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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

Augsut 1916

August 4

The German submarine, Deutschland, sailed from Baltimore Tuesday night on her return voyage to Germany. Two planes were seen flying over the lower Chesapeake Bay shortly after daybreak on Wednesday, maneuvering back and forth over the water, apparently on the watch for the Deutschland.

The sailing plans of the Deutschland were carefully guarded and kept secret. When she left Baltimore, it was believed that the submersible would seek a quiet cove or inlet somewhere in the lower Chesapeake Bay and they awaited a favorable opportunity to make a dash through the Allied blockade off the capes.

The crew put to sea with the knowledge and a man hurried to a telephone with a message to the agents of the Allies that the Deutschland had started. He had watched at the end of a nearby pier, day and night, but the captain left Baltimore smiling and waving his cap. His last words were praise for America. Eight warships of the Allies were waiting for the submarine to intercept it at the US 3-mile territorial limit.

There were more than 100 persons in the vicinity of the pier when the Deutschland pulled away. The spectators cheered and waved handkerchiefs in unison. On the conning tower was a basket of roses and white flowers, the last gift of a Baltimore admirer.

On the eastern front, the Russian occupation of Kovel and Lemburg and the retirement of the Austrian and German line of defense beyond the Bug River are now regarded as a foregone conclusion. The German and Austrian armies, which have been badly crippled in their effort to hold back the advancing Russian forces, have been forced to retreat to a point which leaves open the approaches to these two important centers, and the Russians have begun an encircling movement, which is slowly, but apparently irresistibly, closing in on the two cities.

The German loss of the Stokhod crossings and the recently announced Russian crossing of that river leaves no important line of defense before Kovel except a natural barrier consisting of a wide swamp, which undoubtedly will retard the Russian progress. The Russian movement from the West in conjunction with the pressure brought from the south, both of which are successfully developing despite all German counterattacks, is considered as making the final outcome of the battle assured.

The operations against the Germans are also having an important effect in facilitating the advance against the Austrians defending the Galician capital of Lemberg. They enable the Russians to exert pressure against the Austrian left flank and increase that brought on Lemburg from the south where Russian troops have successfully transversed the flooded Dniester region.

It is unofficially reported that the Germans already have begun their retirement from Koval and are preparing to fall back on Brest-Lotivsk and the general line of defense following the Bug River.

On the western front, there has been bitter fighting for several days. German armies are engaged in a series of fierce counterattacks, which have so far been repulsed. The whole first German set of trenches, and the greater part of the second trenches in the Somme region are now in the hands of the British. On Tuesday night, the French made an attack along the three-mile front east of the Meuse, capturing several more German trenches.

In aerial fighting along the Somme front, there were 33 aerial engagements on Monday alone. The French claim 15 German machines were driven out of action.

Two more German airplanes were brought down in the northern section of the British line. British admit three of their airplanes were brought down by gunfire.

August 11

On the Verdun and on the Somme front the opposing armies are engaged in almost continual fighting. The advantage at Verdun seems from the time being to rest with the Germans, while along the Somme the Allies appear to have the advantage.

The British have captured 2,000 yards of the German second line system of trenches on the Somme front. All along the front, British guns had placed curtains of shellfire, through which it was impossible for Germans to retreat. Counterattacks were met with machine guns and rifles fired, mowing Germans down by the hundreds. Realizing it was hopeless to continue charging, and that they were dead which ever way they moved, German troops opted to surrender rather than continuing their vain attacks. Meanwhile, the Germans are making unsuccessful efforts to drive the French from trenches that have gained, lost, and regained.

On the eastern front, the Russian advance into Galicia continues with the Russian army pushing west past the Kolumea railway. This fresh victory in Galicia gives the Russians an exceedingly advantageous frontline, with all necessary railroad facilities to the rear of their lines. The Germans still have two railways over which they can make good their retreat, but each railway is seriously threatened by the Russians, who are pushing from the south.

The big news of the week was the start of a new attack on Gorizia by the Italians, the principle city of the Isonso valley, 22 miles northwest of Trieste. This is one of the principal objectives of the Italian campaign, and regarded as the key to that position.

The battle ebbed and flowed for three days. The ground around Gorizia was fortified strongly and supported by a great number of lines of defenses thrown up by the Austrians, which rendered it easy for them to offer stubborn resistance.

Inch by inch, and at the cost of enormous sacrifices, Italian infantry, with the cooperation of artillery, conquered the slopes above the town and stormed the innumerable trenches, gradually driving the Austrians before them.

The Gozizina bridgehead was one of the most important defensive positions of the Austrians along the Adriatic front. It was the scene of heavy fighting in the early months of the war. One of the first acts of the Italians after the war began was to throw a strong force of infantry and cavalry across the frontier, and occupy a stretch of territory along the Isonzo River. But the Austrian positions had been heavily fortified and progress was slow. The fighting along the Isonzo continued until December. Since that time there has only been sporadic activity on this front until the last few days.

