Why did Austro-Hungarian Morale take so long to collapse?

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Gwynn Compton
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Why did Austro-Hungarian Morale take so long to collapse?

Post by Gwynn Compton » 13 Feb 2004 08:39

We all know that the Austrian-Hungarian forces in the Great War suffered massive losses during the opening 6 months of the war, yet unlike the French who didn't suffer proportionally as high losses, Austrian-Hungarian morale seems to have taken much longer to collapse than the French did, as the mutinies of 1917 show.

Given the instability of the AH Empire and the massive losses it took during those opening months of the war, why do you think it's morale held out as long as it did?

Gwynn

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Franz-Joseph
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hmm

Post by Franz-Joseph » 13 Feb 2004 23:32

Maybe because they fought for Emperor, who simbolyses country, Fatherland and he is legitimate ruler.He had some, soo called, power and people liked Franz-Joseph, many count him for father of nation.Many were raised in way to honour their leader.In democracy almost everybody mock their presidents, this seems to me.
On the other point, in my country, which was part of A-H, we fought against Italians, who wanted territory of my country.We looked on this war like on war in whih we defend our nation against forgein forces.
On the front in our country, Soca front, A-H achived some successes and that also raised morale.
In do not know for other fronts, what helped to keep morale.

Gwynn Compton
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Post by Gwynn Compton » 14 Feb 2004 05:52

The French were fighting for their Republic, for Freedom, and for national territory, and as they would have thought, survival. Yet the the numerous minorities in the Austrian Kaiser's army, and the fact that they kept fighting, and at such great loss is both an amazing achievement, given the nationalistic forces pulling the country apart, and a mystery when compared to the French morale collapse of 1917.

Certainly the Germans, Austrians and Hungarians in the Austrian-Hungarian army had a lot to fight for, especially their privledged place in the Empire, yet other minorities had less of a reason to fight, unless of course they believed that some of their demands could be met by staying loyal to the Austrian Kaiser.

Perhaps news of such losses in the Austrian-Hungarian army were kept from spreading as much as in the French armies, and thus they felt they were still a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately Austria-Hungary isn't my specialty, so I'm hoping some of our more knowledgable members here might help me out :)

Gwynn

Leutnant
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Post by Leutnant » 22 Feb 2004 11:22

The Austrian army we're badly commanded in the first years of the war,
but under German command and when receiving German equipment they enjoyed alot of success, for example they managed to overrun Serbia and Montenegro in 1915 and Romania in 1916.
They threw the Russians out of Galizia in 1915 and then again in late 1916.
Also they crushed half of the entire Italian army at Caporetto in 1917.

Of course, most of these victories could'nt have been acheived without the superb German leadership witch they enjoyed.
Alltough a small number of German Divisions fought in all these campaign,
atleast 80% were Austrian troops (maybe not Caporetto, where there were alot of German division arriving after the Russian collapse).

However, I think Franz Joseph who ruled AH in over 60 years (since 1848)
had alot to do with the troops continued to be faithful and still fought for him and AH. The Austrian Empire was actually very tolerant compared to Germany and Russia, and it was a kind of a democracy having a parliament and all that. The treatment of the Slavs in the Empire wasn't that bad and Croats, Slovenes and even Serbs (living in Bosnia) fought hard against Serbia. And hundreds of thousend Poles fought against the big Slav neighbour in the east.

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Victor
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Post by Victor » 22 Feb 2004 12:51

Leutnant wrote:The Austrian army we're badly commanded in the first years of the war,
but under German command and when receiving German equipment they enjoyed alot of success, for example they managed to overrun Serbia and Montenegro in 1915 and Romania in 1916.


In 1916, yhey didnot overrun all of Romania and, most important, there were also many German, Bulgarian and Turkish troops as well, involved in the operation. If I am not mistaken, the breakthroughs in the Carpathian passes were achieved by the Germans.

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Post by Leutnant » 22 Feb 2004 13:05

I have'nt heard anything of Turkish troops in Romania,
but the Bulgarian attack from the South was quite important.

I think no front actually was entirely German,
remember that they were heavily enganged in Verdun and the Somme at the time.
And most of Romania was overrun, they even signed a peace treaty in late 1916(let me check that one).

