National Geographic : 1922 Aug
THE FIGHT AT THE TIMBER-LINE BY JOHN OLIVER LA GORCE AUTHOR OF "WARFARE ON OUR EASTERN COAST," "A IiATTLE GROUND OF NATURE," "ROUMANIA AND ITS RIBICON," ")EVIL-FISHING IN TIE GULF STREAM," "PENNSYLVANIA, THE INDUSTRIAL TITAN OF AMERICA," ETC., IN THIE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE MONG all the stirring struggles that the forces of Nature stage in their wars over disputed terri tory and their strivings for supremacy, there is none more intense or unrelenting than that at the timber-line, where the ad vance guard of the Legions of the Forest engages in mortal combat the entrenched troops of King Frost. One would have to wander far afield indeed to witness more brilliant tactics or to meet with such masterful strategy as the tree armies employ. A far-flung line is this forest frontier, and it has more separate fields of con flict than there were when the world's effort to break Central Europe's strangle hold upon civilization was at its height. There are three principal battle areas where the forces of King Frost are en trenched against the trees-the Arctic citadel, the Western America line, and the Himalaya-Alps front. Isolated cam paigns rage on lone peaks and on short and sequestered mountain ranges. On the Arctic front the contending forces are drawn up in battle array at sea-level. In the Western America theater, the war zone climbs higher and higher, until, at the Equator, the pitiless strife is waged in the rarefied atmosphere of twelve thou sand feet or more. Then it sweeps down again until it reaches sea-level at the Strait of Magellan end of the Andes. In the hostile area that stretches along the Himalayas and the Alps from west ern China to eastern France, there are numerous quiet sectors, but a strategically continuous front. TREE SOLDIERS ENDURE THE GRIND OF AN UNCEASING CAMPAIGN Hardy as trained-to-the-minute men are the tree soldiers that can stand the awful grind of the unceasing campaign. The training camps are scattered all over the salubrious country of the back areas, and only picked troops of tested courage ever reach the firing-line. Tropical trees are too soft of fiber for aught but home-guard duty and last-ditch reserve support. After a few hundred miles poleward or twice as many feet sky ward they gradually drop out, and hardier and better trained substitutes fill their places, until, at last, the troops that started are, without exception, left be hind, and fresh ones everywhere reform the serried ranks. Where the last palm that typifies the tropical soldiery drops out, a third type begins to fall in line, and by the time the broad-leaved troopers begin to grow jaded, the keen, needle-leaved legions from the pine woods are ready to fill the place of the stragglers, in order that the ranks may be kept full. 629 DIVISIONS CALLED TO TIHE COLORS How heart-breaking and stamina-test ing the long march proves to be is strik ingly shown by the record of the 629 divisions that have been called to the colors between sea-level on the Florida coast and timber-line in the Colorado mountains-including the palm and the palmetto divisions, the oak and the hick ory, the maple and the birch, and other crack outfits. Gradually the divisions are reduced, by desertions and straggling, to brigades, regiments, battalions, companies, and squads, and at length formations disap pear; so that when, finally, the battle field itself is reached, all but a ,beggarly score are missing, and even these survivors of hardy divisions, the regulars of the tree armies, have been decimated. And yet, when the battle front is reached, the Titanic struggle is still to open. No operations in mass formation are possible there. The pine divisions have advanced in great, dark columns, now seeking protection from the bombing expeditions of the air service, now ac cepting the support of the shock troops of the birch divisions, and again bearing the brunt of the enemy's artillery fire of hail and sleet.