The following are the first two chapters of the book “Weird True Stories From World War 1 & 2”
A Turbulent World
World War I was a war such as the world had never seen. New technology and warfare tactics would be introduced. New alliances and rivalries would form, and the world would never be the same again. But there were already catalysts present before the first shots had even been fired.
Europe and the world had been changing, and this set the stage for the turbulent atmosphere of the time. Everything, from the final death throes of imperialism to a surge in nationalism, all contributed to the volatile state of affairs in Europe. This ever-changing world also played a role in the industrialization of war, which brought with it a wave of militarism. It seemed that Europe was a ticking time bomb. The assassination simply was the last straw in a series of events that would finally collapse that delicate balance.
Many wars had been fought over the previous century, and each played a part in setting the stage for a Europe on the brink. The most recent conflict and perhaps the one that played the biggest role in prepping for the coming World War was the Franco-Prussian War. The impact that this war had on the geography of Europe would further the already-tense relationship between France and the German states. With the conclusion of the war in 1871, the newly-formed Germany would emerge a confident and robust powerhouse in the European landscape.
The Treaty of Frankfurt would eventually end the war. This agreement would cede almost all of the Alsace and a good chunk of the Lorraine to the Germans. The loss of land and the French Army’s devastating defeat added to the age-old rivalry between the French and the Germans and made sure that the tension between these two peoples would live on for decades to come. In fact, over the next 40 years, those tensions would build, and when the conflict in the East began to take shape, the two bitter enemies had all the reasons in the world to take up arms against each other once again.
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Even though most of the ruling houses of Europe were related, the alliances were not formed from these relationships. Instead, it was through the imperialistic expansion during the hundreds of years leading to the 20th century and the consecutive wars previously fought that crafted the alliances. These alliances would be a critical factor in the break out of the Great War. Russia was allied to both Serbia and France while Germany was allied to Austria-Hungary. The British and the French had also signed a mutual defense agreement. The tangled web of backroom alliances and political unrest was kindling to an already smoldering fire.
In the 1880s, following the Franco-Prussian War, the Russians and Germans had developed a beneficial alliance, but with Bismarck losing grace and being removed, this relationship was lost. The new German government focused more on their relations with nations in the Mediterranean, figuring there was too much difference between Tsarist Russia and the French Republic for them to worry about the two countries teaming up. Still scathing from the defeat and land lost in the Franco-Prussian War, the French saw an opportunity, and the Franco-Russian alliance was born.
The French had ample money and a decent military to offer, and the Russians have military resources. Afraid that the new and more powerful German state would attack, the French knew they needed to build an alliance with the only other strategic force that could stand up to the Germans. After years of negotiations in 1894, the two nations signed a treaty. The agreement stated that if Germany or Italy with German assistance attacked France, the Russians would send troops. On the other hand, if Germany or Austria with German assistance attacked Russia, the French would do the same.
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Another alliance that would play a part in the opening shots of the war was the Russo-Serbian alliance. Early in the 19th century, Serbians had begun to fight harder for their independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Russians still had an ax to grind with the Ottomans as they sided with France in the Napoleonic wars against Russia. So, when the political and nationalist uprising began, the Russians looked to give aid and ally themselves with the Serbs.
In the alliance of 1807, the Russians offered assistance to the Serbian rebels. Rather than live autonomously under the Ottoman rule, the Serbians took the deal. So, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia after the archduke’s assassination, the Russians, per the agreement, had no choice but to move to the borders to lend aid to their allies.
The entente cordiale was yet another alliance that left its mark on the world and ushered in another nation into the battle. In the early part of the 20th century, the British and French were still imperialistic powers, and this caused friction between the two nations. In order to calm the disputes in North Africa and other colonies, the two countries sat down and hammered out an agreement of mutual defense. The contract stated that Egypt would defend Britain, and Morocco would defend France. But for France, there was more involved. In fact, much like its agreement with Russia, there were safety measures in the treaty to help protect them if the ever-growing German military felt it necessary to attack France.
