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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

August 1915

August 6

Warsaw has fallen.

The fall of Warsaw marks the culmination of the greatest sustained offensive movement of the European war. Thrice before the German armies have knocked at its gates only to be denied by the strength of its defenses and the resistance of the forces holding it. Apparently impregnable in the face of direct attack, it was compelled to capitulate before the sweep of a vast movement, which threatened to encircle the capital, and with it the Russian armies engaged in a campaign of which it was the storm center. From the north, northwest, west, south and southeast the Austrian and German forces have been pressing upon the Polish capital in a combined drive to force the Russians out of Poland, and, if possible, to break her offensive power for an indefinite period by administering a decisive defeat all along the line.

The movement may be said to have its inception in May, when the great Teutonic march through Galicia began. To get at the Russian armies in Poland from the southeast, it was first necessary to clear Galicia of the troops of Russians. How successful this was accomplished is familiar history. Field Marshal von MacKensenís campaign in its first important stage culminated when late in June Lemburg was retaken and the Russians were driven over the Galician border.

Then early in July the Teutonic forces, coming up from the south, halted while preparations were made for the next stage of the campaign. Great armies had been assembled to the north and these in early July began pressing down upon the Russians.

At the same time, a vigorous offensive was opened in the Baltic provinces. The Germans attacked along the East Prussian border. Simultaneously the Teutonic armies in the South began to move. Field Marshal von Mackensen resumed his advanced, German forces working with the Austrians to inflict smashing blows upon the Russians from this direction. Step-by-step the Austrian and Germans pounded their way towards the city from the north and the south.


The Eastern Front August 6

Before the power of the Teutonic armies engaged in the circling movement the armies of Grand Duke Nicholas began to fall back. Przasnysz to the north of Warsaw, was occupied by the German Army. By July 19 the Germans had forced the Russians back to the line of the Narew River and pushed their way to within 20 miles of their goal.

Then began a tightening of the German lines around the capital. The Germans forced their way to the southwest of the city and started battering at its fortified gates of in earnest Tuesday.

The vast turning movement of the Germans to the northward of the Polish capital is exciting the concern of the Allies. It is feared that the evacuation of Warsaw may be too late to save the Russian armies.

The fall of Warsaw is likely soon to be followed by the pronouncement of a semiautonomous Poland, embracing not only the territories wrested from the Russians, but the Austrian Crown land of Galicia. Reports indicate that a German prince, possibly a son of the German Emperor, or an Austrian Archduke, will be appointed governor.

Berlin reports a council will be held Sunday will formulate a proclamation a semiautonomous state under joint Polish and Austrian rule. The German offer of autonomy is regarded as a bid for the support of the population of Poland during the remainder of the war.

What the Germans will do next in a military way after attempting to complete their enveloping movement is a matter of much speculation. If the campaign against the Russians is not energetically pursued there is the possibility of the present victories being undone, while if the offensive in the East is continued the Germans face the rigors and dangers of a winter campaign in Russia.

The Russian government meanwhile issued a declaration that the reported withdrawal of German forces from the Western Front for the campaign in the East "creates favorable conditions for active operations by our Allies."

The Russian ambassador to Great Britain, commenting on reports that Russia was dissatisfied with the efforts the Allies were making in the West, said: "It has been said that the Russian public had hoped for a strong offensive in the West while the Germans were making their effort in the East. This may be so, but not a trace of ill feelings has been manifested. Nowhere has the colossal effort of Great Britain and France in the Dardanelles been more appreciated than Russia."

August 13

Holding the bridgeheads at Warsaw over the Vistula River, the most formidable military obstacle in Eastern Europe, Germany and Austria, having conquered the river line, and with it invaded Russian territory for an average depth of 100 miles along the front from the Baltic to the Carpathians, are now throwing their forces forward in an endeavor to accomplish what Russia's Allies have so feared - the complete envelopment of the Russian armies.

The Russian armies are not only menaced on the Warsaw Salient, but a larger and more formidable enveloping movement has taken definite form, being in effect a greater pair of pincers aimed at Dvinsk, in the north, and at Brest-Litovsk, in the south, and superimposed on a smaller pair, which sought, and still seeks to crush the Russian forces in and around Warsaw.

The resistance of the Russians has been broken between Lomza and the mouth of the Bug River. For three weeks the Germans under the supreme command of Field Marshal von Hindenburg had been trying to force this front to cut off the Russian armies in the retreat from Warsaw.

The position of the retreating Russians between the Vistula and the Bug Rivers has grown more precarious as a result of the heavy rains of the past few days. The marshes in the rear, hold the rising water, confining the movements of troops exclusively to a few roads. The Russian retreat, therefore, is encountering increased difficulties.

The Russians are sacrificing men recklessly, trying to retard the German and Austrian advances through counterattacks, which invariably are unsuccessful. The impression here is that many prisoners will fall into the hands of the Germans before the Russians reach their new positions.

The second line of defense upon which the Russians proposed to fall back after abandoning Warsaw has all the appearance of having been rendered untenable, and the British and Russian press is beginning to see in the Austrian and German plans and ambitious plunge deeper into Russia with Petrograd as the goal.

It seems plain now that the Germans proposed no great demonstration on the Western Front, but intent rather to press to the utmost their so far brilliant successful Russian campaign on the theory that conditions in France and Belgian are such that neither the French nor the British immediately will attempt a general offensive.

Recognition of the imperative importance to the Allies of forcing the Dardanelles as the shortest route to retrieving Russian reverses and regaining the initiative now in the hands of Germany, is demonstrated amply by the sudden landing a 50,000 more British forces on the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsula, from which they hope to break the deadlock in that battle and advance on Constantinople.

