Thomas Herbert Russell.

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power to place an embargo on all exports. On July 14 the House of
Representatives passed an Aviation bill appropriating the sum of
$640,000,000 for the construction and maintenance of an aerial fleet for
home and foreign service.


On August 10 President Wilson signed the Food Control bill adopted by
Congress after prolonged debate, and he at once announced the
formal appointment of Mr. Herbert C. Hoover as United States food
administrator. Mr. Hoover, whose work as chief of the Belgian Relief
Commission had made him world famous, stated the threefold objects of
the food administration under the bill as follows:

"First, to so guide the trade in the fundamental food commodities as to
eliminate vicious speculation, extortion, and wasteful practices, and to
stabilize prices in the essential staples. Second, to guard our exports
so that against the world's shortage we retain sufficient supplies for
our own people, and to coöperate with the Allies to prevent inflation of
prices; and, third, that we stimulate in every manner within our power
the saving of our food in order that we may increase exports to our
Allies to a point which will enable them to properly provision their
armies and to feed their peoples during the coming winter."


While the United States was busily engaged in raising its new national
army, innumerable difficulties arose to be contended with by the Federal
and State governments and local authorities. Not the least of these was
caused by enemy propaganda of various kinds, designed to interfere with
the success of the selective draft. Active opposition to the draft
developed in many districts, especially in the Western states where
the organization calling itself the "Industrial Workers of the World,"
notorious as the "I.W.W.," had a considerable following, including many
aliens, and gave the State and municipal authorities much trouble.
Attacks on munition plants, strikes, and incipient riots were frequent,
until the Federal government declared its determination to meet all such
demonstrations with the strong arm of the law. Pacifists and pro-Germans
of various stripes did their utmost to retard war preparations, and
caused much annoyance, without, however, preventing the steady march of
the selected men to the training cantonments, where the first divisions
of the national army gradually assembled. The presence in the country
of so many aliens of enemy birth constituted a difficulty, but this had
been foreseen and partly provided against, and the true American spirit
of patriotism steadily prevailed over all obstacles to the successful
prosecution of the war for humanity. Uncle Sam prepared to strike - and
strike hard.


Meanwhile, internal troubles developed in the German empire. Weary of
the war, with hopes of final victory dwindling month by month, a strong
peace party arose in the Reichstag, committing itself to the policy of
a peace without annexations or indemnities, and for a brief time the
Reichstag refused to vote a war credit. This brought the Kaiser, Von
Hindenburg, and Von Ludendorff in hot haste to Berlin, to exert the
utmost possible pressure of the military party on the recalcitrants. For
the time being their power prevailed, but the German Chancellor, Von
Bethmann Hollweg, was sacrificed, together with the Foreign Minister and
other leading officials of the empire. The Chancellor was succeeded by
Dr. Georg Michaelis, a statesman of colorless and practically unknown
quality, suspected of being a mere mouthpiece of the Kaiser, appointed
to register his decrees and continue the policy of the autocracy in the
conduct of the war. But many peace proposals came out of Germany during
the summer and every possible German effort was made to break the
solidarity of the Allies.


On August 14 Pope Benedict addressed to all the belligerent nations
a proposal for a peace agreement, stating the general terms which he
believed might be found acceptable as a basis for the cessation
of hostilities. These included disarmament of the nations, mutual
condonation of damages, the establishment of the principle of
arbitration for the future, the evacuation of Belgian and French
territory by the Germans, reciprocal restoration of the German colonies,
and a peace-table agreement as to Alsace-Lorraine, Poland, the Trentino,
Armenia and the Balkan states.

Nothing being said as to the causes of the war and the criminal
responsibility attaching to the authors of the great conflict, and all
the nations at issue being classed as equally entitled to the benefits
of the condonation proposed, the message from the Vatican met with a
cool reception from the Allied nations, including the United States,
especially as they entertained grave suspicions that it was inspired
from Berlin, by way of Vienna. The answers of President Wilson and
the British and French governments were therefore awaited with little
expectation that the hour for peace had struck.

