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

All Forums >> [General] >> General Discussion


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/23/2018 4:28:47 AM)

23 June 1918

During the night, the Austro-Hungarians managed to complete their withdrawal back to the north side of the Piave River. Some reports state that the Italians were happy to let them go, and they took only light losses during the retreat. Another report, however, indicates that the remaining bridges were inadequate to handle the numbers of men attempting to escape, and hundreds men drowned either by falling in or attempting to swim the flooded river.

The Second Battle of the Piave River was over. (The first battle was an engagement between Napoleon’s forces and an Austrian army in 1809.) The forces involved had been massive, and the casualties were high: 8,396 dead, 30,603 wounded, and 48,182 captured for the Allies, and 11,643 dead, 80,852 wounded, and 25,547 captured for the Austro-Hungarians. Merely by looking at the map, the battle might have seemed to be a draw, for the two sides were essentially back to their starting positions. In actuality, the Italians had scored a decisive victory. They had shaken off the shock of Caporetto, and proved that they could fight. And the morale of the Austro-Hungarian army, already probably the lowest of the major combatants, had suffered a major blow. There would be no more significant offenses, and time would reveal that their defensive abilities had been mortally weakened as well.

Towards the end of the week the enemy prisoners complained of hunger and eagerly ate the loaves shared with them by their kindly captors. As the Italians held their ground more firmly than ever, the Austrians, eight days after they had crossed the river, slipped back across it under cover of night.
Then we all knew that Italy had been saved, and we rejoiced together. But we did not know that Austro-Hungary had no less surely been doomed, and must now disappear from the category of States.

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


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/25/2018 4:21:26 AM)

25 June 1918

There had been a relatively quiet period in Belleau Wood while the Marines were taken out of the line to recuperate. But now it was decided to finish the job, and the Marines were sent back in. First, the Allies used their artillery plentifully. Beginning at 0300, the German positions in the northern part of the Belleau Woods region were blasted for a good 14 hours. Finally, the Marines moved to the assault as the guns shifted to a rolling barrage. At last, the German defenses began to crumble:

About 700 of us went over this time – all that was left of our battalion… We had orders to take no prisoners… We had a wonderful barrage from our artillery which was falling only a few yards in front of us… We finally made it to the top of the hill; the Germans were entrenched at the bottom of the hill and just beyond the hill was a large wheatfield, the wheat being about waist high. After we had reached the top of the hill the Germans opened up with their machine-guns, hand and rifle grenades and trench mortars. Just then we all seemed to go crazy for we gave a yell like a bunch of wild indians and started down the hill running and cursing in the face of the machine-gun fire. Men were falling on every side, but we kept going, yelling and firing as we went. How any of us got through… I will never be able to figure out… I found a bunch of Germans in their dugout and ran them out… How we did cut the Germans down when they tried to cross the wheatfield. The wheat was just high enough to make good shooting, and when we hit one he would jump in the air like a rabbit and fall. We had orders to take no prisoners, to kill all of them . . .

–- Marine William Francis

By nightfall, the German-controlled part of Belleau Wood had been reduced to a small segment.

AFBTD -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/25/2018 7:38:52 AM)

very; in veritas you are; napoleon was the first General to masacre the enemy infantry while the generals of the army on front runaway; massacre with his cannons

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/26/2018 3:41:22 AM)

26 June 1918

On this date, the Marines mounted one more assault in Belleau Wood. This time, against depleted German troops, it was entirely successful. The commander of the Marine battalion, Major Ed Shearer, at the end of the day sent in the succinct report, “Woods now U. S. Marines entirely. “

The nickname of Tefel Hunden (“Devil Dogs”) for the U. S. Marines seems to have been an American invention rather than something the Germans actually used. However, the battle had been hellish enough for both sides, with 1,811 killed and 7,966 wounded for the Allies. Elements of five separate German divisions were involved at one time or another, and this seems to have prevented accurate records of losses. 1,600 German prisoners were captured, and killed and wounded probably came to another 9,500 men.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/27/2018 3:48:46 AM)

27 June 1918

The passenger liner RMS Llandovery Castle had been requisitioned for war service, as very frequently happened. She had been converted into a hospital ship, and transferred to Canada. On this date she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-86, commanded by Helmut Patzig. Attacking a hospital ship was a violation of international law, and the captain apparently attempted to cover up the crime by leaving no witnesses. U-86 ran down the lifeboats and even machine-gunned a number of the survivors, including female nurses.

However, a single lifeboat with 24 people was missed, all that escaped of the 258 sailors, soldiers, and medical staff that had sailed on the Llandovery Castle. The dead also told a tale: the HMS Morea came on the scene not long after and saw many bodies, kept afloat by their lifebelts.

It was the worst disaster at sea for Canadian forces in WWI. It was also one of the war’s most notorious atrocities, and one of the few for which a war crimes trial was attempted. Unfortunately, Captain Patzig managed to flee after the war ended, and his two junior officers would eventually have their convictions overturned on the grounds that they were following their captain's orders.

When the Nazis took power in the 1930’s, Patzig would be welcomed back into the Kreigsmarine.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/28/2018 3:55:27 AM)

Late June 1918

The English Channel’s narrowest point was still under Allied control, and so the U-boats found it risky to go through it on their way to attack the Atlantic sea lanes. The favored route was to sail through the North Sea and then around Scotland. When the U. S. Navy learned this, they proposed minefields from the Orkney Islands off Scotland’s northern coast to Norway. At first, the British scoffed. The distance was 370 km (230 miles), which would take hundreds of thousands of mines, and many of them would be detonated by sea-life or drifting debris.

However, the American designers had for once come up with something more advanced than the other Allies. The Mark 6 mine had a copper wire “antenna fuse” extending its effective range, and which was also insensitive to anything non-metallic. With this counter-argument, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt appealed to President Wilson, who approved the project. The British also joined in when their own experts told them that a minefield which caught only 10% of submarines passing through it would still have a major impact on the morale of the crews in the surviving U-boats.

