Battle of Kolubara: Wikis

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Battle of Kolubara
Part of Serbian Campaign (World War I)
Sr prekokolubare.jpg
Serbian soldiers are crossing Kolubara river during the battle
Date 16 November to 15 December 1914
Location Around Kolubara,
Ljig River,
Mount Suvobor,
Mount Maljen
Result Decisive Serbian victory
Belligerents
 Austria-Hungary Serbia Serbia
Commanders
Oskar Potiorek Radomir Putnik
Živojin Mišić
Strength
450,000[1] 250,000
Casualties and losses
224,500 (28,000 dead, 120,000 wounded, 76,500 captured)[2] 22,000 dead, 92,000 wounded, 19,000 captured [2]

The Battle of Kolubara (3–9 December 1914) was a major victory of Serbia over the invading Austro-Hungarian armies during World War I.[1] The invaders were routed, and driven back across the Serbian border.[3]

Contents

Austrian advance

After the Battle of Cer, the Serbian army retreated to the right bank of the Kolubara River. The Serbian Army had 250,000 poorly equipped soldiers[4] and the Austro-Hungarians had a well-equipped force of 450,000 men.[1] On 16 November 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Balkan Army group (5th and 6th Army), commanded by Field Marshal Oskar Potiorek, launched an attack across the river. Potiorek's goal was to gain control over the railroad that led from Obrenovac to Valjevo[1] and to use it for supplying his troops instead of using muddy roads in Mačva. The 5th Army, which held the northern part of the front, captured the town of Lazarevac which was held by the Serbian 2nd Army. In the south, the 15th and 16th Corps of the 6th Army attacked the 1st Serbian Army, captured Mount Maljen on 24 November, and put the Serbian left wing in a difficult situation. On 25 November, the Austro-Hungarian 5th Army pushed back the 2nd and 3rd Army, crossed the Ljig River and flanked the 1st Army.

Because the Serbian First Army was in difficult situation, its general, Živojin Mišić, wanted to abandon his current positions and retreat to a new position in front of the town of Gornji Milanovac. His plan was to delay combat, rest his troops, and then launch a counteroffensive. Putnik did not approve of the plan. He warned Mišić that in that case other armies would also have to retreat, and Belgrade would have to be abandoned. Mišić told Putnik that the orders had already been given, and that he would not change them while he was in command. In the end, Putnik accepted the plan.[4]

Operations in Serbia, November-December 1914

When Belgrade was abandoned, Potiorek made a new plan. He wanted to amass the entire 5th Army in the Belgrade region to annihilate the 2nd army, which was on the right wing of the Serbian front. The 5th Army would then turn to the south, get behind the Serbs, and force them to capitulate. Potiorek underestimated the offensive capabilities of Mišić's 1st Army in the south. He thought[4] that they were too tired and weakened to do more than hold while his forces were maneuvering.

The Austro-Hungarian soldiers were very tired even before this maneuver began.[4] While they were marching, Serbian troops were resting in their new positions. On the 2 December, Mišić finished all preparations for an attack. Putnik ordered the attack of the entire[4] Serbian army on 3 December. That was an ideal moment, because the largest Austro-Hungarian formation, the Combined Corps, was by then out of combat, marching north.

Serbian counterattack

On the 3 December, the 1st Army launched an attack against the surprised 16th Corps. The attack was supported by the Užice army from the left wing. 16th Corps suffered heavy casualties and was pushed back. On the 4 December, 17th Corps tried to hold the advance of the 1st Army, but failed. Potiorek ordered an attack of the 5th Army so that he could complete his operation before the 6th army is defeated. However, the Combined Corps was still on its march.

On the 5 December, the 1st Serbian Army captured Mount Suvobor44°07′09″N 20°11′07″E / 44.11917°N 20.18528°E / 44.11917; 20.18528 (Suvobor), the main defensive position of the 6th Austrian Army. Meanwhile, the 3rd Serbian army had failed to push the 15th Corps off of Mount Rudnik, and Užice army suffered heavy casualties. However, these formations pressured the Austro-Hungarian forces and helped the 1st Serbian Army to achieve a breakthrough. In the evening, the Combined Corps arrived at its new position with very tired soldiers.

