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Link to The Last Chance for Peace
The Third Balkan War was a conflict in the 1910's that was mainly fought between the Empire of Austria Hungary, and the Empire of Russia.
The limited starting point for the Third Balkan War is generally considered to be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand while he was visiting Sarajevo in Northern Serbia. This resulted in a crisis, as tension in the Balkans built to a fever point, and threatened to ignite a general European Conflict. Russia backed their allies in Serbia, while Austria demanded that Serbia pay for the assassination. The French also pledged their support for Russia.
As the crisis deepened in the summer, all eyes turned toward Germany. The actions of the government there would determine the shape of the upcoming war. Berchtold, the Austrian most responsible for the war, had not been giving the Germans nearly enough information, so the Germans were very badly misinformed about the situation. Finally, Bethmann had had enough. He urged Wilhelm to cut his cruise short, and return to Berlin right away in order to resolve this crisis. after Wilhelm returned, a message was sent to Austria. Either the Austrian government would stop withholding information from the Germans, or else the infamous "Blank Check" would be revoked. Berchtold called the German's bluff, and didn't even bother to show the German message to the rest of the Austrian government. When no response was received from Vienna, Wilhelm sent a new message, stating that the deal of support to Austria was off, and that Germany would not be aiding Austria in case of war with Russia. With that, and the refusal of the Italians to aid Austria, the alliance that had existed so long between the three nations was dissolved, and Austria was faced with a war against Russia all by itself. On July 28, Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary, and the Third Balkan war had started.
The Early War
The Opposing Strategies
Austria Hungary entered the war with no allies, while also facing the prospect of a two front war. They decided to initiate Plan R, a war plan thought up before the Balkan Wars. This plan would have the Austrians focus on Serbia, and take it out before the Russians were ready. They were betting that the Russian mobilization machine would take at least two weeks to get some divisions ready to fight. They were also betting that the reforms instituted in Russia after the Russo-Japanese war, hadn't been as effective as hoped. Against Russia, the lack of Germany on their side forced Austria to take a defensive position against Russia. They set up a defensive line on the San River, hinging on the Galician fortress cities. They decided to sit behind the river line, and watch the Russians break against it.
By necessity, Russia had to take offensive action against Austria in order to save Serbia. Without Germany in the war, they were able to concentrate all their forces against Galicia. Unfortunately, the area they could attack was limited to the Galicia territory, negating the advantage in numbers they had. The other borders of Austria within reach of Russia arms were protected by the Carpathian Mountains. Also, the Russian war machine was not as well improved as they had hoped. Much of the ammunition that was being used were duds, and Russian soldiers were going into battle not fully clothed, and lacking in the necessary materials for war. However, thanks to propaganda, they were in no condition to give mercy to the Austrians.
The First Offensives
The Austrians attacked first into Serbia, with the force of two field armies under the leadership of Potiorek, the former mayor of Sarajevo, where the Archduke was assassinated. However, his nerve fiber did not survive the investigation into the assassination. He dispersed half a field army with garrison duty and incursions against Montenegro. Facing his two armies were three field armies under the leadership of General Radomir Putnik. His armies had the benefit of having experience from fighting in the last two Balkan wars, giving them an advantage over the Austrians, whose armies were made up of mostly green troops. Putnik brought the Austrians to battle at the Drina Basin, and soundly defeated the Austrian Armies, forcing them to fall back into Austrian territory.
In Galicia, the Russians launched an offensive a week after the Austrian offensive into Serbia in order to take pressure off their Serbian allies. They were faced with three Austrian field armies under Conrad Von Hotzendorf. The Russians deployed 5 field armies under the grand Duke Nicholas, against the Austrian positions. They focused upon crossing the San and encircling the fortress cities in order to break into Galicia. The initial offensives went well, and the Russians were able to get over the San, more due to weight of numbers than anything else. But the Austrians brought their superior artillery to bear, and combined with Austrian reserves headed to the scene, the landing zones for the Russian transports were turned into a bloodbath. The Grand Duke decided to call it quits before more troops were lost to Austrian artillery fire, and he called off the offensive. Only a couple hundred soldiers were able to escape back over the San, either by swimming across, or by daringly making it across on what few barges remained. The near equivalent of one field army was lost in the battle, and it showed how out of date and badly mismanaged the weapons industry in Russia was.
With this initial rebuff by both sides in their offensives, they settled down for the coming of winter, in order to bing up more troops, and to make plans for the next year of campaigning. The Austrian internal situation was looking good, with only a couple of grumblings about the tightening of rations in the winter years. In Russia, the Duma passed legislation with the intention of correcting the problems in the munitions industry.
Each side also started reaching out diplomatic feelers into the Balkans in order to recruit more allies for their side, with the Russians focusing on Rumania, and the Austrians focusing on Bulgaria. However, none of the nations were willing to join before they could call up their forces. The French decided that they had to help the Russians in whatever way they could. The French sent in a fleet, and forced the Austrian navy to retreat to their ports on the Adriatic. This naval freedom in the Adriatic allowed France to start dispatching divisions and more supplies to Serbia in order to help them resist another Austrian offensive. In the end, French strength in Serbia will be the equivalent of 250 thousand troops, out of a professional army of one million, over the three years of war.