Sometime in late June, the British and American flotilla began laying the biggest naval minefield the world had yet seen. It would take almost until the end of the war to complete, and comprise a little over 70,000 mines.

The German possession of the French village of Hamel was a problem for the Allies. The Australian Corps under Lieutenant General John Monash was assigned the job of re-taking it. Monash, possibly the most famous general in Australian history, seems to have had the remarkable ability of becoming even more competent the higher he rose in rank. He had worked out his own theory of combined arms, coordination of infantry, tanks, artillery, and even aircraft, and was not slow to improvise new methods such as using tanks instead of wagons to carry supplies over shell-cratered terrain. He made meticulous plans for the attack, including painting diagrams on each individual tank for specific infantry platoons to know which one to follow.

Monash also accepted a suggestion form General Rawlinson to include American infantry. A total of 10 such companies were assigned, which would be the first time in history that American troops would be commanded by a non-American in battle on foreign soil.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/30/2018 3:58:59 AM)

30 June 1918

At sea, the good news for the Central Powers was that only 3 U-boats had been lost during the month. The bad news was that monthly merchant shipping losses for the Allies were down to only about 255,00 tons, and their shipyards were launching ships faster than the U-boats could sink them. The even worse news was that 275,000 more American troops had made the voyage across the Atlantic.

In the United States, famed socialist Eugene Debs was arrested for an anti-war speech he had made in the middle of the month. The Justice Department claimed he had implicitly attempted to interfere with conscription. He had carefully worded his speech to try to comply with the restrictions of the Sedition Act, but he had praised three men who were in prison for opposing the draft, and this apparently was enough for the Wilson administration. (What likely really angered the President was Deb's declaration that all wars were fought for gain, and not for principle, but this would not serve for a conviction.)


AFBTD -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (6/30/2018 9:48:42 AM)

interesting¡ a mean read soon¡

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/1/2018 2:42:55 PM)

1 July 1918

There was a tragic explosion at the National Shell Filling Factory in Chilwell, England. TNT is a fairly stable explosive, but it becomes more sensitive in hot and humid conditions, which often happen in the English summers. An estimated eight tons of TNT detonated, killing 134 people and injuring 250 more. (Of the dead, only 32 could be identified with confidence.) This was not the largest British munitions factory explosion during the war, but it may well have been the deadliest.

A combined force of French and Americans launched an assault, the Americans planning to recapture the village of Vaux, and the French aiming for the nearby Hill 204. Starting at 0500, Allied artillery opened a bombardment, which was quickly answered by the German guns.

“…A newsreel photographer worked his way along the ravine bottom, stopped in front of us and said that this looked like a good place. He asked if he could get past us and I asked him where he was going. He said, “Over the rim. I’m going to take movies of the attack.” We gave him a hand and right in the thick of the firing, the chap crawled over and we handed the rest of his gear to him. What guts that fellow had!”

(Guts, yes; wisdom, no. When the troops went “over the top” at 0600 they immediately found what was left of the photographer’s body. He had taken a direct hit from an artillery shell.)

“My squad had demolition equipment: dynamite, triton, caps, drills and a magneto with which to blow up buildings, We found out later Joe was carrying the dynamite, which weighed about 25 pounds, and was right beside me. I was carrying a sack of percussion caps, more dangerous than the dynamite, and the magneto. None of us knew what we were carrying at the time. Joe was knocked down twice when shells landed in back of him, and he fell again crawling over some German wire. Luck was with us all, and our squad made it…”

--Private Ralph L. Williams, 2nd Engineers

In an hour, the Americans had taken Vaux. The demolition equipment turned out to be unnecessary, for a single Irishman tossing grenades through the windows of the headquarters building was sufficient to get the Germans inside to surrender. The Americans lost 46 men killed, 270 wounded, and 12 missing. According to American intelligence reports (which are probably not as accurate as if there were German records), the Germans lost 254 men killed, 162 wounded, and 510 missing or captured.

Germany had lost control of her African colonies as the war progressed. However, a force led by General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was now fighting one of the most brilliant guerrilla wars in history, managing to evade almost 300,000 British, Belgian, and Portuguese troops with a force that never grew larger than 14,000 men, and was often considerably smaller. This force consisted of German officers but mostly native African troops, living off what they could capture, since nothing had gotten through the British blockade after March 1916. On this date, they seized the outpost at Namakura (Nhamacurra in present-day Mozambique), which gave them not only a number of new rifles, but even some machine-guns and mortars. It would be the furthest south von Lettow-Vorbeck’s men would go; now it was time to head back to what had been German East Africa.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/3/2018 4:18:17 AM)

3 July 1918

In Yildiz Palace in Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed V died at the age of 73. He had largely been a figurehead since the 1913 coup d’etat which had brought the “Young Turks” to power. But as Caliph, supposedly the chief political office for Muslims worldwide, he had declared the last formally recognized jihad in history, against the Entente Powers (Russia, France, and Britain). This had not stopped a number of Arabs from making alliances with the British in the hopes of gaining independent countries after the war.

General John “Black Jack” Pershing wanted his American Expeditionary Force to be as independent as possible, and was strongly opposed to American troops under the command of foreign generals. (Unless, of course, those troops were black.) When Pershing learned of the upcoming attack to recapture Hamel, he ordered the withdrawal of six of the ten assigned American companies. At this time, a U. S. Army company consisted of 250 men, so this was a significant weakening. The men attached to the 42nd Battalion, and a few others, actually disobeyed the order, but the majority reluctantly complied.

This was even more unfortunate because, of all the various nationalities, American units seemed to cooperate best with Australian troops. (This writer suspects it was at least in part because of the Australian fondness for beer instead of tea.)

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/4/2018 4:25:11 AM)

4 July 1918

In Turkey, the formal annointing ceremony of the girding of the Sword of Osman made Mehmed VI the 36th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and 28th Caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate. Of course, this made no practical difference to Turkey’s conduct of the war.

