<– Part 205 – June 23, 1918 | Part 206 – June 30, 1918 | Part 207 – July 7, 1918

On June 26, the US Marines at Belleau Woods finally captured the woods after six attacks, and in turn fought off 5 divisions of German counter-attackers, often reduced to bayonets and hand-to-hand fighting. The Marine commander’s report of the victory said simply, “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.” The Marines suffered 9,800 casualties, including 1,800 killed; German losses are unknown other than 1,600 prisoners. They have received high praise from the other Allied powers, including receiving the French Croix de guerre and praise from the Germans for their “vigorous, confident, skilled marksmen.”

In Persia, Armenian forces have attacked several Ottoman-held cities, but have been repulsed at each attempt.

<– Part 204 – June 16, 1918 | Part 205 – June 23, 1918 | Part 206 – June 30, 1918

Italian forces after the battle

At the Piave, Italian forces counter-attacked the weakened Austro-Hungarian flanks on June 19, further crushing the lines in that area. Westward, Austro-Hungarian forces continue assaulting the Italian lines, despite suffering heavy casualties ever time. On June 20, Emperor Karl, who had taken personal command of the forces, ordered their retreat; by the 23, the Italians had retaken all territory south of the river. Despite encouragement by the other Allied powers to press the advantage, the Italian general recognized that his strength on defense would become a weakness on the attack, as the Austro-Hungarian failure had shown.

In the Caucasus, the German Expedition continues advancing with the Turks’ Islamic Army of the Caucasus towards northwestern Persia.

 

<– Part 203 – June 9, 1918 | Part 204 – June 16, 1918 | Part 205 – June 23, 1918

Italian machine gun position near Cand, awaiting the expected Austro-Hungarian attack.

The morning of June 10 saw the US Marines at Belleau Wood advance north into the forest, facing intense opposition, while another battalion attack from the west the early morning of June 11. This battalion, advancing along the wrong axis, was caught in interlocking machine gun fire, but was able to roll the Germans’ southern trench. One German private, seeing three-quarters of his company wiped out, remarked, “We have Americans opposite us who are terribly reckless fellows.” The Americans have resorted to much hand-to-hand and bayonet combat.

At Matz, on June 11, the German Spring Offensive’s latest thrust was crushed by a sudden French counter-attack, catching them by surprise (as it had no preceding artillery bombardment). The German attack was called off the following day, despite advancing 10 miles along a 23-mile front. The Allies suffered 35,000 casualties to the Germans’ 35,000.

Another Czech government in Russia was formed on June 13, the Provisional Siberian Government, at Omsk.

In Italy, the past few months have seen innovations on both sides, and the Austro-Hungarians prepared to launch an attack across the entire front at the Piave River on June 15. However, the Italians, having learned the exact time of the Austrian attack, launched a huge artillery bombardment on the packed enemy trenches 30 minutes before the jumping off. Despite, this, Austrian forces on the Adriatic coast crossed the Piave and secured a bridgehead 5 miles deep and 15 miles wide, before being pushed back towards the river. Subsequent Italian artillery destroyed the bridges on Piave, leaving the Austrians isolated. This, coupled with the easy targets for Italian riflemen, led the Austrians to attempt to flee back across the river – a river so swollen with flooding that an estimated 20,000 Austro-Hungarians drowned attempting to swim back. Just west of this, Austrian forces towards Vicenza made some advances, but also were halted by Italian resistance, losing 40,000 in that sector. The Austrian attack seems doomed to fail.

The German Caucasus Expedition arrived at Tiflis, Georgia, June 10, holding a military parade, and rallying recently-released German prisoners from Russia, with colonists who had settled the area in the mid-19th century. The Turks responsed with an attack on Vorontsovka, with the Germans threatening a complete withdrawal of their forces from the empire. The Ottoman force in Persia defeated Armenian resistance near Dilman June 15, though the overall Turkish thrust must now shift from north to northeast.

<– Part 202 – June 2, 1918 | Part 203 – June 9, 1918 | Part 204 – June 16, 1918

Belleau Wood, June 6

Ernest A. Janson

A US tanker, the Herbert L. Pratt, was damaged by a mine laid by U-151, on June 3.

