I In trying to recall my impressions during my short war duty as an officer in the Austrian Army, I find that my recollections of this period are very uneven and confused. Some of the experiences standout with absolute clearness; others, however, are blurred. Two or three events which took place in different localities seem merged into one, while in other instances recollection of the chronological order of things is missing. This curious indifference of the memory to values of time and space may be due to the extraordinary physical and mental stress under which the impressions I am trying to chronicle were received. The same
state of mind I find is rather characteristic of most people I have met who were in the war. It should not be forgotten, too, that the gigantic upheaval which changed the fundamental condition of life overnight and threatened the very existence of nations naturally dwarfed the individual into nothingness, and the existing interest in the common welfare left practically no room for personal considerations. Then again, at the front, the extreme uncertainty of the morrow tended to lessen the interest in the details of to-day; consequently I may have missed a great many interesting happenings alongside of me which I would have wanted to note under other circumstances. One gets into a strange psychological, almost hypnotic, state of mind while on the firing line which probably prevents the mind's eye from observing and noticing things in a normal way. This accounts, perhaps, for some
blank spaces in my memory. Besides, I went out completely resigned to my fate, without much thought for the future. It never occurred to me that I might ever want to write my experiences, and consequently I failed to take notes or to establish certain mnemotechnical landmarks by the aid of which I might now be able to reconstruct all details. I am, therefore, reduced to present an incoherent and rather piecemeal narrative of such episodes as forcibly impressed themselves upon my mind and left an ineradicable mark upon my memory.
The outbreak of the war found my wife and me in Switzerland, where we were taking a cure. On the 31st of July, on opening the paper, I read that the Third Army Corps, to which my regiment (which is stationed in Graz) belonged, had received an order for mobilization.
Although I had resigned my commission as an officer two years before, I immediately left Switzerland, accompanied by my wife, in order to report for duty. As it happened, a wire reached me a day later calling me to the colors.
We went by way of Munich. It was the first day of the declaration of the state of war in Germany. Intense excitement prevailed. In Munich all traffic was stopped; no trains were running except for military purposes. It was only due to the fact that I revealed my intention of rejoining my regiment in Austria that I was able to pass through at all, but by both the civil and military authorities in Bavaria I was shown the greatest possible consideration and passed through as soon as possible.
We reached Vienna on August first. A startling change had come over the city since I had left it only a few weeks before. Feverish activity everywhere
prevailed. Reservists streamed in by thousands from all parts of the country to report at headquarters. Autos filled with officers whizzed past. Dense crowds surged up and down the streets. Bulletins and extra editions of newspapers passed from hand to hand. Immediately it was evident what a great leveler war is. Differences in rank and social distinctions had practically ceased. All barriers seemed to have fallen; everybody addressed everybody else.
I saw the crowds stop officers of high rank and well-known members of the aristocracy and clergy, also state officials and court functionaries of high rank, in quest of information, which was imparted cheerfully and patiently. The imperial princes could frequently be seen on the Ring Strasse surrounded by cheering crowds or mingling with the public unceremoniously at the cafes, talking to everybody. Of course, the
army was idolized. Wherever the troops marched the public broke into cheers and every uniform was the center of an ovation.
While coming from the station I saw two young reservists, to all appearances brothers, as they hurried to the barracks, carrying their small belongings in a valise. Along with them walked a little old lady crying, presumably their mother. They passed a general in full uniform. Up went their hands to their caps in military salute, whereupon the old general threw his arms wide open and embraced them both, saying: "Go on, my boys, do your duty bravely and stand firm for your emperor and your country. God willing, you will come back to your old mother." The old lady smiled through her tears. A shout went up, and the crowds surrounding the general cheered him. Long after I had left I could hear them shouting.
