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withdrawn its help from the Allies, but under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 accumulaed 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
avia). 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forces at Archangel were withdrawn in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
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