With the Ottoman forces still within striking range of their capital, the Treaty of Batum was signed June 4 between the Turks and the First Republic of Armenia, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Georgia. The Ottomans received several areas of free passage, allowing railroads to be built between strategic areas. Germany, meanwhile, has dispatched an Expedition to the Caucasus to secure oil wells from falling into the hands of either Russia or the Turks.

Germans forces were within 35 miles of Paris on June 3, but fatigue, lack of reinforcements, and supply issues forced them to halt their advance June 6, having suffered 130,000 casualties to the Allies’ 127,000. On June 9, yet another massive offensive, “Gneisenau,” was launched at Matz, but the Allies were ready, having learned of it from German prisoners. The Germans, nonetheless, show signs of rapid advancement in the south.

At Belleau Wood, the US Marines were attacked June 3 but waited until the Germans were within 100 yards to open fire, cutting down multiple waves of enemy soldiers and forcing them to retreat and try again. The Marines have repelled numerous German attacks for several days. The Allies counter-attacked June 6, and, despite failing to adequately scout, and advancing by bayonet across an open field, taking horrific casualties from German machine guns, the Marines took their target – Hill 142 – and have held it. In a counter-attack by the Germans, one Gunnery Sergeant, Ernest A. Janson, spotted 12 Germans crawling towards his position, five of whom had light machine guns. Shouting a warning to his group, he charged them, bayonetted the two officers, and forced the rest to abandon their weapons and flee. He has been nominated for two Medals of Honor – one each by the Army and Navy – making him the first Marine to receive it.

Daniel Daly

The Black Watch in trenches at Arsuf after the fighting

That evening, the Marines were ordered to take the Belleau Wood in the second phase of the attack. Again crossing through an open field, swept by machine gun fire, Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly, a two-time Medal of Honor recipient for actions in the China Relief in 1901, and the US Invasion of Haiti in 1915, shouted to his men, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” Despite again taking heavy casualties – the most in Marine history – they took their position on the south of the wood.
By the night of June 7/8, both sides were exhausted, and attacks had failed. To break the German defense in the wood, a massive artillery bombardment on the woods devasted the forest.

On June 8, in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, British forces took two observation hills at Arsuf from the Ottomans, repelling two counter-attacks, thus providing the Allies with an observation post to see the Turkish rear, and denying the Turks the same.

In Persia, the Ottoman forces recaptured Tabriz. The rebelling Czechoslovak Legion continues occupying Russian cities, defeating Red Guards near Samara, and forming an anti-Bolshevik government there on June 8.

 

<– Part 201 – May 26, 1918 | Part 202 – June 2, 1918 | Part 203 – June 9, 1918

Battle of Cantigny

 

Soldiers of the Worcestershire Regiment on the south bank of the Aisne, May 27

The Armenians have scored a stunning victory against the Ottoman Empire. At Sardarabad, an Armenian force flanked the entrenched Turks May 27 and attacked them from the rear, forcing a full rout by May 29. This was matched with a similar Ottoman withdrawal at Abaran the same day, and a victory at Karakilisa May 28 (although Ottoman forces were able to enter the town and massacre all 4,000 inhabitants). The Armenian National Council declared the independence of the first Republic of Armenia on May 30 (retroactively dated to May 28).

 

German forces launched an enormous offensive at Aisne, the third of the war, on May 27, with an artillery bombardment from over 4,000 guns. The British had heavy losses, as reluctance to evacuate the target of the bombardment, the Chemin des Dames Ridge (held by Germany from 1914-1917), was captured last year in the 2nd Battle of the Aisne. The forces were ordered to huddle in the forward trenches. This was followed by a poison gas drop, and then 17 Strumtruppen divisions attacked as soon as the gas lifted. They advanced 25 miles in less than 6 hours, reaching the river Aisne, surprising rear forces, and taking another 9 miles in certain sectors by the end of the day. By May 30, they had captured 50,000 Allied soldiers, and are nearly 40 miles from Paris today.

Positions at the 2nd Battle of the Marne. Belleau Wood is in the south-west quadrant.