The last alliance that played a part at the beginning of the war was the Triple Alliance. This alliance was the mutual defense agreement between Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy. This treaty, like the other agreements, promised military support if the nations were attacked by France or Russia (or any of those two nations’ allies).
With defense agreements in place, the battle lines were drawn, and the war would begin. On one side you would have the Central Powers (this included Germany, Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire) and on the other hand the Allied Forces (this included England, France, Russia, Japan, the U.S., Romania, as well as later in the war, Italy).
Because of these alliances and ramifications of the political environment of the time, the war would be fought on two sides, dividing Europe into the western and eastern fronts and last from 1914-1918. Within these four years, over 16 million soldiers and civilians would lose their lives. This level of carnage had never been experienced, and thanks to the use of modern warfare techniques (like trench warfare) and new devastating weapons, it would become the norm in all future wars.
The Eastern Front
The Austro-Hungarian Empire, shocked by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, knew that the aggression of the Serbian Nationalists wouldn’t end there. So, the leaders of the empire gathered and decided that the only way to curb this would be to invade the small Balkan nation. But first, they would need to reach out to their friends—the Germans—and make sure that if they did that, they would hold up their end of the alliance.
Assured that Germany had their back, the Austro-Hungarian king and leaders drafted a very stern and precise ultimatum. This document was rushed to the Serbian capital in late July. There were many edicts laid out in the papers of that ultimatum, including the suppression of anti-Austrian media and the right of Austrian officials to man their own investigation into the assassination. Serbia would agree to all but one of the edicts—the independent investigation of the archduke’s murder—and for the Austrians, this was enough to void the entire pact.
Feeling that this was an acknowledgment of their cooperation in the incident, the Austrians cut off all diplomatic avenues with the Serbian government and began to prepare for war. The Serbians had feared this would be the reaction, so before handing down their answer to their mighty neighbor to the north, they had sent word to their allies, the Russians, for help.
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Not only did the Russians see this as an obligation, but they were also looking at the potential of gaining traction in the Balkans and the Black Sea coastal areas. So, the Russians began mobilizing their army in support of their Serbian allies. This alliance would turn this part of the conflict into a Russian/Austria-Hungary battle, just like the western front was a Franco-German war. With the battle lines drawn on July 28, 1914, just a month after the assassination of the archduke, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and effectively began the Great War.
Though most associate World War I with the battles of the western front, it was the eastern front where the entire conflict began. While the world’s eyes were on the newly created trench warfare of the western front and its horrors, significant battles and maneuvers were being carried out on the other side of Europe. The war on this front was not a war fought with new technology and techniques; instead, it was fought with the tried and true methods of previous wars.
For Russia, like Germany, this war would be fought on two fronts. The empire’s alliance with France would force it to not only send troops to fight the Austro-Hungarians in the Balkans but also the German Army as well in East Prussia. This eastern front would be fought over a 310-mile stretch of land that ran from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Romanian border in the south. The fighting would see the Russians sending a million troops to the front to start, and throughout the four-year war, that number would jump to over three million. Though this part of the war did not see as much press in the western countries, there were still battles that would play a vital role in the length and culmination of the war.
Battle of Tannenberg (August 1914)
The eastern front began with a flurry of skirmishes that showed the vast differences between not only the equipment but also the sheer numbers of the German, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Armies. Both Germany and Austria-Hungary, as well as their adversaries, the Russian, had greater distances to move than those fighting on the western front, and this led the Germans to decide to leave just one army cohort to protect the East Prussian border. The distances would also play a part in keeping this theater of the Great War more traditional in its tactics and movements. In the end, Tannenberg would be a devastating loss for the Russians. Through logistical and strategic miscalculations, the Russian Army would be crushed in just over a week.