A few streets farther on I saw in an open cafe a young couple, a reservist in field uniform and a young girl, his bride or sweetheart. They sat there, hands linked, utterly oblivious of their surroundings and of the world at large. When somebody in the crowd espied them, a great shout went up, the public rushing to the table and surrounding them, then breaking into applause and waving hats and handkerchiefs. At first the young couple seemed to be utterly taken aback and only slowly did they realize that the ovation was meant for them. They seemed confused, the young girl blushing and hiding her face in her hands, the young man rising to his feet, saluting and bowing. More cheers and applause. He opened his mouth as if wanting to speak. There was a sudden silence. He was vainly struggling for expression, but then his face lit up as if by inspiration. Standing erect, hand at his
cap, in a pose of military salute, he intoned the Austrian national hymn. In a second every head in that throng was bared. All traffic suddenly stopped, everybody, passengers as well as conductors of the cars, joining in the anthem. The neighboring windows soon filled with people, and soon it was a chorus of thousands of voices. The volume of tone and the intensity of feeling seemed to raise the inspiring anthem to the uttermost heights of sublime majesty. We were then on our way to the station, and long afterwards we could hear the singing, swelling like a human organ.
What impressed me particularly in Vienna was the strict order everywhere. No mob disturbances of any kind, in spite of the greatly increased liberty and relaxation of police regulations. Nor was there any runaway chauvinism noticeable, aside from the occasional singing of patriotic songs and demon-
strations like the one I just described. The keynote of popular feeling was quiet dignity, joined to determination, with an undercurrent of solemn gravity and responsibility.
I had stopped in Vienna only long enough to bid good-bye to my father, and left for the headquarters of my regiment in Graz. I reported there for duty and then went to join the Fourth Battalion, which was stationed at Leoben, one hour away from Graz, my orders being to take command of the first platoon in the sixteenth company. My platoon consisted of fifty-five men, two buglers, and an ambulance patrol of four.
In Leoben my wife and I remained a week, which was spent in organizing, equipping, requisitioning, recruiting, and preliminary drilling. These were happy days, as we officers met for the first time, friendships and bonds being sealed which subsequently were tested in com-
mon danger and amidst privation and stress. Many of the officers had brought their wives and soon delightful intercourse, utterly free from formality, developed, without any regard or reference to rank, wealth, or station in private life. Among the reserve officers of my battalion were a famous sculptor, a well-known philologist, two university professors (one of mathematics, the other of natural science), a prince, and a civil engineer at the head of one of the largest Austrian steel corporations. The surgeon of our battalion was the head of a great medical institution and a man of international fame. Among my men in the platoon were a painter, two college professors, a singer of repute, a banker, and a post official of high rank. But nobody cared and in fact I myself did not know until much later what distinguished men were in my platoon. A great cloak of brotherhood seemed to
have enveloped everybody and everything, even differences in military rank not being so obvious at this time, for the officers made friends of their men, and in turn were worshiped by them.
My wife volunteered her services as Red Cross nurse, insisting upon being sent to the front, in order to be as near me as could be, but it developed later that no nurse was allowed to go farther than the large troop hospitals far in the rear of the actual operations. Upon my urgent appeal she desisted and remained in Vienna after I had left, nursing in the barracks, which are now used for hospital work. In fact, almost every third or fourth house, both private and public, as well as schools, were given to the use of the government and converted into Red Cross stations.
The happy days in Leoben came to an abrupt end, my regiment receiving orders to start immediately for the front.
