Austria-Hungary had been worsted by the French in 1859, and in 1866 trounced by Prussia. Since then the army had been reformed on the Prussian model, but not for forty-eight years tested in war.
The population, 50,000,000 in 1914, was a complex racial mixture. Germans were the ruling group in Austria, Magyars in Hungary. Poles in Austria and Croats in Hungary had special privileges. Ruthenes, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Serbs, Italians, and Romanians were potentially disaffected. Languages, literacy, religions, and racial characteristics differed widely. Slav races formed two-thirds of the infantry, and the Germans in charge notoriously lacked the high martial seriousness of the Prussians. Yet, if the sottish chaos described by Jaroslav Hasek, a Czech writer, in The Good Soldier Schweik, typified one side of the coin, there was another: to many the army was an ideal of the empire as a supranational society.
At the beginning of 1914 the peace strength of the Austro-Hungarian army was some 450,000. On mobilization, it rose to over 3,000,000, of which some 1,800,000 formed the field army of six armies, in all sixteen army corps – mostly of three divisions, some reserve divisions – and eleven cavalry divisions.
In a war against Serbia, the III, V, and VI Armies would be deployed in the south, according to Plan B (Balkans); but in a war against Russia and Serbia, Plan R, the III Army would be deployed northeast with I, II and IV in the Galician plains beyond the Carpathian mountains. By ordering partial mobilization on 25th July the army, was committed to Plan B, until the III Army could be recalled from the Serbian front.
General Conrad von Hötzendorf, chief of general staff, sixty-two, a cavalryman, hard-working, spartan, a writer on tactics and training, was, like Foch, a firm apostle of the offensive. His recipe for victory against Russia was an early attack before the vast manpower of the enemy could be brought into action, but that plan was now seriously compromised by partial mobilization. Conrad would command the northern armies, General Potiorek, another spartan, keen, vain, incompetent, with powerful court connections, responsible for the muddle that had given the Sarajevo assassins their chance, would command against Serbia.
AUSTRIA-HUNGARY (July 28, 1914 – November 3, 1918)
- Soldiers available on mobilization = 3,000,000+
- Army strength during the war = 8,322,000
- KIA Military = 1,200,000
- Wounded Military = 3,620,000
- Civilian losses (Serbia and Austria together) = 1,000,000