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World War One: February, 1916

10. Germany announces armed merchant ships will be sunk without warning.

16. Russian forces under the Grand Duke Nicholas inflict crushing defeats upon the Turks in Armenia, capturing the strongly fortified city of Erzerum, with 13,000 prisoners and 300 guns, the total Turkish losses being estimated at 60,000 men.

21. The Crown Prince, having concentrated 14 German divisions against 3 French divisions on a 7-mile sector, from Brabant to Herbebois, where the front line defenses were about 8-1/2 miles from Verdun, begins a stupendous series of attacks. By a withering artillery fire in which hundreds of thousands of high explosive shells of all calibers from 4 to 14 inches were used, the French first line trenches on a three-mile front were demolished and occupied by German infantry on the evening of the first day.

22. Germans, attacking the Verdun defenses, carry Caures Wood with a part of Haumont wood, and, after leveling Haumont village with a hurricane of shells, take it by storm, compelling the evacuation of Brabant, and crushing by sheer weight of numbers all French counter-attacks.

23. Furious bombardments supported by heavy columns of infantry enable the Germans, though suffering enormous losses, to reach Samogneux, Beaumont, and Ornes in their attack on Verdun.

24. At the end of four days of gigantic attack, after firing, it is estimated, not less than 2,000,000 high explosive shells against the French positions and sacrificing tens of thousands of lives in massed assaults, the Germans have battered their way through the French defenses, until they stand before Douaumont, the first of the permanent forts guarding Verdun. At night, under cover of blinding clouds of snow, the decimated and exhausted defenders of the outworks of Verdun retire to prepared positions of great strength on Côte du Poivre (Pepper Hill), 1140 feet high, and on the hill plateau of Douaumont, 1290 feet high.

Portugal, urged by England, fulfills her treaty obligations to her ally and requisitions 44 German and Austrian ships interned in Portuguese waters.

25. General Pétain, bringing heavy reinforcements, arrives at Verdun and, with inspiring energy, reorganizes the demoralized defense. The Germans, massing 18 divisions, about 400,000 men, on a front of 4-1/2 miles, from Pepper Hill to Hardaumont, throughout the day sent wave upon wave of massed infantry up the snow-covered slopes of the Douaumont plateau, only to be broken and destroyed in appalling numbers by the French machine-gun and artillery fire. Late in the day, by a final supreme assault, viewed from a distant hill by the Kaiser himself, a Brandenburg regiment stormed and took the old dismantled fort of Douaumont, but failed to secure command of the summit of the plateau.

26. General Pétain orders a counter-attack which sweeps the Germans back down the hillside and cuts off the Brandenburgers in Fort Douaumont.

Austro-Bulgarian forces occupy Durazzo, Albania, following its evacuation by the Italians who had there safeguarded the escape of more than 100,000 Serbians to Corfu, where they reorganized as a fighting force and later joined the allied armies at Saloniki.

29. At the end of four days of incessant battle the German attacks on Douaumont slacken. The initial impact of the German drive is broken. The arrival of heavy French reinforcements, transported in thousands of motor lorries, marks the passing of the crisis in the Verdun defense.