We proceeded to Graz, where we joined the other three battalions and were entrained for an unknown destination. We traveled via Budapest to Galicia, and left the train at Strij, a very important railroad center south of Lemberg. It must be understood that the only reports reaching us from the fighting line at that time were to the effect that the Russians had been driven back from our border, and that the Austrian armies actually stood on the enemy's soil. Strij being hundreds of miles away from the Russian frontier, we could not but surmise that we were going to be stationed there some time for the purpose of training and maneuvering. This belief was strengthened by the fact that our regiment belonged to the Landsturm, or second line of reserves, originally intended for home service. We were, however, alarmed that very same night and marched out of Strij for a distance of
about twenty miles, in conjunction with the entire Third Army Corps. After a short pause for the purpose of eating and feeding the horses, we marched another twenty-two miles. This first day's march constituted a very strong test of endurance in consequence of our comparative softness and lack of training, especially as, in addition to his heavy rifle, bayonet, ammunition, and spade, each soldier was burdened with a knapsack containing emergency provisions in the form of tinned meats, coffee extract, sugar, salt, rice, and biscuits, together with various tin cooking and eating utensils; furthermore a second pair of shoes, extra blouse, changes of under- wear, etc. On top of this heavy pack a winter overcoat and part of a tent were strapped, the entire weight of the equipment being in the neighborhood of fifty pounds.
The day wore on. Signs of fatigue
soon manifested themselves more and more strongly, and slowly the men dropped out one by one, from sheer exhaustion. No murmur of complaint, however, would be heard. Most of those who fell out of line, after taking a breathing space for a few minutes, staggered on again. The few that remained behind joined the regiment later on when camp was established. We wondered then at the necessity of such a forced march, being unable to see a reason for it, unless it was to put us in training.
Night had fallen when we reached a small monastery in the midst of a forest, where the peaceful surroundings and the monastic life, entirely untouched by the war fever, seemed strange indeed. Camp was established, tents erected, fires were lighted, and coffee made. Soon a life of bustling activity sprang up in the wilderness, in the midst of the forest which only a few hours before had been deserted.
It made a weird and impressive picture in the wonderful starlight night, these soldiers sitting around the camp fires softly singing in chorus; the fantastic outlines of the monastery half hidden in the woods; the dark figures of the monks moving silently back and forth amongst the shadows of the trees as they brought refreshments to the troops; the red glow of the camp fires illuminating the eager and enthusiastic faces of the young officers grouped around the colonel; the snorting and stamping of the horses nearby; an occasional melodic outcry of a sentinel out in the night; all these things merging into an unforgettable scene of great romanticism and beauty. That night I lay for a long while stretched near the smoldering ashes of the camp fire, with my cape as a blanket, in a state of lassitude and somnolence, my soul filled with exaltation and happiness over the beauty around me.
The rest, however, was of very short duration, for at six o'clock in the morning we were aroused, camp was broken up and soon afterwards we started on a forced march of twenty-two miles without a halt, during which we twice had to wade knee-deep through rivers. By midday most of the men were so exhausted that they could hardly crawl along. It was remarkable that the comparatively weaker and more refined city-bred people who had done little physical work in their lives, most of them being professional men, withstood hardships better than the sturdy and, to all appearances, stronger peasants; the only explanation for it being perhaps that the city-bred people, in consequence of their better surroundings and by reason of their education, had more will power and nervous strength than the peasants.
At half-past two we reached a clearing in the midst of a wood through which a
river flowed. Here camp was again established and a half hour later all the hardships of the march were once more forgotten in the bustle of camp life. This time we had a full rest until the next morning at four o'clock, when suddenly orders for marching were given. After we had been under way for about three hours we heard far-away, repeated rumbling which sounded like distant thunder. Not for a moment did we associate it with cannonading, being, as we supposed, hundreds of miles away from the nearest place where Russians could possibly be. Suddenly a mounted ordnance officer came rushing with a message to our colonel. We came to a halt and all officers were summoned to the colonel who, addressing us in his usual quiet, almost businesslike way, said: "Gentlemen, accept my congratulations, I have good news for you, we may meet the enemy to-day and I sincerely hope to lead you
to the fight before evening." We were thunderstruck at the sudden realization that the Russians had penetrated so deeply into Galicia. The despondency which followed this startling revelation, however, was quickly replaced by the intense excitement of meeting the enemy so soon. We hurried back to our companies, imparting the news to the men, who broke forth into shouts of enthusiasm. All the fatigue so plainly noticeable only a few minutes before, suddenly vanished as if by magic, and every one seemed alert, springy, and full of spirit. We energetically resumed the march in the direction of the distant rumbling, which indicated that the artillery of our advance guard had engaged the enemy. My regiment then was part of the main body of a division. A second division advanced on the road parallel to ours, about a mile and a quarter to our left. Both columns belonged to the Third Army
Corps and kept up constant communication with each other through mounted dispatch bearers and motor cycles.