Edit: the Romanians signed a peace treaty in 1918,
they were chased out of the western most part of Moldovia in early 1917.

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dead-cat
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Post by dead-cat » 23 Feb 2004 02:06

I have'nt heard anything of Turkish troops in Romania,

Mackensen's 4 division force used to attack the Dobrudja was reinforced with 2 turkish divisions at the end of sept. 1916.
they were chased out of the western most part of Moldovia in early 1917

not correct. until the peace treaty the romanian army held the line along the carpathians. there were a few battles in late 1917 but without result.
If I am not mistaken, the breakthroughs in the Carpathian passes were achieved by the Germans.

indeed, during sept. 1916, the central powers deployed 5 german and 2 austrian divisions in Transsylvania.

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dead-cat
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Post by dead-cat » 23 Feb 2004 18:04

correction: the Austrian newspaper "Reichspost" reported on sept. 9th. 1916 the arrival of turkish troops in the Dobrudja.

monk2002uk
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Post by monk2002uk » 15 Apr 2004 21:56

In August 1916, the following Turkish forces were involved in Europe:

1. Galicia - 19th and 20th Infantry Divisions, XV Corps

2. Romania - 15th and 25th Infantry Divisions, VI Corps; and 26th Infantry Division

Robert

jirka vrba
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Post by jirka vrba » 20 Jun 2004 00:06

To Gwynn Compton -

Not only Germans, Austrians and Hungarians fought well:
The latest units fougt in Italy (Oct./Nov. 1918) -

Mt. Grappa -
XXVI. corps
-4. inf.div
--7.inf brig.
---9.inf.rgt - 73% rus.
---99.inf.rgt - 37%czech, 60%germ.
--8.inf.brig.
---8.inf.rgt - 67%czech, 31%germ
---49.inf.rgt - 98% germ.
--assault baon 4 - 25% czech, 50% germ.25%pol.

-28.inf.div
--55.inf.brig
---11.inf.rgt - 79% czech, 20% germ.
---7.bosnian inf.rgt
--56.inf.brig
---28.inf.rgt - 95% czech
---47.inf.rgt - 77% germ.
--assault baon 28 - 50% czech, 25% germ.25%sloven.

-40.honved inf.div - hung. - they refused to fight
-42.honved inf.div. - croat. - they refused to fight
artilery etc...
----------------------------------------------
against british XIV. corps -
group "Podhajský" (Czech general)
-26. rifle-divizion
--51.rifle brig
---11.rifle rgt - 63% czech, 36% germ.
---12.rifle rgt - 87% czech
--52.riflebrig
---9.rifle rgt - 86% germ.
---10.rifle rgt - 95% czech

-29.inf.div - remainds
--57.inf.brig
---94.inf.rgt - 22%czech, 76%germ.
---121.inf.rgt - czech
--58.inf.brig
---92.inf.rgt - 80%german
---137.inf.rgt - czech
(All this regiments were recruited from Czech kingdom)
-201.militia brig.

----------------

to leutnant -
1/ A-H army was not so bad comanded. - It is old cliché.
2/ And about german help - I think, that it is same as U.S. help to British and French army.
Last edited by jirka vrba on 23 Jun 2004 08:43, edited 1 time in total.

jirka vrba
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Post by jirka vrba » 20 Jun 2004 19:06

george 8)
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Orok
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Post by Orok » 20 Jun 2004 23:08

Leutnant wrote:The Austrian army ... when receiving German equipment they enjoyed alot of success, for example they managed to overrun Serbia and Montenegro in 1915 and Romania in 1916.
They threw the Russians out of Galizia in 1915 and then again in late 1916.