With their French allies in the west feeling the pressure of the onslaught of German military movements, the Russian commander-in-chief, Grand Duke Nicholas, answered their call and began preparations for a significant military move against the Germans. The grand duke, feeling that the sheer number of Russian troops would be enough to pull German forces from the western battles, deployed his first and second armies to East Prussia. However, though they were many, the units were not fully prepared to engage in the intense battles ahead. The grand duke had signed off on the plan to mobilize his troops into action too early, but the fault for the ultimate defeat at Tannenberg fell squarely on General Yakov Zhilinsky.
Zhilinsky had held the position of chief of the general staff for several years and would keep his job during the first few months of the war until the mistakes and miscalculations of the Battle of Tannenberg would come to light. When the war broke out, France called on their Russian allies to help with the fight, and Zhilinsky answered that call with a promise to mobilize 800,000 men within the first two weeks of the war.
The Russian forces were not ready for this expenditure of men and equipment, and so there was a lot of pressure on not only the troops but also the military leadership. This promise would cause the Russian leadership to make some very rash decisions. Overextending and over-promising were the biggest of those. Not only had Zhilinsky promised an excessive amount of men, but he had also promised the French that he would attack both the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians simultaneously, and this stretched his resources very thin. For the Prussian campaign of his military mobilization, Zhilinsky chose to use two of his armies, the First Army led by General Rennenkampf and the Second Army led by General Samsonov.
Battle of Tannenberg
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The plan was simple. The First Army would move into East Prussia from the east, which Zhilinsky felt would cause the German Army to move defensive forces from the French line to shore up the woefully inadequate troop count stationed there. Then two days later, the Second Army would move up from the south and attack the German forces from the rear, cutting access off to Vistula River (in what is today’s Poland), which would give the Russians control over a significant transport lane. The plan on paper was a solid one and one that caused the Germans to spring to action quickly once the news of the impending attack was relayed to command.
However, where this strategic plan failed was in the execution. On top of poor leadership and the Russian Army’s lack of readiness, two logistical miscalculations led to the utter devastation of the Second Russian Army.
The first of the logistical oversights was the distance and geography that separated the two armies. In between the two armies were the Masurian Lakes. The lakes stretched over 50 miles, and that, coupled with Königsberg, a highly fortified area, would hinder a rapid advancement from the south by Samsonov’s men. This geography would narrow the route to just 40 miles and would limit Rennenkampf’s ability to advance as fast as they would need to meet Samsonov’s army from the south. Unfortunately for the Russians, the Germans knew this and would use it to their advantage in the coming battle. The second issue was one that was more of a problem for Samsonov’s troops. In preparation to paralyze the German forces and keep them from invading Russian territory, the military divisions before them had desolated the railways and destroyed roads, which though was intended to hinder the German advancement, made it difficult for their own troop movements as well.
On August 17, Rennenkampf’s First Army would begin their push into East Prussia. The troops moved in a flurry against Germany’s Eighth Army commanded by General Max von Prittwitz. The battle was furious, but eventually, the larger Russian forces, despite their inadequate training, were able to push back multiple German divisions of infantry and cavalry. The first battle waged on for three days, and by the time that it had come to a decisive conclusion, Samsonov’s Second Army was able to get into position for the next phase of the battle. However, due to the hurried pace, Samsonov’s men were tired and hungry; not all the supplies had been able to make it, nor had the entire cohort, which left them at a disadvantage.
Unfortunately for Samsonov, his troop’s movement and their location were spotted. On August 20, Prittwitz received word that the Russian Second Army was approaching from the rear and that the numbers were significantly more than the army to the north. These revelations seemed to worry General Prittwitz, the man in charge of the Eighth Army, and so he sought council with several of his most regarded subordinates.
Russian prisoners of war after the battle
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In this meeting, he expressed concern that the Russian force moving from the south would cut off any route of escape and put forth a plan to take his troops and set up behind the Vistula River. Despite the strong opposition to this plan from both General Grünert and Lieutenant Colonel Hoffman, the general still felt his way was the best. Though eventually, he would be convinced that his strategy was too risky and move on to another option.