The attack on Hamel began at 0300 when the British artillery opened up. Ten minutes later, the guns added smoke shells, leading the Germans to conclude they were being gassed and so to don their gas masks. What was actually happening was that 60 Whippet and Mark V tanks were moving into final positions, their shapes obscured by the smoke, and their engines covered by the noise of the bombardment. Five minutes later, the British guns shifted to a rolling barrage, and the Australian and American soldiers went forward.

There was one problem: the Americans were so anxious to prove themselves that they tried to advance ahead of the Australians. This got them into the trailing edge of the artillery barrage, and a number of men were killed and wounded. Nonetheless, the American and Australian soldiers attacked with a will.

This was the combat debut of the British Mark V tank, which could manage a maximum speed of 8 km/h (5 mph) under the best conditions, and the cratered terrain was not the best. Often the infantry arrived soewhat in advance of the tanks, and there was desperate hand-to-hand fighting. Since the Allied troops outnumbered the German defenders by about 7,000 to 5,600, they prevailed. When the tanks arrived in time, the Germans often surrendered or hastily retreated, for unlike the Whippet, the Mark V's generally mounted cannon.

General Monash had calculated that the attack would achieve its objectives in 90 minutes –- it actually took 93. About 1,400 of the Allies were killed or wounded, but they inflicted roughly 2,000 German casualties. In addition, over 1,000 Germans were captured, along with considerable quantities of equipment, both German and British which had been taken by the Germans in their earlier offensives. Monash had also planned to bring supplies forward quickly: four carrier tanks provided rations and ammunition, and the first parachute air-drops on the western front also managed successful deliveries. His doctrine of combined arms had proved its worth: the Allies now had the tactics they needed to break through the German defenses.

But “Black Jack” Pershing was not impressed. To him, nothing was more important than establishing the American forces as an independent army, like the Belgian army or the British Expeditionary Force. Having American troops embedded in a successful attack was a step backwards in his eyes, for it allowed the argument to be made that Americans should serve under non-American, but more experienced, commanders. Pershing therefore gave orders that it would not happen again.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/6/2018 3:18:34 AM)

6 July 1918

At Hamel, the Germans had been harassing the Allies through the night with sniper fire and small raids. In return, the Allies pushed their lines forward and bagged another 700 prisoners. If the Germans wanted Hamel back, they needed a major effort with experienced troops. They determined to do just that.

Late at night, the primary counter-attack at Hamel was launched. First came shells of both phosgene and mustard gas. Then Stormtroopers and regular infantry hit the Australian line, punching a 180 m (200 yard) wide hole and allowing them to penetrate far enough to capture 12 stretcher-bearers. But even as they were moving forward, the Australians rallied. By midnight, the advance was brought to a halt without reaching the village proper. More, the Allies were not about to let this stand.

About two hours later the Australians, along with a few Americans, launched a furious counter-counter-attack. The Aussies were first-line troops, but they were up against the elite Stosstruppen, and the initial head-on assault was stopped amid ferocious fighting. Day had not broken yet, so there was some confusion. But after a while the Australians realized that the narrow penetration the Germans had achieved made their position vulnerable to attacks on the flanks.

Throwing grenades and firing down the length of the hastily constructed German defences, the Allied troops soon made the Stormtroopers’ position untenable. The Germans retreated, and Hamel would stay in Allied hands. In addition, the Australians managed to free the 12 stretcher-bearers who had been taken prisoner hours before.

The signing of the peace treaty between Germany and Russia had resulted in the two countries sending ambassadors to each other. The German ambassador to Moscow was Wilhelm Graf von Mirbach-Harff, the equivalent of a count or earl in western nobility. Two men made their way into the embassy using forged documents on this date, and shot Ambassador von Mirbach dead. They proved to be members of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, a party which had split with the Bolsheviks over the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and its huge concessions. They hoped to re-ignite war between Russia and Germany. It wouldn’t work: since the Allies were now helping the anti-Bolshevik side in the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks and Germany had a common enemy.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/8/2018 3:44:10 AM)

8 July 1918

General-in-chief Foch had urged the Italians to follow up the victory of the Battle of Piave and push the Austro-Hungarians back further. But Italian commander Armando Diaz turned him down. The Piave was still in flood, and getting supplies across it would be difficult. What was more, his army had taken significant losses, and need to rest and re-group. The Italians did, however, begin a modest advance in Albania on the other side of the Adriatic Sea.

That did not mean the Italian front was entirely quiet. There were still air battles and artillery exchanges. On this date, a mortar shell struck near a group of soldiers and an ambulance driver who had been distributing chocolate and cigarettes. The driver was Ernest Hemingway, who, although seriously wounded in both legs by the shrapnel, managed to get the soldiers to safety.

Hemingway had been on the job for two months; he would be in hospital for six. He would later write, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you ... Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you.”


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/10/2018 3:17:14 AM)

10 July 1918

Although treaties had been signed in the Causasus, the area was far from peaceful. Above all, the oil fields around the city of Baku in Azerbaijan were a matter of contention. After the retreat of the Russians, they were technically now owned by Azerbaijan, but the production rights had been contracted to British and other foreign investors. To protect the production, a force of Cossacks and other non-Soviet Russians under British General Lionel Charles Dunsterville had been assembled to control the oil fields. Interestingly, Dunsterville had been a schoolmate of Rudyard Kipling at The United Services College, and was likely the inspiration for the character "Stalky" in several of Kipling’s stories.

Both the Azerbaijanis and the Ottomans desired to regain control of the oil fields. However, the Ottoman Empire was now running very low on manpower. It is estimated that they mobilized about 3 million men during the war, which might sound impressive until one considers that Germany mobilized about 13 million, the French and British over 8 million apiece, and even Italy about 5.5 million. Azerbaijan had no intention of becoming a part of the Ottoman Empire, but they might be persuaded to ally with their fellow Muslims against the Christians in the area.

