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   Chapter 28 AMERICAN FORCES BECOME FACTOR.

Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 29360

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


United States Soldiers Inspired Allied Troops-Russian Government Collapses-Italian Army Fails-Allied War Council Formed-Foch Commands Allied Armies-Pershing Offers American Troops-Under Fire-U-Boat Bases Raided by British.

The influence exerted by the actual presence of the American troops on the western front was soon apparent. The spirits of the English, French and Canadian troops were raised and the presence of the Americans was heralded to the world as an evidence of complete unity on the part of the Allies that meant ultimate death to Kaiserism.

The advent of Uncle Sam's fighting men on the firing line had, however, one serious effect, viewed from the Allied standpoint. Germany realized that every day she delayed in making attack meant the strengthening of the Allied forces by the arrival of additional United States troops, and it was seen by the English and French leaders that the Kaiser would make an early drive to annihilate, if possible, the stubbornly resisting, though somewhat tired and weakened, lines opposing his brutal soldiery. Not for months, therefore, was it permitted the world to know anything about the numerical strength of the American troops sent into France.

Simultaneously with the action of American troops in entering the resisting line of Allied troops on the western front the Austro-German troops had swept into the Italian plains, capturing 100,000 prisoners and upward of 1,000 guns, taking several towns and compelling the retreat of the Second and Third Italian armies. The Italian forces were opposed by four times their number, but it was also said that the unity of the Italian forces was broken by the spreading of German propaganda.

The failure of some of the troops was shown in an official dispatch from Rome, in which it was stated:

"The failure to resist on the part of some units forming our second army, which in cowardice retired without fighting or surrendered to the enemy, allowed the Austro-German forces to break into our left wing on the Julian front. The valiant efforts of other troops did not enable them to prevent the enemy from advancing into the sacred soil of our fatherland. We now are withdrawing our line according to the plan prepared. All stores and depots in the evacuated places were destroyed."

ITALIAN HEADQUARTERS CAPTURED.

These troops were compelled to fall back along a front almost 125 miles long and Undine, the Italian headquarters, was captured. Germany had found the weakest spot in the Italian line and occupied about 1,000 square miles of territory before General Cadorna's forces were able to establish a line of strong defense.

The retirement of the Italian troops was one of the most picturesque in the history of the war, and Germany made her gains at terrible cost.

The retirement was accompanied by shielding operations of the rear guard, which poured a deadly fire into the advancing columns and at the same time destroyed powder depots, arsenals and bridges with the double purpose of giving time for the withdrawal of the Italian heavy guns and of preventing military stores falling into the hands of the enemy.

The Germans encountered stubborn resistance on the Bainsizza plateau, and heaps of enemy dead marked the lines of their advance. Around Globo ridge a bersaglieri brigade, outnumbered five to one, held back the enemy while the main line had an opportunity to get its retreat in motion. In one of the mountain passes a small village commanding the pass was taken and retaken eight times during desperate artillery, infantry and hand-to-hand fighting.

Before the Italians were able to establish a line of resistance they were compelled to fall back to the Piave, and at some points to a much greater distance. Meantime the Allies rushed assistance to the retiring forces, and while the collapse of Cadorna's line was unfortunate, it had the effect of making it more obvious that there should be more unity of operation between the Allied forces.

Russia's republic, under the leadership of Premier Kerensky, collapsing at the same moment, intensified the seriousness of the Allied situation, and largely at the suggestion of America an Inter-Allied War Council was formed.

REVOLT IN PETROGRAD.

Premier Kerensky called upon the United States to help Russia bear the burdens of conflict until the forces could be reorganized by the new government. Almost immediately there was revolt in Petrograd, and the radicals under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, president of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Council of Soldiers' and Workmen's Delegates, seized the telegraph wires, the State bank and Marie Palace, where the preliminary parliament had suspended proceedings in view of the situation.

The Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates assumed control of the City of Petrograd and Kerensky was compelled to flee. The Winter Palace was bombarded. A General Council of the Soldiers' and Workmen's Delegates announced the taking over of government authority:

"We plan to offer an immediate armistice of three months, during which elected representatives from all nations and not the diplomats are to settle the questions of peace," said Nikolai Lenine, the Maximalist leader, in a speech before the Workmen's and Soldiers' Congress today.

"We offer these terms," M. Lenine added, "but we are willing to consider any proposals for peace, no matter from which side. We offer a just peace, but will not accept unjust terms."

