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Austria-Hungary at War, Thoughts and Opinions

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  • Austria-Hungary at War, Thoughts and Opinions

    In this forum we have a lot of discussion about the Western Front, the Russians, various weapons and tactics, as well as the colonial fronts. However, it is rare that we discuss one of the largest powers involved in the First World War, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. I don't know a lot myself about the Austrian-Hungarian war effort, except that they had a great deal of trouble handling Serbia, they were badly mauled during the Brusilov Offensive, but that they were able to more or less hold the line on the Italian front at least until the last days of the war. I guess I am starting this thread to get some opinions on how the Austrian-Hungarian Empire fared during the war, what could it have done better, does anyone have any interesting stories about the Austrian-Hungarins during the war? Also, what was the domestic situation in the country in 1914, where did they stand economically, politically, and in relative military strength?

    One thing that I suppose severely weakened the old empire was the many nationalities it contained, as by 1918 many of these peoples were agitating for their own states. However, I was surprised that after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that the situation continued to deteriorate so rapidly, I had thought that with their most dangerous enemy out of commission that the empire would have been able to perhaps hold on a bit longer.

    Anyways, what are some other people's thoughts on the Austrian-Hungarians and their performance during the war?
    There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full. -Henry Kissinger

  • #2
    Terribly would be the best way to put it. The Germans used the term "fettered to a corpse" in describing the alliance.
    Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the cheesemakers

    That's right bitches. I'm blessed!

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    • #3
      A/H was not prepared for any kind of long term conflict. They were lured into the war with the idea that They could conquer Serbia without Russian interference. With Russia continually threatening from the North, they were forever having to rely on Germany to keep from collapsing.

      On the Italian front, they held their own, but it was a very limited arena for fighting and very rugged terrain. A/H was not planning for Italy to join the Allies. (They were originally aligned with Germany and A/H). Therefore Italy was the aggressor here and their failure to capture Trieste was A/H's only major success.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Rojik View Post
        Terribly would be the best way to put it. The Germans used the term "fettered to a corpse" in describing the alliance.
        That is the impression I usually get when thinking about the Austrian-Hungarians as well. There is certainly no doubt that Germany's war effort was handicapped by the weaknesses of its two main allies, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Were there any notable Austrian-Hungarian victories or important contributions during the war?
        There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full. -Henry Kissinger

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Napoleon View Post
          That is the impression I usually get when thinking about the Austrian-Hungarians as well. There is certainly no doubt that Germany's war effort was handicapped by the weaknesses of its two main allies, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Were there any notable Austrian-Hungarian victories or important contributions during the war?
          The Battle of Caporetto in 1917. The A-H forces utterly destroyed the Italian Army there, causing the entire Italian Front to collapse. The A-H forces captured massive amounts of arms, material, supplies and men as they advanced nearly 70 miles, before coming to a halt along the Piave River. There, the Allies quickly reinforced the Italians with six French and five British Divisions to solidify the situation. Never again were the Austro-Hungarian Forces so close to victory.
          "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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          • #6
            Napoleon,

            The A-H Empire was saddled with a Commander in Chief that did his best to upset all war plans. In the first week of the war he changed his mind at least three times which war plan to use. Some units had to continue on to their destination before they could go back to where they were finally supposed to go. There was not a lot of railroads, but they were tied up with troop movements for weeks. One Army commander refused to send troops back that were needed on another front. Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge would have been justified in calling this a Gigantic Clusterf*@k!

            That all being said, the A-H Army was a good professional force. It was not on par with Germany, Russia, France or Great Britain. It could handle Italy, Romania, Bulgaria or any of the various minor Balkan powers one on one. The problem came when it had to fight on two or more fronts.

            Several things doomed the A-H Army. Officers went to war in their dress uniforms. They might as well have put a large sign above them saying "SHOOT ME!". Serbia was a typhus zone. Once the various people in Serbia started moving around, the Health Services (were there any?) were overwhelmed. This epidemic quickly spread to the A-H Army. This is the main reason why it took four offenses to crush Serbia. In the first year of the war the A-H Army pretty well lost its experienced Officers and NCO's. There was no real system to replace them.

            There is a memorial in a town in the Alps which once held an A-H Infantry Regiment. It reads that out of all the men that went to war in 1914, none came back!

            Pruitt
            Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

            Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

            by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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            • #7
              Austria's army performed better than expected. That means not as good as Germany's or France's, but better than the successor armies (Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechloslovakia) did later on.

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              • #8
                The amazing part of the A-H and its army was that it had nothing really to gain from it all, pretty early lost strategic command of its own forces to its German ally, and was relegated to supporting the whatever the Germans wanted done, yet kept on fighting until the very end, while taking as much of a beating as any other WWI army.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Glenn239 View Post
                  Austria's army performed better than expected. That means not as good as Germany's or France's, but better than the successor armies (Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechloslovakia) did later on.
                  I agree, considering AH performance in past wars.

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                  • #10
                    Yes, considering the massive problems that the Austrian-Hungarian Empire faced by 1914 they did not do that badly in what was essentially a three-front war after 1915. One aspect of this was no doubt that Franz Joseph was actually very popular throughout the empire until his death in 1916. His heir was much less successful at maintaining the loyalties of the various nationalities that made up his empire, although, he was prudent enough to recognize that by 1918 the superior strength of the allies all but guranteed the defeat of the Central Powers. Unfortunately for the empire, he failed at his attempts to make a seperate peace with the Allies.

