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Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/146

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UNITED STATES

118

UNITED STATES

military activities in Russia and Siberia. Russia had by this time not only withdrawn its help from the Allies, but under Bolshevist domination had adopted an attitude of sullen if not active hostility. Vast quantities of American stores that had accumulated at Vladivostok were imperiled, and it was determined that troops should be sent to protect them. This was the ostensible reason for the sending of the expedition, but there was another reason of much greater importance, based on political and military considerations. There was still a possibility that Russia might overthrow the hostile Bolshevist regime and establish a government that would once more range itself on the side of the Entente and rebuild the collapsed Russian front. Certain facts lent plausibility to this belief. A powerful body of Russian opinion was anxious to overturn the Lenine-Trotzky régime and form a constitutional government. In addition the Czechoslovaks had won decided military victories over the Bolshevist forces, and had revived hopes that that Government might be overthrown. The Czecho-Slovaks were prisoners who had been taken by the Russians in the early part of the war. They had been forced into the Austrian army, but they preferred captivity among the Russians to fighting under the hated flag of the Hapsburg monarchy. After the Russian debacle, these prisoners possessed themselves of arms, and fought their way across Russia and part of Siberia, with the intention of reaching Vladivostok and thence finding their way to the western front, to fight there in conjunction with the Allies (see Czecho-Slavovakia). They offered the nucleus of an army that might by Allied re-enforcements be made formidable, and therefore the Entente, in co-operation with America, decided to intervene. Early in August, 1918, American forces, under General William S. Graves and numbering about 10,000 men, arrived in Vladivostok. Japanese troops were sent about the same time, together with small British and French contingents. Even earlier than this, on July 15, a comparatively small detachment of Americans had landed with Allied troops at Murmansk, in the north of Russia. Desultory fighting, in no case rising above the dignity of outpost actions, followed the arrival of the troops. The story of the intervention is told elsewhere in detail (See Russia in the World War). It is sufficient here to say that the expeditions had no practical results. The forces at Archangel were withdrawn in 1919 and those at Vladivostok in 1920. It was simply a military adventure that had no practical bearing on the fortunes of war. The logic of events had decreed that the issue should be settled on the western front, and the Russian situation had ceased to be a factor in the struggle. The total casualties of the Americans in Siberia were 105; on the Archangel front 553.

The greatest battles in which the Americans were engaged were those of the Meuse-Argonne, in the fall of 1918. This epic struggle with its victorious outcome will ever be a glorious page in American history. The Argonne forest was the most formidable position that any troops had been called on to take in the entire course of the war. So formidable was it that Napoleon himself had refused to attack the enemy there, deeming the forest impregnable. It was densely wooded, and in places almost impenetrable. To these natural obstacles the Germans had brought all the aids known to military science. Thousands of miles of wire were stretched from bush to bush and tree to tree. Every foot of ground had been ranged for their heavy artillery. Machine-gun nests by the thousands were hidden in shell holes and behind rocks and tree trunks. Even many of the Allied commanders doubted if success were possible. The Americans, however, undertook the task, and carried it through to a successful conclusion. On Sept. 20, after intensive artillery fire that cut lanes through some of the wire entanglements, the American troops launched a vigorous attack that on the first day mastered the first line defenses. In the next two days, fighting against terrific resistance, they penetrated to a depth varying from three to seven miles, captured a dozen towns and took 10,000 prisoners. In successive days they improved their position and continued their advance in the face of almost insuperable obstacles. In the words of General Pershing in reporting the battle, the American troops “should have been unable to accomplish any progress, according to previously accepted standards, but I had every confidence in our aggressive tactics and the courage of our troops.” By the middle of October, the important town of Grandprè had been taken and the forest practically cleared.

After this, the fighting was easier, though much stiff battling remained to be done before the Americans reached their goal. The enemy's morale had weakened before the irresistible onslaught and the successive defeats inflicted on them. Huge naval guns had been brought up by the Americans—guns capable of carrying a half-ton projectile almost twenty miles—and with these a