August 25 marked three key events: Japan’s declaration of war against Austria-Hungary, Austria-Hungary’s three day battle with the Russians near modern-day Poland, and the end of a large battle on the Western front. While Japan’s declaration of war can be described as a natural result of their previous declaration of war against Germany, the other two events require a bit more narrative.
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Germany called upon its ally, Austria-Hungary, to attack the Russians in order to divert some of the Russian troops away from their invasion of Germany. As a result, Austro-Hungarian Chief of Staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf ordered several armies into Galicia. As they pushed farther east, these armies separated from each other, but the Austro-Hungarian First Army, led by General Viktor Graf Dankl, nevertheless outnumbered the Russian army with which he made contact by a ratio of about 3-1.
A three day battle of fast fluid action, neither side dug trenches, and the cavalry of both sides even played a part in the battle. Ultimately, however, Dankl successfully deployed his troops so as to take advantage of his numerical superiority, enveloping the flanks of his opponent’s force. The majority of the fighting ended on August 25. The Russians lost over 20,000 men, compared to about 15,000 for the Austro-Hungarians.
Image text of this period postcard:
“Austrian victories, 26 8th 1914
“The Austrian war press bureau reports: West of the Vistula our forces were increased by the addition of our German allies in fighting yesterday at the section of the Komionka River between Kielce and Radom. East of the Vistula our victorious forces advanced on 23 August at Krasnik, and drove a strong group of two Russian corps back to Lublin. About 1,000 Russians, including many officers, fell uninjured into our hands. A number of flags, rifles and machine guns were captured.”
. . .
On the Western front, Joffre’s French armies had been assaulting the Germans near the Franco-German border in the Alsace-Lorraine region. With a “devil may care” attitude towards defensive measures and the use of artillery, the French simply found themselves outmatched by the Germans . . . marginally, but consistently.
August 25 marked the approximate end of the counter-offensives with which the Germans had immediately followed the French attack’s upon Lorraine. Most significantly, the French First and Second armies had to retreat some distance in order to avoid being cut off from each other.
German losses had been around 66,000, but French casualties were probably far larger . . . at this point in the war, the French believed very strongly that the best tactic was simply attacks with nothing held back. (You can read more about this in my post of August 8- France’s subscription to the Cult of the Offensive). As a result, the French lost so many men that it is still unknown just how many died . . . even the officers responsible for reporting their section’s losses were among the missing.