The British attitude toward peace proposals was expressed July 20 by Sir
Edward Carson, member of the war cabinet, who said:

"If the Germans want peace we are prepared tomorrow to treat not
with Prussianism, but with the best of the German nation, and as a
preliminary to such a treaty and as an earnest of their sincerity that
they don't want to acquire any territory or show violence towards
others, we tell them to come forward and offer to enter negotiations. We
make as the first condition of such a parley that they shall withdraw
their troops behind the Rhine.

"When they have shown something like contrition for the wrongs and
outrages against humanity which they have committed on poor little
Belgium, in northern France, in Serbia, and in those other regions which
they needlessly drenched with blood, we will be willing to enter into
negotiations to see what can be done for release of the world from the
terror of arms."


On August 21 Canadian troops smashed their way with bombs and cold steel
farther into the German defenses of the ruins of Lens, and defeated a
desperate simultaneous attack by the enemy, which developed into one of
the most sanguinary hand-to-hand conflicts on this battle-scarred front.
The attack began at dawn with the capture of 2,000 yards of German
positions on the outskirts of the shell-torn mining center, the
Canadians driving their lines closer about the heart of the city and
gaining possession of many railway embankments and colliery sidings in
the northwest and southwest suburbs which had been strongly fortified
for defense with a series of shell-hole nests of machine guns. The
battle raged fiercely for twenty-four hours.

When the Canadians went "over the top" in the thick haze of early dawn
of the 21st, they saw masses of shadowy gray figures advancing toward
them. The Germans had planned an attack to be delivered at the same
moment, and sent in wave after wave of infantry in desperate efforts to
regain their lost positions. In the words of an eyewitness, the Germans
fought like cornered rats among the shell holes and wire incumbrances of
"No man's Land," where the struggle raged, bomb and bayonet being the
principal weapons. As the Canadian bayonet did its deadly work, in some
of the bitterest fighting of the war, the German officers tried in vain
to rally their men and the enemy infantry gradually fell back to the
trenches they had left. The Canadians followed closely and, leaping on
the parapets, hurled masses of bombs down among great numbers of troops
which had been collected for the attack. The Germans tried to flee
through the communication trenches, but the Canadians leaped among them
with bayonets and bombs, killing many and sparing few as prisoners.
Throughout the day the entire line was a seething caldron, but the new
Canadian positions were firmly held as night fell.

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig after the battle sent a message of
congratulation to Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, commanding the
Canadian forces, and refuted the German claim that the Canadians had
attacked with four instead of two divisions when Hill 70 was captured by
the gallant fellows from the Dominion. The commander-in-chief also gave
the Canadians credit for having reached all their objectives in the
battles of the previous week.

Eight heavy assaults were delivered against the Canadians at Lens by the
Germans during the night of the 21st, but in each case the enemy was
thrown back at the point of the bayonet and by afternoon of August
the Canadians had consolidated all the new positions gained. During the
battle of Lens up to this time (from August 15 to 22) the Canadians took
1,378 prisoners, 34 machine guns and 21 trench mortars. The number of
prisoners taken bore only a small ratio to the losses inflicted on the
Germans, who appeared exhausted when the assaults ceased.

On August 22 the British launched another fierce attack on the enemy
in the Langemarck sector of the front and forced their way to a
considerable depth in the neighborhood of the ridge known as Hill 35,
strongly defended by Irish troops against Prince Rupprecht's Bavarians.
At the same time a new battle at Verdun was in progress, but the
French held all their gains against reserves massed by the Germans for
desperate counter-attacks.


On the Isonzo front the Italian commander, General Cadorna, launched a
great offensive while the British were active in Flanders and by August
23 had broken through the whole Austrian line, capturing the town of
Selo, which was the pivot of the Austrian defense, and considered
impregnable, and inflicting upon the enemy, in this eleventh battle of
the Isonzo, the greatest losses he had sustained since the capture of
Goritz. More than 13,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners were captured during
the battle, with thirty guns, and all counter-attacks were repulsed with
heavy losses. The whole Selo line fell before the heroic onslaught of
the Italians, and the loss of this important position was a serious blow
to the Austrians. On August 22 Italian warships were showering shells on
Trieste, the big Austrian port on the Adriatic which was the objective
of the Italian campaign.