Therefore, on this date the Islamic Army of the Caucasus, sometimes called Army of Islam, was formed, comprising an Azerbaijani division and an Ottoman division. It would grow to about 20,000 men.

Note that the British also felt they needed more men in the area. About 1,000 Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand troops were being dispatched to join General Dunsterville’s “Dunsterforce”.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/12/2018 4:02:51 AM)

12 July 1918

On this date, Haiti declared war on Germany. This was somewhat different than a small nation jumping on the Allied bandwagon: Haiti had been occupied by U. S. Marines since 1915, and President Philippe Sudré Dartiguenave was now ruling without a legislature, backed by American power. Germany had quietly provided support to the rebel “Caco” movement, whose guerrilla war had not discriminated in attacks against occupation forces and the native population. Be it noted that the American troops committed brutalities of their own, frequently shooting on sight any Haitians carrying arms.

The Japanese battleship Kawachi was considered a “dreadnought” battleship with all main guns being the same caliber, however, the forward and aft main turrets had guns with longer barrel lengths, She had functioned efficiently enough bombarding the German fortifications at Tsingtao in 1914. On this date, however, something went terribly wrong. While at anchor in Tokuyama Bay, there was a major explosion in a forward magazine. WWI had claimed another battleship; she capsized and went down in just four minutes, taking with her over 600 men. There were 422 survivors.

The board of inquiry found that the most likely cause was spontaneous ignition of the cordite, although Kawachi’s magazines had been inspected in February. In a tragic repetition of history, the Japanese battleship Mutsu would mysteriously blow up at anchor during WWII.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/13/2018 2:42:24 AM)

Mid July 1918


Ludendorff 's next move is not easy to understand. It was now clear that American troops had joined the fight in substantial numbers, and Germany's manpower was no match for its foes. A massive Allied counter-offensive was merely a question of when, not if. The obvious thing to do was to consolidate the German positions, build the defenses including the new concrete "pill-boxes" that had already given the Allied troops so much trouble, and make the attackers pay as dear a price in casualties as possible. When the democracies, especially the United States, realized the cost, they would be more likely to accept a negotiated peace. Britain and France had already experienced major political overthrow because of war failures and casualties. In fact, there was another crisis happening just at this time:

In July a whole series of strikes broke out in the munition industries at centres as widely separated as Sheffield, Avonmouth, Oldham, Coventry, Gateshead, Farnham, Birmingham, Manchester, Hendon, Gainsborough and Newport. Most of these disputes were composed, and many others prevented, by the ceaseless and skilful activities of the Munitions Labour Department under Sir Stephenson Kent. But Coventry proved intractable. We were confronted with a widespread cessation of work by the highly paid men engaged in the production of aeroplane engines, thus seriously endangering our programmes. After consulting the Prime Minister I decided to take the step from which we had hitherto always abstained of withdrawing from men who would not work, their munitions protection against being taken for the Army.

–- Winston Churchill, "The World Crisis, Vol. 3”

But even with his Stormtroopers decimated and the German economy in dire straits, Ludendorff decided on yet another offensive. It is possible that he was actually ahead of his time, and realized that aircraft and tanks would largely negate the value of static fortifications. The best defense might be a good offensive, and perhaps he could inflict more losses on the Allied than his forces would suffer. But it seems more likely he simply wanted to gamble on the chance of a miracle, which however small is always a possibility in war.


Ludendorff’s plan for the Battle of Rheims followed the usual German pincer model, and was in itself almost on the scale of the 21st of March offensive. Two simultaneous attacks, with a silent gap of 20 kilometres between them, were launched on each side of Rheims with the object of biting off that city and the difficult hilly region around it. The Seventh German Army attacked across the Marne to the west of Rheims, and the First and Third German Armies to the east. Fifteen divisions were assigned to the first wave of each attack. The total width of the offensive, including the gap, was nearly 70 kilometres. Its general convergence was upon Chalons. If this battle prospered, the growing threat to Paris would draw the Allied reserves southward to defend the capital.


The secret of these designs was not hidden from the Allies. The concentrations of the enemy were correctly defined. Information from deserters and from prisoners taken in organized raids supplied the French and British Headquarters with full confirmatory details, while time for the necessary preparations yet remained.

–- Winston Churchill, "The World Crisis, Vol. 3”

The necessary preparations included not only settling up defenses in depth, with a lightly held front line of trenches and a band where artillery was ranged in behind them, but units ready to deliver a strong counterattack. The French had been busy turning out their Renault tanks, and now had hundreds of them ready for combat. In order to support them with infantry, Foch called on both the British and Americans to send extra divisions to bolster the defenses.

The Americans were happy to oblige, as long as their regiments and divisions were given operating areas of their own, and not put under foreign officers. The British, however, had very mixed feelings. It had not been long since they had been in the position of pleading for French reinforcements. To refuse now would look like hypocrisy and faint-heartedness. On the other hand, there was something to be greatly concerned about. The Germans had a large force to the north under Rupprecht, the Crown Prince of Bavaria, ready to pounce if the troops in Flanders and the Somme were weakened. After much high-level argument, Haig took the risk and trusted Foch with four divisions.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/15/2018 3:59:13 AM)

15 July 1918


What would be Ludendorff’s final offensive kicked off, but with French artillery getting in the first blows:

At last! A mad artillery fire started. I looked at my watch: 1 o'clock in the morning! Had our artillery made a mistake? It wasn't supposed to begin till 1.10 in the morning!
Out of the holes in which we sat - and back into them fast! Before and behind us the missiles struck. The enemy had begun! Ten minutes later we began, not like one blow, as we had been ordered, but starting out here and there; our fire swelled to a mighty strength for ten minutes, so that we had the hope: now everything will turn out all right!
Then it grew weaker again and weaker. Frequently the enemy fire was much stronger than ours.
Soon telephone lines forward and backward were destroyed. If only the program is carried out right! At 3.50 in the morning no report. From the rear you are pressed: "Report how things are! Has the infantry crossed the river?"
[ . . . ]
The first battalion, which was to attack to the right, has been caught terribly in the narrow path that leads down to the river, by enemy fire. Only parts have reached the river. The pioneers have given up. The pontoons have been left 100 metres before the Marne; it is impossible to cross here, as strong enemy infantry is defending the other shore stubbornly with numerous machine guns.
To the left things look a little better. The fusilier battalion has reached the river with two companies and is crossing. Strong parts of the IInd battalion, which were to follow as reserves and which have been led forward very skillfully by Cavalry Captain von Plehwe, the victor of May 30th, have already arrived at the other shore of the river and are holding the railroad embankment which lies about 600 m to the south of the river.
[ . . . ]
The clearing over there is caught every five minutes by a light battery and in a short time is a black crater. And the small path to the right is spread over with shrapnel, which glow fiery in their courses, like comets. Our men run aimlessly hither and thither; no cover!
And again roaring, dull reports: gas grenades! Put on the gas masks! One could not see anything before -- now still less! Many are seized with a dull despair. They feel helpless: if it would only be day! The wounded scream.
At last a hoarsely gasped command from the leader of the company, even now seriously conscious of his duty: "Begin! Has every man a gun?"
Now forward on the narrow paths which are struck so fiercely, which, nevertheless, are the only ways that lead down to the river. The pioneers stand somewhat lower down. Their leader does not know what to do. He has only a few men. The infantry take hold themselves and carry the pontoons the several hundred metres to the river.
[ . . . ]
Down by the river, the pioneers of the fusilier regiment have worked better. Two pontoons are ready, six should be there. Overladen the first man crosses. A machine gun shoots from over there, but too high. All duck, throw themselves down.
[ . . . ]
Our men feel their way. It is still quite dark. One of them steps on something soft, which suddenly gives way, and now the hand-to-hand fight has come.
The enemy is entrenched here and has till now taken cover against our artillery fire. One moment - and then we have the upper hand. That is always the way with all "bitter hand-to-hand fights" - that fear of the cold steel seizes the one or the other and he runs away.
The crossing is comparatively quick. We look at the time. "For heaven's sake, the firing body is already marching!" - "Form positions!"
The companies are assigned new aims, as everything has turned out differently than as it was planned.
The railroad tracks are crossed, the railroad station Varennes taken after a short fight, we go on past the road Moulins-Varennes - already 1,000 m south of the Marne! - and up the southern slopes of the valley.
Suddenly from the right there are sounds of sharp firing and screams. In the morning mist, in the high grain field, one can see storm columns advance, dressed in brown - Americans!
Now and then they stand still and shoot. Our men come running back. The situation is extremely critical. Where are our neighbours, the 6th grenadiers? The attack must have been given up.
[ . . . ]
All able to shoot, aim against the enemy on the right flank.
One must admit he is courageous unto death. Not till the machine-gun fire and the desperate shooting of our infantry had reaped a bloody harvest in his lines, did he halt and run back. But we take breaths of relief. Yet it is clear to each one of us: our own attack has failed! We must see to it that we can hold the position we have won with our weak forces, numerically much smaller than the enemy's.
[ . . . ]
On the afternoon of July 15th it was possible to improve the line somewhat, as the enemy on the Marne, probably from fear of a double flanking movement, drew back its position somewhat; but this did not change anything in the final result of the day. It was the severest defeat of the war!
One only had to descend the northern slopes of the Marne: never have I seen so many dead, nor such frightful sights in battle. The Americans on the other shore had completely shot to pieces in a close combat two of our companies.
They had lain in the grain, in semicircular formation, had let us approach, and then from 30 to 50 feet had shot almost all of us down. This foe had nerves, one must allow him this boast; but he also showed a bestial brutality.
"The Americans kill everything!" That was the cry of horror of July 15th, which long took hold of our men.

--Report of the Grenadier Regiment No. 5, 36th Infantry Division

To the southwest of Reims, the Germans had managed to cross the Marne River. Roughly 50,000 Germans established a pocket about 6 km (4 mi) deep. It was not as wide as Ludendorff would have liked. Especially, the American 3rd Division was still holding its position. For all that, it was an extraordinary achievement, for the Allied defenders fought ferociously and exacted a heavy toll.

To the east of Reims, however, the French defenders under General Henri Gouraud (below) had entirely halted the German assault. Gouraud’s artillery had opened up even earlier, so much so that for a short time his staff was afraid that they had needlessly revealed their cannons' positions. The German attack was launched, but took such a pounding crossing the "Battle Zone" that they could not breach the rear trenches. Again, the Allies had foiled an attempted pincer move of the Central Powers.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/16/2018 2:07:51 AM)

16 July 1918

In England, the government pulled out all the stops to deal with the strike at the Coventry aircraft engine factories, posting these notices all over the city:

July 16, 1918.

Owing to the scarcity of skilled labour in the country created by the needs of the Army and the grave emergency of the war, it became necessary some time ago to make sure that the skilled labour available was fairly shared among munition firms, and in some cases to place a limit on the number of skilled workers which particular employers or firms were entitled to engage. . . It is also the law that trade disputes in time of war shall be settled by arbitration without a stoppage of work. But the strike which is threatened at Coventry is not a trade dispute. It does not arise out of the ordinary relations of Capital and Labour. It cannot be settled by arbitration. It can only be regarded as an attempt to subvert and deflect the avowed policy of the State in time of national danger. In consequence of this fact, the Minister of Munitions finds it necessary to state at the earliest moment that men who abandon their work in these circumstances will by that very act divest themselves of any protection against recruitment for the Army if they are liable to serve. It is already hard that men between forty and fifty should be called up for the Army while younger men are left to earn high wages in the munitions factories. Only the fact that these men are absolutely needed at their work has induced the nation reluctantly to put up with what is from any other point of view unfair. It would indeed be wrong that a young man who is given special protection from recruiting to enable him to do work of great importance should refuse to do that work and yet that his protection should continue. The Minister has therefore obtained the authority of the War Cabinet, not only to proceed with the utmost rigour of the law against all persons conspiring or inciting to such a cessation of work, but also to make it clear that the protection from military service of all or any men who cease work in these circumstances will be allowed to lapse immediately.