 

May 28 saw American forces’ first major battle, at Cantigny. the U.S. 28th Regiment, 1st Division launched out of their trenches at 06:45, following an hour of artillery bombardment on a small German salient, with a rolling barrage of 100 meters every 2 minutes suppressing German defenders. French forces provided much-needed air support, artillery, mortars, tanks, and flamethrowers. The American forces took their objectives within a half hour and continued to their final objective from there. A German counterattack at 8:30 was stopped, but German artillery harried them all day. A large German counterattack at 17:10 was halted by Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and other counterattacks the following hours and days similarly repulsed. The German salient was reduced, and the American front advanced a mile. The American suffered 1,603 casualties (199 killed) in their force of 4,000, with the Germans suffering 1,400, with another 250 captured. The Americans have proven their worth in Europe.

In Greece, the newly-formed Army of National Defense saw its first action at Skra on May 30. After a day’s artillery bombardment, Allied forces took the town from Bulgarians, and held it from that evening through May 31. The Allied suffered 2,800 casualties to the Bulgarians’ 600 killed, 2,300 POW (with wounded).

On the Western Front, the advancing Germans pierced Allied lines June 1 just to the left of the U.S. 2nd and 3rd Divisions, at Belleau Wood. It was plugged by a forced-march of U.S. Marines through the night of June 1/2, who, despite French orders to dig trenches in the rear, instead were ordered by the American General to “hold where you stand.” The Marines thus have dug shallow positions, allowing them to fight prone with fixed bayonets as needed.

June 2 – “Black Sunday” – the German sub U-151 sunk six US ships and damaged two others off the coast of New Jersey. Around a dozen sailors have died, the result of a capsized lifeboat.

<– Part 200 – May 19, 1918 | Part 201 – May 26, 1918 | Part 202 – June 2, 1918

On May 23, Costa Rica declared war on Germany.

The telegraph cable connecting New York and Nova Scotia was cut May 21, and May 25 saw three US schooners off the coast of Virginia stopped, crews imprisoned, and ships sunk by the German sub U-151, which remains at large.

Ottoman forces have invaded the Russian Transcaucasus along three axes, each having 10-15,000 soldiers, drawing protests from Germany as a violation of last December’s armistice. The Ottomans goal, besides taking the valuable oilwells of the region, includes eliminating the last area of Armenian territory, which has seen hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians enter following the Ottoman elimination and genocide of Armenians within the Ottoman Empire’s own territory. Due to the Russian Army’s evacuating the area, a native Armenian army has been formed, and the area is seen as the Armenian’s last stand. Church bells rang for six days, calling all able-bodied men to muster, and others, including children, have volunteered to carry supplies. A minor skirmish towards Sardarabad May 20 saw the Turks brush aside an Armenian unit, with another victory against an Armenian force of 600 infantry and 250 cavalry on May 21. The Armenian 5th Regiment was orered to conduct guerilla operations against the advancing Turks, and were successful on May 22 at halting the Turkish advance at the Araks River, and have been opposing the Turks since, though they have since entrenched along the mountain heights, and have been in near-constant contact since.

An additional force attacked May 21 towards Yerevan, but following three days of intense fighting with an Armenian force half their size, the Armenians counter-attacked on May 25 and have begun pushing the Ottomans back.

The final prong of the Ottoman attack, facing no opposition at first, has finally encountered Armenian resistance mustered from the nearby population centers on May 25 near Karakilisa, and has been engaged in brutal fighting for several days.

<– Part 199 – May 12, 1918 | Part 200 – May 19, 1918 | Part 201 – May 26, 1918

The Czechoslovak Legion, a unit of the Russian Army formed in large part from Austro-Hungarian deserters, has revolted against the Bolsheviks, following a broken promise of safe passage through Soviet territory. On May 14, a Soviet train was stopped in Chelyabinsk, in the Urals, and a Soviet soldier aboard was shot and killed following his throwing a rock at a Czech soldier and injuring him. The local Soviet government arrested and ordered the execution of several Czech soldiers, but other members of the Legion freed their men and have occupied the city. The Czechoslovak Legion has begun occupying other cities along the railway.

