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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

June 1917

June 1

The naivety of the International "Congress of Cranks and Whiskerisos" is one’s first impression of the Stockholm Conference of Socialists, until you discover that over 100 foreign correspondents have flocked here to be in, what the Scandinavian Socialists quite honestly believe to be important preliminaries to peace, and that, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks, the enthusiastic neutral and belligerent comrades are taking themselves desperately serious.

Arriving on the Copenhagen Express, I sniffed the first scent of the international Socialist atmosphere on running into the reception committee, impressive in Prince Alberts and broad brimmed gray felt hats, who had come down to the station to meet the Austrian Socialist leader, Dr. Adler. Dr Adler, however, perhaps still laboring under the private sorrow of his son’s recent conviction for murder, proves a rare eerie by declining to submit to the interviewing process.

So far the only practical result of the peace conference is that Stockholm is enjoying an unprecedented tourist boom. All the hotels are overflowing, and you soon come to admire Stockholm’s canny natives pursuing the popular pastime of parting all comers from their money.

A Swedish government official expressed his view that while the peace strivings of the Socialists were certainly interesting, and entitled to respectful considerations, said it was very much to be doubted whether they could push anything towards bringing about peace, in view of the almost hopeless complexity of the peace problem.

The Scandinavian Socialists and international delegates take a more optimistic view, but they, too, agree that the principle results, at least for the immediate future, will be the moral effect on the suffering masses. This, however, they hold, would alone justify the Stockholm conference, if, as a result of their verbose deliberations, the war were to be shortened by even one day, they feel their efforts would not have been in vain.

In Russia, virtually all the political factions, all class organizations, councils and even the Socialist leaders, with the exception of the extreme lefties, echoed the appeal of the Russian Minister of War, Kerensky, to the troops and applauded the new order of the day, "Advance."

Constant efforts have been made during the past two months by representatives, not only of the government, but of the soldiers, to bring home to the Army that the abandonment of active warfare would not only mean treachery to the Allies, but the inevitable loss of all that has been gained in the revolution.

It is confidently believed that this last call, supported as it is by almost every element of society, will move the Army to realization of the situation. All the commanders have added their appeals to the order of Minister Kerensky. They all emphasize the necessity of not only defending the country against the enemy, but of an immediate advance to relieve the pressure upon the Allies which Germany has been able to exert by transferring the bulk of her troops from the Eastern to the Western front.

June 8

General Pershing and his party arrived in London on Thursday. The expected arrival kept a fairly close secret from the London public until today, but the many preparations for the visitors, which have been going on in secrecy, came into public view early Thursday morning. Several floors in a hotel had been reserved for the American party, and the hotel was completely transformed by the placing of numerous signboards, the installation of bureaus of information, etc. designed to make the most efficient possible use of the place as temporary American Army headquarters.

Gen. Pershing has 198 officers, and enlisted men with him. The party sailed more than a week ago without any publicity being given to their departure, despite the fact that it was known to some American newspapers. The newspapers loyally cooperated with the government in a voluntary censorship to safeguard the passage of the American officers.

Meanwhile, there is growing recognition in Allied circles that the Russian Revolution has wrecked the plans for the Allied campaign of 1917. And while the Allies hope that Russia may yet strike useful blows, they have expressed privately no great confidence. Military experts say that the situation of the Russian armies before the outbreak of the Revolution were extremely favorable. The losses of 1916 have been made good, the depots filled, and great numbers of new divisions created and guns and munitions were steadily increasing in quantities. This was not merely the result of an increasing output from the Russian factories, but was also due to the fact that the Allies have sent thousands of guns and millions of rounds of ammunition with the firm belief that the Russians were prepared to make good use of them against a common enemy.