August 20

The forces of Field Marshal von Mackensen, pursuing the retreating Russians from the south, have reached the line of the high road more than halfway to Brest-Litovsk, which the Russians had hoped to make the new center of their defenses. It is now regarded as probable that this point will be abandoned, owing to the speed of the German advance since the fall of Warsaw and the continued pressure of the armies of the Germans forming a semicircle closing in towards the north.

The outcome of these movements probably will be indicated within a few days -whether grand Duke Nicholas will be able to resume the offensive along the new front or will concentrate his energies in rearguard fighting during a slow retirement.

The Russians are following the antics of the Napoleonic campaign, laying waste to the country, which they abandon, so that the advancing Germans find in the smoking ruins of towns and villages the same lack of shelter as when Napoleon marched to Moscow.

The key Russian fortress of Kovno, with all her war materials, has fallen into the hands of the German. The fortress was captured by storm in spite of the most tenuous resistance by the Russians.

The capture of Kavno raises the question whether the Russians will be able to retain this line, or whether they will again be compelled to make a general retreat. Retention of the remaining positions on this front might expose the Russians to the danger of a flanking movement.

The rapidity of the German advances since the fall of Warsaw on August 5, is indicated by the fact that they are within 30 miles of Brest-Litovsk, which lies about 150 miles east of the captured Polish capital. The line to which the Russians may now be compelled to fall back to is about 200 miles east of Warsaw.

Novo Georgievsk, the Russian fortress northwest of Warsaw, which the Russians continued to hold after they abandoned the Polish capital, has also been taken by the Germans. More than 20,000 men were captured with the fortress and an enormous stock of war materials.

The capture of Novo Georgievsk has been foreseen since the fall of Warsaw. Grand Duke Nicholas, the Russian Commander-in-Chief, elected to leave the garrison in the fortress rather than evacuate this position. The decision to fortify the fortress was because of its strategic position. So long as the Russians retained it, they were able to stop German communications on the Vistula River. On account of its position, it was described by an Associated Press correspondent who visited as a second Vicksburg.

Novo Georgievsk was strongly defended and was said to have been equipped with sufficient ammunition and food supplies for long period. Its speedy capture doubtlessly represents another triumph for the great German and Austrian siege guns.

According to semiofficial Serbian sources here Serbia has accepted the conditions of the Allies to the occupation of Macedonia by the Allies in exchange for a section of the Dalmatian coast and adjacent islands, and the partition of Albania with Greece. When this is accomplished the Allies will transfer Macedonia to Bulgaria.

The Entente Powers, according to a statement made by a Serbian correspondent, has offered to Bulgaria that part of Macedonia given to her by the Serbian Bulgarian treaty of 1912 with the right of immediate occupation. Bulgaria on her part promises to declare war immediately on Turkey, aided by funds from the four Allies. Bulgaria will receive further territorial concessions in Turkey after the successful conclusion of the war.

August 27

Russian field armies are fighting desperately, but generally vainly, to check the onrush of the Germans and Austrians. The Germans have captured the Russian town of Bielsk, 25 miles south of Bialystok, and have driven the Russians over the Biala River.

South of Brest-Litovsk, Field Marshal von Mackensenís forces have penetrated far beyond the Bug River, rendering a serious Russian defense along the Bialystok-Brest-Litovsk line virtually impossible.

Om Monday, the Russian fortress of Ossowetz fell, depriving the Russians of the last of their westernmost fortresses. Ossowetz, a first-class fortress, guarded the railway approach to Bialystok, the great Petrograd-Warsaw trunk line.

The Russians have already evacuated Bialystok but will continue to hold the fortress of Grodno until the bulk of the armies of the Grand Duke have reached their appointed positions to the east of Vilna. Grodno is the next fortress of importance in this region.

On Thursday the Russian fortress of Brest-Litovsk was captured. Brest-Litovsk was considered one of the strongest fortresses in Europe, and was the southern base of the second Russian line of defense, to which the armies of Grand Duke Nicholas retreated after the fall of Warsaw

The storming of Brest-Litovsk by the German forces is probably the most important military achievement since the fall of Warsaw three weeks ago. The town, was one of the most important depots for, and distributing points of military supplies near the western frontier of Russian proper.

The capitulation of Brest-Litovsk means that the Russians will be forced to abandon her second defensive line. The third line of defense, upon which the Russians are now compelled to retreat to, runs through the middle of the country known as White Russia.


Brest-Litovsk

The Russian fortress of Olita, 30 miles south of Kovna, has also been evacuated. The fortress of Grodno is now the only strongly defended position remaining in the hands of the Russians. Olita is the ninth important Russian fortress to fall before the invaders in the last three weeks.

The Germanic allies have not yet exhausted their efforts to smash completely the Russian army. The Austrians and Germans are now engaged in an effort to clear the last corner of Galicia still held by Russians.

Having lost Brest-Litovsk, the Russians cannot afford to hold their positions in Galicia; for to do so would endanger their armies. The Russian extreme left, which heretofore has been unaffected by the general defeat, is now involved in the general retreat of the Russian forces.

With the German cavalry defeat of a Russian cavalry division, 40 miles east of Brest-Litovsk yesterday, German cavalry is now in position to bite deep into the flank of the retreating Russians and may convert the Russian retreat into an utter rout.

While the Russians are still fighting bravely in certain localities, it is clear that the backbone of the Russian army is completely broken. It will be impossible for the Russian army to reorganize and recuperate for a long time.

Absent any action by its Allies in the West, the only ray of light on the horizon for Russians is their old friend autumn, which will bring two useful Allies, namely, autumn mist and autumn mud. Already the seven German armies are floundering through marshy districts where there is a thick fog in the morning and evening, and where the rains are turning the roads into deep mud. For the beleaguered Russians, autumn cannot come soon enough.


The Eastern Front at the end of August

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