The cannonading had meanwhile come perceptibly nearer, and in the midst of the dense forest we again came to a short halt. Orders were given to load rifles, and upon emerging from the woods we fell into open formation, the men marching abreast, the companies at a distance of three hundred yards, with the battalions at a distance of about a thousand yards. We were slowly entering the range of the Russian artillery. About a mile ahead we could see numbers of harmless looking round clouds, looking like ringlets of smoke from a huge cigar, indicating the places where shrapnel had exploded in mid-air. Our men, not being familiar with the spectacle, took no notice of it, but we officers knew its significance, and I daresay many a heart beat as wildly as mine did.
We marched on until the command was given for us to deploy, and soon afterwards the first shrapnel whizzed over our heads. It did no harm, nor did the second and third, but the fourth hit three men in the battalion in the rear of us. Our forward movement, however, was not interrupted, and we did not see or hear anything beyond two or three startled cries. The next shell burst right ahead of us, sending a shower of bullets and steel fragments around. A man about twenty yards to the right of my company, but not of my platoon, leaped into the air with an agonizing cry and fell in a heap, mortally wounded. As we were advancing very swiftly, I only saw it as in a dream, while running by. Then came in rapid succession four or five terrific explosions right over our heads, and I felt a sudden gust of cold wind strike my cheek as a big shell fragment came howling through the air, ploughing
the ground viciously as it struck and sending a spray of sand around.
We ran on perhaps a quarter of a mile, when from the rear came the sharp command, "Down," and the next second we lay on the ground, panting and exhausted, my heart almost bursting with the exertion. Simultaneously the whizzing of a motor above our heads could be heard and we knew why the enemy's shrapnel had so suddenly found us. It was a Russian aeroplane which presumably had signaled our approach, together with the range, to the Russian gunners, and now was probably directing their fire and closely watching its effect, for a chain of hills was hiding us from the view of the enemy, who consequently had to fire indirectly. The air craft hovered above our heads, but we were forbidden to fire at it, the extremely difficult, almost vertical aim promising little success, aside from the danger of our bullets fall-
ing back among us. Our reserves in the rear had apparently sighted the air craft too, for soon we heard a volley of rifle fire from that direction and simultaneously the aeroplane arose and disappeared in the clouds.
Just then our own artillery came thundering up, occupied a little hill in the rear and opened fire on the enemy. The moral effect of the thundering of one's own artillery is most extraordinary, and many of us thought that we had never heard any more welcome sound than the deep roaring and crashing that started in at our rear. It quickly helped to disperse the nervousness caused by the first entering into battle and to restore self control and confidence. Besides, by getting into action, our artillery was now focusing the attention and drawing the fire of the Russian guns, for most of the latter's shells whined harmlessly above us, being aimed at the batteries in our
rear. Considerably relieved by this diversion, we resumed our forward movement after about fifteen minutes of further rest, our goal being the little chain of hills which our advance guard had previously occupied pending our arrival. Here we were ordered to take up positions and dig trenches, any further advance being out of the question, as the Russian artillery overlooked and commanded the entire plain stretching in front of us.
We started at once to dig our trenches, half of my platoon stepping forward abreast, the men being placed an arm's length apart. After laying their rifles down, barrels pointing to the enemy, a line was drawn behind the row of rifles and parallel to it. Then each man would dig up the ground, starting from his part of the line backwards, throwing forward the earth removed, until it formed a sort of breastwork. The second half of
the platoon was meanwhile resting in the rear, rifle in hand and ready for action. After a half hour they took the place of the first division at work, and vice versa. Within an hour work on the trenches was so far advanced that they could be deepened while standing in them. Such an open trench affords sufficient shelter against rifle bullets striking from the front and can be made in a measure shell proof by being covered with boards, if at hand, and with sod.
