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Title: Russia's Part in the World War

Author: C. M. Shumsky-Solomonov

Release Date: January 18, 2016 [eBook #50956]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



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Russian Information Bureau in the U. S.


Copyright 1920
Russian Information Bureau
New York



The author of this pamphlet, Colonel C. M. Shumsky-Solomonov, is an officer of the Russian Army, a distinguished soldier and an authority on military problems. Col. Shumsky-Solomonov was one of the defenders of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War, and as a military expert of the Petrograd daily, "Birjeviya Viedomosti", he was well known not only in Russia but also throughout Europe.

The purpose of this pamphlet is to present Russia's part in the recent War. Russia at present lies in seas of blood and tears because of her enormous sacrifices in the struggle against Prussian militarism. The nightmare of Bolshevism was able to overtake Russia because she was exhausted by three years of active participation in the War, during which her casualties reached 12,000,000, and her economic life became overstrained and partially destroyed. Russia's present pitiful condition is the result of her self-sacrificing services to humanity.

According to the data quoted by Col. Shumsky-Solomonov, of the 12,000,000 Russian casualties in the recent War, not less than 3,000,000 were in dead. "Russia's losses," says Col. Shumsky-Solomonov, "are more than twice those of France, four-five times those of England, and more than thirty-five times those of America. Russia's losses are more than twice the total strength of the British Army, and three-four times all the forces mustered by the United States. The number of Russia's casualties is larger than the total population of any of the following European countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Holland or the Balkan States."

If Russia had not sacrificed 3,000,000 of her best youth, now sleeping on the battle-fields of Europe, a Prussian bayonet would now be ruling the world. As Col. Shumsky-Solomonov points out, the great role played by Russia in the recent struggle "became apparent at the very beginning of the War, in the important aid she rendered in frustrating the initial and most dangerous[4] plan of the Germans, by her early offensive in aid of the Allies. Russia, having diverted against herself the entire Austrian army and part of the German, at the time of the battle on the Marne, through her offensive in East Prussia and Galicia, deprived the enemy of the opportunity to realize the fundamental idea of Moltke's plan to fling 'all forces into France.'"

"At the following attempt of the enemy to find a decision in France, to break through to Calais, at Ypres," says Col. Shumsky-Solomonov, "Russia, by the blows she delivered in Galicia, at Warsaw and in East Prussia, contributed to the early termination of this second offensive in France, so dangerous to England, and compelled the Germans for more than a year to abstain from their main operations on the main decisive front of the War—in France.

"In 1915 Russia, having shouldered alone the whole burden of the struggle against Germany, Austria and Turkey, although forced to abandon Poland, still gave the Allies the opportunity to prepare throughout a whole year for the coming German offensive at Verdun. In 1916 Russia, thanks to the Brusilov offensive, saved Italy at that critical moment when the Austrians, through their successful offensive from Tyrol, in the rear of the Italians, threatened to cut off a considerable portion of the Italian Army, at the same time menacing Venice. Together with this, Russia by this offensive greatly facilitated the operations of the Allies on the Somme, and was instrumental in the final clearing of the Verdun forts.

"In the same year Russia took upon herself the blows of Mackensen's and Falkenhayn's armies, which had invaded Roumania, stopped the further advance of the Germans, and undertook the defense of a considerable stretch of the Roumanian front."

In the beginning of the War, in August, 1914, there were, in addition to the Austrian Army, only 14 German divisions engaged on the Russian front. During the first Russian advance into Eastern Prussia, the German General Staff was obliged, on the eve of the battle of the Marne, to transfer 6 additional divisions to the Eastern front. The number of German divisions engaged on the Russian front grew continuously, and in October, 1914, there were 25 divisions, in November—33 divisions, in December—43 divisions, and in January, 1915,—53 German divisions on[5] the Russian front. The role played by Russia and the services the Russian Armies rendered in the struggle against Prussian Imperialism can be seen further from the fact that during the spring of 1917 there were 162 German and Austrian divisions engaged on the Russian front alone, while on all the other Allied fronts together there were 205 German and Austrian divisions.[1]

To this it must be added that Russia entered the War unprepared for a modern struggle. As Col. Shumsky-Solomonov points out, "The Russian Army consisted of millions, but bayonets and guns it had only for one-tenth of its number." General Brusilov once said: "Our soldiers had no shells with which to blast their way across barbed-wire entanglements before an attack; so it was necessary for them to break down the wires with their own bodies and thus to form a bridge for the next attacking column." In the fall of 1917 the Russian Armies collapsed after months of intensive German and Bolshevist propaganda, but this cannot minimize the great heroism of the Russian soldiers during the first three years of the War, heroism without which the alliance of the democratic nations would never have been able to defeat the Prussian militarism.

Director of the Russian Information
Bureau in the U. S.

May 25, 1920.



Russia's Part in the World War

Was it Possible for Germany to Win the War?

In discussing Russia's role in the past World War, it is customary to cite the losses sustained by the Russian Army, losses numbering many millions. There is no doubt that Russia's sacrifices were great, and it is just as true that her losses were greater than those sustained by any of the other Allies. Nevertheless, these sacrifices are by far not the only standard of measurement of Russia's participation in this gigantic struggle. Russia's role must be gauged, first of all, by the efforts made by the Russian Army to blast the German war plans during the first years of the War, when neither America, nor Italy, nor Roumania were among the belligerents, and the British Army was still in the process of formation.

Russia's role must in addition be gauged by the efforts put forth by the Russian Army to save the situation at other critical moments of the War. And of such, we know, there were not a few until the Allies succeeded in gaining their victory over the stubborn and powerful enemy.

Lastly, and this is the main thing, the role played by the Russian Army must be considered also in this respect that the strenuous campaign waged by Russia, with her 180 millions of inhabitants, for three years against Germany, Austro-Hungary and Turkey, sapped the resources of the enemy and thereby made possible the delivery of the final blow. This weakening of the powers of the enemy by Russia was already bound at various stages of the War to facilitate correspondingly the various operations of the Allies. Therefore at the end of the War three years of effort on the part of Russia, which had devoured the enemy's forces, were destined to enable the Allies finally to crush the enemy. The final[8] catastrophe of the Central Powers was the direct consequence of the offensive of the Allies in 1918, but Russia made possible this collapse to a considerable degree, having effected, in common with the others, the weakening of Germany, and having consumed during the three years of strenuous fighting countless reserves, forces and resources of the Central Powers.

Could Germany have won the war? A careful analysis of this question brings home the conviction that Germany was very close to victory, and that it required unusual straining of efforts on the part of France and Russia to prevent Germany from "winning out."

The plan of the old Field Marshal, Moltke, was far from worthless. It is a fact that it took from six weeks to two months to mobilize the armed forces of Russia, during which period Russia was unprepared for action. The population of Germany was 70 million and that of Austria-Hungary 52 million, a total of 122 million persons. During these two months of forced inaction those 122 millions of Teutons were faced only by 40 million Frenchmen, for Russia was not yet ready. A threefold superiority in numbers, in addition to an equal degree of military skill, technical equipment and culture, was bound to crush lone France.

It is true that for the complete realization of this scheme it was necessary that the Austrian Army, as well, involve France. This should have been anticipated, as military science does not admit of the division of forces. Just to the contrary, it demands "the concentration of all forces in the decisive hour and at the deciding point,"—in France, upon this particular occasion.