An offensive would be launched on Samsonov’s western flank. In preparation for this maneuver, Prittwitz moved three divisions from the north and integrated them with the soldiers of the XX Corps. Then the general would have the rest of the northern troops retreat to the west. With the troop movements, the Eighth Army’s headquarters moved to Mülhausen. The maneuvers executed, Prittwitz soon received word that his men had been able to break away from the advancement of Rennenkampf’s forces and that the tactics had stalled the movement of Samsonov’s troops. But that wouldn’t be the only piece of news relayed to the general. His inaction and insistence on retreating to Vistula to hold the line there had alarmed the German leadership back in Berlin. Realizing that the eastern front of the battle was going to be just as tricky as the western front, they had decided to replace Prittwitz with proven leadership. A train was on its way, and on it was the division’s new leader, General Paul von Hindenburg (future President of Germany), and his chief of staff, Erich Ludendorff.
Ludendorff and Lieutenant Colonel Hoffman (one of Prittwitz’s former advisors) corresponded back and forth and would join together to create a plan. They would form this plan using Hoffman’s experience and knowledge of the Russian Army, which he had gained while observing the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese War. The plan would decimate Samsonov’s troops. The tacticians would attack Samsonov’s left flank again this time with the power of six different divisions. The first step was to send for reinforcements from the north as the number of soldiers currently available to the Germans was less than the Russians of the Second Army.
Calling for these reinforcements was a gamble, as it left just a cavalry front to hold the defensive line against Rennenkampf, who was still advancing near Gumbinnen. The reinforcements would sweep up from Samsonov’s right while the already-present troops would advance on his left. The two German forces would push through, surrounding the center of the Russian cohort and blocking Samsonov from moving on his target.
These were risky maneuvers as they entailed large troop movements to go unnoticed by the enemy. However, the lack of communication between the two Russian generals and the German’s ability to decipher the wireless orders sent by Samsonov to his troops made the German troop movements very easy to keep hidden.
After several tactical victories over Samsonov’s flanks, the Second Army’s core was cut off from any means of escape. The Russian troops became a hungry mass of untrained soldiers, and despite efforts to push through, they realized that the end was near. To protect his troops and himself, Samsonov ordered the remainder of his forces to turn south. Knowing that the roads would be watched and patrolled by the German forces, he urged his troops into the woods, and without knowledge of the area and with very little hope, his cohort would end up lost in the dense forests.
The general, painfully aware that all was lost, strolled, unbeknownst to his advisors, into the woods on the morning of August 30. Amid the frustration and fear in the camp, a shot rang out. The general had taken his own life instead of dealing with the shame and potential capture by the German forces. And with that one bullet, the Battle of Tannenberg came to an end.
Gallipoli Campaign (February 1915-January 1916)
The Dardanelles Campaign, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign, was a British and French operation in Turkey. After the Russian leaders appealed to their allies—the French—and, in turn, the British, for help, the two Allied Forces banded together and set out for the Aegean Sea. The two forces hoped they could occupy Constantinople and gain control of the straits that joined the Black Sea with the Aegean. The occupation of the straits and Constantinople would cut off the Ottoman Empire from the Caucuses and ease the stress on the Russian forces. A victory would be a pivotal part of removing the Ottoman Empire from the war altogether, thereby weakening the Germans and Austro-Hungarians’ position and leading to the end of the conflict. Unfortunately, the campaign would be riddled with miscalculations and underestimations.
