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The war on the Eastern Front began with two massive clashes in separate theaters. In the northern theater, two Russian armies—the First and Second —invaded East Prussia against a defense conducted by the German Eighth Army. In the southern theater, four Russian armies—the Fourth, Fifth, Third, and Eighth—collided in a vast meeting engagement with three Austro-Hungarian armies—the Fourth, First, and Third, supported by two additional task forces—across the open plains of Galicia. Each army and corps attempted to outflank and encircle its opponent. Two additional Russian armies, the Sixth and Seventh, protected the newly renamed Russian capital Petrograd and the Black Sea coast at Odessa in the south. Judged by the number of troops involved, Galicia was by far the more significant theater. Austria-Hungary was the foe with which Russia had the greatest clash of interests: in effect, the enemy Russia wanted to fight. Nevertheless , Russia’s initial victory in Galicia has been eclipsed by its initial defeat in East Prussia. Part of this is deliberate propaganda: Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, who obtained near total control of the German war effort by war’s end, established their reputations as ostensible military geniuses in the battle for East Prussia, and assiduously promoted their achievements during the war and after. In addition, East Prussia had more significance to the broader war outside the Eastern Front itself. The battle for Galicia, whether decisive Russian victory or catastrophic defeat, was unlikely to affect the immediate course of war elsewhere. East Prussia , by contrast, had everything to do with what happened in the west. Ger3 The Opening Campaigns: East Prussia, 1914 54 Stone_The Russian Army in the Great War 5/19/15 9:43 AM Page 54 many needed every man it could spare for the drive on Paris, and its effort to destroy the French army before Russian mobilization was complete; rapid Russian victory in East Prussia would mean failure at Paris and doom Germany to a two-front war; quick Russian defeat might allow Germany ’s gamble to succeed. The campaigns of 1914 differed substantially from those of later years. First, their tempo was more rapid. Six months of war witnessed Russian invasions of East Prussia and Galicia, an Austro-Hungarian attack out of Galicia, two autumn German offensives against Warsaw, an AustroHungarian offensive in the Carpathians, and a German winter offensive in Masuria, all in quick succession. Since unit density—the number of men per mile of front—was lower than in the west, the fronts moved with great speed. Neither side could sustain this pace, though, and the tempo of events in subsequent years was more restrained. Second, the battles in the east in 1914 were operationally distinct from later years as a result of limited manpower in a large space. The low unit density that made fronts mobile was a product in part of the unalterable vastness in the east, but also of the nature of mobilization. Because of its slow mobilization, the Russian army began fighting with many of its troops still making their way to the front. Nicholas had approved full mobilization on 31 July, but by the time the first serious clashes took place in mid-August, only a fraction of Russia ’s available forces had been moved to the front. Russia could deploy only a third of the force to frontier zones after fifteen days and another third by thirty days, forcing the Russian generals in East Prussia and Galicia to go to war before their full complement of men was available.1 At the same time, bungling by Conrad, the Austrian chief of staff, forced his troops to spend much of the first month of the war shuttling between the Balkans and Galicia. Finally, commanders were still thinking of war in Napoleonic terms, with formations marching independently, then concentrating for battle as compact masses. The fronts in 1914 were not continuous. Corps and armies moved and fought as discrete and separate units, certainly by comparison to later in the war. This is, of course, relative. No Napoleonic army fought on a front of 100 kilometers, as armies in the east routinely did. Nonetheless, commanders allowed substantial gaps between their divisions and their neighbors, with the spaces between covered by cavalry or not at all. Huge sections of the Eastern Front were essentially unmanned in the early days of the war—the western border of the Polish salient, for THE OPENING CAMPAIGNS: EAST PRUSSIA, 1914 55 Stone_The...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780700621163
Related ISBN
9780700620951
MARC Record
OCLC
910382597
Pages
368
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-29
Language
English
Open Access
No
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