(The WAR to DECEMBER 1916 – continued)
France's hope in the "Russian Steamroller" proved misplaced. The slow-moving Russians launched their offensive into eastern Germany on August 13, crossing the border northward, halfway between Warsaw and Danzig. Only a third of Russia's military was mobilized. Their two attacking armies were ill-trained and lacked weaponry, communications equipment or good leadership. From late August to mid-September, first at Tannenberg and then at Masurian Lakes just a few miles inside their border, the Germans easily defeated the Russians, securing their eastern border. The Russians lost much of their weaponry and around 250,000 men. With the Germans by now having driven France's invasion back, it should have been clear that they could have defended their country without having launched any offensive, through Belgium or anywhere else, leaving the Germans to appear as virtuous as they thought themselves to be.
The Russians did better against Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary's forces – Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs and others – moved into Galicia, and the Russians inflicted heavy losses on them. Austria-Hungary's armies fell back, demoralized and in a rout.
Paul von Hindenburg, the hero of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes. Future president of Germany. Credit really belonged to a little-known staff officer, Max Hoffmann.
German troops went to the assistance of Austria-Hungary to prevent a complete collapse of their front against the Russians. The German armies drove the Russians back into Poland. There, in or near the war zones, Christians attacked Jews, accusing them of sympathy with the Germans. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were driven from their homes, and the Jews retreated eastwards away from the hysteria of the war zones.
Meanwhile, the Habsburg offensive into Serbia had failed, the armies of little Serbia humiliating Austria-Hungary. At the town of Sabac, frustrated Habsburg forces rounded up and shot male civilians, massacred children and raped women. Habsburg forces rounded up 150 peasants from the town of Lesnica and shot them. The Serbs drove the Habsburg forces back across their border. Then in September, Austria-Hungary's armies came again, establishing a bridgehead just inside Serbia, where their offensive bogged down. Outnumbering the Serb forces three to two and superior in the quality of their equipment, by December Austria-Hungary's forces were able to push into Belgrade. Then the Serbs counterattacked and again drove the invaders back across their border. This left Austria-Hungary with at least 6,000 dead, about 30,000 wounded and 3,000 captured. The Serb armies lost about 3,000 killed and 15,000 wounded.
Copyright © 2004-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.