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PROGRESS OF THE WAR
PROGRESS OF THE WAR
The Invasion of France. The plan of campaign of the German general staff was for Austria together with a small number of German troops to hold the Russians in check while Germany crushed France, the two then uniting for a later campaign against Russia. Following this plan, the German armies, by a surprise thrust through Belgium in August, 1914, sought to paralyze the French armies. The German advance through Belgium was much slower than had been anticipated on account of the stiff fight put up by the little Belgian army. So it was August 24 before the frontier between France and Belgium was crossed. This delay gave the French time to rearrange their armies, and the surprise element was lost. General Joffre, who took command of the French armies on August 20, outmaneuvered the German field officers and, aided by the British, defeated the Germans in the great battle of the Marne, September 6-10, 1914. The Germans had nearly reached Paris, but now they retreated for some miles and dug themselves in. Severe fighting raged throughout Flanders, but neither side was able to break through, and the conflict in the West settled down into the type of trench warfare which is the characteristic feature of this war. The battle of the Marne bids fair to be regarded as the decisive battle of the war. It was here that the plans of the German staff were definitely defeated. Paris was saved, and France was not crushed.
The War in the East. In the meantime on the Eastern front the Russian armies had mobilized much more rapidly than had been believed possible. As early as August 17 they invaded East Prussia and soon threatened the fortress of Konigsberg. But a skillful maneuver by the German general, von Hindenburg, around the Mazurian Lakes and a German victory at Tannenberg nearly succeeded in crushing the Russian armies in East Prussia. Other Russian armies had invaded Austrian Galicia, taken Lemberg, and practically routed the Austrian armies sent to hold the frontier. Indeed, one of the contributing causes of the defeat of the Germans at the Marne was the necessity, at the critical moment, of sending eastward to stay the Russians several divisions from the armies opposing the French and British. The Eastern campaign of 1914 ended with Russia in possession of a considerable part of Austrian Galicia, and Germany in possession of a fair slice of Russian Poland.
During the winter of 1914-1915 the Russians pushed gradually forward into the passes of the Carpathians. In the spring of 1915 they launched a great drive which carried them over the mountains into Hungary and won them the great fortress of Przemysl in western Galicia (March, 1915). Then a failure in the supply of ammunition caused a sudden reversal, and the summer of 1915 saw the Russians retreating rapidly, while place after place — Warsaw, Brest-Litovsk, Vilna, -and many others—fell into the hands of the Germans and Austrians, led by von Hindenburg. By September, 1915, the Teutonic Allies held practically a straight line from Riga to the Rumanian frontier.
Italy and the War. Italy, it will be remembered, was bound by the terms of the Triple Alliance to assist Germany and Austria-Hungary in case they should be attacked by other nations. Italy refused to aid her allies in August, 1914, on the ground that Germany and AustriaHungary were waging an aggressive instead of a defensive war. During the winter of 1914-1915 belligerent Italian patriots had warmly advocated their country's entrance into the war as an enemy of Austria-Hungary, hoping thus to win the territory still held by Austria and inhabited by Italians. Austria offered various concessions in an effort to secure peace, but on May 23, 1915, Italy declared war and undertook an invasion of Austria. This invasion, due to the mountainous character of the country and other handicaps, in over two years won very little territory for the Italians, and all of these gains were lost in the latter part of 1917.
Conquest of Serbia. After two Austro-Hungarian attempts to invade Serbia had failed in August and December, 1914, a new Austro-German invasion was undertaken in October, 1915, under the direction of the German general, von Mackensen. Belgrade was captured October 8, and a few days later, October 14, Bulgaria declared war and invaded Serbia from the southwest. The Serbian armies were thus caught between the two attacks and were speedily overcome. Aid which had been promised by Great Britain and France arrived too late. By the end of November the whole of Serbia had been conquered and overrun. The next two months saw the conquest of Montenegro.
Turkey and the War. After Turkey entered the war in October, 1914, the Russians and British undertook several invasions. The most spectacular of these was the attempt of the British in February, 1915, to force the Dardanelles and open the route to the Black Sea and South Russia. It was a brilliant conception, and its success would probably have eliminated Turkey from the war and made possible the shipment of munitions and other supplies to Russia by the Black Sea route. The attack was badly managed, however, and in spite of brilliant fighting by the Australian and New Zealand troops, ended in total failure. A Russian invasion of Turkish Armenia precipitated a general massacre of the Armenians by the Turks. The Russians gained some territory in this region. British invasions of the Euphrates valley and of Palestine, while they have gained some territory for the British, have thus far had no important effects on the war.
Rumania and the War. Rumania entered the war in August, 1916, believing the time was ripe to win the Transylvanian region which she had long coveted. The 3,000,000 Rumanians who form the largest part of the population of Transylvania have been systematically deprived of rights by their Magyar rulers, and Rumania desired to liberate them from this oppression. Some early successes for her armies carried her invasion of Austria-Hungary as far as Hermannstadt. It was freely predicted that the utter exhaustion of the Teutonic Allies was at hand. Soon, however, Rumania was attacked from the south by Bulgaria, and on the north by fresh German and Austrian armies. Her defense collapsed; the promised Russian aid did not arrive; and before the end of 1916 nearly the whole of Rumania was in the hands of her enemies. Early in 1918, after the collapse of Russia, she was forced to sign a very humiliating peace treaty, Verdun. Since September, 1914, all the terrific fighting on the Franco-Belgian line has resulted in gains which are measured in yards instead of miles. The most tremendous of these battles was fought before Verdun from February to June, 1916. The German Crown Prince sacrificed enormous numbers of men and used vast quantities of ammunition in a sustained effort to break through the French lines at Verdun. His early attacks met with some success, but the French general, Petain, soon organized a brilliant defense. The French held Verdun, their lines were not broken; and since June, 1916, they have gradually won back all the territory lost in this battle.
The Situation in 1917. By this time all the outlying possessions of the Germans had been taken by the British, French, and Japanese; the British navy had kept the German navy bottled up in the Baltic, and not a German vessel, except submarines, attempted to sail the seas. The war had become trench warfare in all sections, and the year 1917 saw no important changes of territory. A tremendous effort launched by the British and French against the Germans along the Somme late in 1916 forced the Germans early in 1917 to abandon considerable territory in France and to retreat to previously prepared positions. Later in the season a "big push" in the vicinity of Ypres forced the Germans to yield more territory to the British.
In the summer of 1917 the Italians gained territory on the Isonzo front; but a tremendous Austro-German drive in the late autumn forced the Italians to abandon all their gains, and the invaders nearly won Venice. Elsewhere the fighting resulted in only minor changes of territory.
The greatest change in the European situation in 1917 was brought about by the revolution in Russia in March. It had become plain that many of the high Russian officials, through treachery or greed for private profits, were blocking every effort to make Russia efficient, and some, at least, were plotting with Germany to arrange a separate peace. In March a revolution overthrew the Czar and his German-plotting advisers. The Duma assumed control of Russian affairs, and Russia entered the ranks of democratic nations.
After the revolution in Russia her armies began to weaken. The Germans took Riga in September, 1917, meeting with relatively slight resistance. In November, Kerensky, leader of the Socialist Labor party and prime minister since July, 1917, was forced to flee from Petrograd, and the reins of government were seized by Lenine and Trotzky, leaders of the ultra-radical Socialist party, generally called the Bolsheviki. This new government undertook to make peace with Germany and Austria, with disastrous results for Russia.
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