Russia was at least passably equipped, and although internal difficulties of transportation and supply were far from overcome, the Russian military assured the Allies they could be counted upon this year. On the face of these assurances the campaign of 1917 was planned. The Franco-British offensive in the West was designed to open early in the year, so as to forestall a German attack, whether in the East or West, and help Russia by calling down upon the Western Front all available reserves of the enemy. In the same spirit of good comradeship, the Allies on the borders of Palestine, and Mesopotamia, receded to attract to themselves as many Turkish divisions as possible, thus lightening the task of the Russian Army in the Caucuses.

Thanks to the devotion of the Western Allies, a brilliant campaign by the gallant Russian Armies seemed assured and their intervention was time for certain date. But, when that day came, no Russian intervention occurred. If the Russian Revolution brings freedom to Russia, it also risks bringing slavery to Europe, and at best it will prolong the campaign for a year unless the Russian armies are able to renew their part.

Unfortunately, the situation in Russia continues to be extremely uncertain. The declaration of independence by Kronstand, the naval fortress near Petrograd, has been followed by a threat to send sailors from the garrison to Petrograd for demonstrations against the present Council of Deputies. The sailors said the demonstrations would be for the purpose of bringing about new elections of members of the Council of Workman’s and Soldiers Delegates, whose present members were denounced as bourgeois. The sailors also demanded that former Emperor Nicholas be handed over to them. At street meetings they express dissatisfaction with War Minister Kerensky and the whole provisional government.

Meanwhile, in Germany, there are reports of growing dissatisfaction among the people at large with the political results of the ruthless submarine campaign and the absence of any indication that it has brought the desired peace near to hand.

During their long campaign for the unrestricted use of submarines the advocates of this measure predicted immediate results. "Two or three months," was the phrase used everywhere in streets and newspaper arguments in regard to the time it would take to bring England to her knees, ready for peace. Even though the official propaganda has since declared the government bound itself to no particular time to produce results, the prediction that they would be obtained in "two or three months" has remained in the minds of the people.

Grumblings are now heard that although four months have passed, England shows no signs of weakening, but on the contrary seems determined to prosecute the war more bitterly than ever. Statements that France has been bled white and will be forced to retire from the war had been made so often that they no longer attract the slightest credence. The entry of the United States into the war is regarded with gloom.

Reports have reached the government that Germany is attempting to get control of the island of Margarita, off the coast of Venezuela, for use as a submarine base. Venezuela is one of the South American governments that have joined in protesting against summary warfare as conducted by Germany, although her tactical position remains one of neutrality.

It is pointed out that cession of the island, even though temporary, would be a clear violation of the Monroe Doctrine and would undoubtedly call for energetic and prompt opposition by this government. Margarita is off the northern coast of Venezuela, near the southernmost corner of the Caribbean Sea and within striking distance of the Panama Canal, and would make it admiringly adapt as a naval base.

A program for the general dismemberment of Russia was put forward at a meeting of the newly formed Independent Committee for a German peace. Speakers advocated far-reaching plans by German territorial enlargement. The principal speaker declared it was useless to attempt separate peace with the Russian provisional Government but suggested that advantage may be taking a present condition in Russia. He asserted that Finland and the Ukraine could easily be detached from Russia. The speaker further advocated the seizure by Germany of Lithuania and Courland and the colonization by 2 million German-speaking Russians from the interior of the Slavic dominions, thus weakening Russia and establishing a complete bulwark of dependent states east of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

June 15

The first day spent in Paris by Gen. Pershing was marked by enthusiastic popular demonstrations, given whenever the American commander made an appearance. Great throngs filled the Place de la Concorde hoping to catch a glimpse of the Americans. Hundreds of French soldiers on leave from the front, mingled in the throngs and gave hearty greetings to the troopers of the Third Calvary who accompanied Gen. Pershing. A huge American flag waved over the general’s hotel, and everywhere the French and the American colors were intertwined.

Paris had hope for a great reception, but it is doubtful whether even the most optimistic pictured the almost frantic crowds that all but blocked the general's automobiles. Men and women cheered themselves hoarse and flung masses of flowers into the cars.

