NEW YORK, May 31, 1916 (UP) - Today, the 101st day of the battle of Verdun, sees the Germans slowly but continuously creeping upon the great French fortress, which in defensive strength is second only to Paris itself.
Since the battle began on Feb. 21 the French have persistently failed to stop the Germans permanently.
At the very outset, the French were surprised by the sudden news of the German onslaught, and during the first period of the battle, the local commanders at Verdun decided to abandon the east bank of the Meuse where the Douamont and Vaux fighting has occurred.
Gen. Castelnau, however, who is Gen. Joffre's chief lieutenant, rushed to Verdun, reversed the orders of the local commanders and the first drive of the Germans was checked.
But the check has never been more than temporary.
The Germans have been compelled to fight desperately for every foot of their advance, but the fact cannot be evaded that the advantage is with the Germans.
The crown prince has conquered about one hundred square miles of territory.
The battle front forms a little more than one-third of a circle about Verdun, for a distance of 25 miles. The average depth of the German gains is four miles, which represents east of the Meuse, one-half the distance from the former German front to Verdun.
To the west of the Meuse, however, where the heavy fighting at Dead Man hill and Cumieres is occurring, the Germans are three miles farther from Verdun than on the Douamont and Vaux side.
Charny ridge, west of the Meuse, is the present main objective of the Germans and if this be taken, the German forces on both sides of the Meuse will be within the four-mile radius.
A further advance of one mile will then bring Verdun within the dangerous three-mile range of the enemy's artillery.
This is the limit for the small caliber guns, most effective weapons of both armies.
Will Verdun fall?
It depends on the number of available French reserves.
The Germans assert the French are now using their last reserves.
But it is open to French to increase their strength if the British take over more of the front in western France.
Since the Verdun battle began, the British have added 45 miles of trenches to their former holding of 50 miles.
The French still occupy 25 miles of western trenches south of Noyon where the battle front turns eastward.
That corner, however, protects the road to Paris, and the French may hesitate before they give up the guardianship of the direct Paris approaches.