Meantime General Cadorna was relieved of command of the Italian armies and General Diaz put at the head of the Italian forces, while General Foch, chief of staff of the French War Ministry, and General Wilson, sub-chief of the British Staff, were made members of an Inter-Allied Military Committee serving with General Cadorna to straighten out the Italian situation. This was the first step looking to the unifying of the Allied forces which was brought about shortly thereafter by the formation of the Inter-Allied War Council at Versailles. It was chiefly at the suggestion of President Wilson that the War Council was called, the President issuing a stirring appeal in which he pointed out the necessity of unity of control, if the resources of the United States were to be of the greatest value to the Allied interests.

SUPREME WAR COUNCIL.

The Supreme War Council, which was made a permanent body, was composed of the Prime Minister and a member of the Government of each of the Great Powers whose armies were fighting at the front. Each Power delegated to the Supreme Council a permanent military representative whose function was to act as adviser to the Council. As the result of the deliberations of the War Council, and following the suggestion of General Pershing, General Foch was made Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies. General Foch was Commander of the French troops at Verdun and a recognized authority on military strategy.

While the problem of solving the military phases of the situation was being considered by the Allied War Council the Russian forces under Kerensky and those under Trotzky, known as the Bolsheviki, clashed again and again at Petrograd, Moscow and other points, and the hope of the Allies as to any help from Russia sank. Germany entered into a peace compact with Ukrainia, and the hand of the Kaiser was seen in the Russian situation when officers of the German Army were reported in Petrograd in conference with the representatives of the various Russian factions. Russia suggested a separate armistice, or a separate peace, against which both the U.S. and France protested.

The failure of the Russian Government to assume any degree of stability made it possible for the Germans to withdraw many troops and transfer them to the Italian and Western Fronts.

One result of the Allied War Council deliberations was to show the necessity of rapid action on the part of the United States and get troops into France so that they might take over a definite sector. While it was estimated that several hundred thousand Americans were in France, the necessity for a larger force was made apparent by the statement that 90 reserves are required for every 400 fighters on the line.

DROPPED THEIR TOOLS FOR RIFLES.

The first bitter attack in which American troops figured was when a company of United States engineers, caught between cross-fires, dropped their tools for rifles and joined the English troops in helping to repulse the Germans near Cambrai.

A notable event in the progress of the war was the declaration of war upon Austria by the U.S. on Dec. 8, 1917, Congress adopting a resolution of war with but one dissenting vote.

Events which brought the seriousness of the war home to America began at this point to occur rapidly. First the Torpedo Boat Destroyer Jacob Jones was sunk in the war zone when nearly 30 men were reported lost. This was followed shortly by a report to the War Department that 17 Americans caught in the cross-fire by the Germans at Cambrai were missing or killed. The report of the sinking of the Alcedo, a patrol boat, with the loss of several officers, was also received, as was that of the sinking of the U.S. Destroyer "Chauncey" rammed in a collision, when two officers and eighteen men were lost.

One of the high spots of the war and one of the notable events in the history of the world, was the surrender of the City of Jerusalem to the British on Saturday, December 8, 1917. Gen. Allenby entered the famed city and established his troops on the ancient Jerico Road.

The capture of Jerusalem by the British forces marked the end, with two brief interludes, of more than 1200 years' possession of the seat of the Christian religion by the Mohammedans. For 673 years the Holy City had been in disputed ownership of the Turks, the last Christian ruler of Jerusalem being the German Emperor, Frederick, whose short-lived domination lasted from 1229 to 1244.

THE FALL OF JERUSALEM.

Apart from its connection with the campaign being waged against Turkey by the British in Mesopotamia, the fall of Jerusalem marked the definite collapse of the long-protracted efforts of the Turks to capture the Suez Canal and invade Egypt. Almost the first move made by Turkey after her entrance into the war was a campaign against Egypt across the great desert of the Sinai Peninsula. In November, 1914, a Turkish army, variously estimated at from 75,000 to 250,000 men, marched on the Suez Canal and succeeded in reaching within striking distance of the great artificial waterway at several points. For several months bitter fighting took place, the canal being defended by an Anglo-Egyptian army aided by Australians and New Zealanders and French and British forces.

For the greater part of 1915 conflicting reports of the situation were received from the belligerents, but in December of that year definite information showed that the Turks had been driven back as far as El Arish, about eighty-five miles east of the canal. A lull occurred then which lasted for six months, and in June, 1916, the Turks again advanced as far at Katieh, about fifteen miles east of the canal. Here they were decisively defeated, losing more than 3000 prisoners and a great quantity of equipment.