Gen. Pershing and Field Marshal Joffre were the first to appear. Beyond them came a stream of American officers, each with a French officer as his host. The first shout of welcome became a continuous roar that seemed to shake the city to its foundations. The police hurriedly began to clear lanes which the half dozen automobiles moved at a snail’s pace between the crowds.

From hundreds of windows American flags were waved by men, women and children. French girls, with flags into the breast and their arms filled with flowers brought from their scanty savings, fairly flawed for a chance to get near enough to the machines to hurl their offerings onto the laps and on the shoulders of the astonished American officers. Boys, men and girls, and even some old women, struggled to jump on the running boards of General Pershing’s car to shake hands with him.

It was not only Gen. Pershing who came in for unprecedented ovations, but every American officer caught sight of by the people were inundated with kisses and flowers. The crowd shouted themselves hoarse with cheers for America. From every window, from every elevation, and from the thousands upon thousands in the vicinity of the line of march there was hurled a welcome that no American in France will ever forget.

Meanwhile, in Russia, the demand of the revolutionaries for the trial and punishment of Nicholas Romanoff, the former Emperor, and his immediate jailing, which at first was made only by a handful of your responsible extremists, is growing daily. All of Petrograd laughed at the resolution of the Bolsheviks, the faction led by Nikolai Lenin, two days ago, demanding the transfer of Nicholas to Krondstadt or even to the Siberian mines. But today comes the official news that another battleship republic has adopted a resolution requiring the imprisonment of the former Emperor until he is placed on trial. The sailors declared that if the demand was rejected the warship would bombard Petrograd. On Thursday the streets of Petrograd were littered with thousands of leaflets calling for the trial for Nicholas II.

June 22

The Marquis de Chambrun, a descendent of the Marquis de Lafayette, was chosen to return formal thanks when General Pershing laid a wreath on the grave of the famous revolutionary general. The Marquis said: "There is no place so appropriate as his tomb at which to salute the occasion to our cause of the United States. In your person, General, I bow before the sword, which America has cast onto the scale for liberty, civilization, and humanity. We are united by the principle of liberty, justice and independence. Principles which heretofore have fortified the strength of our two democracies, and they will certainly bring about victory.

"We know that our two great countries are invincible. They have already proven it, and it rejoices us to think that a new victory is about to consecrate the same principles. General Pershing, in placing these flowers on this tomb you have touched the hearts of all Frenchmen as you have touched the heart of Lafayette's great-grandson."

Gen. Pershing replied: "It is a great pleasure for all of us Americans to have had this opportunity of visiting this great man’s tomb, who did so much for America. We are happy, thus, to pay our tribute and seal more closely the bond that always existed between our two nations. "

After three days as the guest of France, in which extraordinary honors were bestowed upon him, Gen. Pershing plunged into the work of making preparations for the arrival of the American military forces that he is to command. Carrying an arm full of documents to the new American Army headquarters near the hotel. He sat for the first time at his desk in the barely furnished office and took up the great volume of business which has been cumulative before and since his arrival.

Meanwhile, the German press said that the arrival of American troops in noteworthy numbers in the European theater was not expected until 1918. The German general staff also took the ground that the American forces should be treated as a negligible quantity and the general reckoning, owing to the difficulty of finding sufficient tonnage for transportation and supply.

Germany's situation was described as absolutely secure and German victory a certainty owning to the relentless work of their submarines. Estimates of French and British losses were supplied to further encourage the readers. England's losses in the 50 days of the spring offensive were placed at 225,000 men from 34 divisions engaged. The same proportion was applied to 72 French divisions, producing an estimate of French losses of more than 400,000.

In Russia, a stirring proclamation placing the Council of Workman's and Soldiers Delegates on record as irrevocably opposed to a separate peace, was adopted today by the Council. The proclamation was prompted by German and Austrian efforts to lure Russia into a separate peace and exhorts Russians to rally around the banner of revolution and increase the energy of the military power for the defense of freedom.

