RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (Full Version)

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Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/15/2018 4:23:15 AM)

15 May 1918

In Finland, the Whites took over the formerly Russian coastal artillery position of Fort Ino. This is generally considered to mark the end of the Finnish Civil War, and the victory of the Whites. However, there were never any serious negotiations between the Whites and the Reds, so no formal peace agreement was ever signed. And for all practical purposes, Finland was now a protectorate of the German Empire. German General Rüdiger von der Goltz was, for the time being, the effective ruler.

In one of the war’s least significant actions, the German submarine U-90 attacked the British signal station on the archipelago of St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides. This time the Germans played remarkably fair: they broadcast a warning before opening fire with their deck gun, and seem to have confined their targeting to the wireless station. It was destroyed, and a church and a storehouse were also damaged, but the only casualty was a lamb.

To prevent this from happening again, the British would mount a 4-inch gun commanding the bay. It never saw action, but apparently remains there to this day.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/18/2018 3:21:25 AM)

18 May 1918

Impatient with the delays at the Batum peace conference, the Ottoman Army had begun to move forward again into the Caucasus region. Somewhere around this date, they seized the city of Alexandropol, which in the modern day is now named Gyumri.

In retaliation for the bomber and Zeppelin attacks on England, the British now began their retaliatory air raids. They also had built bombers with longer ranges and larger bomb capacities, most famously the Handley-Page Type O. The Germans were apparently caught by surprise, for the city of Cologne was bombed by day without serious fighter opposition. Over 40 were killed and over 100 injured.


balto -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/18/2018 4:06:01 AM)

I just watched the best show on Jutland. I think it was a Smithsonian show, I do not know. I never really knew that much about it, BOY, this was great. It explained two things I never knew (1) The British Vice Admiral was a lying POS, and (2) if British crews followed the correct safety/firing protocols, they would not have lost all those ships. The commanders stressed Rate of Fire over safety protocols. Again, I am not a history expert, so I loved it.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/19/2018 3:45:19 AM)

19 May 1918

If the British were escalating the air war, the Germans determined to do so as well. A raid was mounted on the British base at Étaples-sur-Mer on the northern coast of France:

May 20 Mon.
Last night, about 10:30., we had a disastrous air raid as a result of which we lost two men (one killed and the other died of wounds) and had one man wounded and also the O. C. Major E. V. Hogan, wounded. Enemy aircraft suddenly were heard, and began dropping bombs without our having received warning. Practically the entire Etaples hospital area was subjected to an aerial bombardment for fully an hour, after which the raiders departed, returning again some time after midnight, and droped more bombs. They also employed machine guns. It is unofficially estimated that the total casualties in the Etaples area were about one thousand. Casualties were numerous in the staffs of several of the hospitals, and certain patients were also casuals. --- Bright moonlight last night. The anti-aircraft fire appeared to be feeble.
-- War Diary of the 7th Canadian Stationary Hospital

And for good measure, the Germans mounted their biggest aeroplane raid against England, targeting London itself. 38 Gotha (below) and 3 Zeppelin-Staaken Riesenflugzeug "Giant" bombers took off against London. But the defenses were ready: a total of 6 Gothas were shot down by fighters or anti-aircraft guns. Worse, a seventh bomber was forced to land after an extended dog-fight with a Bristol fighter, giving British intelligence a windfall. Results of the bombing were 49 people killed, 177 injured, and damage of £117,317. To the Germans, this did not justify what they had lost, and there would be no more heavier-than-air bomber raids on British soil.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/23/2018 2:47:25 AM)

23 May 1918

On this date Costa Rica declared war on Germany. This was apparently an attempt by President Federico Tinoco Granados, who had come to power in a coup d’etat the year before, to gain international legitimacy. He needn’t have bothered: a telegram from Vice President Thomas Marshall congratulating the country on its “splendid stand for liberty” was all Costa Rica got. The U.S. never formally recognized the government, and Costa Rica would not be invited to the Treaty of Versailles peace talks.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/25/2018 3:35:00 AM)

Late May 1918

The formidable offensives of Operation Michael and Operation Georgette, costly though they had been, had not exhausted the German reserves. They still had another army, relatively fresh, and commanded by the Crown Prince himself. The question was where to use it.

The Allies were aware that another offensive was coming. But just as in March, their intelligence services could not confidently predict where it would fall. This is somewhat surprising, because a study of the map would have shown a fairly obvious place. Ludendorff had prepared his third great attack, Operation Blücher-Yorck, for the sector immediately to the south and east of St Quentin, named the Chemin des Dames sector. It was designed to threaten Paris, giving the French the dilemma of weakening their link with the British forces or risking losing their capital. But for the moment French confidence reigned supreme.

… on the eve of his offensive a French journal proclaimed that it would be another blow at the British front because the Germans knew that the French line was impregnable. Popular opinion in France had attributed the German success at St Quentin and in Flanders to British incompetence or cowardice, and British troops had even been hissed in the streets of Paris.
--A. F. Pollard, “A Short History of the Great War”

The French attitude was to be changed very shortly.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/26/2018 2:07:55 AM)

26 May 1918

The united Trans-Caucasian Federal Government had failed to achieve its purpose in forming a common defense against the Ottoman Empire. With Turkish troops advancing, the government was dissolved, and the various nationalities were left to take action separately. The Georgians lost no time, declaring an independent nation before the day was over.
Interestingly, the new Democratic Republic of Georgia was first recognized by the Germans and Ottomans. Georgia accepted German protection, because its greatest danger at that moment was from the Bolshevik Russians.