Another period followed in which the situation was greatly confused through the vagueness and contradictory character of the official statements, but in December, 1916, the British stormed El Arish and a few days later severely defeated the Turks at Maghdabah, about sixty miles to the south on the same front. Two weeks later the invaders had been driven out of Egypt and the British forces crossed the border into Palestine. On March 7 they captured El Khulil, southeast of Gaza.

By November 22 the British had pushed within five miles of Jerusalem, on the northwest, and on December 7 General Allenby announced that he had taken Hebron. Jerusalem thus was virtually cut off on all sides but the east.

HISTORICAL INTEREST TO CHRISTIANS.

In sentimental and romantic aspect the capture of Jerusalem far exceeds even the fall of fable-crowned Bagdad. The modern City of Jerusalem contains about 60,000 inhabitants, and is the home of pestilence, filth and fevers, but in historic interest it naturally surpasses, to the Christian world, all other places in the world. Since the days when David wrested it from the hands of the Jebusites to make it the capital of the Jewish race Jerusalem has been the prize and prey of half the races of the world. It has passed successively into the hands of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Arabs, Turks, the Crusaders, finally to fall before the descendants of that Richard the Lion-hearted who strove in vain for its possession more than 700 years ago.

Early in January, 1918, evidence was forthcoming that Germany was preparing to make a final drive on the Western Front to break through and capture some English and French channel ports before America could be of any great assistance to the Allied forces. As a result Great Britain determined to call 500,000 more men to hold the Huns, and Premier Lloyd George issued a stirring appeal to Labor affected by the Manpower Bill, which provided for the increase taken largely from the labor forces.

The German intent to launch an offensive was indicated by the withdrawal of German lines north of Italy when important defensive positions were abandoned, and dummy soldiers were left in trench to conceal movement to the rear. Warnings of a great submarine offensive on American boatlines to France, to be joined with a big drive on land, were received by Secretary of War Baker, and on February 2, the American troops occupying a sector of the Lorraine front in France faced the first big bombardment in what was preliminary to the most bitter drive Germany had attempted in four years of warfare.

SINKING OF THE TUSCANIA.

True to their promise the German submarines started their portion of the offensive and sunk the U.S. troopship "Tuscania" a few days later off the coast of Ireland. The liner carried 2,179 U.S. troops of various divisions besides a crew of 200. The total number of persons lost was 113. The troops included engineers, members of the aero-squadron, and regulars.

The Tuscania was the first troopship to be sunk en route to France, though the Antilles was sunk in October, 1917. This boat, however, it must be noted, was returning from France. At this time 70 lives were lost. The comparatively small loss of life on the "Tuscania" was accepted as evidence of the efficient training and bravery of American troops under all conditions.

The Tuscania was t

orpedoed when entering what until that time were considered comparatively safe waters. The ships were within sight of land, which was just distinguishable in the dusk of evening when the torpedo hit the Tuscania amidships. This was at about 7 o'clock.

When the crash came the khaki-clad young heroes of the American army lined up as though on parade, and sang the "Star Spangled Banner" at the top of their voices as the Tuscania sank by inches under them. Across from them their British cousins of the crew came back with the echoing "God Save the King," which too cool-headed exponents of what occurred in a crisis of a sea disaster say accounts for the fact the Germans took only a toll of 113 lives out of the 2,397 souls on board the Cunarder when she met her fate.

AMERICAN COURAGE PRAISED.

If the singing man is a fighting man, he also is hopeful, and in the combination of fight and hope there came the baffling of the German attempt to reduce the American war forces by almost a full regiment. Taking stock after the disaster, the officers of both the army and navy praised the courage of the Americans as the chief reason for the saving of more than 90 per cent of the men on board.

No submarine was seen until the torpedo struck the Tuscania fairly amidships. A moment later another torpedo passed astern of the vessel. There was a terrific explosion, and it is believed most of the casualties were caused by this and by subsequent difficulties in lowering the boats.

The vessel immediately took a heavy list and the men were called to their lifeboat stations, but the list prevented the boats from being properly lowered, some of the upper-deck boats falling to the lower deck. Many of the men jumped into the water, and the difficulty in lowering the boats was responsible for many casualties.

The survivors of the Tuscania landed at points in Ireland were received with great honor in the various communities, and great tribute was paid to the surviving soldiers by the Mayor of Dublin.

