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"So swift was our advance that nearly half an hour elapsed before the newly strung field wires were working properly.
“The fire had become so persistent that our group scattered and hundreds of prisoners, whose black mass could be seen by the enemy, were removed beyond the possibility of observation. Then the corps commander, stretched on straw on the crest of the ridge, with his maps spread out, dictated directions to the operator of the field telephone who crouched beside him.
"Before and beneath us lay the abandoned line of Austrian trenches, separated from ours by a small stream, where since daylight the heroic engineers were laboring under heavy shell fire to construct a bridge to enable our cavalry and guns to pass in pursuit.
“Leaving the general we proceeded. Our troops had forced the line here at 3 a. m., wading under machine-gun and rifle fire in water and marsh above their waists, often to their armpits. The Austrian end of the bridge was a horrible place, as it was congested with dead, dying and horribly wounded men, who, as the ambulances were on the other side of the river, could not be removed. A sweating officer was urging forward the completion of the bridge, which was then barely wide enough to permit the waiting cavalry squadrons to pass in single file. On the opposite bank waited the ambulance to get across after the troops had passed. A number of German ambulance men were working furiously over their own and the Austrian wounded, many of whom, I think, must have been wounded by their own guns in an attempt to prevent the bridging of the stream. A more bloody scene I have not witnessed, though within a few hours the entire place was probably cleared up.
"Passing on I, for the first time, witnessed the actual taking of prisoners, and watched their long blue files as they passed out from their own trenches and were formed in groups allotted to Russian soldiers, who served as guides rather than guards, and sent to the rear.
“Near here I encountered about fifty captured Germans and talked with about a dozen of them. Certainly none of them showed the smallest lack of morale or any depression.
“By noon sufficient details of the fighting were available to indicate that this corps alone had taken between three and five thousand prisoners and twenty guns, of which four are said to be howitzers. When one is near the front the perspective of operations is nearly always faulty, and it was, therefore, impossible to estimate the effect of the movement as a whole, but I understand that all the other corps engaged had great success and everywhere advanced."
THE six months ending with March, 1916, had been not only
, an eventful period in the Balkans, but a most unfortunate one for the Allies. In no theater of the war had they sustained such a series of smashing disasters in diplomacy as well as on the field of battle. First of all, early in the fall, the Austrians had begun their fourth invasion of Serbia, this time heavily reenforced by the Germans and in such numbers that it was obvious before the first attack was begun that Serbia by herself would not be able to hold back the invaders. And then, hardly had the real fighting begun, when Bulgaria definitely cast her lot in with the Teutons and Hungarians and attacked the Serbians from the rear.
While it was true that King Ferdinand and his governing clique had made this decision months before, it is nevertheless a fact that it was probably the blundering diplomacy of the Allies which was responsible for this action on the part of the Bulgarians. Under all circumstances King Ferdinand would probably have favored the Teutons, since by birth and early training he is an Austrian and, moreover, as he once expressed himself publicly, he was firmly convinced that the Teutons would ultimately win. But the Bulgarian people are sentimentally inclined toward the Russians and dislike the Germans. Had not the diplomatic policy of the Allies played into the hands of the king, they would naturally have turned toward the Allies.
Above all else the Bulgarians have desired either the freedom or the annexation of Macedonia, which is almost entirely inhabited by Bulgars. The Germans made the definite promise that Macedonia should be theirs if they allied themselves with them. The Allies endeavored to promise as much, but the protests of Greece and Serbia stood in the way. Neither of these two nations was willing to give up its possessions in this disputed territory, though later, when she saw that her very existence was at stake, Serbia did make some concessions, but not until after Bulgaria had already taken her decision. Had the Allies disregarded these greedy bickerings on the part of her minor allies and promised as much as the Germans had promised, there is no doubt that the popular sentiment in Bulgaria would have been strong enough to block Ferdinand's policy.
In Greece, too, there had been the same blundering policy. Here the situation was much the same as in Bulgaria; the king, with his Teutonic affiliations, was in favor of the Germans, while the sentiment of the people was in favor of the Allies. Moreover, here the popular sentiment was voiced by and personified in quite the strongest statesman in Greece, Eleutherios Venizelos. Had the Allies made known to the Greeks definitely and in a public manner just what they were to expect by joining the Entente, the policy of the king would have been frustrated. But here again the ambitions of Italy in Asia Minor and in the Greek archipelago caused the same hesitation. The result was that popular enthusiasm was so dampened that the king was able to pursue his own policy.
Then came the disastrous invasion of Serbia; the Serbian armies were overwhelmed and practically annihilated, a few remnants only being able to escape through Albania. The assistance that was sent in the form of an Anglo-French army under General Sarrail came just too late. Having swept Macedonia clear of the Serbians, the Bulgarians next attacked the forces under Sarrail and hurled them back into the Greek territory about Saloniki.
The Italians, too, had attempted to take part in the Balkan operations, but with their own national interests obviously placed above the general interests of the whole Entente. They had landed on the Albanian coast, at Durazzo and Avlona, hoping to hold territory which they desire ultimately to annex. Then followed the invasion of Montenegro and Albania by the Austrians and the Bulgarians, and the Italians were driven out of Durazzo, retaining only a foothold in Avlona.
By March, 1916, all major military operations had ceased. Except for the British and French at Saloniki and the Italians at Avlona, the Teutons and the Bulgarians had cleared the whole Balkan peninsula south of the Danube of their enemies and were in complete possession. The railroad running down through Serbia and Bulgaria to Constantinople was repaired where the Serbians had had time to injure it, and communications were established between Berlin and the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which had been one of the main objects of the campaign.
In the beginning, however, the Bulgarians did not venture to push their lines across the Greek frontier, though this is a part of Macedonia which is essentially Bulgarian in population. There are several reasons why the Bulgarians should have restrained themselves. The traditional hatred which the Greeks feel for the Bulgarians, so bitter that an American cannot comprehend its depths, would undoubtedly have been so roused by the presence of Bulgarian soldiers on Greek soil that the king would not have been able to have opposed successfully Venizelos and his party, who were strong adherents of the Allies. This would not have suited German policy, though to the victorious Bulgarians it would probably not have made much difference. Another reason was, as has developed since, that the Bulgarian communications were but feebly organized, and a further advance would have been extremely precarious. The roads through Macedonia are few, and the best are not suited to automobile traffic. The few prisoners that the French and English were able to take evinced the fact that the Bulgarians were being badly supplied and that the soldiers were starved to the point of exhaustion. And finally, from a military point of view, the Allied troops were now in the most favorable position. Their lines were drawn in close to their base, Saloniki, with short, interior communications. The Bulgarians, on the contrary,