It might have been expected that the next German assault would be swiftly repulsed. American reinforcements had much reduced the advantage in numbers that the transfers from the Russian theater had given the Germans, and the “firewaltz” plus stormtrooper tactics were now well known to the Allies. However, Ludendorff had received good intelligence that the Allied lines in the Chemin des Dames sector were not as well defended as elsewhere.

The primary reason seems to have been the local commander, French General Denis Auguste Duchêne, nicknamed “Le Tigre” (the tiger). He refused to put the directives for defense-in-depth into practice, ordering the bulk of the defending troops onto the forward lines. When the leaders of the British units in the area protested, he replied with a curt “J’ai dit!” (I’ve spoken!) There were four French and four British divisions, and their commanders could only hope there would be no German attack. They had been sent to a supposedly quiet sector to recover: the British divisions had been decimated in the previous German assaults of the Spring Offensive, and the French divisions had been bled white during the disastrous Nivelle offensive of 1917 that had brought the French Army near to mutiny.

The sector would not be quiet for much longer. A bit late, the Allies learned what was coming:

At daybreak on the 26th two German prisoners were taken by the French. One was a private and the other an officier-aspirant, belonging to different regiments of Jäger. On the way to Divisional Headquarters their captors entered into conversation with them. The private said there was going to be an attack; the officer contradicted him. Arrived at the Army Corps Intelligence centre the prisoners were examined separately. The officer, questioned first, was voluble, and declared that the Germans had no intention of making an offensive on this front. The interrogation of the private followed. He said that the soldiers believed that they would attack that night or the following night. He was not sure of the date. Pressed, he said that cartridges and grenades had already been distributed, but not the field rations. He had seen the previous day near his billets soldiers belonging to Guards regiments. He knew no more. The officer was then recalled. He was told that the laws of war had in no way forced him to speak, but that he had volunteered statements for which he would be held responsible. To give false information was the act of a spy. On this he became visibly perturbed, and under pressure gave in the end the most complete details of the attack which impended the next day. It was already three o’clock in the afternoon of the 26th. The alarm was given, and the troops available took up their battle positions.

– Winston Churchill, “The World Crisis Vol. 3”

But if the Germans had lost tactical surprise, they still had strategic surprise. It would take days for the Allies to bring up additional divisions, and they only had hours.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/27/2018 3:47:37 AM)

27 May 1918

The advance warning to the Allied troops in the Chemin des Dames sector proved to be of little use. Because General Duchêne’s dispositions had concentrated most of the Allied infantry into a relatively narrow area, the opening German “firewaltz” bombardment was lethal. 4,000 guns blasted the Allied positions with both high explosives and poison gas. Shortly after the gas cleared, 17 German divisions including several Sturmtruppen divisions assaulted along a 40 km (25 mi) front. The dazed and decimated French could offer only pockets of resistance, and the British, their ranks already thinned by previous battles, fared only a little better. Their lines were swung back like a giant door on a hinge, though this allowed them to save some of their artillery.

The French retreated to the south side of the Aisne River, but they did not manage to destroy enough of the bridges. The Germans poured across and continued their assault. By the end of the day’s fighting, the Germans had forced the French back up to 16 km (10 mi). This was the longest single-day advance anyone had achieved on the Western front since the opening weeks of the war in 1914.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/28/2018 3:36:14 AM)

28 May 1918

In the Caucasus, two more nationalities followed Georgia’s lead and declared themselves independent states. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the Republic of Armenia came into existence. Both would fall to the Soviet Union two years later, followed by Georgia in 1921.

At Karakilsa, the Ottoman army came to a halt. They had overrun the town and massacred the population (about 4,000), but did not have the resources to advance further against the Armenian forces fighting against them. Commander Wehib Pasha sent back to his headquarters that he could not defeat the Armenians, and warned of the risk of the Georgians joining the fight. He advised making terms.

In France, in the Chemin des Dames sector, the German momentum of the day before continued. Their assault seemed unstoppable, gaining almost as much ground as the day before. By nightfall, they were across the Vesle River. The next barrier was the Marne.

Though the latest German offensive had been launched just the day before, the time had come for the first American counter-attack. At the edge of the German advance of Operation Michael in the St. Quentin sector was the village of Cantigny. Careful plans had been made to re-take it using American troops. The 28th Infantry Regiment, along with two companies of the 18th Infantry, three machine-gun companies, and a company of engineers (about 3,500 men in all), were assigned the task. Most of the equipment, including heavy artillery, trench mortars, tanks, air cover, and flamethrowers had to be provided by the French, because it had been decided to ship the American soldiers over as fast as possible to the exclusion of other gear.