It may be said that Russia could have occupied Galicia and East Prussia had the Austrian Army left for France. Well, the fact is that both these provinces were occupied by Russia anyhow. But if in the first battle of the Marne, when the Germans felt the shortage of the two or three corps dispatched back into Prussia, they would have had these troops at their disposal in addition to half a million Austrians, Joffre's condition would have been rendered critical. The loss of the Marne would have[9] been equivalent to the loss of the War by France, and, consequently, to the loss of the entire War.

The outcome was different. The concentrated attack upon France failed because of the fact that of the 104 German divisions and the 50 Austrian divisions only about 92 or 94 divisions were on the scene of action in France. The Russian Army, unprepared for action for another 40 days, nevertheless rushed into East Prussia in an impulse of self-sacrifice and received in addition the full strength of the blow from the Austro-Hungarian Army. This generous move on the part of Russia destroyed the Moltke plan and his basic idea "the concentration of all forces against France", as a part of the German force had been diverted from that front. The plan collapsed, and the only actual chance which the Germans had of winning a victory was lost with it. Later, when Russia was prepared, when the English Army began to grow, and Italy, Roumania and America had abandoned their neutrality, Germany's chances for a final victory vanished.

It is the recognition of these facts that should prompt every impartial historian of the War to admit that the self-sacrifice of the unprepared Russian Army during the first days of the War played an enormous role in the only period when Germany had victory almost within her grasp. It is to be regretted that the extraordinary conditions which developed in Russia towards the end of the War are obscuring the true historic role of Russia in the sanguine World struggle. It is simple enough to understand that during the two or three years, while the British Army was still in the process of formation, and Italy, Roumania and America were neutral, the entire burden of fighting the Central Powers devolved upon the Armies of France and Russia. It is just as simple to understand that during that period, when the enemy was most powerful and undemoralized, when he was operating with his best troops, that the most difficult and responsible part of the problem had to be performed. It is just as easy—from an examination of the maps of the first three years of the War, maps which speak only of two principal fronts, the French and the Russian, and no other—to grasp the significance of the gigantic role played in this War by great Russia and the millions of sacrifices[10] she consecrated to the common cause of the Allies. Sadly enough, this only correct criterion of Russia's historic role in the War is becoming more and more obscured from the public opinion of the world.

In the recently published memoirs of General Ludendorf, the defeated German military leader, in an endeavor to clear himself, attempts to slander the Russian Army and discredit all the great sacrifices and heroic efforts contributed by Russia to the Allied cause. Taking advantage of the scant familiarity of the general public with military matters, Ludendorf uses false data, cites wrong figures and consciously distorts the historic perspective of the War.

It is difficult to understand how a serious-minded military leader can stoop to employ, in a supposedly serious work, methods fit for the yellow press, such as accusing Russian generals of treason, etc., etc. These memoirs, as a whole, were met at the time of their publication by sharp and adverse criticism in the foreign, and even the German, press. Ludendorf's memoirs are especially misleading in the part describing the first Russian advance in East Prussia, the advance that played such a decisive role in the defeat which the Germans suffered on the Marne. It should never be forgotten that this event proved fatal and brought about the final defeat of the Germans in this sonov.[2]

Russia's Sacrifice

Ludendorf commences his recital of events on the Russian front with the statement that in 1914, in East Prussia, with a force of only two German corps, he destroyed 250,000 Russians—six army corps—under the command of General Samsonov, and that General Rennenkampf, who was only within two or three days' march from Samsonov, had designedly failed to aid Samsonov.


This statement by General Ludendorf is absolutely false from beginning to end. It can be very easily proven that Ludendorf attacked Samsonov not with two army corps, but with more than 240,000 German troops. With this army he attacked not 250,000 Russians, but only two Russian army corps, i. e., 80,000 men—the 1st and the 6th Russian Army Corps. Thus, Ludendorf had a force three times larger than his adversary.

It may be easily seen from this that while Ludendorf gives Samsonov twice as many men as he had in reality, he, at the same time, credits Rennenkampf with three times the number he actually had. His own force Ludendorf puts, on paper, at one-third of what he had in fact.

Rennenkampf knew nothing about the events on the Samsonov front until August 30, whereas the latter was surrounded on August 28. (See Gurko's book, "War and Revolution".)

The cause of the Russian defeat in that battle was not the "genius" of Ludendorf, but lay rather in the fact that the Russian Army, in its eagerness to relieve Paris, advanced too quickly, with not fully mobilized and insufficient forces, and in two separate Armies, coupled with the difficulty of reconnoitering and obtaining information about the enemy in a country where the entire population was in a state of armed belligerency. The death of Samsonov and of a part of his staff and the disruption of liaison were other causes.[3]

In her haste to aid her Allies, Russia risked much, and she lost a battle on account of the precariousness of the operation, insufficiency of forces and an unfortunate accident. But she succeeded in diverting several German corps from France, and the Russian blood shed at Tannenberg thus helped win the First Battle of the Marne.


It may thus be seen from the descriptions of the first battles in East Prussia that Ludendorf, for the sake of German martial glory and probably also for the glorification of his own role, makes use of a very primitive and naive expedient. He multiplies the number of Russian troops several times, and also diminishes his own forces several times. This creates the impression that Ludendorf with "inconsiderable" forces smashed the "many times larger" forces of the Russians. As a matter of fact, however, as we have seen, Ludendorf had in these engagements, 1½, 2, and sometimes even 3 times as many men as the Russians. How excessive this superiority of numbers was may be inferred from the fact that the Germans themselves went to France with but 1½ times as many men and that they considered this sufficient for a decisive victory over the French Army. However, no matter how much Ludendorf may distort the facts in his memoirs, he cannot refrain, albeit only by 2-3 words, from mentioning the strategical catastrophe which overtook Germany through the invasion of East Prussia by the Russian troops. Ludendorf himself admits that "the transfer of the two army corps from the French front to Eastern Prussia had fatal consequences for Germany. The German advance on France was turned into a retreat."

This admission from Ludendorf characterizes the importance of all the events of the first few weeks of the War and it contains an involuntary appreciation of the historic role and self-sacrificing efforts of Russia. The enemy, albeit indirectly, admits that Russian blood was not shed in vain on the fields of East Prussia; it was precisely for this reason that Germany was unable to win the War at the only moment at which she could ever have won, taking advantage of Russia's unpreparedness and the temporary isolation of France.

In conclusion, we must also point out that from a formal standpoint Russia was not bound to fling herself into a risky operation in East Prussia. The Russian Army, like any other Army, was bound to take the field actively only after the completion of her mobilization, and this early assistance was still less her duty as she herself was at the time invaded by Austrian forces.

But Russia regarded her alliance with France from a higher standpoint than mere formal obligations. The justice of History—not the "history" of Ludendorf—will in its own time record[13] how far Russia stood from egotistic politics and egotistic strategy during those tragic days of August and September, 1914, when the German masses, smashing every obstacle in their path, moved through northern France on Paris.

The German Defeat at Warsaw

The battle of Ypres, the determined operations of the Germans for the capture of Calais, is the other critical moment in the history of the World War, when Russia once more brought heavy sacrifices to the common cause of the Allies. Ludendorf, in describing these difficult days for the Germans, again makes use, we regret to say, of the same unsavory expedient he used in describing the first engagements in East Prussia.