Personal deeds of heroism were plentiful in the battle, especially in connection with the Italian use of a new method for destroying barbwire entanglements, involving the almost certain death of the soldier who plants the bombs for this purpose.

The defense and capture of the bridge over the Isonzo was the outstanding feature of the last 24 hours of fighting. Italian cavalry and cyclists swam the river at night under a blaze of searchlights and fire from Austrian machine guns that played on the swimmers like garden hoses.

In Egypt, on Sunday, the Turks attack British positions on the Suez Canal. It has long been expected that the Turks, with the assistance of the Austrians and Germans, might make a serious attempt on the Canal. It is understood that the Turks have with them some 2,000 German infantry, as well as a large number of Bedouin irregular horsemen.

Austrian and German engineers have been digging for water for many months, which close to the Mediterranean coast, exists in many cases at no considerable depth under the sand, although it mostly is too brackish for use of European troops. The Turks must, therefore, have made very thoughtful arrangements for the storage and transport of water, the country being a pure sand desert, with small, widely scattered oasis of date palm growing around scattered wells.

August 18

The German submarine Deutschland arrived safely at Bremen on Thursday. The Deutschland sailed from Baltimore for Germany August 1st and passed out to the sea on the following day, dropping out of sight of the Allied warships, which were awaiting her outside the 3-mile limit.

Meanwhile, it is reported that the Deutschland’s sister ship, the Bremen, and her crew were captured in the Straits of Dover in a steel net August 2. When found, the Bremen had her stern under water and her bow high above the surface. The British government has maintained silence in regard to the capture, as another German transatlantic submarine, the Amerika, was said to be on her way here and it was hoped she would be captured also.

The usual course of events on the western front continues unabated. The Germans continue to sharply counterattack along the line on the Somme, which the British have pushed forward 300 to 400 yards on a front of nearly a mile. Attacks of the Germans are partly successful, with the Germans gaining a foothold in portions of the lost trenches, only to re-lose them the following day.

After scoring important gains along a front of nearly 3 miles in the Somme region, the French are busy consolidating the newly won ground, making preparations for the expected German counterstroke. In the Verdun region, the French have resumed their hammering tactics and have recaptured German trenches east of the Meuse to a depth of 100 yards along a 300-yard front.

The expenditure of artillery ammunition by the Allies on the Somme front has reached a prestigious volume, often striking at a rate of 32 shells a second. Not infrequently, along the entire Somme front, nearly 90,000 shells have been dropped in an hour, while conservative estimates puts the average for the 24-hour period at more than 1 million shells.

The German expenditure and ammunition has been much lighter than that of the British, for the reason that the German artillery concentrates its efforts on special objects, such as trenches, transports and reserve bases, while the British often screen off whole sectors, taking nightly under fire all the villages and roads behind the German lines within range of their guns.

With this rate of fire, the financial cost of the offensive is naturally high. What the approximate loss in human lives amounts to is difficult to estimate. German officers affirmed that the losses of the British in certain actions have been frightful, but on the other hand, they frankly admit that their own losses have been far from light, though all say that they were not nearly as heavy as the British. The Germans estimate that over 100,000 British troops have lost their lives since the start of the offensive 6 weeks ago.

On the eastern front, the Russian drive in Galicia is pushing the Austrian and German armies back towards Lemberg at a rapid rate. The Russians have cut the Lemberg railway where the road crosses the Stripa River, driving further home the wedge between the German and Austrian armies.

The Russian capture of Stanislau on Saturday provides the Russians another gateway through which they can march towards Lemberg. Stanislau is an important railroad center, with railroads radiating from it in five directions. It is 85 miles southeast of Lemberg and is situated between the forks of the Bystritza River, 10 miles south of the Dniester.

Since the offensive was inaugurated on June 4th, Russian forces have captured more than 358,000 men, but at a cost of over 750,000 Russians dead or injured. As many as 75 trainloads of wounded Russians had been moved daily from the front to Kiev alone.

The Russians are fighting much more bravely than in 1915. Then, the Russians often threw up their arms as a sign of surrender without making resistance worth mentioning against the attacking Germans and Austrians. This now is most rare. The new Russian troops are brave and well disciplined and their officers lead their lines into the thicket of the fighting.

Russian soldiers are most anxious for an opportunity to advance as soon as the command is given. The armies are the same which, crippled by the shortage of ammunition and supplies, were forced to surrender a large part of Poland a year ago. Commanders who brought back remains of their old divisions to the present positions are now in charge of splendidly equipped units. The men share with their officers the determination to regain the ground lost in Poland.

A corps commander showed a correspondent of the Associated Press a huge supply of ammunition and material at his disposal and said "we have enough ammunition stored away to take us to Berlin."

The soldiers seem to be plentifully supplied with wholesome food, and are living under the best sanitary conditions. They are surrounded by comforts and conveniences considered equal to those of a model American summer camp. The spirit of fighting strength of the Russian soldiers appears to be very high and the troops confidently expect to occupy their original quarters and western Poland.

