Saturday, 2 January 2010

“Lacplesa Diena” Bear Slayer Day

General von der Goltz was forced to return to Germany by the British, but the remaining German forces concentrated, regrouped and rearmed around Jelgava. Now, they formally joined the “West Russian Volunteer Army” led by Russian General Pavel Bermont who also called himself Prince Avalov as he claimed he was descended from the Georgian princely family of Avalishvili (Avalov) on his mother's side. In October 1919, they moved on Riga. Now the Latvian National Government was confronted by a two front war. The Latvians call this part of the war the “Bermontiade”.

For a while the new front stabilized on the Daugava River, where it ran right through the center of Riga. Then, on the 11th of November, the Latvian forces supported by gunfire from the American heavy cruiser USS Pittsburgh and several Royal Navy and French ships, crossed the Daugava in boats near its estuary hitting the Bermontiade in the left flank. With that their morale, which had never been the best, collapsed, as the German rank and file were by now quite weary of an endless war which they understood the Allied Forces whose ships stood offshore, would never allow them to win. General, Prince Bermont abandoned his men and the Lithuanians destroyed the last of their military capacity at Radvilskis as they tried to retreat through Lithuania. For the Latvians, the victory brought a bounty of heavy weapons, as the Germans abandoned their artillery, armored cars and aircraft. 11 November is celebrated in Latvia as “Lacplesa Diena”, the Latvian Armed Forces Day.

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While I knew about the contribution of the British and French Navy  this is the first time I have read about there being the American heavy cruiser USS Pittsburgh in the vicinity.