In the western area of the theater of war, in France and Flanders, where whole armies were deadlocked, facing each other for weeks without shifting their position an inch, such trenches become an elaborate affair, with extensive underground working and wing connections of lines which almost constitute little fortresses and afford a certain measure of comfort. But where we were in Galicia at the beginning of the war, with condi-
tions utterly unsteady and positions shifting daily and hourly, only the most superficial trenches were used. In fact, we thought ourselves fortunate if we could requisition enough straw to cover the bottom. That afternoon we had about half finished our work when our friend the aeroplane appeared on the horizon again. This time we immediately opened fire. It disappeared, but apparently had seen enough, for very soon our position was shelled. By this time, however, shrapnel had almost ceased to be a source of concern to us and we scarcely paid any attention to it. Human nerves quickly get accustomed to the most unusual conditions and circumstances and I noticed that quite a number of men actually fell asleep from sheer exhaustion in the trenches, in spite of the roaring of the cannon about us and the whizzing of shrapnel over our heads.
I, too, soon got accustomed to
the deadly missiles,-in fact, I had already started to make observations of their peculiarities. My ear, accustomed to differentiate sounds of all kinds, had some time ago, while we still advanced, noted a remarkable discrepancy in the peculiar whine produced by the different shells in their rapid flight through the air as they passed over our heads, some sounding shrill, with a rising tendency, and the others rather dull, with a falling cadence. A short observation revealed the fact that the passing of a dull-sounding shell was invariably preceded by a flash from one of our own cannon in the rear an the hill, which conclusively proved it to be an Austrian shell. It must be understood that as we were advancing between the positions of the Austrian and Russian artillery, both kinds of shells were passing over our heads. As we advanced the difference between shrill and dull shell grew
less and less perceptible, until I could hardly tell them apart. Upon nearing the hill the difference increased again more and more until on the hill itself it was very marked. After our trench was finished I crawled to the top of the hill until I could make out the flash of the Russian guns on the opposite heights and by timing flash and actual passing of the shell, found to my astonishment that now the Russian missiles had become dull, while on the other hand, the shrill shell was invariably heralded by a flash from one of our guns, now far in the rear. What had happened was this: Every shell describes in its course a parabolic line, with the first half of the curve ascending and the second one descending. Apparently in the first half of its curve, that is, its course while ascending, the shell produced a dull whine accompanied by a falling cadence, which changes to a rising shrill as soon as
the acme has been reached and the curve points downward again. The acme for both kinds of shells naturally was exactly the half distance between the Russian and Austrian artillery and this was the point where I had noticed that the difference was the least marked. A few days later, in talking over my observation with an artillery officer, I was told the fact was known that the shells sounded different going up than when coming down, but this knowledge was not used for practical purposes. When I told him that I could actually determine by the sound the exact place where a shell coming from the opposing batteries was reaching its acme, he thought that this would be of great value in a case where the position of the opposing battery was hidden and thus could be located. He apparently spoke to his commander about me, for a few days later I was sent on a reconnoitering tour, with
the object of marking on the map the exact spot where I thought the hostile shells were reaching their acme, and it was later on reported to me that I had succeeded in giving to our batteries the almost exact range of the Russian guns. I have gone into this matter at some length, because it is the only instance where my musical ear was of value during my service.
To return to my narrative, the losses which my battalion suffered that day seemed extraordinarily small when compared with the accuracy of the Russian artillery's aim and the number of missiles they fired. I counted seventy-four shrapnel that burst in a circle of half a mile around us in about two hours, and yet we had no more than about eighteen casualties. The most difficult part was to lie still and motionless while death was being dealt all about us, and it was then and there that I had my first experience