"In the welter of the conflict an emperor of Austria-Hungary has died,
full of years and of sorrow, a czar of Russia has stepped from his
throne, and a king of Greece has lost his crown," said a well-known
publicist, reviewing the war up to this time.

"Not one of the prime ministers or ministers of foreign affairs who
conducted the diplomatic maneuvers preceding of immediately following
the beginning of the war in the six most important countries of Europe
is still in power. In Russia, Goremykin and Sazonoff are forgotten
behind a line of successors, equally unstable. In France, Delcassé left
the foreign office and Viviani ceased to head the cabinet, following the
collapse of Serbia in the second autumn of the war.

"The tragedy of Roumania a year later contributed to the overthrow of
Asquith and his foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, in Great Britain.
San Giuliano of the Italian foreign office and Salandra, the
prime minister, have passed. Count Berchtold, foreign minister of
Austria-Hungary in 1914 (the empire has no prime minister), has passed
into oblivion, while Von Jagow gave up the management of Germany's
foreign affairs last autumn. Von Bethmann-Hollweg, the last of the group
to lose his grip, has just gone down, despite the fact that he was not
responsible to any elective body.

"Ministers of war in the belligerent countries have not been more
stable. Kerensky follows a long procession in Russia. France has had
four war ministers from Millerand to Painlevé, inclusive, while Lord
Kitchener, organizer of Great Britain's most marvelous war achievement,
a volunteer army of some 4,000,000 men, sleeps below the waters of the
North Sea.

"History has as ruthlessly brushed aside most of the army commanders of
the early days. Von Kluck, who led the Germans on Paris, is retired.
Rennenkampf, with whom the Russians meanwhile swarmed into East Prussia,
is a memory only. Sir John French has been recalled to England. That
little group of generals who saved France and Europe at the Marne is
decimated. Foch and Castelnau, and Manoury are no longer in command,
while Galliéni, worn out in the service of his country, was borne on his
last journey through the streets of Paris on a sunny spring day in 1916.

"Even Joffre has been superseded in a military sense, though not as an
idol of the nation. France still holds him as close to her heart as
Germany possibly could hold Von Hindenburg - almost the only one of the
war's early commanders to retain his military power."


On August 23, Riga, the Russian seaport which is the gateway to
Petrograd, was reported in peril from the Germans, who were conducting a
determined advance on the north of the eastern front under the immediate
direction of Field Marshal Von Hindenburg. With a Japanese mission in
Washington, headed by Viscount Ishii, it was expected that steps might
be taken to send Japanese troops to the aid of the Russians.

Russia's critical internal situation, aggravated by the new German drive
against Riga, was watched by officials in Washington with the gravest
concern. While the taking of Riga would not necessarily be a decisive
blow, it would make the Baltic more than ever a German lake, leaving the
Russian fleet in the position of the mouse in the rathole to the German
cat, just as the Kaiser's fleet was the mouse to the English fleet

The outcome of the forthcoming extraordinary national council to be held
at Moscow was therefore awaited in Washington with the keenest interest,
scarcely less keen than in Russia itself. The immediate fate of Russia,
it was felt, depended upon the action of the council in its efforts to
throw off the demoralizing socialistic control of the Russian army and
workmen. German intrigues in Russia were known to be exerting powerful
influence to bring about anarchy within the new democracy.


An advance by the Canadians in the neighborhood of the Green Grassier on
the southern edge of Lens added greatly to the strength of the British
line, which continued to tighten steadily about the heart of the city.

The Grassier is a great slag heap, and lies only about 300 yards south
of the central railway station of Lens, and overlooks it.