The coordination between the Americans and French surprisingly went like clockwork:

We adjusted our rolling barrage, etc., as discreetly as possible the day before, and everything was ready that evening… H hour would be at 6.45am – the time when the infantry would go over the top… At 4.45 all batteries… began their final adjustments all along the line and at the first shots the Boche’s sausages [observation balloons] went up in a hurry to see what was going on… Then at 5.45 all batteries began a heavy raking fire throughout the zone to be covered by our advance… Then at 6.45… the barrage moved forward at a rate just fast enough for the infantry to keep up with it at a walk. At the same time… the infantry suddenly appeared on the slope of the ridge close behind our barrage – a long brown line with bayonets glistening in the sun… They walked steadily along… accompanied by the tanks which buzzed along with smoke coming out from their exhausts and their guns. As the line reached the crest and was silhouetted in the morning sun… it looked like a long picket fence. Occasionally a shell would strike among them and a gap would appear among the pickets, then quickly close.

--Raymond Austin, 6th Field Artillery

The Yanks succeeded in overrunning the town in just half an hour after the jump-off. A little more time was spent flushing out Germans hiding in cellars with grenades and the French flamethrowers. This was achieved at a cost of about 50 American casualties.

However, there was another reason besides machine-guns why offensives tended to achieve little. After the attackers had advanced into the open and taken casualties, they were vulnerable to counter-attacks. This was something the Germans were unsurpassed at. Before the morning was out, German artillery began shelling the area, and there was no counter-battery fire to help the Americans: the French artillery had been called away to help stem the onrushing German tide in the Chemin des Dames.

Grimly, the Americans hung on. Pershing had ordered that there be no retreat once Cantigny was taken. A little after 5:00 pm. came the first German infantry assault. It was stopped, partly with the help of a company from the 26th Infantry, led by Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. A second German ground attack an hour and a half later was also repelled, but American casualties were mounting.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/29/2018 3:23:24 AM)

29 May 1918

In the Caucasus, the new Republic of Armenia scored two successes. At the Battle of Bash Abaran, an Ottoman force which had been trying to break through into eastern Armenia finally decided to retreat after over a week of fierce fighting and losing about half of a force of 13,000. Armenian losses were only 1,500 in all.

Still more important was the conclusion of the eight-day Battle of Sardarabad. Another Turkish force had been moving into eastern Armenia, and had progressed to within 40 km (25 mi) of the capital, Yerevan. A mixed force of Armenian army units and militia had counter-attacked, and in spite of being numerically inferior, inflicted 3,500 casualties on the Ottomans while losing less than 1,00 of their own. On this date, a cease-fire was agreed to, preventing the Ottomans from seizing the capital (and likely massacring the population).

It is quite possible that this pair of victories saved the Armenian nation from eradication.

At Cantigny in France, the Germans were still trying very hard to re-take the village. Five infantry assaults were mounted over the course of the day. The Americans defeated them all, but their losses now totaled over 1,600 including 199 killed and 200 gassed. The Germans, however, had lost a bit more: 1,400 killed and wounded, and 250 captured.

The Americans had proved that they were no second-string force. The decision was made to send U. S. reinforcements to the aid of the British and French troops being hammered by Operation Blücher-Yorck. They were still lacking in experience, but in fact there were few other troops that could reach the area in time.

For in the Chemin des Dames sector, the German juggernaut was rolling on. On this date they gained still more ground, and captured Soissons, famous as one of the most ancient towns in France. It was now the turn of the French be alarmed. For three days the German troops had advanced nearly 16 km (10 miles) a day. Another week at this rate would bring them to Paris. And even if they were stopped short of that, if they got within range of their railroad guns, they could do damage far beyond what their Paris Gun had been able to do. If they got close enough to use their monster “Big Bertha” howitzers that had demolished the supposedly impregnable forts in Belgium in 1914, they might well be able to reduce the city to flaming ruins.

Therefore, the French authorities began to remove a number of the more valuable artworks from the Louvre museum and ship them quietly to safer places. They also drew up plans to evacuate the government, as had been done in 1914. There was another matter that was larger and more difficult, however: the armaments factories. Plans also had to be made to move the machinery, and this was truly a case of preparing for the worst, while hoping for the best:

The French factories on which we depended for an essential part of our programme were mostly grouped around Paris. The danger to the capital required elaborate plans for moving these establishments southwards in case of need, and at the same time a very nice decision whether and when to put them into operation. If we moved without cause, we interrupted production. If we tarried too long, we should not be able to get our machinery away. Paris was calm and even pleasant in these days of uncertainty. The long-range German cannon, which threw its shells about every half-hour, had effectively cleared away nearly all those who were not too busy nor too poor. The city was empty and agreeable by day, while by night there was nearly always the diversion of an air raid. The spirit of Clémenceau reigned throughout the capital. ‘We are now giving ground, but we shall never surrender. . .’

--Winston Churchill, “The World Crisis, Vol. 3”

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/30/2018 3:30:24 AM)

30 May 1918

Greece had been a relatively late entry into WWI. For some time the country had been divided between the majority, who wished to go to war with Greece’s old enemy Turkey, and those who wished to stay neutral but favor the Central Powers. At the head of this second group was King Constantine, whose queen happened to be Kaiser Wilhelm’s sister. After nearly going to civil war, the pro-Allies movement had triumphed, the king had been overthrown, and Greece was now headed by Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos.

Allied reinforcements had landed at Salonika, and there was now a mixed army of Greek, French, British, and such Serbian troops as had escaped the overrun of their country. This group was named, not quite accurately, the Allied Army of the Orient. These forces had not accomplished very much because of the natural arguments about who should command, what the objectives should be, and what troops and resources should be committed to the area.

