World War I (1914–1919)

by: History SparkNotes

Opening Moves

Summary Opening Moves

Austria-Hungary’s Losses

While Russia was suffering huge loses against Germany, it did win a victory against Austria-Hungary. On August 18, a third Russian army entered Galicia, a region along Austria-Hungary’s eastern border. The general of the Austrian forces misjudged where the main Russian attack would fall, so the armies passed each other and ended up literally chasing each other around in a circle. As a result, the Russian army was able to push deep into enemy territory and force the Austro-Hungarian forces to retreat one hundred miles with massive casualties.

In the meantime, Austria-Hungary was also losing its first major battle against Serbia. On August 12, Austria launched a ground invasion into Serbia at the town of Sabac. Though the town was quickly captured, the Austrian army soon ran into a brick wall as Serbian forces under General Radomir Putnik advanced up the Jadar Valley, ambushing the Austro-Hungarian forces. After a battle of several days, the Serbian armies forced the Austrians to retreat all the way back to the border.

Japan’s Entry into the War

On August 23, 1914, Japan declared war on Germany in solidarity with Britain. One reason for this action was Japan’s intent to retake some islands in the Pacific Ocean that Germany had seized as colonies in recent decades.

Assessing the First Month of the War

The bold, risky steps that Germany and Russia took in the war’s opening month had a profound effect on the dynamics of the rest of the war and provided early hints that the war might last much longer than expected. Even in the first days of the war, Germany’s much-touted Schlieffen Plan began to unravel, as Russian troops arrived at the German borders faster than anticipated. Although Germany successfully thwarted the Russians, it was forced to divert armies from its advance to the west. Meanwhile, the stiff resistance from Belgium during that western advance indicated that the conquest of France might likewise be more difficult than expected. On the other side, the massive losses that Russia suffered in the first month offered a similar warning sign of how costly and difficult the war might turn out to be.

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