In other words, go back to work, or you go to the trenches.

Other measures were taken as well. A number of merchant seamen who had survived U-boat attacks were sent to the labour unions to encourage them to resume their work. Lastly, Christabel Pankhurst, the daughter of famed suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and a crusader for the vote for women in her own right, “descended in a cloud of speakers, propagandists, and canvassers” to argue against the strike.

At the Marne sector, Ludendorff called off any further assaults to the east of Reims. To the west and south, the Germans made some progress, but less than the first day. The American 3rd Division continued to hold, earning the title “The Rock of the Marne”, and preventing the Germans from widening their advance.

The Italians were also contributing: they had sent two divisions to the western front to return the favor of the British and French reinforcements in Italy earlier in the war. These now showed that they could fight to defend French soil as well as Italian soil, slowing the German push at a cost in casualties which would force the 8th division to be pulled out of the line.

Zorch -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/16/2018 8:02:47 PM)


ORIGINAL: Capt. Harlock

16 July 1918

At the Marne sector, Ludendorff called off any further assaults to the east of Reims. To the west and south, the Germans made some progress, but less than the first day. The American 3rd Division continued to hold, earning the title “The Rock of the Marne”, and preventing the Germans from widening their advance.

Among those killed on this day was my great uncle, at Chateau Thierry near Le Charnel.
Thank you Capt. Harlock for a great thread.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/17/2018 2:23:42 AM)

17 July 1918

Ludendorff realized that his “Friedensturm” (peace offensive) was failing. He now ordered a halt to all the advances. Allied troops were already making successful, though local, counterattacks in a number of places along the German positions. And they were about to get much more serious. The tanks were in place, and now the soldiers were marched to the jump-off point for the planned counter-offensive under General Charles Mangin:

At dusk we started our hike, which proved to be one of the hardest the 2nd Division ever undertook, if not the hardest ever undertaken by any AEF troops. It was raining and we were tired and hungry. We were forbidden to eat our emergency rations. The road was narrow and literally overrun with equipment going to the lines. I know Broadway never saw such a night for congestion; it was impossible to see two feet in front of us . . . The last five miles we had to double time all the way to the jumping off place.

–- Marine William Francis

At Ekaterinburg in Russia, it became clear that the anti-Bolshevik forces would capture the area. Rather than go to the trouble of moving the former Tsar Nicholas II and his family, the Bolsheviks decided to “execute” them without trial. (It is believed that Lenin personally authorized this, but he left no paper trail.) Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, their five children, three servants, and the family doctor were told they were being transported elsewhere and assembled in a basement room, then shot and bayoneted.

RMS Carpathia, famous as the ship that had rescued the survivors from the Titanic, had been pressed into service as a troop transport, as had many another passenger liner. On this date, however, she was largely empty, sailing from Liverpool to Boston with 57 passengers and 166 crew. In the Southwest Approaches, she was torpedoed and sunk by the U-boat U-55, with a loss of five crewmen.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/18/2018 3:31:26 AM)

18 July 1918

At the port of Orleans, Massachusetts, the German submarine U-156 attacked. Surfacing in the dark, the U-boat opened fire with her deck gun. The shelling eventually destroyed the civilian tugboat SS Perth Amboy along with 4 wooden barges. Not surprisingly, some of the shots went over their marks and hit the shore beyond, becoming the first enemy fire on the continental United States since the Mexican-American War. The shelling took long enough that daylight arrived, and with it 9 Coast Guard seaplanes, which dropped bombs. All were duds, and U-156 escaped to wreak havoc on the American fishing fleet. She may also have left a deadly parting gift of mines.

In France, although the German offensive had been launched just three days before, Foch ordered the French counter-stroke. Using the techniques developed and refined for tank assaults, there was no “softening-up” bombardment beforehand, but an intense rolling barrage just in front of the advancing tanks and troops:

I never realised that there was that much artillery in the world. . . The infantry went forward in a long line extending as far as could be seen to either side, the successive waves following each other at intervals. . . My PC and that of the 16th Infantry were in a trench on a high ridge on the forward side of Chevres, just across the town and valley from my batteries. . . I studied out on the map an approximate advance position to which I could take the battalion as soon as the infantry had advanced far enough into German territory. . . When the 16th had reached its third objective of the first day, I started out. . . [They] had advanced as far as the range of our guns would permit us to support them and it had become necessary to move the guns forward. . . We had changed from the stereotyped trench warfare to a warfare of manoeuvre.

– Major Raymond Austin, 6th Field Artillery

The Germans were caught entirely by surprise:

At the appointed hour Mangin’s army had sprung. His battle followed the Cambrai model. There was no artillery preparation. Three hundred and thirty small Renault tanks came out of the woods and ground their way through the German line. Behind them the French infantry rolled forward in immense superiority. Upon a wide front the enemy were overwhelmed. Behind the front the German troops were placidly harvesting the abundant crops. They cast down their sickles and fought where they stood. The high corn hampered their machine-guns except where occasionally provided with special tripods, and the small tanks continued murderously to break up the defence. By nightfall Mangin’s army had advanced an average of 5 kilometres on a front of 45.