Thus, for instance, he asserts that when he was defeated in October, 1914, at Warsaw, the Russians had 1,200,000 men,[4] while he had only one German army—the 9th—and one Austrian army—the 1st. As a matter of fact, the Russians were opposed, on the entire front, by five Austrian armies and two German armies—the 8th and the 9th—by more than 70 divisions approximating about 1,200,000 men. The Russians, having left only a small force to oppose four Austrian armies, fell with their three armies upon two enemy armies, one German and one Austrian, near Warsaw. With a numerical superiority of one and a quarter to one the Russians defeated the Germans, and threw them back across the whole of Poland to Posen. The Germans saved themselves on that occasion only by destroying the railroads back of them and by burning the bridges.


The significance of the operations at Warsaw and in Galicia in October, and beyond Warsaw in November, 1914, is to be seen from Ludendorf's own story. Referring to a conversation he had with General Falkenhayn, who at that time was the main leader of all German Army operations, he writes in his memoirs: "At the end of October, 1914, General von Falkenhayn summoned me to Berlin.... Gen. von Falkenhayn spoke hopefully of the attack near Ypres, and wanted to defer further decisions."

But already in the beginning of November, i. e., a few days after this conversation, the operations of the Russian Armies in Galicia, the Posen territory, and on the East Prussian front, greatly diminished the hopefulness of Falkenhayn and compelled him to slacken the pressure against the Allies at Ypres and to transfer large forces from France to the Russian front—to the detriment of the offensive against Ypres. Ludendorf himself figures these reinforcements which arrived from France in the middle of November, and, consequently, must have left there in the beginning of November, at 225,000 men. There were 4 corps with 2 infantry divisions, which Ludendorf figures at 225,000 men. Besides, Ludendorf mentions right here the arrival of Richthofen's Cavalry Corps, Hollen's Cavalry Corps, the 2nd and 4th Cavalry Divisions. Still earlier Ludendorf mentions that the newly formed 25th Reserve Corps and the 15th Reserve Corps were dispatched to East Prussia. And finally, in still another place, we can find in Ludendorf's account a number of other new divisions which had been sent to the Russian front instead of to Ypres.

In this manner it is easy to see, from the data furnished by Ludendorf himself, that, "hopeful" at the end of October for the success of the attack on Ypres, Falkenhayn found it necessary to dispatch from France 300,000 additional soldiers to the Russian front, aside from the reserves taken from the[15] interior of Germany, which forces would also have been welcome to the Germans during the fateful days at Ypres. While the frontal attacks on Ypres, attended by considerable casualties, demanded the presence of large German reserves, these reserves were the very ones which were swallowed up entirely by the Russian operations in the East, at Warsaw, Galicia and East Prussia.

While the Russian troops were persecuting the defeated Austrians in Galicia, General Hindenburg began an advance towards Warsaw. The Russian General Staff transferred from Galicia three armies for the defense of Warsaw, and these armies defeated the two Austro-German armies and persecuted them through Poland up to the border of Germany (October, 1914).


If the firmness of the Allies held back the Germans at Ypres and prevented them from breaking through to Calais, the Russian Army also played an important part in this strategic situation—compelling the Germans to abandon the operation at Ypres much earlier than the Germans and Falkenhayn had figured. But not in this alone was the role of Russia apparent in the trying days of October and November, 1914. Not only did Russia force the Germans to transfer 300,000 soldiers to the East, and to abandon early the operations in France, but she also compelled the Germans, by her operations in 1914, to abandon for more than a year all large offensives in the West. This is attested not only by the facts (as is well known, from the end of 1914 up to February, 1916, the Germans did not start any offensive in France), but by Ludendorf himself, notwithstanding all his endeavors to discredit the Russian Army.

Speaking of the weakness of the German front in the West in the month of November, Ludendorf says that it was perfectly natural "that in this situation our eyes should again turn to the East."... Further on he adds that he had asked himself whether it were not better "once and for all to restrict operations on the Western front to a defensive and to carry out the contemplated operations against Russia with all our available forces.... This point of view seemed to me to be the right one, and I asked our High Command for reinforcements from the West...." Thus, such facts as the abandonment by the Germans of all operations in the West for more than a year, as well as Ludendorf's own words, prove with absolute clearness and conclusiveness that the Germans, partly through the firmness of the Allies, but mainly on account of the hard blows from the Russian Army, found themselves compelled for a long time[17] to refrain from an offensive in France. There is no doubt but that the Germans never abandoned entirely the attempt to crush France, for we have seen how such a serious attempt was made by them subsequently at Verdun. But if they were compelled at the end of 1914 to defer this attempt at crushing France for more than a year, it is obvious that the decisive part in this decision of the Germans was played by Russia, in the increasing offensive of her Armies all along the front from the Baltic to the Carpathians.

This diagram shows that the Germans had calculated, at first, to stop the Russian Army with the aid of the Austrian troops and only 14 of their own divisions—13 infantry and one cavalry divisions. Soon, in September, 1914, they were compelled to forward 6 more divisions to the East,—during the Marne period. Later, when the Austrians were defeated, the number of German relief columns increased and numbered, at the end of 1914, 43 divisions, instead of the former 14 divisions,—three times as many. Early in 1915 the number of German divisions grew to 53. During 1916 and 1917 the number of the German troops on the Russian front was also increasing incessantly, at the expense of German strength on the French front.


Thus, if the taking of the field by unprepared Russia in the beginning of the War contributed to the defeat of the most dangerous and main plan of the Germans, in August and September, the new sacrifices brought by Russia in October and November on the plains of Galicia, Poland and East Prussia compelled the Germans to desist for more than a year from all attempts to win the War in France. August and September, 1914, were the months in which the German forces were brought to a standstill, and October and November saw them already much impaired. At both important, critical moments Russia played her decisive part.

At this same period, towards the close of 1914, the Germans were compelled by the operations of the Russian Army to increase the number of their troops on the Russian front up to 43 divisions. If the Germans were unable in the beginning of the War to win out in France where they had all their forces, allotting to the Russian front only 14 divisions and the Austrian Army, so much the less could they have won at the end of 1914, when the Russians had compelled them to have 43 divisions in the field, that is, to treble their forces on the Russian front, to the detriment of their French front.

New Opportunities for the Allies

The third great period of the world-conflict—1915—is the year of Russia's single-handed fight against Germany, Austria and Turkey. This year was hardest for Russia not only because all attention and all efforts of the three enemy powers were directed[19] against Russia alone, but also because in 1915 Russia was less than ever before prepared for the struggle—being without arms, shells and munitions. No matter how much Ludendorf may distort the truth in his memoirs, the whole world knows that in that year the Russian positions were covered not by barbed wire entanglements, but by the naked breasts of the Russian soldiers, and German charges were repulsed not by artillery barrages but by the bayonet, by cold steel—reminding us of the times when the Mexicans, armed only with spears, fought against the rifles and cannon of the Spaniards under Fernando Cortez.

Russia's loss of Poland in 1915 is altogether a result of this situation, unprecedented in any of the wars fought by European nations. It was hard to gain victory when the shortage of arms was so great that some corps counted but 1,500 bayonets instead of 40,000, and at the same time it was impossible to complement these corps with their quota of men because these men had no rifles.

Russia had called millions to the colors, but had rifles only for one-tenth of her men. It is only too obvious that nothing could be accomplished with millions of men of whom only one in ten was armed. But in 1916, when Russia acquired rifles and artillery, Brusilov launched his memorable offensive which netted more than 200,000 prisoners. Another great offensive was in preparation for 1917, but the Revolution interfered with its realization.