The Middle Years
1915 opened with another Austrian offensive into Serbia. This time the Austrians had three field armies, still under General Potiorek. The offensive makes initial success, due to surprise and heavy artillery barrages, forcing Putnik to fall back from Belgrade. The Austrians seize the city, and manage to hold on to it for a few weeks. The Austrians continued rolling southward, and they engaged the main Serbian and French army near the city of Nish, where General Putnik demonstrated his superior tactical ability once again, soundly defeating the Austrian armies, and forcing them to withdraw to where they started their invasion. The offensive lasted 10 days. With this failure, Potiorek was removed as head of Austrian armies operating against Serbia.
The Russians launch another offensive in May, but this time they had a new plan. The Russians sent a mainly infantry force over the Carpathian Mountains, in order to get on the Austrian rear. They figured that the Austrians wouldn't expect it, as the militarily usable roads have been destroyed in the beginning of the war. When their forces had made it over the mountains, they would hit the Austrian rear, who would be distracted by another Russian offensive.
The infiltration over the mountains goes well, with an acceptable number of casualties. when the Russians got a special signal from their forces, they launched their offensive. This time, the Russians had bunched up large amounts of artillery, and a huge artillery duel starts. this time, the Russian artillery gave almost as much as it took, as they have a lot more pieces, and the industrial reforms had some success, reducing the number of dud rounds that were fired off. Under the cover of artillery fire, the Russians began deploying troops over the river. Some artillery fire fell on the ships, but the majority of the barges managed to make it over the river to the Austrian positions. By the end of the first day, a beachhead had been carved out, but resistance was hardening.
On the second day, the Russian plan went into action. The force that had been sent over the mountains started sabotaging railways and seizing some towns away from the Russian invasion. This forced the Austrians to shift much needed reinforcements away from where they were really needed. The Russians managed to force the river line, and get their beachheads beyond artillery range. However, the Austrians managed to re-estabilize their defensive lines in Galicia with forces pulled from Serbia. The Russian force in interior Hungary eventually had to fall back over the mountains after taking many losses, as the inability to take heavy artillery over the mountains started to take it's toll. With the beachheads secured, The Russians started pouring troops over the river, and the rest of the year would see a gradual increase in the size of Russian controlled territory in Galicia.
In September, A-H finally got Bulgaria to join the war on their side. They launched a new offensive into Serbia, but this time the Bulgars came at the Serb positions from the east. they broke through, and the Serbian positions were in danger of being overwhelmed. Putnik decided that a martyr defense was not in the best interests of his country, and pulled back his forces to a hastily assembled defensive line in the Western Barrier Mountains. After the combine Austro-Bulgar armies bloodied their noses against this new line, they called off the offensive, and started consolidating their gains.
The Austrians also launched another offensive in November against the Russian positions in Galicia, with the purpose of driving them back into Russia proper. The offensive was a bloody failure, as the Russian positions were just too strong by that time.
In Austria Hungary, strikes were becoming more and more common, with ever tightening rations plus continual defeats in the war really hurting morale. the victory in Serbia has lessened the defeatism a bit, but not much. The Austrian money is quickly becoming worthless due to inflation, but the Austrians plan to solve this by getting money from Russia after the war has been won. In Austrian controlled Serbia, a resistance movement was starting to show itself, attacking convoys and making supplying the Austrian armies there more difficult.
In Russia, things are bad, but not as bad as in Austria. There are riots and strikes, but not comparable to what the enemy is experiencing, as the riots in Russia are mostly over the casualties being taken to win the war. Victory has boosted confidence in the Romanov regime, and although they are not well liked, they are making up for the defeat they suffered against Japan in 1908. Some members of the government are already making plans for setting up a Russian power block in the Balkans once Austria-Hungary has been destroyed. when the Bulgarians joined the war, that proved the tipping point for Rumania, and the Russians got Rumanian assurances that they would join the war in spring. With this in mind, the Russian High Command has begun preparing a grand offensive for the spring of 1916. They are prepared to win or lose it all in that year, and they have no intention of losing.
The Austrians once again got the first strike off in 1916. A combined Bulgarian-Austro-Hungarian offensive smashed through the Serbian defense lines in the Western Barrier Mountains. The FEF and Serbian army fell back into Montenegro, where they were evacuated to Korfu. From there, they were shipped to the Russian front to join the Russian main offensive. Serbia finally was totally controlled by Austria Hungary, but they refused to surrender.