The Canadians made their assault before dawn this time, and the attack
was preceded by a protracted and exceedingly intense bombardment of the
German positions. The Germans, exhausted by the long strain of constant
counter-attacks, found the Canadians in their midst with little warning.
But the defenders did not give up without a struggle, and there was
fierce bayonet fighting.

The Grassier was an important buffer between the Canadians and the
defenses of the city proper, and the Germans reached it through tunnels
connected with the network of passages and dugouts beneath Lens.

Part of the ground about the Grassier was inundated, due to the waterway
near by having broken its banks, and this, in conjunction with the
great number of machine-gun emplacements on the elevation, made it a
particularly difficult position for attack.

An advance upon two German colliery positions adjoining the Grassier to
the northwest, earlier in the night, also involved stiff hand-to-hand
fighting. About the Grassier were numerous shell-shattered buildings,
many of which had been strongly fortified by the Germans. The Canadians
bombed their way systematically through these defenses, silencing the
machine guns and clearing out the defenders.

The fighting on August 23 was on the edge of the city proper, rather
than in the suburbs. Notwithstanding the tremendous strain upon the
Canadians during the previous week, there was no diminution in the
strength of their attacks. They worked steadily and methodically,
gradually weaving a net about the Germans, who were living miserably in
their underground positions within the great coal center.


In the three days' fighting on the western front from August 21 to 23,
the Entente Allies captured 25,000 German prisoners and by September
1 the total for August had reached more than 40,000, according to
Major-General Frederick B. Maurice, chief director of the British war
intelligence office. This topped the figure of prisoners which the
Germans claimed to have taken in a single month on the Russian front,
although their total undoubtedly was composed by at least half of mere
stragglers from the mutinous and disorganized Russian units.

On September 1, 1917, the positions recaptured by the French around
Verdun were safely consolidated in their possession, every German effort
being thrown back in disorder. The fighting had developed into a big-gun
duel, in which the French continued to maintain undoubted mastery, and
they were firmly established once more on the left bank of the Meuse,
which the Germans had intended to hold at all costs. Thus ended the last
hope of the Crown Prince of Germany, who apparently was obsessed with
the desire to conquer Verdun, in the neighborhood of which thousands of
the flower of the German army found only a burial place, without any
laurels of victory.


The early autumn of 1917 witnessed steady gains by the British and
French forces co-operating in Flanders and to the South of the Belgian
border along the western front. The artillery on both sides was
constantly active, but with evident superiority on the part of the
Allies. Repeated German attacks were repulsed in the Champagne and along
the Meuse, while in the Ypres region the Allied troops made frequent
gains in spite of the concrete defenses established by the enemy to
strengthen their entrenched positions.

Repeated successes of the Allies along the Chemin des Dames finally
forced a German retreat along a fifteen-mile front which the Crown
Prince had made strenuous efforts to hold. The Germans were compelled to
retire because French victories on October 21-23 enabled French guns to
enfilade the Ailette Valley behind the German positions, exposing the
enemy to a series of disastrous flanking attacks and hampering the
German communications. On October 30-31 the French bombarded the German
lines vigorously. The enemy had already moved their artillery across the
Ailette to a ridge north of the river. On the night of November 1 they
completed their preparations for retreat and withdrew their infantry.
French patrols approaching the German lines on the morning of November
2 were fired upon at first, but on renewing their reconnoissance soon
after dawn found the German trenches empty.

It was impossible for the Germans to keep their front line supplied with
ammunition or food, the carriers of which were obliged to pass through a
tornado of shells and machine gun bullets while crossing the Valley of
the Ailette, where their every movement could be observed by the French.
Eventually the position became untenable and the Germans retired during
the night to the Northern side of the Ailette Valley. The best elements
of the Crown Prince's army had sustained severe losses and were
compelled to go to the rear to reconstitute their diminished ranks. The
evacuated territory North of the crest of Chemin des Dames included
several towns that had been pulverized by bombardment, and the retreat
brought the important city of Laon within range of the French guns.