At the village of Skra in Greece, 5 Greek regiments and a French brigade assaulted a fortified Bulgarian position. The Bulgarians, with some German troops present, amounted to a single brigade, and they had been softened up by artillery the day before. The Greeks and French quickly captured the position, along with 12 cannons and 32 machine guns.

The Bulgarians, understandably displeased, mounted several assaults to take at least some of the position back. But all their efforts were repulsed. By the end of the battle, the Allies would have lost 441 killed, 2,227 wounded, and 164 missing. The Bulgarian and German losses would be 600 soldiers killed, 2045 captured. Nonetheless, the Allies had held on to the captured ground, and Greece was now definitely in the game.

In the Chemin des Dames sector, German attacks continued to be successful. By the end of the day, their captures since the start of Operation Blücher-Yorck amounted to 50,000 Allied soldiers and over 800 guns, in addition to the killed and wounded they had inflicted. However, their advance was slowing. Once again they were experiencing the problems which had helped to bring Operation Michael and Operation Georgette to a halt: their troops were becoming fatigued, and they were having trouble bringing enough supplies forward.

Still, they had already gained something of significant value. Unlike the devastated regions of Flanders and the Somme, the Chemin des Dames sector was less heavily affected by the war. Tens of thousands of acres of fertile farmland went into German hands. (And many French peasants became refugees, fleeing to the west.) If the new conquest could be held until harvest time, the crops would do something to alleviate the blockade of food that the British navy had imposed.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (5/31/2018 3:22:25 AM)

May 31 1918

In the Chemin des Dames sector, the tip of the German advance was now approaching the Marne River. Refugees continued to flee the Germans, but at last there were reinforcements going in the opposite direction:

"We came out of Sézanne… about 5 a.m. of May 31. It was blocked with refugees with their household goods, babies, old women and little children, crowded and piled on carts, to which cows and donkeys were hitched. Many pulled the carts themselves; and loaded wheelbarrows and dog carts were in the jam. Men and women carried their heavy loads with frightened children clinging to what they could to keep themselves from being trodden down or lost. The expressions on the faces of the refugees were most pitiful, and we began for the first time to realise something of the real meaning of war. Farther on, spaces between cars were forced and filled by small detachments of French and British troops, all looking thoroughly demoralised and discouraged. Following these came artillery, blocking the road entirely at times, the faces of the men showing signs of great fatigue and many sleepless nights. Some of the light batteries were going into position there on the slopes of these hills and were firing vigorously, which added to the confusion and frightfulness. This appalling jam of terrified traffic made it impossible for us to keep our train intact, and as a result our arrival at Condé-en-Brie was very fragmentary… "
– Captain J. R. Mendenhall, 7th Machine-Gun Battalion

The sight of the young and unwearied American troops was heartening to the French, although wiser heads might have preferred older and more experienced soldiers.

Half trained, half organized, with only their courage, their numbers and their magnificent youth behind their weapons, they were to buy their experience at a bitter price. But this they were quite ready to do.
--Winston Churchill, “The World Crisis, Vol. 3”

When the sinkings of merchant ships were calculated for the month, the Allied losses would come out to 295,500 tons. This was an increase from April, but it had come at a heavy cost: 15 U-boats were sunk during May. (The average had been about 7 a month since the start of 1918.) It was also countered by the number of American troops crossing to Europe for the month: over 220,000.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/1/2018 4:15:08 AM)

1 June 1918

The Germans had seized the town of Château-Thierry on the north bank of the Marne River. This was within 90 km (56 mi) of Paris. Now they attempted to cross, but the Allies had just had enough time to get ready:

June 1. About 4 a.m., just as daylight was getting strong, a column of German infantry was observed marching west of the town of Brasles [just to the east] along the road paralleling the river toward Château Thierry. They apparently did not know they were in danger… The guns under Lieutenants Cobbey and Funkhouser opened fire when the enemy arrived at a slight bend in the road. The German discipline was such that the soldiers continued to advance until our positions were apparently located, when they deployed into the wheat fields between the road and the river. The grain stood waist high and the men were lost to view. However, our men whipped the field continuously with machine-gun fire, causing heavy casualties to the enemy. At 5 a.m., or within an hour, our guns on the peninsula were located and fired upon by enemy machine-guns, wounding a man and forcing the rest to withdraw. Our other guns continued their effective fire. Making a rapid reconnaissance with First Lieutenant J. W. Ransdall, I placed him with two guns near some small buildings where the railroad crosses the Crezancy highway. By this time the enemy machine-gun fire was much heavier, coming apparently from the high ridge in the north distance across the Marne from us. A call by phone to the French artillery brought a response within just two minutes, in the form of a ‘75’ barrage on the north, or opposite side of the Marne, and extending from the railroad bridge we were defending, 500 yards east toward Brasles, and creeping north for 500 yards toward the long ridge there. It was the prettiest job you ever saw from our point of view and practically cleared the wheat fields of all Germans. A general artillery duel now commenced, which lasted through the next three days.

