October 31  This Day During World War l

October 31, 1914 – The Battle of the Vistula River was a Russian victory against the German Empire and Austria-Hungary on the Eastern Front during the First World War. When the Austro-Hungarian Army was being driven from Galicia in the Battle of Galicia, the German industrial area of Upper Silesia, left undefended by German troops, was threatened with a Russian offensive into the heart of Germany. In order to counter the Russian preparations, as well as to support the shattered Austro-Hungarian Armies, Erich von Falkenhayn, the German commander in chief, ordered the bulk of the German 8th Army from Eastern Prussia to be transferred into the area of Cracow for an offensive against the Russian centre around Warsaw. The newly-formed German 9th Army, commanded by Paul von Hindenburg, consisted of the XVII, XX, XI, Guard Reserve and Landwehr Corps, as well as a mixed Landwehr Division from Silesia and the Saxon 8th Cavalry Division. In early October, the Army was reinforced by the 35th Reserve Division from East Prussia. Thus, Hindenburg had at his disposal 12 Infantry and one Cavalry Divisions. The battle opened on 28 September by the Ninth Army and was joined by 30 September by the Austro-Hungarian First Army. To guard the northward crossing of their 4th and 9th Armies over the Vistula, the Russian command deployed the 75. Reserve Division (IV. Army) at Radom, as well as the group General Delsalle, consisting of the Guard Rifle Brigade, 2nd Rifle Brigade and 80. Reserve Division, at Opatów-Klimontów. Both groups were screened by the Cavalry divisions of the Corps Nowikow. As Hindenburg suspected two to three corps in the area, he concentrated the German XI., Guard and Austro-Hungarian I. Corps against Delsalle’s group. On 3 October, the 3rd and 7th Austrian Cavalry Divisions engaged the Russian Guard cavalry Brigade, supported by Infantry from the 80. Reserve Division, at Klimontów, and were defeated and forced back. Thus, Hindenburg had no idea of how weak the forces opposing him were in reality. In response to the Austro-German threat, the Russians were ordered to retreat on their own. While Nowikow’s cavalry obeyed the order, General Delsalle believed that he would be able to hold his position. The next day, his group was destroyed by the much superior enemy. The Central Powers captured 7,000 prisoners, only a few Russians managed to escape. The German troops lost 571 men – Austrian casualties are not known. Hindenburg reached the Vistula River by 9 October and was only 19 km (12 mi) away from Warsaw. Here, the German offensive began to falter. General Nikolai Ruzsky, commander of the Russian Northwest Front, brought up significant reinforcement against the Ninth Army. At this time, Hindenburg learned of a planned Russian offensive into Silesia from a captured Russian soldier. However, Hindenburg continued to push the offensive against Warsaw. The Germans were unfamiliar with the land and unable to bring sufficient reinforcements to the Ninth Army, therefore allowing Ruzsky to concentrate his front against Hindenburg. On 17 October, Hindenburg ordered a retreat, and by the 31st the battle was over. On 1 November, the German Ninth Army was back where it had begun, with the loss of 21,350 soldiers, while the Austro-Hungarian First Army had lost 50,000 soldiers. The Russians had lost 15,000 dead and 50,000 wounded. This was the first of a series of attempts by the Germans to capture Warsaw. After the battle, Colonel General Hindenburg was appointed commander of the whole Eastern front. The IX. Army was taken over by General August von Mackensen, former commander of the XVII. Corps. Ten days later, Hindenburg made another attempt at Warsaw culminating in the Battle of Łódź. Superior numbers on the Eastern Front had given the Russian army the advantage in the fall of 1914.

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