On May 16, the Espionage Act in the United States was extended. Earlier in the month, Joseph Franklin Rutherford & other directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were arrested, following the publication of a book expounding on the prophecies of Revelation and Ezekiel, and calling on Christians to seek higher authorities than civil government, especially in light of the ongoing war.

<– Part 198 – May 5, 1918 | Part 199 – May 12, 1918 | Part 200 – May 19, 1918

The Romanian Prime Minister signing the treaty

Romanian territorial concessions. Dobruja, in blue, to Bulgaria. Green jointly governed by the Central Powers. Orange/Yellow Bessarabia, and Purple to Austria-Hungary, giving them passes through the Carpathian Mountains.

Following Romania’s isolation from the other Entente Powers due to Russia’s withdrawal from the war, coupled with the stalemate of the last few years, the Treaty of Bucharest was signed May 7 between Romania and the Central Powers. Romania gave up portions of land (see map), her oil wells must be leased to Germany for 90 years, and German civil servants are able to veto all Romanian cabinet decisions and fire any Romanian civil servant. In return, Romania’s Union with Bessarabia is recognized. The Bessarabian region of Russia had declared independence at the start of the February Revolution as the Moldavian Democratic Republic. Last month, her government voted for a Union with Romania, fearing a total annexation, but recognizing the need for alliance.

On May 8, another Central American power declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungaria: Nicaragua.

The Polish II Corps in Russia was ordered to camp near Kaniów, Ukraine, by the Regency Council – a German and Austro-Hungarian-appointed semi-independent government of Partitioned Poland. The II Corps is comprised of elements of the Austria-Hungarian army who deserted after the Treaty of Brest-

Austria-Hungary signing the treaty

Litovsk with Russia removed the possibility of an independent Poland. These Poles joined up with Polish elements of the Imperial Russian Army and refused to engage in hostilities. After camping, they were quickly surrounded by German forces, who ordered them to surrender. They refused and prepared for battle, surprising the Germans, who quickly told them the ultimatum was a mistake (and then prepared for reinforcements). Once the German reinforcements arrived, the 12,000 Germans attacked the 8,000 Poles on the night of May 10. Brutal fighting continued until the evening of May 11, when the Germans proposed a ceasefire, accepted by the Poles. Approximately half the surviving Poles were captured, though the rest escaped. Polish casualties were 1,000, with another 3,250 captured, while the Germans suffered 1,500 casualties. The Polish commander was able to fake his death and flee to France.

Battle of Kaniow

 

<– Part 197 – April 28, 1918 | Part 198 – May 5, 1918 | Part 199 – May 12, 1918

 

Sketch of the theater of operations in the Second Transjordan attack. Es Salt is in the center top; the thin, steep trail to it, held by desperate fighting by the British, runs to the south-west of the town.

Photo, taken by plane, of the Jordan river and foothills

The German Spring Offensive ended April 29, at the Lys, with the final German attack capturing

Scherpenberg, a hill north-west of Kemmelberg.

The main action of the week happened near Shunet and Es Salt, in the Transjordan; formerly a primary theater of British operations, the recent offensive in Europe has made this nearly a distraction, and 60,000 men have been shifted to Europe and replaced by colonial forces of the British Indian Army. The weakened east flank at the Transjordan is still a problem for the British; failure to hold it could force a British retreat all the way back to Egypt; so the attempts to take Amman continue.

The central thrust was towards Es Salt,  but large numbers of German & Ottoman forces moving to the west side of the Jordan River at Mafid Jozele & Jisr ed Damiye are threatening the British left flank. The left & right flanks have both been pinned down by enemy fire, while bad terrain limits the British artillery’s effectiveness at spotting and neutralizing targets.

Position on May 2, 1918 – Es Salt nearly surrounded, with only a thin, steep, single-file path to the south-west

May 1 – desperate defense on the British left flank

A German & Ottoman counter-attack on the left flank came May 1, and pushed the British into the foothills, forcing them to abandon much artillery. The Ottomans had places piles of stones at measured distances to help with artillery ranging. Around 1,500 British troops were able to regroup north of the Umm esh Shert track, allowing the light horse to retreat along the only viable path to safety. The British commander at Es Salt, the “point of the triangle” for the British assault, found out at 1640 of the retreat, and rushed troops to the new western flank (he was already facing threats to the north, east, and southeast. Supplies had to be brought to the troops at Es Salt in the evening on 200 donkeys, a 40-mile round trip, as this is the only way now to resupply the troops. A road expected to be held by the Beni Sakhr (a native Arab tribe), is still open, as the tribe fled when seeing the intense fighting.