In May, the Russian offensive opened against the Austrian and Hungarian positions. Rumania joined the war on the side of Russia, opening a path to outflank the Carpathian Mountains. A combined assault against Austrian positions on the border with Rumania succeeds, and a new offensive is launched against the weakening positions in Galicia. The Austrians were preparing for this sort of thing, but the Russians are throwing everything they have into this offensive, determined to overwhelm the A-H forces with sheer numbers. There is large scale success, with most of Galicia being brought under the Russian banner, and parts of Transylvania are taken by Rumania. However, desperate Bulgarian and Austrian action, plus the running down of supply stockpiles, ends the offensive
The Bulgarians launch an offensive into Rumania while the Russian offensive was still going strong. The Russians figured that the Rumanians could hold off the Bulgarians while Russia crushed Austria Hungary, and then they would move in and crush Bulgaria with overwhelming force. Unfortunately, the Bulgarians refuse to go with that plan. An amassed army breaks through the Rumanian border. The Rumanians start panicking, and go to the Russians for support. At first, the Russians refuse, as they see the offensive currently going on as the fastest way to win, but as the danger to Rumania grows, they reluctantly agree. They halt their offensive, and start moving troops into Rumania, stopping the Bulgarian offensive in it's tracks.
The Austrians manage to scrape up enough forces for one last large offensive. If this fails, then there will be no more offensive operations against Russia. They launch their offensive against a Russian flank that has become less guarded as the front has become extended. They break through, and start cutting off the Russian base of their salient. The Russians start to panic, as they could lose near three field armies inside Austria if the enemy offensive succeeds. They call up every last reserve to stop the Austrians, and order the armies trapped in the pocket to begin an advance toward Budapest, bargaining that the Hungarians would not want their capital to fall. The Austrian begin arguing over the direction of the offensive, the indecision costs the Austrian forces their victory, and the Russians stop the Austrian forces from closing the noose. Thus ended the last Austrian offensive.
Morale in Austria is near breaking point. the losses suffered in the war, the failing of the last offensive, and the death of Franz Joseph have all led to a growing feeling of defeatism in the Empire. Many in the government are seriously starting to consider peace at all costs. Protests are rampant, desertion is high, and the people are starting to chant revolt against the Monarchy. The Austrians will not last much longer in these conditions.
Conversely, there is a feeling of near euphoria in Russia. Supplies have started to run low again, but the release of emergency supplies stops that. The people are very happy, as their government is actually winning a war. The Russians have moved along with their plans to make a power bloc in the Balkans, where they can stop this sort of thing from happening again. They can also use it to threaten Turkey, giving the leverage to seize the Turkish straits.
The Late Years
The Russians launch a new offensive into Austria in June. It crashes through the defense lines, and the Russians start taking large amounts of prisoners. Some Austrian forces fire a couple shots, then throw down their guns and surrender. There are large scale retreats, and riots break out all around Austria Hungary, crippling the transportation system. This hurts the Austrians more than the Russians, as the Russians are willing to run people off the road. As a result, the Austrian government started to negotiate a peace treaty with Russia.
Around that time, Turkey went to war with Bulgaria. It is seen around the world as an opportunistic move in order to regain territory lost in the Second Balkan War. Troops that were stationed in Turkish Europe start rolling into Bulgaria past the Bulgarian defense lines. Bulgaria has to withdraw troops from the Rumanian front in order to try and stop the Turkish offensive. The Bulgarians also start negotiating for a peace when they receive rumors of the Austrian peace negotiations with Russia. They realize that they have lost and they had better quit while there is still a Bulgaria.
On August 2, Austria Hungary signed the peace agreement which ends the war between them and Russia. The treaty stated that they were to give territory to all the victors, and pay an amount of cash to Serbia for damages. The Austrian don't like it, but they don't have a choice. Their country is falling apart around their heads, so they sign the peace treaty. This produces outrage in Austria, and the riots going on there expand. Soldiers are hard pressed to contain the violence.
On August 15, the Bulgarians sign a peace treaty with Russia and Turkey. They are also forced to give up territory, but they are used to it. However, it nurtures feelings of anger that will come back to haunt Russia. They also have to give Serbia money for damages and suffering caused in the war.
After The War
With the war over, the Russians started stepping down from their war economy. The other troops they had deployed to their new territory of Galicia, where they began repairing the infrastructure in order to exploit the resources. The dissent against the Romanov government was at a low, thanks to a victorious war against a hated enemy. This made up for the defeat suffered against Japan in 1908. The Russians also learned valuable strategies in this new type of warfare that was experienced against A-H. The defensive has been seen as a greater strategy for preserving men, but artillery have been shown as useful for breaking through the defensive emplacements of the enemy. Few will absorb those lessons. among the few are the German Empire, and Russia, who will mostly focus on enhanced ways of getting past these defenses. The French grasp the concept, but do not give it mch credence, thinking that it is an isolated circumstance, that could not be repeated in Western Europe.
In the defeated nations, there is much suffering, and much anger. The nation of Austria Hungary has once again proved it's ineptitude, and now its enemies are stronger than ever, strengthened with the rightful territory of the Hapsburg Monarchy. Greater Serbia has become a reality, and the loss of Galicia has deprived A-H of much natural resources. Discontent is rife throughout the Monarchy, but the military is keeping a lid on things ... for now. In Bulgaria, despite anger, there cements a burning desire to get revenge on the other Balkan nations who have unrightfully taken sacred Bulgarian soil. The government goes through so reorganization, and the military gets more funding than normal in order to modernize it. The Bulgarians will have their revenge.