The captures by the French in this sector from September 23 to November
1 included 12,000 prisoners, 200 heavy field guns, 220 trench mortars,
and 720 machine guns. In ten days, from September 21 to 30, twenty-three
German airplanes were destroyed and twenty-eight forced to descend badly


The first list of Americans killed and wounded in combat with the enemy
reached Washington on October 17, in an official report from Rear
Admiral Sims of an encounter between a German submarine and an American
destroyer. One American sailor was killed and five sailors were wounded
when the submarine torpedoed the destroyer Cassin on patrol duty in
European waters. The destroyer was not sunk and after making a gallant
fight reached a British port.

Two days later Rear Admiral Sims reported that the American troop
transport Antilles, homeward bound from France, was torpedoed and sunk
by a German submarine on October 17. Seventy men of the 237 aboard lost
their lives, including four naval enlisted men, sixteen army enlisted
men, three ship's officers, and 47 members of the ship's crew. The
Antilles was under convoy of American patrol vessels at the time it was


At the burial on November 7 of the first three American soldiers killed
in the trenches in France by a raiding party of Germans, a guard of
French infantrymen, in their picturesque uniforms of red and horizon
blue, stood on one side and a detachment of American soldiers on the
other while the flag-wrapped coffins were lowered into the grave, as a
bugler blew taps and the batteries nearby fired minute guns. The French
officer commanding in the sector paid an eloquent tribute to the fallen
Americans, his words being punctuated by the roar of the guns and the
whistle of shells. In conclusion he said:

"In the name of the French army and in the name of France, I bid
farewell to Private Enright, Private Gresham and Private Hay of the
American army.

"Of their own free will they had left a prosperous and happy country to
come over here. They knew war was continuing in Europe; they knew that
the forces fighting for honor, love of justice and civilization were
still checked by the long-prepared forces serving the powers of brutal
domination, oppression and barbarity. They knew that efforts were still
necessary. They wished to give up their generous hearts and they had not
forgotten old historical memories while others forgot more recent ones.

"They ignored nothing of the circumstances and nothing had been
concealed from them - neither the length and hardships of war nor the
violence of battle, nor the dreadfulness of new weapons, nor the perfidy
of the foe. Nothing stopped them. They accepted the hard and strenuous
life; they crossed the ocean at great peril; they took their places on
the front by our side and they have fallen facing the foe in a hard and
desperate hand-to-hand fight. Honor to them! Their families, friends and
fellow-citizens will be proud when they learn of their deaths.

"Men! These graves, the first to be dug in our national soil and only a
short distance from the enemy, are as a mark of the mighty land we and
our Allies firmly cling to in the common task, confirming the will of
the people and the army of the United States to fight with us to a
finish, ready to sacrifice as long as is necessary until final victory
for the most noble of causes, that of the liberty of nations, the weak
as well as the mighty. Thus the deaths of these humble soldiers appeal
to us with extraordinary grandeur.

"We will therefore ask that the mortal remains of these young men be
left here, left with us forever. We inscribe on the tombs, 'Here lie the
first soldiers of the republic of the United States to fall on the soil
of France for liberty and justice.' The passer-by will stop and uncover
his head. Travelers and men of heart will go out of their way to come
here to pay their respective tributes.

"Private Enright! Private Gresham! Private Hay! In the name of France, I
thank you. God receive your souls! Farewell!"


In the first week of October Austrian forces, heavily reinforced by
Germans, opened a gigantic drive in an effort to crush Italy. It soon
resulted in wiping out all the gains made by the Italians under General
Cadorna on the Isonzo and in the Trentino, and in a determined invasion
of Northern Italy by the enemy, with the city of Venice as its immediate

The Teuton attack began on the morning of October 24, after an intensive
artillery fire in which specially constructed gas shells were thrown at
various places. The offensive covered a 23-mile front, from Monte Rombon
Southeast through Flitsch and Tolmino and thence Southward to the
Bainsizza Plateau, about ten miles Northeast of Goritz, the scene of
desperate fighting in the drive by the Italians which wrested important
mountain positions from the Austrians.

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 6 of 49)