                    Austria-Hungary certainly lacked the industrial strength to carry out a modern war, although they certainly did better than the Russian Empire. While Austria-Hungary had a few very modern cities like Vienna or Budapest, they also had many very backward areas that were not prepared for the rigours of total war. This is a situation very similar to Russia, which had a handful of modern industrial cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1914 but lacked the widescale industrialization present in countries like Germany or the United States.

                    Pruitt, I agree with much of what you say. Although, I would point out that all countries had problems with officers being decimated in the first years of the war. Even Britain, which did not have its officers elaborately dressed, expected officers to lead from the front and thus many were killed. The Russian nobility also suffered many casualties due to similar attitudes and the replacement of nobility with commoners in the officer ranks is one reason that the Tsar lost control of the army by 1917. I suppose Austria-Hungary was not fundamentally different from the other powers in facing this issue of dispraportionate officer casualties, but they lacked the infrastructure to replace these men. However, countries like Britain and France were more successful in promoting from the ranks and developing effective replacement systems.
                    There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full. -Henry Kissinger

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                      There, the Allies quickly reinforced the Italians with six French and five British Divisions to solidify the situation.
                      To solidify the situation well behind the front lines... No allied units fought along the Piave river soon after the Caporetto disaster.
                      A ME LE GUARDIE
                      "Di noi tremò la nostra vecchia gloria. Tre secoli di fede e una vittoria". Gabriele D'Annunzio

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                        The Battle of Caporetto in 1917. The A-H forces utterly destroyed the Italian Army there, causing the entire Italian Front to collapse. The A-H forces captured massive amounts of arms, material, supplies and men as they advanced nearly 70 miles, before coming to a halt along the Piave River. There, the Allies quickly reinforced the Italians with six French and five British Divisions to solidify the situation. Never again were the Austro-Hungarian Forces so close to victory.
                        May I point out that the only reason that the AH forces were as successful as they were was because of the active participation of German forces during the offensive. I really do not believe that AH left to its own devices would have been able to accomplish much of anything; case in point, they tried the same trick at the Battle of the Solstice, without German participation or direction and were thoroughly defeated, so decisively in fact that not only was this battle their last hurrah, they sued for peace soon after.

                        Moreover, the routed Italian army at the shores of the Piave was not stopped by the allies, those soldiers were slowed down by their own comrade in arms and the river itself; in fact allied participation in Italy was minimal as the general perception was that the main theater of war was in France. It took Caporetto, and active German participation on the AH side finally get allies involved, a total of 11 allied division and some air assets, after the fact.

                        Additionally, and in response the previous poster John, to call Italy the aggressor simply ignores the pent up rage of many Italians towards AH for its dealings with Italy for literally hundreds of years, such as the annexation of the territories of the former Republic of Venice in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars for example. The treaty with AH was signed against the vigorous objections of the many Italians that viewed AH as an enemy from the get go and who wished to re-unit the whole of the Italian population and territories under Italy's banner.
                        Give me a fast ship and the wind at my back for I intend to sail in harms way! (John Paul Jones)

                        Initiated Chief Petty Officer
                        Hard core! Old School! Deal with it!

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                        • #13
                          they tried the same trick at the Battle of the Solstice, without German participation or direction and were thoroughly defeated
                          The Piave offensive was undertaken in conditions of exception difficulty, including total Allied (not Italian) air superiority, a horrific supply and general health situation amongst the attacking units, and a difficult river crossing against unseasonably high flooding (which removed many of the assault bridges). The attackers possessed no numerical superiority.

                          Additionally, and in response the previous poster John, to call Italy the aggressor simply ignores the pent up rage of many Italians towards AH for its dealings with Italy for literally hundreds of years,
                          The term aggressor ceases to have meaning if it does not also apply to the antics of Italy in 1915.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bass_man86 View Post
                            Additionally, and in response the previous poster John, to call Italy the aggressor simply ignores the pent up rage of many Italians towards AH for its dealings with Italy for literally hundreds of years, such as the annexation of the territories of the former Republic of Venice in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars for example. The treaty with AH was signed against the vigorous objections of the many Italians that viewed AH as an enemy from the get go and who wished to re-unit the whole of the Italian population and territories under Italy's banner.
                            Mario, I would respectfully disagree. Many (or some, or a few) Italians might have had pent up rage against the Austrians. But by the same token those same Italians might have had pent up rage against France, Spain, the Ottomans, the Greeks, northern Germans, the Vatican, etc. - all of which made war in Italy over the past 1000 years to suit their own interests. Heck, Italians probably had as much pent up rage against their own countrymen in other regions - Milanese vs. Florentines vs. Lombards, etc. for the same reasons. I don't think we can excuse Italy's aggression against Austria by this fact. Thats not to say that under a realpolitik analysis, the aggression can't be justified.

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                            • #15
                              For a pretty good web page on the Italian Front check out www.worldwar1.com/itafront/index.htm

                              Be sure and check out the virtual tour of the front, this is of course from the Italian point of view
                              Last edited by tcox; 30 Apr 10, 12:41.

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