had builded up a British volunteer army in which great hopes were placed, but in the matter of offensive military tactics they could not cope with the formidable German forces, nor had the Allies developed an offensive which would win without terrible sacrifice, and in the encounters the very flower of Great Britain's manhood, as well as thousands of the best fighting men of France, were lost to the world forever. It was in this year, when Germany made use of asphyxiating gas for the first time, that Canada received its most stinging blow. The famous Princess Pats, the finest military body of the Dominion, was practically annihilated, and in the final formidable attack of the year made by the French against the Germans in September, the latter were driven back several miles, but at a cost of more than 100,000 French lives.

In this year, too, the Germans succeeded in capturing much territory and a number of valuable positions which had been taken by the Russians, and the combined forces of Von Hindenburg and Von Mackensen finally conquered Poland. Warsaw was evacuated in July, and in August Prince Leopold led the Bavarian into the Polish capital. On August 19 the great stronghold of Kovno fell, and the conquest was made complete with the surrender of Brest-Litovsk.


The conquest of Servia by the Teutons also marked the year 1915. Among the first shots of the war were those fired by the Austrians when they bombarded Belgrade, the capital of Servia, and made an attempt to invade the country. The Servians and Montenegrins almost annihilated Austrian troops which attempted to cross the Danube into Servia, and the Austrian invasion fell. But the combined Austro-German forces invaded the country later as part of the Prussian program to conquer all the territory from the Baltic to the Bosporus. The Entente Allies made an effort to save the little country by landing troops at Salonica, but it was too late. Just before winter set in, the Austro-German forces and the Bulgarian forces, invading from opposite sides, met, and the conquest of the country was complete.

It was in 1915, too, that what is conceded to have been one of the most disastrous and futile campaigns of the war was attempted by England. Constantinople was to be captured and the Turks crushed, with a view of opening communication with Russia by way of the Black Sea. The British fleet was sent out to bombard the Dardanelles, and the now famous Anzacs-Australian and New Zealand troops-were landed on the peninsula of Gallipoli to strike at the Turkish capital from behind. The campaign was waged through the summer, but with little hope of success, and finally abandoned after the British had lost more than 100,000 of its most daring, hard-fighting and loyal Colonial soldiers.

After this came "Verdun"-that conflict in which France won immortal glory and the German's attack upon the French fortress town of Verdun was successfully repulsed. The battle raged for four months, beginning in February, 1916. The German troops, with the German Crown Prince in command, captured two forts close to Verdun, but little by little the French troops drove them back, and finally, in command of General Nivelle, with General Petain looking after the defense of Verdun, the French, co-operating with the British, made an attack on the Somme, and the Germans were compelled to abandon the Verdun offensive. In the Verdun campaign the Germans lost more than 500,000 men, while the French lost not half the number.


Russia's conquest of Armenia was one of the features of 1916. The troops under General Brussiloff renewed their endeavors in Galicia and for several months made great progress; then Rumania entered the war and the Russian forces in Galicia slowed down. In Caucasus, however, Russian troops gained Erzerum, one of the Turk fortresses, and captured the seaport of Trebizond, practically gaining Armenia. Like the Germans in retreat from Flanders, the Turks practiced unspeakable horrors. Their cruelties were such as to almost exterminate the race.

The tragedy of the Balkans in 1916 was Rumania. With an army of more than half a million men, she entered the war with the approval of the Entente and entered Transylvania. But the Germans began a counter-attack in Dobrudja, and the Rumanians were compelled to withdraw some of their forces from Transylvania. The German commander then threw his forces across the remaining Rumanians and drove them across the border, after which he swung his own troops through the mountain passes into Rumania. The two German forces invading Rumania met at Bucharest, and the Rumanian capital was occupied.

Another fiasco was that of the British expeditionary force

which was sent from India by way of the Persian Gulf and up the Tigris river to Bagdad. General Townsend succeeded in getting within 15 miles of Bagdad, but he was defeated by a superior Turkish force and compelled to fall back to Kut-el-Amara. Here his inadequate force, lacking medical and transport facilities, was fairly starved out before he was relieved. He was finally compelled to surrender the last week in April, 1916.

Little more than a year after the collapse of this expedition, however, the famous old city of Bagdad was captured by the English after a well-directed campaign under General Maude.


Italy, having begun active warfare with the Allies in 1915, waged war along the Austrian border, compelling the Austro-German forces to concentrate a larger body of troops for duty on the Italian frontier, and to that extent materially assisted the Allies. At the same time the Italians fought their way up over the mountains and won more than 500 square miles of territory and took nearly 90,000 prisoners.

The final alignment of the Greeks with the Allies marked the progress of affairs in the middle of 1917, when Constantine was forced from his throne in favor of his second son, and Venizelos was returned as Premier. But the entrance of the Greeks did not materially alter the situation.

The two most important events of 1917 were the entrance of America into the conflict and the revolt in Russia, which caused the abdication of the Czar and turned the great country into a republic. The ultimate in Russia's history is still to be written, but the change was fraught with disaster. The people let free, and unaccustomed to self-government, could not be controlled, and the army became demoralized.