However that may be, the Germans had planned to have done with Russia by confronting it with Austrian armies and with four or five additional German corps. But already in 1914 the Germans were compelled to keep 19 corps in the East to the detriment and dislocation of their plans and forces in France. (See diagrams No. 3,4.) Even during the days of the Revolution the Germans were obliged to maintain 78½ divisions on the Eastern front, in addition to 47 Austrian and 15 Turkish, altogether 140 infantry and 22 cavalry divisions, while on the Anglo-French front the enemy had at that time only 142 divisions. If we take into consideration all the Russian theatres of war, including those in Asia, the enemy kept on the Russian fronts 164 infantry divisions and 28 cavalry divisions,—altogether 192 divisions[20] (in May, 1917) while on the Anglo-French front the enemy had in May, 1917, only 142 divisions.


IN EUROPE12522147
IN ASIA15 15

This diagram shows that in 1917—the beginning of the Russian Revolution—there were 162 German, Austrian, Turkish and Bulgarian divisions on the Russian front, 147 of whom were on the Russian front in Europe. On the Anglo-French front there were at this time only 142 German divisions.

The enemy forces were thus divided as follows: on the Russian front, 44 per cent.; on the Anglo-French front, 39 per cent.; on the Italian front, 10 per cent.; on the Salonika front, 4½ per cent., and on the Mesopotamian front—about 2½ per cent. Thus, early in 1917 the Russian Army had opposing it about one-half of all the forces of the Central Powers.

It is clearer that if these Teutonic forces would be able to concentrate on the French front, it would mean an immediate breakdown of the Allies and the triumph of the Prussian militarism throughout the civilized world.


Notwithstanding the lack of arms and munitions the Russian Army rendered the Allies, in the critical days of 1915, assistance that was not less important and serious than that of the days of the Marne and Ypres. Russia, by diverting upon herself, towards the close of 1914, all the efforts of the Central Powers, thereby offered France and England the opportunity for a whole year to prepare for the prosecution of the War. Throughout 1915, when Germany, Austria and Turkey were diverted by Russia, France was enabled quickly to accumulate new reserves, munitions, shells, to recover from the serious wounds of 1914, and to prepare for that inevitable blow from Germany which subsequently took the form of a determined offensive at Verdun in 1916.

At the same time England, owing to the fact that Russia had in 1915 taken upon herself the whole burden of the struggle, was enabled in the course of one year to carry out Kitchener's stupendous plan of expanding the small, 150 thousand-strong English Army of volunteers into the four million-strong Army of the English nation in arms. On the other hand Germany, having called to the colors new reserves, was compelled by Russia to expend these reserves on the Russian front, and not on the main front, in France, where the fate of the whole War was to be decided for Germany.

All these opportunities, all this stupendous preparation in the creation and development of new armed forces by the Allies, took place undisturbed and in favorable circumstances, solely because 1915 was the year of Russia's single-handed fight against three enemy powers, the year of the greatest self-sacrifice of the Russian Army for the common cause. Who knows what might have been the result of the German offensive in France had those German reserves which perished in Russia broken through somewhere in the north of France simultaneously with the storming of Verdun, in February. Who knows how far the German military catastrophe might have been averted had all the fresh reserves[22] of the Germans, which were being incessantly swallowed up by the Russian front, found themselves in the West!

To these questions Ludendorf himself happens to give the answers in his memoirs. Speaking of the offensive of the Germans at Verdun and of the offensive of the Austrians in Italy, he says: "Both offensives suffered from the fact that inadequate reserves prevented the first successes from being followed up."

Where did these reserves, which were lacking for the capture of Verdun, where did they go to after Germany had in 1915 created a great many new formations? In 1915 they were swallowed up by the Russian front during the German offensive in Poland, and the Verdun operation was frustrated because, as Ludendorf declares, there were no reserves with which to develop the first success of the Germans. For this reason the unbiased investigator will admit that Russia in 1915 contributed to a tremendous extent towards the calm and systematic preparation of the Allies for the decisive German blow, struck at Verdun, but planned to go beyond Paris. If the firm stand of the French at Verdun, if the talent of Castelnau, who stopped the withdrawal of the French to the other bank of the Meuse, directly repulsed the attack of the Germans, the true ally, Russia, certainly aided by diverting upon herself all the German reserves in 1915 and giving the Allies a whole year of respite in which to create new armed forces.

The Russian front incessantly drew to itself all new German formations and reserves, and thereby automatically forced the German Army in the West to carry on unproductive operations which never reached their objective. Not one single German operation in France could obtain full development, and inevitably spent itself just because of lack of reserves which were always opportunely swallowed by the Russian front.

Turning to the operations of 1915 we see that the Germans, notwithstanding all their efforts and partial successes, never gained any decisive results on the Russian front. The Russian Army, having neither munitions nor arms, was naturally unable to win at this time, and was compelled to retreat[23] from Poland. But the Russian Army was not crushed, which, however, had been the main objective of Ludendorf's offensive.

In his memoirs Ludendorf plainly states: "The German General Staff now resolved to try to obtain a decision against Russia." This, translated from military parlance into plain English, simply means that it was the object to settle, to "finish" with Russia, in other words, to crush her Army, for otherwise there would have been no sense in starting operations against Russia, and in wasting against her the reserves so much needed on the main front, against France. Neither does Ludendorf conceal this object further on in his memoirs, but he admits that it was not accomplished. For this failure he blames General Falkenhayn, the Chief of the General Staff, who, it was supposed, prevented Ludendorf from crushing the Russian Army. We shall not enter into the personal disputes between Ludendorf and Falkenhayn, whom Ludendorf throughout criticises sharply. We shall only note that Ludendorf attempted four times during the summer of 1915 to surround or break through the several retreats of the Russian Army, but the latter in every instance retreated in perfect order, carrying their arms with them. In which one of these four instances, then, did Falkenhayn interfere? How preposterous this shifting of the blame to Falkenhayn is, may be seen even from Ludendorf's own statement: "Throughout the whole War we never succeeded, either on the Eastern or Western front, in exploiting a big break-through to the full!" In this way he himself admits that the Germans did not even once succeed, at the proper time, in utilizing a big success to the full, i. e., Falkenhayn's role was immaterial. It is but natural that the resistance of the Russians in 1915 prevented the Germans from exploiting that success which they regarded as a big one, but which, as a matter of fact, consisted only in the systematic retreat of the Russian Army which was without arms and munitions. However, the most inopportune statement made by Ludendorf is contained in the following remark of his concerning the operations against the Russians in 1915: "We had brought the final overthrow of Russia a step nearer."


The offensive of Brusilov in the following year, which netted him more than 200,000 prisoners and made Ludendorf, as he himself says, frequently worry about the fate of the entire Austro-German front in Russia, demonstrates how the offensive of Ludendorf in 1915 hastened "the final overthrow of Russia." On the contrary, this offensive which cost Ludendorf a great many of his reserves, and afforded a year of quiet preparation to the Allies, did, as we saw, hasten "the final overthrow of Germany."

At this period of the campaign of 1915 there were on the Russian front 67 German divisions and up to 40 Austrian, altogether 107 divisions, and on the French front about 110 divisions. The Germans could not defeat the Allies in the beginning of the War, although they had then in France almost all their forces. It is natural that in 1915, when they had in France only 50 per cent. of their total forces, the Germans, through the efforts of Russia, were finally deprived of any chance of winning in France. It was only through Russia's military operations that the Germans were driven to such an unfavorable, hopeless grouping of their forces.