August 25

The grand assault against the forces of the Central Powers now is in progress in every theater of the World.

While the fighting on the western front and eastern front continues unabated, all eyes are on Macedonia where the long expected general offensive on that front has opened.

Allied forces are attacking the Bulgarian and German forces along the entire Greek Serbian frontier, a distance of 155 miles. The operation has been long expected as a part of the Allies coordinated offensive on all fronts. The severe fighting now in progress in Macedonia is believed by military observers to be just a prelude to a more extensive operation

Reports indicate that the Allies are following the same tactics in the Balkans that signaled the opening of the great offensive on the Somme. Small bodies of troops are attacking at numerous points along the Bulgarian line, apparently with the intention of feeling out their opponents positions before the real battle opens.

The Germans and Bulgarians are seeking to anticipate the movement by the Allies by taking the offensive on the left, where the Serbians have moved up to within 25 miles of the border. Meanwhile, the Greeks have withdrawn all their forces from the border.

The advance of the Germans and Bulgarian forces in the direction of Kavala, on the Aegean Sea, 80 miles northeast of Salonki and 20 miles west of the Bulgarian border is causing disquiet in Athens, although the impression is generally that this movement is a mere political maneuver taken to influence Romania to stay out of the way and affect the outcome of the upcoming Greek elections.

Reports from Athens indicate that Russian troops have also engaged in the Salonki campaign, having been in the Balkans for more than three weeks. The arrival of the Russians at Salonki, together with yesterday’s announcement that the Italian troops have landed there, is another indication that the Allies have decided to concentrate on these front forces sufficient for an important campaign.

Active participation by Italian troops would indicate the existence of a state of war between Germany and Italy. Germany is directing the operation against the Allies on this front, and as the official German reports show, has forces there.

With Russia and Italian troops added to the British, French and Serbian forces already in the field, the Allies have a formidable army of fighting men on the Macedonian front. So far, however, their strength has not been exerted to mark effort.

Greek troops have been fighting Bulgarian troops in the vicinity of Seres since Sunday morning. The Greek commander at Seres has ignored orders from the Greek government to withdrawal, and instead, called to arms older reservists in that locality. That the fighting is of a stubborn character is indicated by the fact that a large number of Greek soldiers have been killed. The failure of the commander to obey his orders has created great excitement in Athens. The Greek government has ordered three divisions of the Greek army still remaining in the vicinity of the fighting to retire before the Bulgarian advance.

All the morning newspapers comment at length on the possibility of Romania joining in the war, and the general tone of the articles is that the decisive moment for Romania’s action has arrived.

Since the beginning of the present war, the Allied powers, particularly Russia, have been extremely active in Romania. The country is flooded with Russian agents and spies of all description. The Allies use money lavishly to bribe politicians and influence the press.

At present, Romanians are still undecided. She probably will not give up her policy of neutrality, which up to the present time has given her an enormous gain in power, unless she believes that a decisive turn in the war has been reached. Romania’s attitude is due to her geographical situation. The country is virtually surrounded by belligerent nations. Romanian statesman, therefore, are guided by the desire to spare their country injury which would be unavoidable if it were to become a theater of war.

Romania’s entry into the war will not have much of an effect on the military situation in the Balkans, for the Romanians will have to adhere to strategic plans of the Allies, and will not be permitted to go straight for Transylvania. Bulgaria will be their immediate aim. The 500,000 men of the Romanian army are not a general concern of the Central Powers, but it is the new territory, which the Russians will be allowed to use freely in the invasion of Hungary, that concerns them.

The feeling is that the Central Powers have done everything possible to meet Romania’s views, and that Romania, if she persists in the course desired by the Allies and her own expansionist party, will find the Central Powers ready, in which event it will be expected every effort will be made to ensure the new war theater is on Romanian soil.

A manifesto recently issued by Adm. Von Tripitz, former head of the German Navy, calling for renewal of unrestricted submarine warfare, has been received from Berlin.

It appears that the German admiral maintains that it would be better for the Fatherland to have the United States as an enemy than to relinquish the advantages of free submarine warfare, in order to keep this country apparently friendly, but in reality hostile to German interest. He wants restrictions removed at once from the German U-Boats in order that the fight for Germany’s existence may be carried to the limit.

The manifesto, issued over a month ago, declared renewal of unrestricted submarine operations would cripple England seriously and do no harm so far as the United States is concerned, as the US is already doing Germany as much damage as she possibly can.

It is stated that Germany’s promise to the United States to discontinue cyber warfare against merchantmen was based on the understanding that the measure would be taken by the government to modify the severity of the British blockade.

Tripitz pointed out that nothing has been done along that line, despite assurances to the Germans that the United States would act vigorously and insist upon protection of American rights with regard to the blockade.

While the Admiral’s statements are not taken as representing the views of the government, the admiral is still capable of stirring up trouble.

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