Hi Leutnant,

I am not aware that the Austro-Hungarian army had ever received any significant number of German equipment. What I do know is that the quality of Austro-Hungarian equipment was in no way inferior to any Germany equipment. In fact there was no significant difference in the quality of equipment between all the major powers during the Great War (the Turks might be an exception). What the Austro-Hungarian army lacked was the quantity, especially in terms of medium artillery pieces. However the Germans were equally hard pressed and could not spare anything for their Austrian ally. However if you do have any concrete information on such transfer of German equipment to Austro-Hungarian forces, please share it with us! :D

As to your comments that Austro-Hungarian forces were badly led by their own officers, and that German leadership was superior to Austrian. My many years of studying Austro-Hungarian performance in WWI tells me that this is largely untrue. The poor performance of the Army during the initial stage of the war has many complicated reasons, and has more to do with the initial strategic planning of Hötzendorf and the failure to cooperate by the Germans and Austrians (for this failure the Germans ought to bear much of the blame), than with the leadership of the Army. In reality the lower and mid level officers performed extremely well, much better than their Russian and Serbian counterparts. The higher commanders were also very competent and many of them excelled themselves later in the war. In fact the decisive battles that drove the Russians out of Galicia and Ukrain were fought according to the plans drawn up by the widely respected Hötzendorf which was, sadly, initially refused by the Germans. And most of the Field commanders such as Dankl, Boroevic, Archduke Josef, and Krauss are as good as any German commanders one can put in their position.

This myth which today many people in the West believe fervently is first perpetuated by British-American writers, who know nothing firsthand about Austro-Hungarian Army but learned to respect German military muscle on the Western Front, thus naturally would attribute everything achieved by the Central Power in the East to the Germans. Then came the German writers who of course have nothing to object to this exaggeration of German Prowess! 8) To know how the Austro-Hungarians had fought in the war, just ask the Italians and Russians!!!

Best Regards!

jirka vrba
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Post by jirka vrba » 20 Jun 2004 23:28

Orok - thanks, thanks, thanks...

I´d like to write something like this, but...English is not my mother tongue.
Your reply is excellent - absolutely right !!!

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Orok
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Post by Orok » 21 Jun 2004 00:39

You are welcome, George! :D

jirka vrba wrote:Not only Germans, Austrians and Hungarians fought well.


Just want to add that the Czechs, Poles, Dalmatians (mostly Croats), Bosnians (mostly Serbs and Croats), Slovenes, Romanians, and basically everybody fought equally well on the Italian front!

The Czechs fought so well that the Kaiser decided to reinstate the Czech IR 28, Prague's home regiment, which was previously disbanded for poor performance on the Eastern Front.

The Bosnians fought so well that one of their regiments - the legendary bh IR Nr. 2 - received the most Golden Bravery Medals, the highest Austro-Hungarian decoration to NCOs and men, ever earned by any single units (42 Golds in all). They were considered the Monarchy's most elite and reliable troops.

Major Constantin Popovici, a Romanian, was awarded the Military Order of Maria Theresia, the highest Austro-Hungarian decoration for officers, for leading a depleted battalion in the successful defence of Hill 378 against the fierce attacks of several whole regiments of Italian troops. Befittingly, most of his men were also Romanians.

Hauptmann Stanislaw Wieronski, a Pole, was also awarded the Military Order of Maria Theresia for leading 240 men, most of them Czechs, into a determined counterattack against the line of Italian 45th Division, which resulted in the capture of 30 Italian officers, 2000 men and 19 machineguns, an entire regiment!

In my humble opinion, there is no one nationality which fought particularly worse than others! All performed their duty and beyond and all deserve our respect.

For those who have a special interest in Czech soldiery in the Austro-Hungarian Army during WWI, I recommend the following two studies by a very talented American scholar:

Schindler, John R. ‘Steamrollered in Galicia: The Austro-Hungarian Army and the Brusilov Offensive, 1916’, War in History, January 1, 2003, volume 10, issue 1, 27-59

Schindler, John R. ‘Disaster on the Drina: The Austro-Hungarian Army in Serbia, 1914’, War in History, April 1, 2002, volume 9, issue 2, 159-195

I believe Mr. Schindler is able to put the myth that Czech soldiers were the Monarchy's least loyal and the worst warrior (propagated in no small part by such a literary figure as Hasek in his all too famous Svejk the Good Soldier) to rest once for all. I for one am eagerly waiting for Mr. Schindler to publish his excellent studies in book form so more readers can be reached! :D

Best Regards!

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