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

Casualties for the day were: Allies, 1,900, Germans 5,300. The initiative on the Western Front had reverted to the Allies, and this time they would keep it.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/19/2018 3:29:02 AM)

19 July 1918

The Allied counter-offensive near the Marne did not enjoy the success of its first day. The Germans had reinforced both on the ground and in the air, bringing in Jagdgeschwader I, the famed “Flying Circus”. This gave them command of the skies for the moment, and they used it to direct punishing artillery and machine-gun fire. The Americans inched forward, but had to dig in frequently. One Sergeant who had been a liaison because he spoke fluent French found himself on the front line, and ill-prepared:

As was my usual custom, I had discarded my pack, retaining only my cartridge belt, gas mask and pistol, knowing that I could always find an entrenching tool carried by some unfortunate comrade who would have no further use for it. However, on this day the only thing I could find was a messkit lid and I was really making the dirt fly with this improvised shovel when Major [Theodore] Roosevelt [eldest of the four sons of former President Teddy Roosevelt] crept up beside me and inquired, with his usual grin, “What’s the matter, Poorbaugh, did you forget how to speak French?” I didn’t even slow down; I just kept digging. Major Roosevelt was later wounded, as I also was, and purely by chance we went to the Evacuation Hospital in the same ambulance. Between us we had one cigarette which we shared.

--Sergeant Earl R. Poorbaugh, 26th Infantry

Elsewhere, the 6th Marines were also making slow progress. The heavy German shelling raised the possibility of poison gas, so 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Bender, designated as the gas officer, was sent forward to check. Bullets were flying freely, so Bender crawled forward on his stomach. The position caused his posterior to be the highest point of his body, and it was there that a bullet struck him. However, he accomplished his mission, sending back the succinct message: “No gas. Shot in the ass. Bender.”

Although the Germans had slowed the Allied assault, they had not stopped it. Orders went out for the German units to pull back across the Marne River, yielding what few gains there had been of the fifth and final German Spring Offensive.

Honduras declared war on Germany. This was probably done by President Francisco Bertrand in return for U. S. troops providing a measure of stability in his country from 1911 – 1920. Honduras is often considered the last country to enter World War I, although the situation is complicated because some countries were only partly recognized. (e.g. Hejaz, which would eventually become part of Saudi Arabia.)

The armored cruiser USS San Diego had set out from the Portsmouth Naval Yard, heading for New York City. Northeast of Fire Island there was an explosion on board, possibly from a torpedo hit on her port side. Whatever the source of the explosion, it was fatal: a critical hatch was too damaged to be closed, and the cruiser’s engine room flooded. Captain Harley H. Christy sounded battle stations, and for a few minutes the ship blazed away at suspected periscope sightings. But shortly the ship began to founder, and the order was given to abandon ship. San Diego went down just 28 minutes after the explosion, with a loss of 6 crewmen.

War records showed no U-boat in the area at the time. The most likely cause is now thought to be a mine, with the submarine U-156 the source. The San Diego would be the only U.S. warship larger than a destroyer to be lost in WWI.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/21/2018 2:22:33 AM)

21 July 1918

In France, the Germans had managed a successful retreat across the Marne River. Now the question was whether they could hold there. That would not happen if Foch could help it. The Allies were not pursuing rapidly, but they were pursuing. By this date, they had pushed forward on either side of the town of Château-Thierry, and the German troops occupying it now faced a serious threat of being surrounded.

Both sides had shown some restraint concerning the town: although it had taken considerable damage, it could easily have been completely reduced to rubble by either German or Allied artillery. Now the Germans pulled back, and the Allies re-captured Château-Thierry.

Although there was much propaganda back in the United States about American troops at Château-Thierry, it was actually French troops who were given the honor of taking the town. And to call it the turning point of the war is going a little far. It is true, however, that from here on the advances on the all-important Western Front would be only Allied, and not German.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/22/2018 3:46:50 AM)

22 July 1918

Winston Churchill was an early proponent of tanks. Among their other advantages, he pointed out that ships sank and aircraft crashed, “whereas the tank in any victorious battle recovers very quickly from his wounds and hardly ever dies beyond the hope of resurrection. A few months’ sojourn in the grave is nearly always followed by a reincarnation, so long, that is to say, as he is not snaffled by the powers of evil.”

Churchill ‘s last point was indeed a worry: the Germans actually deployed more captured Allied tanks into combat than tanks of their own. Today, however, it was the turn of the Allies to do the snaffling. One of the few German A7V tanks, named “Mephisto”, had been stuck in a large crater or ditch since the second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in late April. Aware of this, the Allies made plans to capture it, and on this date went into action. The British first laid down an artillery barrage, then two British vehicles (possibly Mark IV tanks) accompanied by Australian infantry went forward. The Germans realized what they were up to and opened fire, and then used poison gas. But the Australians were not to be deterred: they put on their gas masks and the tank was dragged back to the Allied lines.

After the war, Mephisto would be shipped to Australia. It has been housed in various places, losing a few parts to souvenir-hunters, but has finally found a temperature-controlled home in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Well does it deserve special treatment, for it is the world’s only surviving German WWI combat tank. (There is a replica A7V named "Wotan" in the German Tank Museum in Munster, but it wasn’t built until 1988.)

By Skyring - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/23/2018 1:45:55 AM)

23 July 1918

Japan was on the side of the Allies in WWI, however its troops had seen little action for some time since the seizure of the German colonies in the Pacific. But now they were in action in Siberia, assisting the Czecho-Slovak Legion and the Whites (the anti-communists) during the Russian Civil War. The government in Tokyo had naturally bought up large amounts of rice to feed its soldiers while they were deployed. The problem was that Japan was already in an inflationary spiral, and this sudden increase in demand caused the price of the country’s main food staple to climb sharply. The price to consumers, that is: the government regulated the price that farmers could charge to sell rice.

