Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff, Germany’s commanders on the Eastern Front, have long argued that if they are given the men they can inflict a decisive defeat on Russia, knocking it out of the war. Erich von Falkenhayn, Germany’s supreme military commander, is sceptical. He thinks that victory must first be secured on the Western Front before forces can be concentrated against Russia. Despite changing circumstances he is still wedded to the France-first strategy of Germany’s pre-war plans.
However, the run of victories Hindenburg and Ludendorff achieved with the limited forces at their disposal have made their arguments hard to resist. Falkenhayn has given them Germany’s reserves, with which Mackensen, their subordinate, has launched an offensive between Gorlice and Tarnów in Galicia. Mackensen is also commanding large numbers of Austro-Hungarian troops. The hope for the offensive was that the Russian threat to the Hungarian heartland would be eliminated and also that still neutral Bulgaria and Romanian might be encouraged to enter the war on Germany’s side.
The Gorlice-Tarnów offensive is succeeding beyond the wildest dreams of its planners. The teutonic juggernaut has completely smashed the Russians in front of it, who are now either in headlong flight or else surrendering to the victors. Since the offensive was launched last week, some 100,000 Russian prisoners and 100 artillery pieces have been captured.
And today Austro-Hungarian forces cross the San river. Their target is the fortress city of Przemysl, which fell to the Russians in March after a long siege. Its recapture would be a great symbolic victory for the Habsburg Empire.
Hindenburg and Ludendorff (Wikipedia)
Russian prisoners (Wikipedia)