 

On May 2, the fierce fighting continues. Unable to push the left flank to relieve pressure on Es Salt – now under attack on 3 sides – the British forces south were ordered to continue their attack on the German troops at El Haud & Shunet Nimrim. After an advance under blistering fire of 1 mile – which took 6-7 hours – the German/Ottoman heavy machinegun and artillery fire forced a retreat back to safety, in defiance of superior orders. To the west, 1 battalion advancing at night was caught on a hill when the sun rose and was forced to lie flat until nightfall. The British ambulances are running out of supplies, so airplanes have dropped supplies – packed into sandbags, padded with cotton dressings, only the glass vials were damaged in the 1,000-foot drop.

British light horse watering the horses in the Jordan, during the retreat

May 3, the Central Power attacks in the morning were barely repulsed by the beleaguered British defenders. Es Salt is virtually surrounded, while more German/Ottoman troops are on the way. The order to withdraw was finally given at 4pm. Es Salt evacuation began, and the town was empty by 0230 the following morning, and the forces had crossed the Jordan river by evening of May 4. The hills were entirely cleared by 10:30 that day; some units left to defend the evacuation trail have been in continuous combat since May 1. The bridgeheads are held, but the rest of the troops crossed the Jordan to safety. The battle was over May 4. A tactical defeat for the British, it nonetheless had only 1,800 casualties. It would have been much worse had the thin British defense failed at any number of places.

Speaking of the dead during the retreat, Bernard Blaser, in his book Kilts Across the Jordan, said:

Each lifeless body was lifted into the wagons; ten, twenty, thirty and more, the very best of fellows; men with whom we had lived, with whom we had laughed, men with who we had discussed the past and planned the future, now all covered with blood and dust, tattered and disfigured – dead. It was a horrible sight. As each corpse was lifted up, we half expected to hear the old familiar laugh or the same cheerful voice. There had been no last look, no parting words. Not a sound broke the grim silence save the dull thud as each limp form found its place at the bottom of the wagon.

 

<– Part 196 – April 21, 1918 | Part 197 – April 28, 1918 | Part 198 – May 5, 1918

 

Diagram of the Zeebrugge raid

On April 22, a squadron of five Austro-Hungarian destroyers encountered four Allied ones in the Adriatic and traded shots; the HMS Hornet was seriously damaged, but the Central Powers were forced to withdraw.

The next day, Guatemala declared war on Germany. In the North Sea, the British launched a raid on Zeebrugge Harbor in Belgium. They were attempting to prevent Imperial German Navy access to the harbor by sinking large ships to block it, but two of the ships were dropped in the wrong place, and the Germans were able to clear it in a matter of days.

The German Spring Offensive continues, as the Germans rush to bring men from the now-ended Eastern Front to the West before American reinforcements are enough to turn the tide of war. On April 4, a second battle was fought at Villers-Bretonneux as part of Operation Georgette. An artillery barrage the night of the 23/24 was followed by the German infantry taking. Scouting tanks on both sides engaged one another in the first tank battle, as three German tanks encountered three British; however, two of the British tanks were of the “female” type, having only machine guns, as opposed to the “male” tanks with a larger gun. The Germans damaged the two light tanks, but the British “male” tank was able to hit the lead German tank. The British then counterattacked, retaking the town. 10,400 German casualties and 15,500 Allied casualties were the results.

From April 25-26, the offensive saw fighting at Kemmelberg. A French division was able to relieve the British forces but was then pushed back by the German Fourth Army. Despite this, the Allied line held.

Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, died in Terezín prison of tuberculosis on April 28. Terezín, an Austro-Hungarian fortress mainly used for political prisoners, is in the midst of Czech lands.

In Persia, the British took Kifri, but have begun shifting troops west to support the Sinai/Palestine offensive.