Historical Thread: Fighting forces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918)

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#1
The first world war was a battle of epic proportions, 70 million men took up arms and 10 million were killed, 20 million wounded in mind and body. it was a war that helped shape the modern world from conflagrations in the Carpathians to the mud of the western front to the epic gun battles at Gallipoli. yet so little is often discussed about one of the largest countries that fought the war, The Austro-Hungarian empire.


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Austria-Hungary in Europe circa 1912 A.D

As a short summary for those that didn't know, The first world war started after the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was murdered, by a Serbian ultra-nationalist/terrorist by the name Gavrilo Princip. The Serbian government was mostly complicit in funding the terrorist organizations involved in the killing (young Bosnia and the black hand) and after refusing to comply with Austrian demands, Austria-Hungary declared war and invaded Serbia. Serbia's ally, Russia invaded Austria-Hungary and their ally Germany. and after a few more declarations the whole of Europe and many other parts of the world were at war with each other. skipping the rest let's get into the main topic.

The armed forces of Austria-Hungary were divided into multiple branches, notably, Austria-Hungary actually had three different land armies: The solely Austrian (and territories belonging to Austria such as Czechia and Slovenia) Landwehr, the Royal Hungarian Honvéd and a Jointly-financed common army (which had men from every part of the empire). The three different armies were a result of the compromise of 1867 that created the empire. In addition, the Austro-Hungarian empire possessed a joint navy and air force.

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Austrian Landwehr reservists having their picture taken.


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Royal Hungarian Honvéd soldier


Although many berate the Austro-Hungarians as military incompetents, this is a false narrative that has taken place. Many point to the "poor performance of the Austro-Hungarians" during the opening days of the eastern front of World War 1. This is incorrect for one, very large reason. The Austro-Hungarian battle plans for the invasion of Serbia and the defense of the Carpathians were in the hands of both the Russians and Serbians, thanks to a traitor by the name of Alfred Redl (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Alfred-Redl) with the Austro-Hungarian battle plans in hand Austria-Hungary was doomed to suffer shortcomings during the opening days of the campaign. this, however, detracts from Austria-Hungary's critical contribution to the war effort of the Central Powers. Austria-Hungary during the beginning of World War 1 had a total of
  • 36,000 Officers
  • 414,000 NCOs and troops
  • 87,000 horses
  • 1,200 artillery pieces
  • 147 aeroplanes
  • 104 naval vessels
This was by no means a weak force. and over the course of the war Austro-Hungarian soldiers would prove their worth on the battlefield against the Russians and Serbians, and later, the Romanians and Italians.
During the first few months of the war, the Austro-Hungarian army invaded Serbia, successfully taking Belgrade until the defeat at Cer and the retreat from Serbia. the Serbs boasted of their Russian-aided, battle plan enabled victory, but this was not the end of the campaign.
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Austro-Hungarian card, Translation: Serbia, we will smash you to pieces!


In 1915, after one year of success against the Russians in the east, the Central powers once again set their sights on punishing the Serbians. Austria-Hungary along with her allies Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire launched a joint offensive against the Serbs in the Balkans. Crushing the Serbians and their allies decisively at Kosovo, Morava, and Montenegro. with this Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria jointly occupied Serbia, avenging the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

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Austro-Hungarian river monitor destroys Belgrade, shortly before the 1915 offensive.
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An Austro-Hungarian poster stating the end of Serbia, 1915.

On the Eastern front, Austria-Hungary would contribute on an equal level to Germany. Austro-Hungarian troops repelled the Russians alone during the battles of Rokitna (Polish legions), Rafajlowa, Jastków and aided the Germans in countless offensives to push the Russians back. Although suffering massive losses during the Russian "brusliov offensive" the soldiers of the K.U.K did not capitulate and managed to inflict more casualties on the Russians than they suffered. In the end, Austria-Hungary, like Germany emerged victorious against the Russians after the Russians signed the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. however, the defeat of the Central Powers by the UK, France and United States negated the previous gains.

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(depiction of Austro-Hungarian troops fighting the Russians on the Eastern front)

When Romania and Italy both declared war on Austria-Hungary and its allies. it opened up two new fronts, in which, the Austro-Hungarians contributed the bulk of men to.
Romania declared war on the Central Powers in 1916, hoping to snatch Transylvania from the Hungarian part of the Empire. the war last for a year with Romania before Austrian troops (with a small amount of aid from their allies from Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman empire) captured most of Romania aside from a small enclave in Berberessa (now Moldova). After their surrender, the Romanians later re-entered the war in November 1918 to gain allied concessions.

Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary in 1915. starting a 3-year war in the high alpine mountains that saw some of the worse human sufferings of the First World War. nearly 650,000 Italians and 400,000 Austro-Hungarians died. along with many others from the German and allied armies assisting their respective sides. after 11 battles of Isonzo (and an initial Italian advance into Slovenia), the Austro-Hungarians had success at the battle of Caporetto in 1916, pushing the Italians back to the Piave river (close to Venice). after the battle of the Piave river, however, Austria-Hungary suffered a defeat it was unable to recover from, one final battle at Vittorio Veneto was the end of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces. after nearly 4 years of constant warfare. ending the nearly 800-year-old Habsburg monarchy in Central Europe, and reshaping the continents map forever.

