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Austria-Hungary Invades Serbia, 1914

Revenge! Austro-Hungarian troops charge into battle to revenge the assassination of Archduke %+%Person%m%7%n%Franz Ferdinand%-%. His spirit watches over them. From a drawing by Ludwig Koch.
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Revenge! Austro-Hungarian troops charge into battle to revenge the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. His spirit watches over them. From a drawing by Ludwig Koch.

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The Drina, Save, and Danube Rivers formed Serbia's border with Austria-Hungary. Behind these natural defenses lay the mountains of northern Serbia.

The Serbian Army and its commander Radomir Putnik had been victorious in the First and Second Balkan wars of 1912 and 1913, approximately doubling the country's size. After the assassination in Sarajevo, Putnik anticipated an invasion, and positioned his three armies to be able to respond to Austria-Hungary's attack regardless of its source.

Chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf had planned to invade Serbia with three armies, while fighting a defensive action against Russia, but responded to Germany's request for support by sending one of his invasion armies to Russia. He invaded Serbia with only two armies.

Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia across its northwestern border on August 12, 1914. Fighting in the mountains, the invaders made little headway and a Serbian counterattack drove out the invaders.

After this victory, Putnik crossed the Danube River into Austria-Hungary on September 6, eliciting the second, and more successful, Austro-Hungarian invasion the next day. The Serbs could not hold the border, but stopped the offensive, then retreated to a stronger defensive line.

Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia for the third time on November 6, advancing as the Serbs executed a fighting retreat to a line that put them close to their supplies. Heavy rains and snow slowed both sides. Putnik counter-attacked on December 3 with four Serbian armies totaling 200,000 men against 80,000 Austro-Hungarian troops. On December 9, the invader withdrew.

Austria-Hungary had begun its three invasions of Serbia with an army of 450,000 men, and had lost half of them, including 28,000 dead, and 122,000 wounded. The Serbs had suffered 132,000 casualties, with 22,000 dead, 91,000 wounded, and 19,000 captured or missing.

1914-08-11

1914-12-09

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