Again Opportunities for the Allies

In the following year, 1916, Russia once more came forward with her assistance at a critical moment, when the Austrians had broken the resistance of the Italian Armies on the Asiago-Arsiero front, threatening a further development of their offensive in the rear of the Italian Army, in the direction of Venice. At the same time Ludendorf in his memoirs points out how great were the objects which the Austrians were aiming at on the Italian front, and he says plainly: "In Italy it was a question of an operation on a grand scale."

However, the Russian Army in 1916 had no intention of launching an offensive on the Austrian front, and prepared for an offensive in an altogether different place, on the German front. Our General Staff had prepared for the main offensive in the direction of Vilna, and accordingly it was here that[25] troops and munitions were being concentrated. (See Gurko's "War and Revolution.")

Everything was ready when the Italians, crushed by the Austrians, appealed to Russia for aid. An offensive on the Austrian front held no particular interest for Russia, which naturally had in view the crushing of the main enemy—the Germans. Still, Russia, just as on previous occasions, did not hesitate a minute to help her Allies. Notwithstanding that nothing had been prepared for such an offensive, General Brusilov launched it along a front two hundred miles long, with the troops he just happened to have on the spot. Everybody remembers this celebrated offensive of Brusilov, which netted hundreds of thousands of prisoners, a great number of other trophies, and which compelled the Austrians to immediately abandon their offensive in Italy and to begin the transfer of troops to the Russian front. "Austria gradually broke off the Italian offensive and sent troops to the Eastern front," writes Ludendorf. "The Italian Army now started a counter-offensive in the Tyrol," he remarks further on.

Describing the period of Brusilov's offensive, Ludendorf does not conceal the fact that they passed through some very bad and critical moments. "Our G. H. Q. made heavy demands on both groups (group south of Riga and Prince Leopold group) and also withdrew divisions from the West," writes Ludendorf. "Even all the fresh divisions that were thrown in were hardly sufficient to hold the front," says he in describing the situation of the Austro-Germans after the Russian break through at the Dniester. "This was one of the greatest crises on the Eastern front," says he further on, in speaking of the new break by Brusilov at Lutzk.

The effects of Brusilov's offensive proved to be so far-reaching as to affect not only the situation on the Italian front but also that on the French main front. The Allies, in view of the difficult situation of the Germans on the Russian front, launched an offensive at the Somme, and towards fall they had finally cleared the forts of Verdun of the Germans.


So did Russia once more fulfill her obligation towards her allies, as soon as her Army had received some quantity of munitions. This quantity was not yet sufficient in 1916, and it was only in 1917 that the Russian troops were at last more or less provided. The lack of munitions during the period of Brusilov's offensive was pointed out by the Russian Staff, and Ludendorf himself emphasizes it. He writes that the situation was relieved thanks to the fact that "the Russians were also contending against extraordinary difficulty of supply." From this it may be seen that the Russian Army, having obtained only the first consignments of inconsiderable and insufficient munitions, did not hesitate, in 1916, to offer her allies generous assistance on the largest scale.

Still earlier, during the Verdun period, the Russian Army, not yet recuperated from the hard blows of 1915, did by no means stand by as an idle onlooker of the heroic efforts of the French at Verdun. When at the end of February, 1916, French Headquarters appealed to the Russian Army for assistance, preparations were begun for an offensive. "The Russian Army had not lost its spirit after the heavy fighting of 1915," says Ludendorf. On the 16th of March operations were begun by the Russian troops in the territory to the northwest of Dvinsk, continuing until the 26th of March. This partial offensive, solely in aid of the French, was attended by success of a local nature. Ludendorf criticises this operation and says that "it was choked in swamps and blood." Of course, the terrible weather conditions, the rains and the impassable roads, interfered with a broad development of this offensive, but still it had a sufficiently serious effect. "From the 11th to the 21st of March," acknowledges Ludendorf, "the situation of the 10th (German) army was critical."

Salvation of Roumania

At the close of 1916 the Russian Army again had to offer most effective assistance at the critical moment of Mackensen's and Falkenhayn's invasion of Roumania. General Alexeiev pointed out to the Roumanian High Command the excessive length of the Roumanian frontier line which rendered operations in the border district difficult for the small Roumanian Army. General Alexeiev, as well as the Allied military experts, advised the Roumanians to shorten their front line, by means of a retreat, to a shorter line in the East which could be held by the comparatively small Roumanian Army. But the Roumanians, calculating upon a weakening of the Austrians, preferred to choose a new plan and invaded vast Transylvania.


This map shows the four places in which the Russian Army, led by Gen. Brussiloff, broke through the Austro-German front in the summer of 1916.


This too daring move, which at first met but feeble resistance, was, however, soon checked by the enemy. When thereupon the enemy himself took the offensive and invaded Roumania and began to threaten Bucharest, the Roumanian representative at Russian headquarters, General Coanda, appealed to Russia for aid.

The Russian Army had not yet succeeded in recuperating from the effects of its great summer offensive of 1916. Russia's reserves and supplies had been to a considerable extent spent during the period of Brusilov's offensive. Nevertheless Russia, again as always, did not hesitate for one minute to come to the assistance of the Allies. The Russians even proposed to take upon themselves the defense of the Roumanian capital—Bucharest—but this offer was turned down by the Roumanians with some show of embarrassment; they pointed out that the railroads leading to Bucharest were blocked with evacuated freights from the capital and could not therefore carry the Russian troops. Probably certain political considerations played not a small part in this.

However that might be, Russia did not refuse her aid in the form desired by the Roumanians. From the long Russian front which, in turn, stood in need of reserves, troops were taken off and sent to Roumania. Two armies, under Letchitzki and Sakharov, and the great mass of cavalry under Mannerheim, were assigned by the Russians to assist the retreating Roumanians. This effective help by Russia achieved its[29] purpose, stopping the offensive of the enemy, and towards 1917 the Russian Armies also took upon themselves the none too easy task of defending the greater part of the Roumanian front.

For the following year, 1917, Russia prepared for a decisive offensive on the German front, in common with the Allies. That was the first year that the Russian Army had at last obtained sufficient armaments and supplies. The Germans realized that most serious danger threatened them, and the Germano-Bolshevist provocation was now chosen as the means of disarming Russia. And yet, even during those terrible days of the collapse of the Russian Army and the Revolution, Russia was indispensable to the Allies.

During those revolutionary days of 1917 Russia compelled the enemy to maintain on the Russian front 162 divisions of German, Austrian, Turkish and Bulgarian troops, to the enemy's detriment on the French main front. On this front the enemy was enabled to maintain only 140 divisions.

Russia, although sapped by the Germano-Bolshevist conspiracy, was still formidable, and the enemy did not risk the moving of any of his troops from the Russian front. Russia was growing faint, but that honest Russia which had saved her allies in East Prussia, Galicia, on the fields of Poland, Lithuania, Roumania, in the Caucasus and Armenia, did not lay down her arms to the very last moment, remaining true to her obligations.

