Winter-War-1

The Wolves Of WWI

Le Petit Journal's "General Winter" cover art depicts the harsh Russian winters that the soldiers had to deal with during the war.

Le Petit Journal’s “General Winter” cover art depicts the harsh Russian winters that the soldiers had to deal with during the war.

During the winter of 1917 the front lines that separated the Russian Red Army and the Imperial German Army during World War 1 stretched more than 1,000 miles starting at the Baltic Sea all the way down to the Black Sea. On top of the brutal fighting that was occurring the winters in Russia, for those that aren’t aware, reached −32 °F which is unfathomably cold especially considering that the German army was ill prepared for these types of weather conditions. Reports list them wearing plain rain coats and basic field pants in this type of weather which, as expected, caused many soldiers to freeze to death. The soldiers that managed to not be shot, bombed, or freeze to death often ended up losing extremities due to their poor winter attire. If this type of environment wasn’t bad enough already lets introduce the wolves.

In late January of 1917, the troops of both the German and Russian side’s managed to convince their commanders to cease fire and put the horrors of war aside to address the third tactical group involved in the war; the wolves. The wolves in the Kovno-Wilna-Minsk distract (present day Belarus) were unequivocally starving and had reached the point in their existence that hunting an even larger pack of mammals seemed advantageous to their existence. When the wolves began attacking soldiers on both sides tried their best to force them back with gun fire, poisons and even grenades, however for every wolf that was killed it seemed two more would take its place. Undeterred by the both side’s best efforts to eradicate them, the beasts pressed forward causing enough injuries and even casualties on both sides to cause one of the strangest armistices in war history.

The New York Times covered the armistice briefly on July 29, 2017

The New York Times covered the armistice briefly on July 29, 2017

The commanders of both groups agreed to the terms of the armistice and set off on their wolf hunt. What’s more impressive is both sides worked together in their eradication of the wolves by rounding them up and forcing the beasts towards ambushes of soldiers, like sheep to the slaughter the wolves were contained and killed by the hundreds. The wolves that managed to escape with their lives realized that the two groups were working together to kill them to great effect and fled to the forests never to return again. After the wolf threat was dealt with both sides returned to their posts and picked up the war where it left off, as if the cooperation that they just encountered never happened.

This type of story is rare, and goes to show that many fictional writers are surprisingly on point with their world ending plots where a world at war unites for the greater good, to defeat a force that could kill not one group of people, but, both sides. Much like H.G. Wells “The War of the Worlds” different groups of people cast aside their difference to destroy a greater force than their own, the wolves of WWI were the invaders from a strange, frozen world that threatened to exterminate both the Germans and the Russians.


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I'm Dustin and I'm fond of learning new things. Be it about the inner workings of a clock to the reason the sun rises; I'd love to hear about it. If you're like me give some of my articles a read.


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