The American troops on the Tuscania were part of the forces being hurried to France to hold the Germans in check, and at the time American troops were holding a sector with the French in Lorraine, northwest of Toul, while American artillery were supporting the French in Champagne. The date set for the big German drive was announced as January 28, and the fact that Germany made an open proclamation of the fact that they proposed to wage offensive warfare was somewhat puzzling to the minds of those studying the situation. Making her position more impregnable, Germany halted her armies in Russia upon the acceptance of peace terms by the Russian delegation at Brest-Litovsk, which were concluded on March 1, 1918, and daily the activities of the German forces on the Western Front grew in intensity. On March 6, in anticipation of the drive, it was for the first time publicly stated that 81,000 troops of American soldiers were holding an eight mile line on the Lorraine front, with three full divisions in the trenches. The gathering together of this force and other American troops in France drew Secretary of War Baker to the scene of activities. He was the first American Cabinet officer to cross the ocean after America entered the war.

SEIZURE OF ALL DUTCH VESSELS.

Holland having proved herself unwilling to come to a satisfactory agreement at this time on the British-American demand regarding the use of ships, President Wilson ordered the seizure of all Dutch vessels within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States; the Allies ordered a similar seizure abroad. The President's proclamation authorized the navy to take over the vessels to be equipped and operated by the Navy Department and the Shipping Board. A total of 77 ships were added to the American Merchant Marine.

Holland's failure to act was on the propositions that the United States and the Allies should facilitate the importation into Holland of foodstuffs, and other commodities required to maintain her economic life, and that Holland should restore her Merchant Marine to a normal condition of activity.

On March 21 the greatest German offensive of the war actually began on a front 50 miles long, running west and southwest of Cambrai. The preliminary German bombardment covered a front from the River Serre below St. Quentin, and the River Scarpe east of Arras.

FIERCEST BATTLE IN WORLD'S HISTORY.

Field Marshal Haig's report from British headquarters in France described the German offensive as comprising an intense bombardment by the artillery and a powerful infantry attack on a front of more than fifty miles. Some of the British positions were penetrated, but the German losses were exceptionally heavy.

It was reported at the end of the first day that the fiercest battle of the world's history was in progress, and that 80,000 Germans were lost in battle; while Berlin reported the capture of 16,000 Allied prisoners and 200 guns.

The Associated Press correspondent reported that at least forty divisions of German soldiers were identified as actively participating in the attack. No such concentration of artillery had been seen since the war began. The enemy had 1,000 guns in one small sector-one for every twelve yards. The Germans in many sections attacked in three waves of infantry, followed up by shock troops. As a result they suffered very heavy casualties.

The German massed artillery was badly hammered by the British guns.

In the first stage of their offensive the Germans failed badly in the execution of their program, as was attested by captured documents showing what they planned to do in the early hours of their offensive.

By March 24 the attacks of the Germans had been redoubled, and it was estimated that more than 1,000,000 Huns had been thrown into the struggle against the British forces on which the attack was concentrated.

The most notable feature of the attack from the spectacular viewpoint was the bombardment of Paris by monster German cannon, located in the forest of St. Gobain, west of Laon, and approximately 76 miles away from Paris.

BIG GUN ONE HUNDRED FEET LONG.

Though no official description of the big gun was ever given, it was stated by military authorities that it was approximately 100 feet in length, and that several were in use, and more being built by the Germans. At first the statement that a gun could shoot such a distance was doubted, but when 75 persons were killed in Paris and one of the shells hit a church doubt no longer existed. It also developed that the gun was originally an American invention, and that similar weapons were being built by the United States.

The use of the big gun was in the nature of a "side-issue" to bring terror to the French, and in line with the policy of frightfulness instituted by the German militarists. Its use was continued daily. Meantime the German hordes swept on marching in close formation into the very mouths of the rapid-fire guns and against the strongly fixed British lines.

For ten days the hostilities continued, without cessation, with fighting along a whole front such as had never been known before.

The Germans continued to hurl great forces of infantry into the conflict, depending largely on weight of numbers to overcome the increasing opposition offered by the heroically resisting British.

The battle on the historic ground about Longueval was perhaps the most spectacular of any along the front. It was a battle of machine gunners and infantry. The Germans were pursuing their tactics of working forward in massed formation, and the British rapid-firers' squads and riflemen reaped a horrid harvest from their positions on the high ground. Notwithstanding their terrible losses, the Germans kept coming on, filling in the places of those who had fallen and pressing their attack. The British artillery in the meantime poured in a perfect rain of shells on the enemy, carrying havoc into their ranks. In this section the Germans operated without the full support of their guns, because of their rapid advance.

ENEMY LOSES HEAVILY.

A fierce engagement was also waged about Le Verguier, which the Germans captured, but not until the British infantry holding the place had fought to the last man and inflicted extremely heavy losses on the enemy. The British again fell back, this time to a line through Hervilly, just east of Roisel and Vermand.