The element which had been loyal to the Romanoffs refused to fight for liberty, and the Germans, taking advantage of the situation, drove the Russian troops back over the frontiers and gained all that the Russians had once taken in conflict. And out of this grew one of the most picturesque incidents of the entire war. Russian women and girls, filled with ideals and with a deep sense of the responsibilities which rested upon the nation, formed a corps, and, dressed in full military costume, went to the front and attacked the German troops. No soldiers of any nation have shown more heroism, or more capability, for the women faced the bullets, and, while they were being mowed down by the German guns, they urged their men to face the enemy and fight-fight-fight.


While there have been few of the picturesque battles on the seas, which the world has long regarded as a necessary adjunct to a successful war, the work of the British Navy has proved through the period of the conflict to be one of the most powerful and effective assets of the Allied forces. Through the operation of the British fleet, later augmented by an American war fleet, the German ships have been corked up in their home ports and chased from the seas.

The first naval battle of the war was an engagement between portions of the British squadron in the Pacific and a superior German force. The engagement occurred off the coast of Chili in November, 1915. Two British vessels were lost and a third badly damaged. However, a few months later, the German squadron, in command of Admiral von Spee, was met off the Falkland Islands by a second British squadron, and in the engagement four of the German vessels were sunk and a fifth damaged. This vessel was later sunk.

The most important naval engagement was the battle of Jutland in May, 1916, when Admiral Beatty met a German fleet in the North Sea. The German boats made a dash from the Kiel canal and engaged the British off the coast of Denmark. Both England and Germany claimed victory, the former declaring that Germany lost eighteen ships, while the German Government claimed that the British lost fifteen vessels. Berlin admitted a loss of 60,720 tons and 3966 men, while England conceded a loss of more than 114,000 tons and 5613 men. But the English fleet which engaged the German fighting ships was but a small portion of the force on guard outside of Helgoland and the Kiel Canal, and the effect was to keep the German navy from venturing forth again.

These are the main events which had punctuated the action of the world's fighting machines at the close of August, 1917, when America was preparing to thwart the German U-boats in their destruction of the world's shipping, and had under actual call to arms more than 1,000,000 men, a minor part of which had been safely landed in France.


In the three months prior to August the German underseas boats had sunk 464 vessels, or an average of 426,000 tons of shipping a month, while America, working with her fleets in conjunction with the British Navy to foil the submarine in its endeavors, was also building more than 12,000 cargo-carrying craft and submarine chasers with which to flood the traffic lanes of the sea.

Likewise, contracts had been awarded for 10,000 flying machines with which to drive the "eyes of the German army," as the air machines are called, from the heavens. Finally, as the Allies in the closing days of August were driving the German hordes back under avalanches of shells, 629,000 of the youth of America, called to fight under the conscript act, were preparing to move to camps in a dozen different sections of the country to train themselves for invading foreign countries and facing the brutal Teutons. Likewise, some 20,000 picked men were training to officer these civilian forces, and half a million men of the National Guards of the various States, formally mustered into the service of the country, were moving by orders of the Government to points whence they would find their way to the side of the loyal French soldiers and the sturdy English, Scotch, Canadian, Australian and virile Italian fighters.

The records of three years show that the American ambulance drivers; daring thousands of our countrymen who fought with the French and English because they believed the war was a just one, and without compulsion; scores of Red Cross nurses, and aviators who hunted the Teutons in the air, all Americans, have had their names written high in the roster of heroes. Americans have always been pioneers and history makers, and they are making history now.

With the approach of cold weather, and following months of intensive training under the direction of French and English soldiers, the American expeditionary forces began actual participation in the great world war as a unit. Previously their achievements were principally in connection with the French aviation corps and ambulance sections.


The first untoward incident involving America's forces on land or sea was the sinking of the transport Antilles on October 27, 1917, by a German submarine, when 67 men-officers, seamen and soldiers-were lost. The vessel was returning from a French port after having landed troops and supplies. This was the first loss sustained by the United States, and the event brought home the seriousness of the country's participation in the war as no previous event had done.

Almost immediately following this the world awoke one morning to learn that silently and unheralded the American soldiers had marched from their quarters in a French village to the "front" and in a slough of mud had entered the trenches, and for the first time in history United States troops launched shells against the forces of Germany.

The initial shot was fired by artillerists at the break of day on October 24, and America was formally made an active agent in the horrors of warfare on "No Man's Land." Ten days later the brave Americans, occupying a position in the trenches for instruction, early on the morning of Saturday, November 3, received their baptism of fire, and in the cause of Democracy 3 soldiers were killed, 5 wounded and 12 captured by the Boche forces.

Cut off from the main line of the Allied forces, the Americans were stormed under the protection of a heavy barrage fire by a German raiding party and engaged in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter. The 20 Americans, with several French instructors, according to official report, were pitted against 210 picked Germans. A rain of shells from Boche guns was laid back of the American section so that there was no retreat. The lieutenant in command made a heroic attempt to reach the main fighting line, but was caught in the barrage fire and rendered unconscious from shell-shock.

Previously American scouts had captured a German prisoner-a mail runner; Lieutenant de Vere H. Harden, of the Signal Corps had been wounded by a bursting German shell, and a German gunner was reported killed by an American sharpshooter, as opening incidents of the skirmish.

And so at the beginning of November, 1917, with the whole United States giving support to the Government in subscribing upwards of five billions of dollars to the second Liberty Loan, and all forces working to conserve food, furnish men, ships, ammunition, clothing and supplies to her own troops and to her Allies, the world found America true to traditions, battling for the right and giving her best that liberty might endure and the burden of Prussianism be lifted from humanity.

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