SEPTEMBER 2 1914 – THE BATTLE OF KOMAROW; THE GERMAN ADVANCE

In Southeastern Europe, the Austro-Hungarian forces hoped to turn away the Russian advance into Galicia and Poland. One result was the Battle of Komarow from August 26 to September 2.

Summarized briefly, neither army expected its opponent where it actually turned out to be, but the Austrians had better leaders, and advanced in good order. While the Russian strength was in its numbers, this worked against them at Kamarow, to a degree.

The Austrians managed to shock the Russians holding the right and left flanks, inviting an encircling movement of which the Austrians were not able to take full advantage, perhaps being wary of another Russian army nearby.

Though the Austrians missed out on as glorious a victory as the Germans at Tannenburg just a few days earlier, they nevertheless managed to capture over 20,000 Russians in their victory, a very large number for the early days of the war. Even better, Kamarow, combined with the Battle of Krasnik, gave the Germans hope that their Austro-Hungarian allies were, in fact, useful after all.

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. . .

Meanwhile, on the Western Front, the German right wing, the key to victory, continued to move through France unchecked, and at an alarming pace. Those who remembered the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 began to think that the Germans might duplicate its outcome: a massive defeat of what few French armies got in their way, while Paris was held hostage in order to make peace.

But things were not going entirely smoothly for the Germans. A staff member for the commander of the German First Army, the cutting edge of the right wing, recorded on September 2:

“Our soldiers are worn out. For four days they have been marching forty kilometers a day. The ground is difficult, the roads are torn up, trees felled, the fields pitted by shells like strainers. The soldiers stagger at every step, their faces are plastered with dust, their uniforms are in rags; one might call them living rag-bags. They march with closed eyes, and sign in chorus to keep from falling asleep as they march. The certainty of victory close at hand and of their triumphal entry into Paris sustains them and whips up their enthusiasm. Without this certainty of victory they would fall exhausted. They would lie down where they are, to sleep at last, no matter where, no matter how. And, to give their bodies a drunkenness like that of their souls, they drink enormously. But this drunkenness also helps to keep them up.

“Today, after an inspection, the General was furiously angry. He wanted to put an end to this collective debauch. We have just persuaded him not to give severe orders. It is better not to be too strict, otherwise the army could not go on at all. For this abnormal weariness abnormal stimulants are needed. In Paris we shall remedy all this.”

~G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914-1918 (New York: Delacorte Press, 2006), 175-176.

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