Between 1904 and 1911, the British had toyed with the idea of moving on the Ottoman Empire to gain further control in the Middle East. Once the idea was examined closer, it was deemed likely to be a devastating defeat and was put on the back burner. Yet, when war broke out in 1914 and the Turkish allied themselves with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the British and their allies—the French, felt it was worth retaking a look at this proposal. So, when Grand Duke Nicholas asked for help in January of 1915, the British took the opportunity not only to settle their interests in the region but also to help their Russian allies by cutting off the Turkish insurgence into the Caucasus front. When the British decided to help the grand duke, they knew that the Dardanelles was the place to execute this maneuver. They also knew that it would take a massive collaboration between both the main military forces and the British naval fleet.
Allied troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula
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Led by then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, the British command decided to run a solely naval driven operation at first. Not wanting to use their best ships as they were needed in the North Sea to hold the barricade there, the British decided to use warships that were too old to be in commission. The use of old ships would protect their endeavors in the North Sea, and if the campaign failed, there would be minimal loss of money and useful ships. However, that plan was short-lived as it soon became very evident that there would also have to be ground attacks. The shores of the Dardanelles would have to be taken and held so that the fleet could do its job. So, with this decision firmly in play, a British military presence began building in Egypt along with a small contingent from their French allies to aid their seafaring brothers in arms.
On February 19, the initial battle was set to begin, but the weather would not permit it, and so the operation was halted. After six days of inclement weather, the skies cleared, and the mission could move forward. Marines landed, accompanied by combat engineers set for demolition duties on the beaches without any opposition. Still, the weather turned quickly, and this portion of the mission would stall just like the initial launch. It wasn’t until March 18 that the actual barrage of bombs began in preparation for the fleet to make their move. After several hours of bombardment, the British had lost three ships, and several more were damaged. The loss of these ships was a clear sign; this mission was going to need more than the might of the fleet.
After regrouping and restructuring their plan, the mission continued in late April. This time, troop transports amassed on the island of Lemnos with the intention of landing in two pivotal places along the Gallipoli peninsula. On April 25, the British forces would land at Cape Helles, and the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand forces) would take the other beachhead. As the battle progressed, the Allied armies moved forward, securing small beachheads along the way. However, these victories were small and difficult to obtain as the insurgents were met with Turkish resistance, led by the man who would later be known as Atatürk, Mustafa Kemal.
The British forces struggled to gain land and needed to find a strategic tipping point for their next landings. Three months later, on August 6, another wave of soldiers landed at Suvla Bay. The Turkish had moved troops from this location as they felt the British would never attack it (though one commander, Mustafa Kemal, warned that this would be the location but was dismissed) because it was a naturally fortified region. So, the Turkish leadership had left a bare-bones presence. Even with the limited troop resources, the Turkish forces were able to stop the invading forces in their tracks eventually, thanks to their knowledge of the landscape and the natural fortification of the bay. With all the unsuccessful pushes and attempts to take the Dardanelles, the British felt it was time to replace their leader, and in September, would do just that. However, it was too little too late.
By late November, it was evident that the campaign would not be a victory for the British and French forces, and in waves, the Allied Forces left the shores of Turkey. By the first week of January 1916, all troops had been evacuated. The British’s bid to take the straits and help the Russians had failed, and dealt the British a devastating defeat.
Brusilov Offensive (June-September 1916)
In February of 1916, the Battle of Verdun began on the western front. In response to this, the French called on their allies to help them out. By having the British and the Russians attack different fronts, the French hoped that a chunk of the German forces would move to shore up the holes that these offensives would open up. This tactic had worked in previous instances, so why not try it again? Both the British and the Russians agreed. This agreement would lead to several battles, including the Battle of Somme on the western front and the Battle of Vilna and the Brusilov Offensive on the eastern front.
The Russians initially attacked at Lake Narocz in Belarus. That campaign did not end well for the Russian Army. The Russians would begin this conflict with a barrage of artillery attacks. Unfortunately for them, they were inaccurate and would do little damage to the German artillery. The Russian troops, once the artillery had finished, would cross No Man’s Land between the two armies in groups instead of spreading out. This miscalculation would make these troops easy targets for the still intact German artillery. The poor artillery execution would lead to a demoralizing defeat for the Russians and require them to regroup and try again. So, with that defeat, the Russian military began to plan a diversionary tactic near Vilna, which is now part of Poland. This battle was a disaster as well, and the Russians desperately needed a battle that would hold up their end of the bargain.