Russia's Losses—12,000,000

From this brief outline one can readily see what great and numerous objects Russia accomplished in the World War, and how important was her role in that final collapse of the Central Powers at which the Allies had been aiming in the four-year long struggle. In full accord with these efforts are the extraordinary sacrifices brought by Russia, sacrifices in men, sacrifices in material resources and money, and finally, that great upheaval through which the Russian people[30] are now passing, as a result of their over-exertion in the years of the World War.

Among these sacrifices, Russia's losses in men run into such great numbers that the immense, extraordinary part played by Russia becomes at once obvious to anyone.

Of the many different figures quoted by various investigators the most reliable are undoubtedly those furnished by the official statistics of the Russian Army Staff.

Among these figures made public in the press the most important are those given by the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, pertaining to the year 1916, concerning the total number of mobilized soldiers and the number of those still in the service. According to this information, the Russian War Ministry called to the colors from the outbreak of the War up to the winter of 1916 more than 14 million men; but the commissary department of the Army had towards the close of 1916 less than 10 million on its rolls. The difference of 4½ million between these two figures constituted the absolute losses of the Army during 3 campaigns (1914, 15, 16). This gave the Staff the basis for calculating the yearly average total losses at 1½ million men. Adding, accordingly, 1½ million losses for 1917, we obtain 6 million total losses during the whole War.

But these are only the men who were a total loss to the Army, i. e., the losses in killed and prisoners, without the wounded, except a moderate number of crippled who were no longer fit for service at the front nor for service out of the ranks, and who therefore had to be discharged from the Army entirely.

The total number of Russian war-prisoners towards the end of the War, according to figures compiled by the Russian Commission on War Prisoners, amounted to about 2½ million. Deducting this number from 6 million, we obtain 3½ million in killed and the small number of crippled who were discharged entirely.

This number, 3½ million, obtained from official statistics, is the basis of our calculations. The percentage of disabled was comparatively small. German statistics during the War[31] figured it to be 10 per cent. Hence the figure of 3½ million must comprize only a little less than 3 million in killed alone. The number of wounded is usually approximately 2½ times the number of killed.[5] Multiplying the number of wounded not by 2½, but only by 2, we obtain about 6 million wounded. Thus we have a total of 6 million killed and prisoners, and 6 million wounded, or a grand total of not less than 12 million losses for Russia, in killed, wounded and prisoners.

These figures are rather minimized, for we have above underestimated the number of wounded. These figures, based upon official statistics, agree with those arrived at by the "Copenhagen Society for Studying the Consequences of the War." This society estimates the losses at 9½ million, exclusive of prisoners. As we have shown above, there were 2½ million prisoners.

Thus there can be no doubt but that the number of Russian casualties was not less than 12,000,000, of which there were 3,000,000 in killed.

These losses are almost equal to the combined losses of our Allies.[6]

Russia's losses are more than twice those of France, 4-5 times those of England, and more than 35 times those of America. These losses are more than twice the total strength of the British Army, and 3-4 times all the forces mustered by the United States. This number of casualties alone is larger than the total population of any of the following European countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, or the Balkan States!

Thus do simple figures tell us clearly and plainly that Russia sacrificed in the common cause of the Allies the greatest number of victims and that she ranks first in the sad roster of Allied casualties.



100,000Serbia & Montenegro
50,000United States of America



From this brief outline may be seen how tremendous and important a role was played by Russia in the world conflict. Summing up the general facts cited above, we arrive at the following definite conclusions:

1.) Russia's role in the World War was bound to be very serious and important for this reason alone, that the participation of a nation numbering 180 million souls could not fail to be significant in itself, and was therefore bound to exercise a tremendous influence upon the outcome of the World War.

2.) Accordingly, Russia's role became apparent even at the very beginning of the War, in the important aid she rendered in frustrating the initial and most dangerous plan of the Germans, by her early offensive in aid of the Allies. Russia, having diverted against herself the entire Austrian army and part of the German, at the time of the battle on the Marne, through her offensive in East Prussia and Galicia, deprived the enemy of the opportunity to realize the fundamental idea of Moltke's plan to fling "all forces into France." The enemy, having contrary to his plan moved on France with only a part of his forces, inevitably suffered defeat. This cooperation on the part of Russia was of tremendous significance, for the Germans based their plan on the idea that they would at first have to deal only with France alone, on one front only, whereas Russia compelled them at once to start the War on two fronts, both with Russia and France. This made the initial German war plan useless because strategy says plainly: "Errors in the strategic deploying of forces in the beginning of a war have a decisive influence and cannot be rectified until the war is over." From this rule of strategy it is plain that Russia's operations in the beginning of the war at the outset condemned Germany to lose the war.

3.) At the following attempt of the enemy to find a decision in France, to break through to Calais, at Ypres, Russia, by[34] the blows she delivered in Galicia, at Warsaw and in East Prussia, contributed to the early termination of this second offensive in France, so dangerous to England, and compelled the Germans for more than a year to abstain from their main operations on the main decisive front of the War—in France.

4.) In 1915 Russia, having shouldered alone the whole burden of the struggle against Germany, Austria and Turkey, although forced to abandon Poland, still gave the Allies the opportunity to prepare throughout a whole year for the coming German offensive at Verdun. At the same time, having compelled the Germans during 1915 to spend all their fresh formations and reserves on the Russian front, Russia thereby deprived the Germans of the reserves they needed for Verdun and their other operations in France.

5.) In 1916 Russia, thanks to the Brusilov offensive, saved Italy at that critical moment when the Austrians, through their successful offensive from Tyrol in the rear of the Italians, threatened to cut off a considerable portion of the Italian Army, at the same time menacing Venice. Together with this, Russia by this offensive greatly facilitated the operations of the Allies on the Somme, and was instrumental in the final clearing of the Verdun forts.

6.) In 1916 Russia took upon herself the blows of Mackensen's and Falkenhayn's armies which had invaded Roumania, stopped the further advance of the Germans, and undertook the defense of a considerable stretch of the Roumanian front.

7.) Through a period of three years of struggle against Germany, Austria and Turkey, Russia, having diverted the forces of the enemy, afforded the Allies a long period of quiet for the preparation and strengthening of the Allied Armies and for the systematic creation of a new 4 million British Army.

8.) Throughout this period of three years of struggle Russia compelled the enemy to spend on the Russian front such a stupendous amount of force, reserves and munitions as to[35] hasten the inevitable fall of the enemy, and this immensely facilitated the delivery of the final, decisive blows by the Allies.

9.) Russia, incessantly drawing upon herself the forces of the enemy, did not give him the opportunity for one minute from the very beginning of the War to gather sufficient force for a decisive blow on the main, decisive front—in France. The role of Russia, therefore, was clearly apparent in the fact that she deprived Germany throughout the War of the possibility to win and rendered futile every effort of the enemy in this respect.

10.) Corresponding with the most important role that Russia played in the War are her enormous sacrifices in men, material and treasure. Her losses in men, amounting to 12,000,000, exceed several times the casualties of any of the Allies; are almost equal to the losses of all the Allies combined; exceed several times the total number of men mobilized by any one of the Allies....

11.) Russia's role in the recent war was so important and extraordinary that without Russia the very idea of a struggle with German militarism would have been impossible. Germany would have been able to crush any combination of the European Powers if Russia had not participated in such combination. Were it not for Russia, Germany would now dominate not only Europe, but probably the rest of the world as well.

12.) Russia's great role in the World War is so much the greater since she fought under extraordinary circumstances, lacking so indispensable an asset as a great network of railways, with a backward technique, industry, etc. In the hard first years of the War the Russian Armies, as we have seen, in extraordinary circumstances and frequently without arms and munitions, did everything possible, and, together with failures, had also their successes.

