Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August 26th, 1915

- Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg convenes a conference at Pless today to discuss the diplomatic crisis that has ensued from the sinking of the passenger liner Arabic on the 19th.  He argues that there is no point arguing over whether the Americans ought to be outraged or not; the fact is they are, and that war is possible if decisive action is not taken.  His position that the Americans must be appeased by restricting submarine warfare is supported by Falkenhayn, who hopes that the United States can be kept out of the war.  Only the naval officers present insist that unrestricted submarine warfare must be allowed to continue, and that any concessions to the Americans would constitute pandering.  The navy is overruled, and Wilhelm II authorized Bethmann-Hollweg to conclude a diplomatic agreement with the Americans that defers to the latter's wishes regarding submarine warfare.  Admiral Bachmann, chief of the naval staff, asks to be relieved rather than execute a policy he disagrees with, and he is replaced by Admiral Hennig von Holtzendorff, a personal friend of the Chancellor and a skeptic of the ability of unrestricted submarine warfare to bring Britain to its knees.

- On the Eastern Front the German 12th Army finally manages to capture the Russian fortress of Osowiec today, which had repulsed prior assaults.  For several weeks it had served as a northern 'hinge' for the Russian retreat from Poland.  With the Russian armies to the south having pulled back behind the line of the fortress, Osowiec has served its purpose, and the Russians have withdrawn eastwards.

To the south, the fortress of Brest-Litovsk is also seized today; in the predawn hours advance elements of the German 11th Army pierce the inner fortifications and reach the Bug River, where they find the highway bridge in flames, set alight by the retreating Russians.  Despite their best efforts, however, vast quantities of food and supplies fall into German hands with the capture of Brest-Litovsk, including once again a significant stockpile of artillery shells that could have been put to much better use by the armies in the field.  The Russian forces on both flanks of the fortress also retreat, and 11th Army and the Army of the Bug make significant progress today, with the Guard, X Reserve, and XXII Reserve Corps reaching the line Rudka-Pruska northeast of Brest-Litovsk this evening.

German soldiers outside the burning citadel at Brest-Litovsk.

The Eastern Front after the fall of Brest-Litovsk, Aug. 26th, 1915.

- The second phase of Conrad's offensive opens today with the advance of the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army southeast from the line Kowel-Vladimir-Volynski.  Though the pace of the advance is slowed by the vast swamps of the region, which require foot-bridges to cross, the Austro-Hungarians are able to make encouraging progress against light opposition from Russian cavalry.  General Ivanov of Southwest Front, however, had not been ignorant of the potential threat to his northern flank with the withdrawal of 13th Army to the northeast, and had instructed General Brusilov of 8th Army to stretch his northern wing back from the Bug River to cover Lutsk, and the latter had deployed four cavalry divisions to screen his exposed flank.  The Russians have also used the two months of relative quiet along this stretch of the front to reinforce their battered divisions, and their average combat strength has risen from four to seven thousand.  The new recruits, however, are dreadfully inexperienced, and many lack rifles.

- British and French officials confer at Duala today regarding the campaign in German Kamerun, and decide on a joint thrust to Jaunde after the end of the rainy season (October in the east and November in the west).

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