While these attacks were being executed and done so poorly, there was a Russian force sitting in the southwest part of the eastern front. This force was commanded by the highly experienced general named Alexei Brusilov. He and his troops sat, with no plans from the big brass coming down for them to do anything other than holding the line and keep the Austro-Hungarian forces from moving into Ukraine.
The elderly general knew him, and his extremely well-prepared troops could be of more use, so he sent word to the Russian military leaders asking if he could have permission to make a move. His troops were recovered from their previous victories, he had plenty of supplies, and he believed his men could handle the campaign. Many of the generals back in the capitol felt that this maneuver would end up being the same disaster as the others had been, but Brusilov pushed them harder, knowing he could be successful.
The brass finally agreed but didn’t expect very much from this offensive, but they would be proven very wrong. Brusilov took the time to train his troops using full-sized replicas of the intended targets. This training allowed his men to calculate with precision where to aim their artillery. He used air reconnaissance to gain knowledge of these locations’ layouts and defenses and kept this all under tight wraps until his troops were ready to execute the offensive. Starting the assault on June 4, in the city of Lutsk, Brusilov and his troops laid siege to the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army lead by the Prince of the Habsburg Dynasty, Archduke Joseph Ferdinand. Shocked at the precision and brutality of the Russian attack, the Austrian line was demolished on the first day of the offensive.
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Over the next two days, Brusilov led his men through Lutsk, devastated the Austrian troops, and gained 50 miles of territory. Once the Austrian forces were on the brink, the units of Slavic soldiers deserted them, leaving them to the mercy of the Russian troops. The first battle was successful, and Brusilov would push on in the hopes of making even more gains for his beloved Russia. This well-executed push led to over 130,000 casualties and the capture of 200,000 prisoners. The Battle of Lutsk was just the beginning of his march, and over the next several months, he continued to devastate the southwestern line of the eastern front.
The offensive would be carried out along about a 200-mile stretch of the front that started from the Pripet Marshes down to the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. With nearly 2,000 guns, Brusilov’s men pushed forward even though the numbers favored the Austro-Hungarian forces. However, with the rapid-fire onslaught, the Russian troops overwhelmed the Austrian line, perhaps because the Austrian forces underestimated the Russians’ preparedness. Once the Austrians were pushed back to the Carpathians, they realized that they had underestimated the Russian forces and had lost too many supplies and men, so they reached out to their allies for reinforcements.
Eventually, in September, the push had exhausted Brusilov’s supplies, and with no further help coming, the offensive had to come to an end. But by the time the offensive had ended, Brusilov and his men had captured approximately 400,000 men and 10,000 square miles of land. The push had tarnished the Habsburg’s reputation as well as the military career of the prince. Along with that, two other military campaigns had felt the repercussions of this unexpected attack. Austrian military forces had to pull back from efforts to take the Trentino region of Italy, and the western front had several German divisions rerouted to help reinforce their allies, which, in the end, may have cost the Germans the Battle of Verdun.
Battle of Mărășești (July-September 1917)
The Romanians had entered the war in 1916, and immediately became a focus of the eastern front. One of the last and main battles of the Romanian campaign was the Battle of Mărășești. By the spring of 1917, the eastern front and the Russian military had been driven into chaos and disarray. With issues at home, the Russians had become unfocused, and the Allied Forces on the eastern front had experienced a series of devastating losses. In the hopes of turning the tides back in their favor on the Romanian front, the Russians (what was left of them) and the Romanian forces began to make plans for a two-pronged plan that would push the Austrians out of Romanian territory permanently. The first attack would be on the area surrounding Nămoloasa, and then once the damage had been done there, the combined forces would attack the Germans and Austrian troops in and near Mărășești.