On 6 December, Potiorek ordered the retreat of the 6th Army on the left bank of the Kolubara. Combined Corps finally attacked the 2nd Army, but the attack was easily stopped. The Combined Corps on the 8 December launched a major attack, but the 2nd Serbian Army managed to hold its position. Other units of the 5th Army under General Ritter von Frank[5] were more successful, but it was too late. The 1st Serbian Army had captured Valjevo and was pushing north. Vojvoda Putnik reinforced the 2nd Serbian Army with fresh troops and ordered an attack before the Austro-Hungarians could fortify their positions. On 12 December, Stepanović's 2nd Serbian Army attacked and defeated the 8th Corps. The 5th Army had to leave Belgrade and cross the Sava River on 15 December. The battle was over.

The Serbian Army captured 76,000 enemy soldiers, and the number of Austro-Hungarian casualties was even greater. In complete route, the invading army abandoned large quantity of military equipment, according to some sources enough "to equip three army corps".[3] Mišić was promoted to Vojvoda, while Potiorek was retired, replaced by Archduke Eugen of Austria who was placed both in command of the 5th army and as commander in chief of the Balkan army group from December 1914.[6]

In 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Balkan Army Group lost around 224,500 men (out of a total of 450,000 engaged in the battles), while the Serbian army lost around 170,000 men (nearly its entire pre-war strength).

Results

Austria had taken massive losses and yet failed to conquer or defeat Serbia. Austro-Hungarian V and VI armies were driven out of the Serbian territory, abandoning Belgrade to the Serbs.[1] Meanwhile it was under intense pressure from the powerful Russian army on its eastern frontier.

In a very unusual act, German emperor Wilhelm II personally congratulated Radomir Putnik on the victory.

Since Serbia did not really pose a threat to Austria, for the next 10 months the Austrians did nothing against Serbia and most of the forces in the area were transferred to the Italian front. On the other hand, although victorious, Serbian losses were even larger as a percentage of their army strength. Coupled with a terrible typhus epidemic that raged through the countryside during the winter, Serbia was content to stay on the defensive in 1915 and hope for increased Allied support. Sadly for Serbia, this support was to come too little and too late.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Tucker, S.; Roberts, P.M. (2005). World War I: Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 643. OCLC 61247250.  
  2. ^ a b Stevenson, D. (2004). 1914-1918: The History of the First World War. Allen Lane. p. 80. ISBN 0713992085. OCLC 186423920.  
  3. ^ a b Gordon-Smith, Gordon (1 October 1933). "The Grand Strategy of the World War" (PDF). Coast Artillery Journal (United States Coast Artillery Association) 76 (5): 347–352. http://www.airdefenseartillery.com/online/Coast%20Artillery%20Journal/Extract/CA%201933/Sep-Oct%201933.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-19. "[T]hings on the Balkan front had not gone according to program. Field Marshal von Potiorek's invasion of Serbia had been a complete fiasco and in four weeks his armies were hurled back across the Drina in hopeless rout. Twice again the Austrians returned to the attack but without avail and in the third attempt, the battle of the Kolubara, the disaster became complete. Von Potiorek's army fled back across the Drina, a routed rabble. Tens of thousands of prisoners were taken and enough war material captured to equip three army corps.".  
  4. ^ a b c d e Nikola B Popović (1998) (in Serbian). Srbi u Prvom svetkom ratu, 1914-1918 (1. izd ed.). Beograd: DMP. OCLC 43261088.  
  5. ^ Glenn Jewison; Jörg C. Steiner. "Austro-Hungarian Army Higher Commands 1914-1918". Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848-1918. http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/commands.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-21.  
  6. ^ Glenn Jewison; Jörg C. Steiner. "Field Marshals of the Austro-Hungarian Army 1914-1918". Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848-1918. http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/fm.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-21.  
  • Thomas, Nigel; Babac, Dušan; Pavlović, Darko (2001). Armies in the Balkans, 1914-18. Oxford Osprey. ISBN 184176194X. OCLC 46651780.  

Further reading

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