The work of the British airmen during the battle was one of the brightest pages. Bitter battles in the air were fought by scores of aviators and the service proved fully its ability to smother the German airmen at a crucial time.

Within a few days it was stated that at least 130 German airplanes were brought down. This compilation of losses has reference to only one section of the battle front, comprising perhaps two-thirds of the line affected.

An official statement regarding British aerial operations said their airplanes were employed in bombing the enemy's troops and transport massed in the areas behind the battlefront, and in attacking them with machine-gun fire from low heights. Twenty-two tons of bombs were dropped in this work, and more than 100,000 rounds were fired from the machine guns.

By March 28 the German losses were estimated at 400,000. The forces of the Germans were almost overwhelming, the Kaiser sacrificing the manpower of his nation in a last desperate attack.

In consequence no greater stories of heroism have ever been told than are related of the English, French and American troops. The Germans were set for a drive against the English and French channel points with Amiens as an objective, with the idea of breaking through the British lines where they join the French.

AMERICAN FORCES OFFERED TO FRANCE.

The earnestness of the Americans in the situation was proclaimed to the world by the English and French, and General Pershing placed his name and that of his country and men high on the wall of fame by unselfishly offering to France at the most critical period the use of his entire force, to be disposed of and assigned wherever General Foch and his staff decided to use them. Within a few days thereafter the American troops which had been in training were marched in to relieve the stressed English and French.

Everywhere the raging battle was marked by spectacular features not the least of which were provided by a corps of thirty tanks, which waded into the German hordes near Ephey and other points, recovering positions which had been lost by the British.

Canadian armored motorcars also played an important part in checking the Huns, the cars armed with rapid-fire guns being rushed up to support weakening troops.

The progress of the Germans was halted on April 3, and in the following days the British regained several lost positions and the French made gains. But after a pause, during which several hundred thousand new troops were brought in, the Huns renewed the offensive, delivering an attack against the French near Montdidier on a front about 15 miles long. An attack along a front of similar length was made against the British on the Somme.

The first battalion of American troops answering to the call of the French for support reached the British front-line in France, on April 10, on the very anniversary of the entrance of the United States into the war, and within a few days the Americans began to bear the brunt of battle, holding the Germans like veterans.

The first big attack of the Germans launched directly against an American line occurred on April 30, in the vicinity of Villers-Bretonneaux, below the Somme, where the Huns were repulsed with heavy losses. The German preliminary bombardment lasted two hours and then the infantry rushed forward, only to be driven back, leaving large numbers of dead on the ground in front of the American lines.

AMERICANS BOMBARDED.

The German bombardment opened at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and was directed especially against the Americans, who were supported on the north and south by the French. The fire was intense and at the end of two hours the German commander sent forward three battalions of infantry. There was hand-to-hand fighting all along the line, as a result of which the enemy was thrust back, his dead and wounded lying on the ground in all directions. Five prisoners remained in American hands.

"Tell them back home that we are just beginning," said an American lad who was in the thick of the fight and severely wounded with shrapnel. "It was fine to see our men go at the Huns. All of us, who thought baseball was the great American game, have changed our minds. There is only one game to keep the American flag flying-that is, kill the Huns. I got several before they got me."

Details of the engagement show the Americans stuck to their guns while the Germans were placing liquid fire, gas and almost every other conceivable device of frightfulness on them. One of them, who lay wounded in an American hospital, had kept his machine gun going after the chief gunners had been killed two feet away and he himself had been wounded, thus protecting a turn in the road known as Dead Man's curve, over which some of the American couriers passed in the face of a concentrated enemy fire.

As indicating the violence of the offensive, French ambulance men who went through the famous battle of Verdun declared today that, comparatively speaking, the German artillery fire against the Americans was heavier than in any single engagement on the Verdun front at any time.

The German barrage began just before sunrise. In an attempt to put the American batteries out of action the Germans used an unusually large number of gas shells, but the American artillery replied vigorously, hurling hundreds of shells across the Teuton lines. Though successful in resisting the German attack, the Americans lost 183 men captured by the Huns, according to the British report.

Nothing in the history of naval warfare is more picturesque than the story of the raid made by English ships on the German submarine bases at Ostend and Zeebrugge, on the Belgian coast, on April 22. Obsolete cruisers filled with concrete were run aground and blown up in the harbors. An old submarine filled with explosives was used to blow up the piling beside the Mole at Zeebrugge.

One German destroyer was torpedoed, and the British lost a destroyer, two coastal motorboats and two launches.

A fortnight later the old cruiser Vindictive was taken into the submarine base at Ostend and sent to the bottom, blocking the channel, making the attack thoroughly effective.

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