However, before they could launch the first attack, it was abandoned, and the troops meant for that battle were relocated to be support for the Battle of Mărășești. The forces of the two adversaries were pretty evenly matched; however, the Romanians, being strategic, had shored up sections along the attack route with extra troops, which would benefit them strategically in the long run and swing the needle in their direction. The attack then started with two days of heavy artillery on the German and Austrian positions aided by well-scouted aerial reconnaissance.
The ground offensive would begin with the Romanian Second Army flanked by the Russian Ninth and Seventh Armies going up against the Austro-Hungarian First Army. Still, with the two days of intense bombardment, this force had been shocked and was a little unsure of what was happening. Phase one of the battle would lead to Romanians taking the Teiuş hill in the village of Mărășești. In the early morning of July 24, the two divisions would flank the forces and clear the path, eventually leading to them holding the Încărcătoarea clearing.
The second phase would start simultaneously with the previous maneuvering and the Fourth Romanian Army Corps pushing left across the land toward the Coada Văii – Babei clearing. At the same time, in the southern portion of the battlefield, the Romanian Second Army would be moving toward the same clearing, then the front line would begin moving to the hills north of Lepșa. Here, the Romanians felt they had an advantage over their enemies as they were used to fighting in this rugged and uneven terrain.
The German and Austrian forces were warned about these plans but felt that they could easily defend themselves and eventually land their own counter-attack that would halt the Romanian Armies’ march. Unfortunately, the Romanians’ familiarity with the land and love for their homeland would dash the German/Austrian forces’ hopes.
The Austro-Hungarians and Germans planned to rely on their defensive lines and preparations to halt the Romanian advancement. These defenses came in two different forms, which had been used to much success in other parts of the war. The first was structures they called resistance centers. These were a series of trenches that were connected and covered by artillery. At crucial junctures, these trench systems would be topped with a steel dome and other military implementations to help form a shelter. In these junctures, troops or munitions would be stored, and these enclosures were intended to help keep them safe as well as give the troops housed in them a tactical advantage.
The other aspect of their defensive line was trenches. Hurriedly crafted over the last few weeks, the trenches that had been dug were remarkably well-crafted. Though the trenches were executed masterfully, the two defensive techniques could not match up to the knowledge and drive of the Romanian Armies. The Romanians quickly figured this out and used their air force to do reconnaissance to find these points and would concentrate their attacks on them with excellent results. The Romanian Army, coupled with the efforts of the air force and the people of the villages surrounding the battle, used the rough terrain to their advantage and carried out short and swift attacks on some of those weaker positions. Before they would make any moves though, the Romanian Army would volley a major artillery attack on the German and Austrian troops before beginning their ground and air assaults.
Battle of Mărășești
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In August, the Romanian Army would lose support from the Russians, as the hostilities back in Russia continued to escalate and the revolution required them to return home. After a decisive counter-attack led by August von Mackensen, the Romanians and the Austrians would continue to battle back and forth, neither gaining any significant ground. This back and forth would continue until both side’s reinforcements were depleted, and they had to give up and consider the Romanian Campaign a stalemate.
Eventually, over the next few weeks, Romanian cities and states would continue to fall as well as the lands that surround the nation. Eventually, this would lead to the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where the proud Romanian leaders and military would end up surrounded by Central Powers. In turn, this would lead to the Treaty of Bucharest in 1918, where they ceded lands to Bulgaria and bartered for peace with the German forces.
Battle of Megiddo (September 1918)
In August of 1915, the Ottoman Empire quietly joined the Central Powers and the war. In alliance with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the newly formed German state, they hoped to be able to carve a little land out for themselves in both the Caucuses and the Balkan states. The Ottomans also wanted to regain power over the areas that once were part of the empire. Countries like Egypt and the Balkan states were among these lands. By the time the armistice was signed on October 25, both sides had lost vast numbers of soldiers, but the battle would still go down as one of the most decisive victories fought in Ottoman territory.