On this date, the resulting economic misery caused a protest to break out in the little fishing town of Uozu, in the Toyama Prefecture. It was the first spark in what would become the worst rioting in modern Japanese history.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/24/2018 3:50:41 AM)

24 July 1918

In the Seine-et-Marne department of France, General Foch had made his headquarters at Chateau Bombon. He had a relatively small but loyal staff with him, referring to them as his “military family”. But on this date he temporarily opened up his headquarters to a larger gathering:

On July 24 the only conference ever held between the Allied Commanders took place at Bombon. Foch presented to Haig, Pershing and Pétain a document setting forth in outline his policy for the rest of the year. His plans may be shortly described as follows:—First, to reduce the three principal salients on the enemy’s front—Amiens, Château-Thierry and St. Mihiel—with a view to improving for the campaign of 1919 the lateral railway communications along the whole front from the Vosges Mountains to the sea, and by a subsidiary action to free the Bruay coalfield, and certain other minor enterprises. Secondly, if successful in these operations, to carry out a general offensive with all the troops available. It is said that he had among his intimates already begun to dwell on the hope of obtaining final victory in 1918. His favourite expression at this time was ‘L’édifice commence à craquer. Tout le monde à la bataille!’* On the other hand his memorandum stated that it would depend on the measure of success gained in these various operations whether that success could be more fully exploited ‘before the winter sets in.’ All his plans aimed at the summer of 1919.

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

*”The edifice begins to crack. Everyone to the battle!”


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/27/2018 3:30:05 AM)

Late July, 1918

Although victory before the end of 1918 still seemed very optimistic, more and more people on both sides were becoming aware that Germany would sooner or later lose the war. Britain and France had recovered their confidence under Lloyd George and Clemenceau respectively, and the Americans had never believed anything else. (Which was perhaps overconfidence given their troops' inexperience and their lagging production, but was justified by events.) The Central Powers were becoming correspondingly depressed. Bulgaria had had enough of the war, and would have been very happy to collect the territorial gains and stop. Turkey's economy and war effort were in poor shape, to say the least. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was slowly but surely dissolving; for some time those in Germany had complained of being "shackled to a corpse ". And now the German people themselves had begun to lose hope.

The government could not wholly keep the news of the failures on the western front secret, and the British blockade was producing hunger throughout the nation. The Germans had shipped Lenin to Russia in a sealed train, hoping to foment revolution against the Russian government while preventing revolutionary notions from spreading in Germany. But it had only worked for a time: a number of the prisoners returned from the eastern front had been affected by the "Lenin virus ", and believed that workers and soldiers of all countries should unite against the upper classes instead of trying to kill each other. Note that the concept was not new, for there were already socialist and communist movements in Germany. Karl Marx had, after all, been a German.

Probably as important as anything else, the soldiers on furlough or recovering in hospitals could confirm with their own experience that the U-boat effort to prevent U.S. reinforcements from joining the fight had failed. President Wilson's announcement earlier in the month that over a million Yanks had sailed was no idle boast. And there were plenty more where those came from: by the end of the war, 4.7 million Americans would have enlisted.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/28/2018 4:20:02 AM)

28 July 1918

The Allies continued to push forward, while at the same time the Germans were pulling back to form a stronger defensive line. This lead to some confusing situations: in some areas the Allies were brought to a halt by heavy German resistance, and in other areas there were back-and-forth movements. One sergeant-Major was ordered by his General to set up a command post in a town called Ronchères. He set out in the General’s car, which happened to be a Cadillac:

… our artillery were in position just beyond the town, but as they were not firing we thought they were out of range and awaiting orders to move up. We waved to them and passed on, when a little farther on, just across the crest of the hill, we passed a line of infantry in a shallow trench with rifles laid on the parapet but we imagined that it was the second or third line, the lines of reserve, and didn’t stop to ask. We were ordered to go to Ronchères, and an order is an order. From there on there wasn’t a living thing in sight and a kilometer further on was a crossroads where we must turn to the right. On our left were woods and machine-guns were merrily rattling away, which made us p___k up our ears.

A thousand yards further on was a farm house and we decided to turn in there and inquire what was going on. The town of Ronchères was now only about a half kilometer ahead and could be easily been across the fields. At this farm we found about 200 doughboys. We inquired whether any Americans were in Ronchères, and they replied that there were not. They were there last night, but on account of Fritzie’s heavy shelling moved out and that at 10 o’clock they would go up there and chase the Germans out again who had moved in during the night after they discovered that the Americans had left. Just then an American soldier came running into the yard, all out of breath and pale to the gills, saying that his motorcycle and a Signal Sergeant with him had been captured by the Boches in Ronchères. The 3rd Division had sent them ahead also, to put in the telephones in preparation to moving up there.

After hearing this, it was evident we couldn’t get into the town, and neither did we feel inclined to present the Germans with a Cadillac touring car in addition to the motorcycle.

--Sergeant-Major Paul Landis, 76th Field Artillery


As usual, the more the attackers advanced, the harder it was to keep the advance going.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/30/2018 5:03:27 AM)

30 July 1918

The Left Socialist Revolutionaries did not stop at the assassination of Ambassador Mirbach. On this date in Kiev, Ukraine, a member of the party named Boris Mikhailovich Donskoy threw a bomb at the commander of the German army in the country. Field-Marshal Hermann Emil Gottfried von Eichhorn died from the injuries, becoming the most senior German officer to be killed in the war. Donskoy failed to make a getaway, and was arrested at the scene. This assassination was more popular with the locals, for von Eichhorn’s primary assignment had been to take as much Ukrainian grain as practicable and have it shipped back to Germany.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (7/31/2018 3:56:16 AM)

31 July 1918

When the sinkings were added up, losses of Allied merchant shipping would come to 260,967 tons for the month of July. This was a slight increase from June, but acceptable by the ruthless arithmetic of war. U-Boat losses were up to 6 for the month, and this was not a good return in the eyes of the U-boat crews. At least half of the losses were due to mines, which was especially nerve-wracking; with a destroyer attack they knew when it was starting and when it was over. A mine could kill everyone at any moment. Morale started to drop considerably.

Page: <<   < prev  2 3 [4] 5 6   next >   >>

Valid CSS!

Forum Software © ASPPlayground.NET Advanced Edition 2.4.5 ANSI