Galicia, Battle of 1914

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Galicia, Battle of (1914)

 

one of the largest engagements of World War I (1914-18), fought between the Russian and Austro-Hungarian armies in Galicia and Poland from August 5 (18) to September 8 (21). About 2 million men and some 5,000 pieces of artillery took part on the two sides along a 400-km front.

The tasks of the Russian Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General N. I. Ivanov; chief of staff, General M. V. Alekseev) were the encirclement and destruction of the main Austro-Hungarian forces by a concentric attack by the Fourth and Fifth armies from the north and the Third and Eighth armies from the east. The Austro-Hungarian Command (commander in chief, Archduke Frederick; chief of staff, Field Marshal F. Conrad von Hotzendorf) planned to destroy the right wing of the Southwestern Front (the Fourth and Fifth armies) with the forces of the Austro-Hungarian First and Fourth armies supported by Army Group Kummer and the German corps of General Woyrsch; their operations were protected from the east by the Third Army and Army Group Kövess (from August 10 [23] called the Second Army). The balance of forces at the start of the battle of Galicia was as follows: 36½ infantry and 12½ cavalry divisions for the Russians and 39 infantry and ten cavalry divisions for the Austro-Hungarians. At its end these forces had grown to some 50 infantry and 20½ cavalry divisions for the Russians and 48 infantry and 11 cavalry divisions for the Austro-Hungarians.

The mutual approach began on August 5-6 (18-19) and on August 10 (23) developed into close combat along a 320-km front, in the course of which the Austro-Hungarian First Army (commanded by General Dankl) and the Fourth (General Auffenberg), attacking toward Lublin and Chelm and using their superiority of forces, defeated the Russian Fourth (General A. E. Zal’tsa; from August 22 General A. E. Evert) and Fifth (General P. A. Pleve) armies near Kraśnik (August 10-12 [23-25]) and Tomashov (August 13-18 [26-31]), forcing them to retreat to Lublin, Chelm, and Vladimir-Volynskii. Nevertheless, encountering stubborn resistance from the Russian troops, the Austro-Hungarian armies suffered heavy losses and their offensive (especially that of the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army) was slowed.

Simultaneously on August 5-6 (18-19) the Russian Third Army (General N. V. Ruzskii) and the Eighth (General A. A. Brusilov) on the left wing of the Southwestern Front began to attack, and on August 13-15 (26-28) defeated the Austro-Hungarian Third Army (General Brudermann) at the Zolotaia Lipa River. The enemy attempt to halt the Russian troops with the forces of the Third and Second armies (General Böhn-Ermolli) was unsuccessful. In an engagement at the Gnilaia Lipa River from August 16 to 19 (August 29-September 1), the Russian Third Army broke through the enemy front near Przemysl, while the Eighth Army repulsed a counterattack by the Austro-Hungarian Second Army. The right wing of the Austro-Hungarian troops began to retreat to a line at Gorodok (west of Lvov). On August 20 (September 2) the Russians occupied Galich and, on August 21 (September 3), Lvov.

Leaving a weak screening force against the Russian Fifth Army, the Austro-Hungarian Command transferred its Fourth Army to the south against the Russian Third Army. In the Gorodok engagement of August 23-30 (September 5-12) the Austro-Hungarian Fourth, Third (led by General Boroevič after August 23), and Second armies tried to defeat the Russian Third and Eighth armies. They succeeded in achieving some success and pressed the Eighth Army, but at this time the situation on the left wing of the Austro-Hungarian front had sharply deteriorated. Large reinforcements arrived for the Russian Fourth and Fifth armies, which were on the defensive; on August 21 (September 3) the Ninth Army (General P. A. Lechitskii) was brought up to the right of the Fourth Army. By August 20 (September 2) the Russian Fourth Army was already achieving partial success, while on August 22 (September 4) all three armies took the offensive and began to press the enemy. On August 26 (September 8) the Fourth Army broke through the Austro-Hungarian front near Tarnawka, and soon the entire left wing of the Austro-Hungarian forces began to retreat. Attacking toward Rava-Russkaia, the Russian Fifth Army began to threaten the line of withdrawal of the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army.

All this compelled the Austro-Hungarian command to break off the Gorodok engagement and on the eve of August 30 (September 12) to begin a general retreat across the San River. Only on August 31 (September 13) did the commander in chief of the Southwestern Front issue an order for pursuit, which developed slowly; the enemy succeeded in breaking away. By September 3 (16) the Austro-Hungarian troops withdrew behind the San River and then continued their disorderly retreat beyond the Dunajec River. The Russian troops pursued the enemy until September 8 (21) and beseiged the fortress of Przemyśl.

The strategic importance of the battle of Galicia was enormous. Although the Russian command made a number of mistakes during the battle, resulting in considerable losses (230,000 men and 94 guns), and the goal of the operation—the encirclement of the enemy—was not achieved, the Russian troops won a great victory. The losses of the Austro-Hungarian troops amounted to 325,000 men (including some 100,000 prisoners) and 400 guns. The Russian troops occupied Galicia and part of Austrian Poland, creating a threat of invasion into Hungary and Silesia. The rout of the Austro-Hungarian troops negated the German successes in East Prussia and diverted Austro-Hungarian forces from Serbia. Germany’s main ally lost its combat fitness, and Germany was compelled to send large forces to support its weakened ally.

REFERENCES

Kolenkovskii, A. K. Manevrennyi period pervoi mirovoi imperialisticheskoi voiny 1914. Moscow, 1940.
Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Mirovaia voina 1914-1918, 3rd. ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1938.
Beloi, A. S. Galitsiiskaia bitva. Moscow-Leningrad, 1929.
Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, vol. 2. Berlin, 1925.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.