The first significant attack of the Ottoman campaign would be in January of 1915 on the Suez Canal. With a victory in the Sinai Peninsula, the forces, then led by General Murray, felt emboldened and pressed further into Ottoman territory in the hopes of taking Palestine. Once the British troops pushed through the Suez and into Sinai, the next two battles for Gaza came up short. These losses would be bad news for the commander of these battles because, with these losses, the powers back home decided they needed a new person leading the campaign. General Sir Edmund Allenby was the man they chose. This change of command would be significant and directly lead to the Battle of Megiddo.
Allenby brought with him a great deal of wartime experience as he had fought in the Boer War as well as the Battle of Ypres and many more. In particular, the general was well-versed with cavalry maneuvers and leading them to success. This experience gave him an advantage when it came to mobilized campaigns. He also didn’t play by the rule book when it came to strategies, and that may have been the reason that the campaign was so swift and decisive. The plan he laid out to his superiors was one of these out of the box ideas. He looked to surround Gaza and gain control over Beersheba by taking the long way around. Allenby planned to drive deep into the desert and encircle Gaza. This maneuver would be the best way to spring a surprise attack on the Ottoman forces.
Battle of Megiddo
Photo Credit: historyonthenet.com
Though this maneuver seemed like one that was doomed to fail by many of his peers, it was just the thing that the British needed to break through and open up the possibility of taking Jerusalem. By the time the summer rolled around and the hard rode trail had been completed, it was easy for the Australian Light Horse brigades to ride in and take Beersheba. This victory opened the Gaza Strip up and left the road to Jerusalem free for the taking. Maneuvers like this had put the Ottomans on the defense. The British forces had managed to push the Ottoman forces out of Palestine, and this left them attempting to regroup and course-correct at Megiddo.
The Ottoman Army, now regrouping on the plains of Megiddo, may have thought that they were safe, but Allenby had already devised a strategic plan of attack that would take them by surprise. He wanted to trap the Ottomans on the plains and not give them any way to escape, and that was precisely what he and his troops did. The attack would be a simultaneous and coordinated attack using everything, from infantry to the cavalry, to tanks as well as planes.
The battle would start at Sharon. A group of Arab rebels, who were part of his troops, would focus on breaking the Ottoman lines of communication. At the same time, divisions of Indian and British soldiers would overrun the Ottoman forces. The battle would start with a very precise artillery bombardment, and once that was done, the infantry would push in and breach the Ottoman’s defenses. After that, the Desert Mounted Cavalry (DMC) would be the third wave of attack. The Battle of Sharon was quick, and by the time night had begun to fall, many of the Ottoman strongholds and cities had fallen. That left the way open for the next essential part of Allenby’s plan: an attack in the Judean Hills.
The Battle of Nablus would start with the infantry breaking through the Ottoman defenses in the hills. Along with the Chaytor’s Force, a division of Allenby’s troops that were comprised of both cavalry and infantry, the forces would work to take the Jordan River. At the same time, the artillery helped reduce the Ottoman Eighth Army’s defenses. While all this was going on, the Ottoman Fourth would be attacked as well. The multiple pronged attacks would have battles lasting through the night. At the same time, the DMC completed their task of encircling the Ottoman troops, and this left the Ottomans open for the next phase of Allenby’s plans.
Once the Ottomans had nowhere to go, all that was left was to cut off supply chains, and that meant using that new military weapon, the plane. British forces, along with their Australian compatriots, bombarded the Wadi el Fara road, the main supply chain of the Ottomans, until the Ottoman troops and divisions were defenseless.
These maneuvers allowed for the remaining British forces to easily take the Ottoman soldiers as prisoners and conquer any fortifications that were left.