The proclamation cites the receipt of a wireless telegram from the commander of the German armies on the Russian front, asserting that the government of the Central Powers is ready to conclude peace with Russia and asks Russia to send delegates to confer with them. The reply of the Council is a declaration of its attitude and Minister of War, Kerensky, has caused it to be sent to all troops on land and sea, and has been widely circulated throughout the country.

In Washington, Williams Jennings Bryan, former Secretary of State and international peace advocate, offered himself to the President in any capacity for war service, and made a stirring appeal for generous outpouring of money to meet the greatest humanitarian opportunity in the history at a Red Cross rally. Mr. Bryan said: "Our first duty today is to stand solidly behind our government and whatever it does, and our next duty is to give all we can to the Red Cross.

"I am glad that there is something in this country that citizens can do voluntarily, that they are under no compulsion to do, so they can have the credit of doing it because they want to do it. There is no written law that compels you to contribute to the Red Cross movement. But there is a moral law, that it seems to me every citizen ought to feel, and that is to contribute to help those upon who the burden falls most heavily."

June 29

Bone-dry prohibition was voted into the Food Control Bill by the Senate Committee of Agriculture. The effect of this action is to prohibit the use of any foodstuff in the manufacture of distilled spirits, beer, ale and other malt beverages. The Bill also authorized the taking of all existing distilled spirits for re-distillation into alcohol for war, industrial or other non-beverage purposes.

Thousands of telegrams and letters protesting against the provision are being received today by Senators. President Wilson has been informed that unless this feature of the Bill is settled to the satisfaction of many conflicting interest the result will be that the Food Bill, which should be passed by July 1 in order to be effective, will not be passed for a month, in other words, a filibuster is in plain sight. The President is reported to be aware of the grave danger confronting the country in connection with the prohibition legislation, as it is now framed.

The strike reported yesterday in the plant of the International Nickel Company at Bayonne New Jersey, when 2,500 workmen ceased work partly because they could not get beer, was cited today as an example of what might happen in war plants all over the country if workmen are deprived of their beer. It is said that the President believes that the legislation as it is now framed, would have a bad effect on business generally throughout the country.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the second contingent of American troops arrived and disembarked at a French seaport. The troops landed amid the frantic cheers from the people who gathered for hours before anticipation. Enthusiasm rose to a fever pitch when it was learned that the transports and convoys had successfully passed the submarine zone and the port was speedily flagged in honor of the occasion. The troops are in excellent shape and were enthusiastic over their reception and are eager for action.

When the troops have finished their preparations they will take a place on the battlefront, to be arranged by Gen. Pershing in consultation with the other military chiefs there, and will soon be carrying the stars and stripes in assaults to drive the Germans out of France and Belgium.

It is not permissible to say what precautions were taken to get the American troop ships pass the waiting German submarines, but there is no doubt that the preparations were as carefully worked out as they were effective, because it is greatly believed that some time ago most of the German submarine fleet was withdrawn from its attacks on commercial shipping to make it ready to ambush the American troop ships in force.

In Russia, despite disorders in Sebastopol, there are indications of a marked improvement in the situation, with growing support of the provisional government and growing animosity against the forces trying to destabilize the Army.

The outbreak in Sebastopol appears to have been organized by the followers of the agitator Lenin, backed by extremists from Kronstadt who arrived at Sebastopol about a week ago. The majority of the sailors are said to have supported the Leninites, whereupon the local Council of Sailor Deputies expressed general distrust of their officers, ordered their disarmament and declared the disposition of the fleet’s admiral.

It is reported that the Leninists are behind armed anti-government street demonstrations being held in Petrograd. The Leninist placarded the streets with manifestoes reading: ‘The Provisional government openly supports the power of the imperialist and the bourgeois; our patience is exhausted and we must, by demonstrations, make known our wishes and demands. We, therefore, invite the soldiers and the workmen to appear on the street with the watchwords: "Down with a Duma! Down with the bourgeois ministers! Down with war! We want bread, peace and liberty!’"

Flags carried by the Bolshevik demonstrators were inscribed with: "Long live the People’s Socialist Republic."

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