– Captain J. R. Mendenhall, 7th Machine-Gun Battalion

Later in the evening, French units to the west even mounted a counter-attack. It was beaten back, and the French found it expedient to blow up the bridge at that point to prevent pursuit. The Germans would not be crossing the Marne at Chateau-Thierry that day.
(By USMC Archives from Quantico, USA - Chateau-Thierry Bridge, 1918, CC BY 2.0,

To the west, however, the Germans managed to break the French lines and push forward. This was a serious threat for the Allies. They needed reserves to fill the gap, so that way would still be effectively blocked. The bad news was that the reserves in the area were inexperienced American units.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/2/2018 3:40:46 AM)

2 June 1918

During the night, the U. S. 23rd Infantry Regiment, plus the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and an element of the 6th Machine Gun Battalion were marched 10 km (6.2 mi) to close the gap the Germans had opened the day before. They arrived by dawn, and busied themselves setting up the defensive lines. A Marine officer asked a weary French officer for advice, and was told the Americans should retreat. “Retreat, hell!” the Marine shot back. “We just got here!”
By nightfall they had established a 20 km (12 mi) line to the north of the Paris-Metz Highway. The place would become famous for what they were on the outskirts of: Belleau Wood.

Although the struggle against the U-boats was being won, it was most definitely not over. Off the coast of New Jersey, the German submarine U-151 managed to sink 6 U.S. ships, and damage 2 others, in only a few hours. The U-boat also laid mines which would claim still more ships later on. Some historians in the area would refer to this grim tally as “Black Sunday”.

United States industry had been mobilized unevenly. Artillery production was seriously behind, and aircraft production even worse. The shipyards, however, were full steam ahead. On this date a shipbuilding record was set with the launch of the destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) in just 17½ days. (It would take 23 more days to commission her.)
Her WWI service would be quiet, but on December 7, 1941, Ward would make combat history. She attacked and sank a Japanese midget sub attempting to enter Pearl Harbor, thus firing the first American shots and scoring the first American sinking of WWII. Ironically, she would be sunk by a kamikaze on the same date three years later.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/3/2018 3:19:35 AM)

3 June 1918

On this date, the German advance reached to within 56 km (35 mi) of Paris. It was, however, as close as they would get for the time being. The combined British and French defense had solidified, and attacks in that direction would clearly be costly. The Germans now sent what men and supplies they could spare to the Belleau Wood area, apparently trying to convince themselves that the Americans could be defeated and therefore, the arrival of American troops did not mean disaster for Germany.

But the Americans, and especially the Marines, were not in a mood to be defeated. The Germans made their move in the afternoon, sending their infantry advancing across a wheat field, hoping to break the American lines as they had the French. But they appear to have failed to mount a preliminary bombardment, which would likely have disrupted the Marines, who had only shallow trenches dug with bayonets. The Marines had a tradition of being expert riflemen, but on this date they did not risk missing. The leading Germans were allowed to approach within 90 meters (100 yards) before the defenders opened fire. It was devastatingly effective, and after taking heavy casualties, the Germans retreated all the way back to the woods.

They were through for the day, but only for the day. For that matter, the Allies were not satisfied with merely blocking the German advance; they had every intention of pushing them back further. Both sides sent the call for reinforcements.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/4/2018 3:13:17 AM)

4 June 1918

At Belleau Wood, the Germans tried another attack, but with no better result. The Marines were there to stay.

The Treaty of Batum was signed between the Ottomans and the First Republic of Armenia. In spite of the recent victories by the Armenians, the Turks still had the upper hand: they could summon more manpower and resources. Without the help of Georgia and/or Azerbaijan, Armenia had no reliable source of arms or ammunition.

Therefore, the treaty was unsurprisingly one-sided: Armenia would now consist of only 11,000 square kilometers (4200 square miles), and it would be land-locked. The population inside was about 300,000 Armenians, 100,000 Tartars, and 300,000 refugees. The only rail lines within were roughly 50 km (31 mi) of track in the north, and 6 km (3.7 mi) running west from Yerevan – and the Ottomans had the right to use the railway for military transport.

Things would get worse before they got better, but modern-day Armenia is almost 30,000 sq km (11,500 sq mi) in area.


Lecivius -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/5/2018 3:21:35 PM)

Photo trip down memory lane

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/6/2018 3:53:26 AM)

6 June 1918

The French government decided it was time for some re-shuffling of commanders. First, although the Greeks had at last shown aggressive spirit, the overall coordination in that theater had not been satisfactory. The commander of the Allied Army of the Orient, General Guillaumat, was recalled to Paris.

This date is considered to be the conclusion of Operation Blücher-Yorck, although both the Americans and Germans around Belleau Wood might have disagreed. Allied casualties are estimated at about 127,000 men in all, while German losses were equal or slightly higher. And again, they were losses that the Allies could afford better than the Germans, especially as a substantial number of French losses were prisoners that were inconvenient for a blockaded Germany to feed.

After the casualties the Germans had sustained in their assaults south of Belleau Wood, it was assumed that there were only a few German soldiers left in the area. The Marines had shown themselves to be capable fighters, so the decision was made to send them to clear the woods and start rolling back the advances of Operation Blücher-Yorck. But Allied intelligence had made a serious error, compounded by the Marines’ failure to send out scouting parties. In fact, there was an entire German infantry regiment still in the woods. And although they were still planning an offensive move, they had not neglected to set up defenses.

The first move for the Americans was to be the capture of Hill 142, on the western side of the woods. Unlike their assault on Cantigny, this move was poorly planned, and the Marines paid a heavy price.