Ludendorf was able to achieve success on the Russian front only when the Germans outnumbered their adversaries by at least three to two. At Tannenberg the Germans had twice[36] as many and, at certain stages, even three times as many men as the Russians. Against Rennenkampf Ludendorf had three men to every two of his enemy, and probably even as many as two to one, as Rennenkampf had suffered severe losses during the preceding days.

It is equally true that the Russians were able to defeat the Germans whenever they had even a small superiority of force. Near Warsaw the Russians had less than five men to every four Germans and they succeeded in defeating the latter and throwing them clear across all Poland.

It may seem strange that the Germans should have managed to have numerical superiority over the Russians all the time. Regrettable as it may be, it is nevertheless true, for the strength of an army is determined not by the number of its men, but by the number of bayonets (infantry), sabres (cavalry) and guns (artillery). The Russian Army consisted of millions, but bayonets and guns it had only for one-tenth of its number. In 1915 some Russian divisions numbered, instead of 20,000 bayonets, only a mere thousand, owing to disastrous losses. The only employment of infantry during those days was as a screen for the artillery, while the latter was quite useless for fighting purposes because it had no ammunition whatever. Under such conditions many of our corps often did not exceed the strength of a single regiment and some armies numbered no more effectives than a single division. We had plenty of men, but no arms and ammunition. Therefore, the Germans frequently surpassed us not in men, but in bayonets and guns.

The tragedy of the Russian situation lay in the cruel fact that Russia, while only one-tenth of her Armies were armed, was facing Germany and Austria, who were armed from head to foot. Not Ludendorf and not his ordinary military skill were the causes of Russia's failures in the first year of the War, but that simple and terrible truth which Brusilov once expressed in the following words: "The Russians had no shells with which to blast their way across barbed-wire entanglements[37] before an attack; so it became necessary for them to break down the wires with the bodies of Russian soldiers, and to form a bridge across these dead bodies for the next attacking column."

The black line represents the Russian front in 1917. The front stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The Roumanian front was held also primarily by Russian troops.


We have concluded our sketch of Russia's participation in the World War with 1917. But 1918 also has its story: in that year Russia was denied a voice at the conference on that peace in the name of which Russia had offered up so many sacrifices and made such efforts.

We have seen how important and essential a part Russia played in the overthrow of German militarism. Russia's tremendous role confirms once more the elementary truth that in the future also Russia will inevitably be a colossal factor of political and military equilibrium in Europe. Whatever does happen to Russia, however they may dismember her living body, the immense Russian nation, with 125 million souls of pure Russian blood alone, will always remain that heavy military weight which inevitably lowers that particular scale upon which it descends.

It is true, Germany is now crushed and enfeebled. But we know that victorious countries are now suffering not less, and some of them even more, from the consequences of the most stupendous world conflict.

Years will pass, and possibly but a few years, and again the world will recuperate. We have no reason to expect that the active German people will lag behind the rest in this work of reestablishing normal conditions of life and labor.

The Treaty of Versailles has not solved a good many problems, and among them also those that were the cause of the World War. Notwithstanding all partitioning, Germany still retains up to 60 million souls, but France only a little more than 40 million. The population of Germany has always been growing, while that of France, if it has not decreased, has not increased. After all, Germany has and will have a numerical superiority over France of one and a half times.

France, well aware of that, tries to maintain an alliance with England, and reckons upon the aid of America. But the[39] statesmen of the West realize how insufficient all this is, for they still remember well that first critical month of the War when France was all alone and saved herself only through extraordinary efforts.

Until the United States arrives on the scene! Why, that inevitably means months and months of waiting. Until the British Army is mobilized and transported! Why, we know how difficult and tedious are the conditions of embarkation and landing of troops, artillery, transport columns, munitions, etc. We know that the 150,000 soldiers of the British Army alone required, in August, 1914, more than three weeks for disembarkation. And where? In three ports where everything was equipped for disembarkation purposes, where ideal conditions prevailed such as were hard to find in any other ports.

Thus France, in the event of a new conflict with her old foe, will again find herself for quite some time left all alone to face the numerically superior enemy. Where will Russia be then?

No Poland, no combination of any group of small States will be able to take the place of Russia, for that would be a mere 15-20 millions; it will be not Russia, but only one-seventh, a sixth, or fifth part of that which Russia gave during the past War. These weak nations will only become additional trophies to the enemy, just as Roumania, Serbia and Belgium became his easy prey in the past War.

Where will Russia be then? Not the present-day Russia bleeding to death in its struggle against Bolshevism, but the future, once more powerful, Russia?...

Bolshevism, an abnormal phenomenon, is bound to come to an end—somewhat earlier, or somewhat later. No matter how much may be cut off from Russia, she will always remain an immense, great, rich, and therefore powerful, country. Too much will depend upon what this coming[40] Russia may have to say, for any sensible statesman to refuse to reckon with that eventuality.

This question the statesmen of the West must ask of themselves clearly and plainly—not those statesmen who think no further than the following day and of the success of their fight against their political opponents—but those wise leaders of the nations who really have at heart the interests of their own countries, as well as of the entire civilized world. "Ostrich politics" may least of all be applied in dealing with that tremendous military and political factor which covers one-sixth of the land surface of the globe and is called Russia.


[1] See diagrams on pp. 15 and 18.

[2] See Appendixes No. I and II, in which an analysis of this part of Ludendorf's Memoirs is given.

[3] See Appendixes "Ludendorf—Samsonov" and "Ludendorf—Rennenkampf" at the end of the pamphlet.

[4] How preposterous is this figure of 1,200,000 men, supposed to have been transferred by the Russians from Galicia to Warsaw, to oppose Ludendorf, may be seen from the fact that only 3 railway lines run from Galicia to Warsaw. It is not difficult to demonstrate that it is impossible to carry 1,200,000 men on 3 railway lines within 2 weeks (the offensive of the Germans against Warsaw began in the first days of October, and the retreat began two weeks later, i. e., when the Russian troops were transferred from Galicia to Warsaw).

One army corps requires 140-150 trains. The best road in Russia can at most carry 52 trains in 24 hours in one direction. Hence, to entrain a corps would require 3 days. Consequently the most that could be entrained within 15 days would be 5 corps to each railway line. Thus, all 3 roads combined might have been able to carry up to 15 corps, but actually, of course, they carried less than that. But even if we allow the computation of 15 corps to stand, we have but 500-600 thousand men, and not 1,200,000 as Mr. Ludendorf unhesitatingly allots.

[5] According to figures submitted in 1916 by the army committee of the German Reichstag, the German army lost during the first 12 months of the War 604 thousand killed, 1,556,000 wounded, and 317 thousand prisoners. This shows that the number of wounded is 2½ times the number of killed.

[6] According to the statistics of the "Copenhagen Society," the French Army lost 1,350,000 in killed, the British—700,000, the Italian—330,000, and each of the remaining Allies—100,000 and less.


Appendix No. I

1.) A careful perusal of Ludendorf's memoirs brings out the fact that during the first Russian invasion of Eastern Prussia there participated on the German side: the 1st, 17th, 20th and 1st Reserve Corps, the 3rd Reserve Division, the 6th Landwehr Brigade, Goltz's Division, the garrisons of the Vistula fortresses,—Thorn, Kulm and Graudenitz, and a brigade of cavalry. The German forces consisted, therefore, not of two corps numbering 80,000 men but of more than 240,000, not counting the masses of landsturm, which fact Ludendorf carefully conceals.