On the seafront, Austria-Hungary had 104 Naval vessels ready for action. in spite of the Italian, British and French navies all in the Adriatic sea. the Austro-Hungarian navy managed to keep its coast defended, bombard Montenegrin and Italian port cities, and sink a mass of allied shipping via U-boat warfare.
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SMS Tegenhoff before bombarding the Coastal city of Ancona.
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SMS Szent Istvan before being destroyed by Italian torpedo boats.

In short, the Austro-Hungarian forces of World War 1 are one of the greatest, and sadly overlooked forces of Early Modern history.
 
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#5
Imperialists always lose it the end. I could not image how were they so advanced in that time. They used to have a decent advanced navy.
 
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#6
Imperialists always lose it the end. I could not image how were they so advanced in that time. They used to have a decent advanced navy.
4 dreadnoughts, they even held out for 4 years against the combined allied fleets. Adriatic was more or less an Austrian lake at that time.
 
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#8
Actually I read that Bosnians played a critical role during the war. I don't know why they were labeled as terrorists!
The terrorist wasn't a Bosnian, but a Bosnian-Serb (a Serbian that lives in the territory of Bosnia)

Actual Bosnian Muslims were actually quite loyal to the empire.
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(Muslim Bosniak infantrymen, notice the use of Fez)
 
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#9
What is an Army without its leading general, for Austria-Hungary this was one man, Field Marshall Conrad von Hözendorf. Hözendorf became famous both during and after the war for his brilliant battle plans (most of Paul von Hindenburg and Eric von Ludendorff's plans came from Hözendorf's).

Hözendorf joined the cadet corps of the Hainburg garrison and was educated at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt (modern Austria), where he developed a strong interest in natural science, especially in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. In 1871, at age 19 he received a commission as lieutenant in a Jäger battalion. After graduating from the Kriegsschule (military academy) in 1876, he transferred to the General Staff Corps of the Austro-Hungarian Army.

In 1878–1879, upon the Treaty of Berlin, these duties brought him to the Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sanjak of Novi Pazar, when those Ottoman provinces were assigned to the military administration of Austria-Hungary. He was also a member of the staff in the rank of a Captain (Hauptmann) during the 1882 insurrection in the Austrian Kingdom of Dalmatia. In 1886, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the 11th Infantry Division at Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine), where he showed great ability in reforming field exercise. Elevated to the rank of a Major, in the fall of 1888, he began a new appointment as a professor of military tactics in the Kriegsschule in Vienna, a position he prepared for by touring the battlefields of the Franco-Prussian War. Conrad proved to be a good teacher quite popular among his students.
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(an early photo of Hözendorf in 1907, when he would become a member of Austria-Hungary's chief of staff)

in 1892, he requested a transfer back to command and took charge of the 93rd Infantry Regiment at Olmütz. From 1895 he commanded the 1st Infantry Regiment Kaiser at Kraków and from 1899 the 55th Infantry Brigade in Trieste, promoted to a Generalmajor (similar to a one-star general). After acting against a major Italian uprising in the city in 1902, he was made Feldmarschalleutnant and took command of the 8th Infantry Division at Innsbruck in 1903.

By the time of his appointment as Chief of Staff for the Armed Might of Austria-Hungary at the suggestion of the heir to the throne (Thronfolger), Archduke Franz Ferdinand in November 1906, Conrad had established a reputation as a teacher and writer. Like other Austro-Hungarian officers of his generation, he had little direct combat experience but had studied and written extensively about theory and tactics. His published works on infantry tactics sold well and were printed in multiple editions. He was a tireless campaigner for modernization of the armed forces. He was made General der Infanterie in November 1908.

Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria vested Conrad with the noble rank of a Freiherr in 1910. His differences with Foreign Minister Count Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal, who several times objected Conrad's suggestion of a preventive war against Italy, over the Bosnian crisis led to his dismissal in 1911, under the pretext of an affair with his later wife Virginia Reininghaus. Nevertheless, after Aehrenthal had resigned and died the next year, Archduke Franz Ferdinand urged for Conrad's re-appointment, which took place during the Balkan Wars in December 1912. Although Conrad's ideas had considerable impact in the decision-making process of the government, especially in lead-up to the First World War.
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(Hözendorf examining a map of Serbia during the July crisis)
Conrad's legacy as a commander remains controversial, with earlier historians regarding him as a military genius, while more recent works characterize him (perhaps unjustly) as an utter failure for the opening year of world war 1. In military matters, Conrad emphasized the importance of aggressive, well-trained infantry and the strategic and tactical offensive. Paul von Hidenburg (the German commander on the eastern front) called Conrad "a man of superior ability and a bold general, only hindered by the weaknesses of his army". likewise, Soviet Field Marshall Boris Shaposhnikov presented Hözendorf as the perfect example of a chief of staff in his 1927 book "Мозг армии". Regardless of personal opinion, Conrad remains a towering figure in the history of the Austrian Military.
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(Hözendorf later in life)
 

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#11
The empire was more of a jock considering that Austrians and Hungarians are completely different from each other, different culture, different language and pretty much different everything etc. It was doomed to fail.
 
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#12
The empire was more of a jock considering that Austrians and Hungarians are completely different from each other, different culture, different language and pretty much different everything etc. It was doomed to fail.
The Habsburgs empire held the lands for about 300 years without too many incidents. in reality, most of the groups were actually not fed up with Habsburg rule (exceptions being the Italians, Romanians, and the Serbs). had the war been won and the rights of the Hungarian crown extended to the other 13 ethnic groups. It would probably still be around today.

even the "so-called disloyal Czechs" actually didn't revolt until 1918. 4 years after the start of the war.