… we sauntered down the hill and across the wheat field to the other side, went through the forest of trees and rocks to beyond the crest. The enemy could not be seen except occasionally but their presence was sorely felt. Several faces were here but Duke and Jim as well as my "bunckie" had mysteriously disappeared. I saw my first death, and it was a shock. There were so many more that suddenly dropped and were gone within the minute, however, that I did not notice it anymore. They were dropping all around me, and I noted the peculiar whispering sound [of passing bullets] again and again throughout the advance. The trees and rocks of the hill were infested with buzzing bees and crackling twigs and branches. How the handful ever reached the hill top I never knew, but there we were.

--Marine Malcolm D. Aitken

A roll call would show only 20 men present out of over 200 that had started out across the wheatfield. It would take a lot more than what the Allies had committed so far to eject the Germans from Belleau Wood.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/8/2018 3:14:08 AM)

8 June 1918

A stronger and more thought-out approach was needed at Belleau Wood. The Allies now brought up a generous amount of artillery and subjected the area to a heavy bombardment. It was probably better than nothing, for the fallen trees obscured the interlocking fire zones of the many German machine-gun nests. But it did not cause many casualties, for bursting shells are less effective among trees which absorb the flying splinters, and also the Germans had not forgotten to dig trenches. And it turned the woods into a place full of downed branches and brush, where neither side could see very far. Now the fighting would be at close range, and ferocious.

The initial success and then slowing of Operation Blücher-Yorck had decided Ludendorff to commit more forces to the area. There were now two pronounced bulges in the Allied lines not too far away from each other. If the Germans could mount a giant pincer movement, one arm from each salient, they might be able to trap large numbers of Allied troops and crush them. And then, with few defenders left, on to Paris. The new plan was code-named Operation Gneisenau.

But this time there was no guesswork on the Allied side as to where the Germans would strike. Foch and his staff could read the maps and follow Ludendorff ‘s logic, and the Allies had learned the value of sending out scouting parties to take prisoners. More, this time there would be no argument over building a defense in depth.

Churchill pointed out that it was "impossible to see a modern battle. One is always either much too far or much too close". Therefore he had a habit of touring an area on the eve of battle, and he did so here:

On the evening of June 8 I walked over the centre of the French line in front of Compiègne. The presage of battle was in the air. All the warnings had been given, and everyone was at his post. The day had been quiet, and the sweetness of the summer evening was undisturbed even by a cannon shot. Very calm and gallant, and even gay, were the French soldiers who awaited the new stroke of fate. By the next evening all the ground over which they had led me was in German hands, and most of those with whom I had talked were dead or prisoners.

--Winston Churchill, “The World Crisis, Vol. 3”

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/9/2018 3:22:19 AM)

9 June 1918

The Germans launched Operation Gneisenau, which the French would name the Battle of Matz for the river nearby. The French were forewarned, and they had American units in place as well, but the German attack on this date was overwhelming. 750,000 shells were fired during a “firewaltz” bombardment of over 3 hours, causing over 3,000 casualties but only 32 fatalities.

Then, 21 divisions assaulted the Allied lines over a front 37 km (23 mi) wide, and inevitably they found weaker spots and broke through. The French and Americans made the attackers pay a heavy cost in casualties, but by the end of the day they had been pushed back 14 km (9 mi). However, on the western side the village of Cantigny remained in Allied hands.

At Belleau Wood, the Americans were less successful on the attack. The Germans paid them back for their tactics three days before:

On Sunday morning [9 June] our lieutenant called us together and explained an attack we were to make that afternoon at 5.05 p.m. to feel the enemy out, and try and find out how many machine-guns and men were on the hill. We spent the rest of the day camouflaging our helmets; we cut our blankets into squares and tied them around our helmets to keep them from making a noise when we hit a dead limb or brush. We were talking and planning the attack, when one of the boys said he felt that he would never come back, and sure enough he was killed. We realised that most of us would not go through the attack and live, and in one way we dreaded to go over (for life is sweet when you think you are going to die) but we were losing men every day and night, and never had a chance to sleep, so I am sure we would not have had the orders changed for anything. So Sunday at 6.05 p.m. (Zero hour) we were standing by to go over. I was given a bag of bombs, and also had three hundred rounds of ammunition. We went over in a column of squads, each squad about fifty yards [46m] apart. We crawled on all fours, Indian fashion, and kept going without seeing the enemy. Everything was as still as death. We had crawled a good piece in this way when all of a sudden it sounded as though all hell had broken loose – all the machine-guns the enemy had opened up on us. (If you can imagine fifty riveting machines going at once, you can imagine what we were into). They knew as soon as we had left our trench and had waited until we had gotten far enough out so we couldn’t get help from our lines.

-- Marine William Francis

While this was going on, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau relieved General Denis Duchêne of command of the French Sixth Army for the failure of his defense in the Chemin des Dames region. Duchêne was not court-martialed – apparently it was thought that the French war effort could ill afford the negative publicity after the crisis in morale that had brought Clemenceau to power in November 1917.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/10/2018 3:32:43 AM)

10 June 1918

The Marines attempted another drive into Belleau Wood, this time with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. They gained some ground, but soon were brought to a halt by heavy machine-gun fire plus large amounts of German mustard gas. The losses were already the heaviest in the history of the Marine Corps, and the end was not in sight.