2.) The Russians, on the other hand, advanced into East Prussia not fully mobilized, as this battle took place twenty-seven days after the War was declared, and the Russian mobilization was only completed three—four weeks later. Samsonov had no six army corps under his command, but only 4 corps: the 1st, the 6th, the 13th and the 15th, and, figuring even at 40,000 men per army corps, this force could not have exceeded 160,000 men.

3.) It can be seen, therefore, that in this battle over 240,000 Germans were opposing 160,000 Russians at most. However, as a matter of positive fact, the attack of the 240,000 Germans was directed against two Russian corps only, the 1st and the 6th, i. e., at only approximately 80,000 men.

4.) A force of Germans, three times as strong, overpowered two Russian corps. During that attack Samsonov and a part of his staff were killed. That, and the disruption of liaison, was the reason reinforcements were not sent up from the other corps and the Germans succeeded in invading the Russian rear (see map No. 1).

5.) The remainder of Samsonov's army, about 80,000 men, became surrounded by 240,000 Germans, and, left without leadership, in the midst of an extremely critical and dangerous operation, on unfamiliar territory, it was shattered. Only under such[42] an unfortunate combination of circumstances could a threefold strong German force win the battle in a tactical sense. But, from the strategic point of view, the Germans lost in this stage of their campaign, as this battle diverted a number of German corps from France and served a purpose of the greatest importance.

The Russian troops are indicated on this map by white squares; the Germans—by black. It can be seen from this map that the army of Gen. Samsonov took up positions from Usdau to Biskofsburg. The Germans attacked his flanks, i. e., Usdau, his left flank, and Biskofsburg, his right. The 1st and 6th Russian Corps were located there, as indicated by the map.

It may be observed from the map that the 1st Corps was attacked by two German corps, one division and the Vistula garrisons, i. e., about 120,000 Germans attacked 40,000 Russians. The 6th Corps at Biskofsburg was put in a similar situation. Under pressure from a threefold stronger German force, the 1st and 6th Corps retreated. Thereupon the Germans fell under Neiderborg and Passenheim upon the rear of Samsonov's remaining troops, the 13th and 15th Corps. These corps were consequently surrounded by this threefold stronger force and were defeated after a heroic fight of three days.


6.) It must be added that the entire population of East Prussia was armed, and scouting was very difficult. The Russians knew nothing about the enemy, while the latter was fully informed by the inhabitants concerning the Russians and knew every step these were making. That is why the German attack came as a surprise.

7.) The assertion that Rennenkampf had 400,000 men and intentionally did not come to Samsonov's aid is a downright misstatement. This can be seen from the fact that the battle, which was begun on August 27, was lost in 18 hours, on the morning of August 28, and Rennenkampf, who with small forces was within three days' marching distance from Samsonov—40 miles—could not have arrived in time, particularly when we consider that he had to overcome on his way fortifications and barbed-wire defenses manned by landsturm and by cavalry.

8.) Ludendorf's assertion that Rennenkampf's force consisted of 24 divisions, almost 400,000 men, is an obvious falsehood. A single army is never made up of more than six army corps, for facility and expediency in commanding, and this is a basic rule in military organizations. Ludendorf knows this very well, but it appears that he consciously misstated the truth in this case as well.

9.) In reality Rennenkampf's army consisted of eight divisions or four army corps,—the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th and the 20th, and of six cavalry divisions. Altogether his force consisted of about 160,000 men. The bulk of his infantry could not have reached the front at that time, as it was necessary to organize the rear and to coordinate the railway movement in Prussia, as the Russian rail gauge is much wider than that adopted by the German railway system. Rennenkampf's front, therefore, was occupied largely[44] by cavalry, supported only in section by weak detachments of infantry.

10.) Rennenkampf could not have aided Samsonov even if he had known his situation, because he was already at a distance of 90 miles from his own railway lines, and Ludendorf himself admits that it is not possible to operate safely further than 80 miles from one's railroads. Rennenkampf's army, therefore, without provisions and ammunition, had to wait until its rear was made secure and was unable to move further.


Appendix No. II.

His second battle—with Rennenkampf—Ludendorf describes with a similar distortion of facts. On this occasion he goes so far as to assert that Rennenkampf had not 400,000 men but 600,000, and he states at the same time that Rennenkampf was a traitor because he retreated too soon. As we have already seen, Rennenkampf had only about 160,000 men, and he was reinforced by one more corps, the 22nd,—about 40,000 additional men; therefore his army could not have exceeded 200,000 men. Ludendorf places his own army at 300,000 men, much less, of course, than his actual strength, but even at that rate he attacked 200,000 Russians with 300,000 German troops, outnumbering his adversary one and a half times.

That accounts for the ease with which Ludendorf was able to throw 200,000 men into the frontal attack and still was able to send up 100,000 men to get into Rennenkampf's rear (see map No. 2). Rennenkampf's troops were kept engaged for seven days in repulsing Ludendorf's attacks upon their front, and he had no troops left with which to parry the attack on his rear. When the Germans invaded the Russian rear and were threatening to cut off the Russian main line of retreat, the Vershbolovo-Kovno Railroad, Rennenkampf was compelled to retreat so as not to be cut off. In fact, had Rennenkampf not retreated at that time, he would have committed the same act of treason that Marshal Bazaine was guilty of in 1870, when he, under similar circumstances, did not consent to escape from the steadily closing-up iron ring of Germans and was finally captured with his entire army. Rennenkampf gave orders to retreat only when the Germans were firing at the city of Gumbinnen and at his rear railway lines. This was not too soon by any means, but may have been rather a little late.


Rennenkampf's troops are indicated between Welau and Ingenburg (white square). Opposite them is the German army (black square).

Rennenkampf had 4 corps,—less than 160,000 men. He was attacked frontally also by 4 corps which engaged all his effectives. Meanwhile two German corps (the 17th and the 1st) that remained free began invading his rear (these corps are indicated in black). When these two corps approached Gumbinnen, they found themselves in a position to cut Rennenkampf off from his only road, the Insterburg-Kovno railway. Rennenkampf had no men to oppose these troops with, as all his units were fighting at the front line of Welau-Ingenburg. Rennenkampf was therefore compelled to retreat in order not to be cut off.


The 22nd Corps did not even succeed in getting near Rennenkampf, and was halted by the Germans fifty miles away from the field of battle. Rennenkampf had, therefore, not 200,000 men to Germany's 300,000, but only 160,000,—about one-half. The cause of the defeat of Rennenkampf was that that military operation had been calculated for the combined armies of Samsonov and Rennenkampf, and was a risky undertaking at that. When Rennenkampf was left alone, this operation was as a matter of course doomed to defeat, and it required the tenacity of Rennenkampf to have offered the obstinate resistance that he did in this battle.



Transcriber's Note

Obvious punctuation errors were corrected.

Inconsistent hyphenation wss made consistent.

Ludendorff consistently spelled Ludendorf but has not been corrected.

p. 10: Apparent missing line in: "brought about the final defeat of the Germans in this [newline] sonov."

pp. 45-6: Several misspellings of Rennenkampf corrected.

p. 46: He was atacked frontally -> He was attacked frontally.


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