Operation Gneisenau continued, but the second day was not as successful as the first day had been. French artillery took a heavy toll of the advancing German infantry. Also on this day, General Jean Degoutte took over command of the French Sixth Army. This may or may not have helped the French defense immediately, but Degoutte appears to have been a superior commander to General Denis Duchêne.

The Austrian navy was being hampered from attacking Allied shipping in the Mediterranean by Allied ship patrols and mines at the Straits of Otranto. Attempting to break through, the battleships SMS Szent István and her sister ship SMS Tegetthoff, plus seven other ships, set sail in the early hours of the morning to attack. But the Italians were awake as well, and at 0330, the Szent István was hit by two torpedoes from the motor torpedo boat MAS-15. They struck the boiler rooms, and one by one the boiler fires were extinguished by the incoming water. Eventually the Szent István lost too much power to run the pumps, and she capsized and went down.

There happened to be a movie camera on board the Tegetthoff, and for the first time, the sinking of a battleship was captured on movie film. Note the Szent István and her sisters were among the world's earliest battleship designs to mount triple main gun turrets. (The footage has occasionally been mistaken for WWII footage.)

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/11/2018 4:05:49 AM)

11 June 1918

Although the German Gneisenau offensive was only on its third day, the French had the forces in place for a counter-attack. Four divisions and 150 tanks, led by General Charles Mangin, hit the German flank near Compiègne. The French trusted the tanks to give sufficient protection to their troops, so there was no preliminary bombardment. Their trust was well founded, and the Germans were caught entirely by surprise.

Three villages, le Frestoy, Courcelles, and St Maur went back into French hands, and a thousand German prisoners were also taken. At the end of the day, the Germans in the area realized they had a serious threat on their flank, and could not advance further without the danger of being cut off.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/12/2018 4:20:25 AM)

12 June 1918

General Ludendorff read the reports coming in from Operation Gneisenau. Progress had stopped, and Allied reinforcements were coming in. Thus far, he had inflicted more losses than his troops had sustained, but with the powerful French force on his flank at Compiègne, that would likely change very soon. He therefore called a halt to Operation Gneisenau on its fourth day.

Total casualties for the Allies were about 35,000 men, while the Germans had lost about 30,000. In material the German advantage was larger: while they had lost 20 guns and 12 aircraft, the Allies had lost 70 tanks, 62 aircraft, and over 200 guns. This last was largely because the French had adopted the tactic of firing their field guns until the last moment, then disabling them and leaving. French industry was turning out generous numbers of cannon to replace what was abandoned on the battlefield. Roughly 12,000 of the 75mm “soixante-quinze” alone would be produced by the end of the war.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/14/2018 4:21:21 AM)

Mid-June 1918

The Germans and the Turks had been scoring advances, but the Austro-Hungarians had been effectively quiet. This is not surprising, given that their Empire was now slowly disintegrating. The massive losses of both men and arms had left their economy in shambles, and their government was in almost as bad shape as the Russian government had been on the eve of the revolution. The parliament in Vienna had been suspended, making the Empire even less popular among nearly all of its constituent nations except Austria itself.

Emperor Karl Franz Joseph Ludwig Hubert Georg Otto Maria of the House of Hapsburg, or more commonly Charles I, was quite aware that the war his predecessor and grand-uncle Franz Joseph had helped to start was disastrous for his realm. He had attempted to negotiate a separate peace in secret the year before, but it had failed, leaving the Empire even more beholden to Germany. And now Germany demanded an offensive to draw British and French units away from France. It seemed a reasonable idea, and a victory might do much to rally the empire to something like loyalty to Emperor Charles.

The plan of the Central Powers was probably not the best that could have been put together. The Austrian high command had been unable to resolve an argument over whether the attack should be against the coastal region of the Piave River, or the more mountainous area to the west. Finally it was decided to do both. One force under Conrad von Hötzendorf would attack the Asiago Plateau inland, and a second force under Svetozar Boroević von Bojna would make its assault towards the coast, threatening Venice. In all, the offensive would employ 58 divisions, adding up to roughly 950,000 men. Ideally, both forces would break through the Italian lines, forcing the Allied troops to retreat or be enveloped.

However, the Italian army was no longer the one that had suffered the debacle of Caporetto. It was now lead by General Armando Diaz, who had spent much time and effort re-organizing the army to make it more flexible and mobile. He now had about 900,000 Italian troops defending the main line on the Piave River, bolstered by 40,000 British and 25,000 French troops.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/15/2018 3:44:52 AM)

15 June 1918

The Austro-Hungarian army had been instructed in the new tactics for breaking through lines of trenches, but they were not as well equipped as the Germans. Most of all, they did not have the always- important advantage of surprise. After having been caught flat-footed for the first three major offensives of the year, Allied intelligence had improved considerably. (The French intelligence arm, the Deuxieme Bureau, had predicted the Germans would not be ready for another significant attack until July 15, which would prove to be spot-on.)

Now, it was the Italians who would spring the surprise: they had learned not only the day of the Austro-Hungarian assault, but also the exact time of 3:00 am. General Diaz therefore ordered his artillery to open its barrage at 2:30 am, catching the enemy troops forming up, and inflicting considerable casualties.

Nonetheless, showing remarkable determination for troops of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the attack went forward. In the western area, it did not fare well. With the aid a few British and French units sent as reinforcements, the Austrians were held to little more than a toe-hold on the south bank of the Piave River, and it cost them 40,000 casualties. In the coastal region, the offensive had more success. The Italians put up a good fight, but by the end of the day 100,000 Austro-Hungarians were across the Piave, and had established a lodgement 24 km (15 mi) wide and 8 km (5 mi) deep. They had also constructed 14 bridges to bring forward supplies and more men. For the moment, the Austrians seemed on their way to Venice.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/16/2018 3:26:14 AM)

16 June 1918

In Italy, the weather went in favor of the Italians. Spring rains turned the Piave river into a torrent, carrying away several of the bridges the Austro-Hungarians had constructed. They dared not bring heavy guns across. On the other hand, the Italian artillery remained in range of the bridges. With the aid of Allied aircraft spotting, and dropping bombs, more bridges were wrecked. Before long there would be only four. This was not sufficient to carry the supplies needed for a major offensive.

To the west, the Austro-Hungarians were faring even worse. Their small advance of the day before was now brought to a halt by the Allied defenders. A few British units, angered by losing any ground to troops they regarded as second-string, even began local counter-attacks. There would be no giant pincer movement to catch Diaz's Italian army. Yet, Conrad von Hötzendorf refused to transfer any of his troops to aid Svetozar Boroević von Bojna’s battle on the coast.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/17/2018 2:55:51 PM)

17 June 1918

On the Piave front, the battle reached a temporary standstill. The Austro-Hungarians could make no further significant advances.

French General Louis Franchet d’Esperey had supported General Duchene in his refusal to implement defense in depth in the Chemin des Dames, which had nearly led to disaster. Duchene had been relieved of command, but d’Esperey had given good service at the start of the war, and had an offensive spirit that Foch appreciated. On this date d’Esperey was kicked sideways, and given command of the Allied Army of the Orient, which was based in the Salonika sector of Greece. Up until now this had been a backwater of the war.

Franchet d’Esperey was irreverently nicknamed “desperate Frankie” by the British troops, but it wasn’t really accurate. He was reportedly a kindly man in his personal life, but had a fiery intolerance of anything he saw as slacking in matters military. His temper was fortunately matched by an energy to get things done, and he would prove just the man to finally invigorate the Army of the Orient. But not for a while yet, for the Salonika area was a hotbed of disease, especially malaria. d’Esperey would spend some time urging the Allied high command for fresh and healthy troops, and even more important, the authorization to use them. Given the titanic battles in France and Italy, it would not be easy. Public opinion in the Western democracies did not welcome still more casualties.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/18/2018 4:44:14 AM)

18 June 1918

No modern dreadnought battleships were lost due to enemy gunfire in WWI (battlecruisers were a different story), but losses from other causes such as torpedoes, mines, and even accidents were considerable. On this date, there was a deliberate scuttling.

Since the Ukraine was now essentially a German vassal state, German troops advanced on the coast of the Back Sea, overrunning the ports. One of the most modern battleships in the Russian navy, the Svobodnaya Rossiya ( Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya before the revolution), and 8 destroyers were sunk by their own crews rather than let them fall into German hands. (This was actually a violation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which called for the Russian battleships to be turned over.)


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/20/2018 3:25:51 AM)

20 June 1918

In Italy, General Diaz had ordered the full counter-attack against the Austro-Hungarian forces to begin. In the area to the north and west, the Allies were already driving the enemy back across the Piave River, and even establishing a toehold on the northern bank. In the coastal area, however, the fighting was tougher:

Except down the roads and the railway there were no avenues of vision. Neither were the Italians fighting in prepared lines of defence, as they had lost their first line on the river bank when the battle began, and were never driven back as far as their second. Both sides had equally little advantage of ground, and fought behind dyke banks, in ditches and drains, or in improvised trenches scratched in the soft soil.

Naturally under these conditions the battle was always swaying to and fro in rushes and rallies.

[ ... ]

Above all, the reserves were well handled, here locally as well as by Diaz on the grand scale. The Bersaglieri ciclisti were hurried up on their "push bikes" along the lanes to the threatened spot time after time, and never in vain.

The Austrians had brought a few light cannon across the Piave, but generally speaking their excellent artillery had had to stay on the farther shore. And since they had lost the mastery of the air, thanks not a little to the British airmen in the spring, they could not get sufficient information as to how to direct their fire in accordance with the changing phases of the battle on the Italian side of the river.

They adopted the policy of plumping big shells on the country lanes, of which they had the accurate range, thereby often blocking them for a time. But the Italians, always careful of their road communications, were quick to fill up the holes.

--G.M. Trevelyan, head of the British Red Cross in Italy

In spite of this, Austrian General Conrad von Hötzendorf refused to transfer any of his troops from the northern sector to General Boroević von Bojna in the coastal sector. Hearing of the bickering between the two commanders in the field, Austro-Hungarian Emperor Charles took personal command of the situation. He was still fairly new, having inherited the throne in November of 1916, but he could see the Italians now had the upper hand, and a retreat back across the river would be necessary.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/21/2018 3:11:35 AM)

21 June 1918

Since they were fighting in the area where the Piave River ran into the Adriatic Sea, the Italians had some naval units in the area. Now they gathered some sailors and marines for additional manpower, and made an attack along the coast with this combined force. It succeeded, turning the Austro-Hungarian left flank. The situation of the Austro-Hungarians had now gone from poor to critical. The order for immediate evacuation went out.


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