Primary Documents - German Press Statement on the Opening of the Battle of Gorlice-Tarnow, 2 May 1915

German commander at Gorlice-Tarnow, August von Mackensen Reproduced below is the German press statement issued in the wake of the opening of the German Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive, a campaign successfully overseen by General August von Mackensen.  The press release inevitably trumpeted the overwhelming martial ardour of German (and, to a lesser extent, Austrian) troops, compared to the cowering timidity of their enemy Russian forces.

Mackensen's success in command of the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive led to his promotion to Field Marshal by Kaiser Wilhelm II in June 1915.  Click here to read his own account of the opening of the offensive.  Click here to read the reaction of Austro-Hungarian Minister of War Alexander von Krobatin Click here to read the view of Russian Army Commander-in-Chief Grand Duke Nikolai Click here to read the view of the British military observer assigned to the Russian Army, Stanley Washburn.

The Opening of the Battle of Gorlice-Tarnow, 2 May 1915 - A Report from the German Official Press Headquarters

Reports of prisoners are unanimous in describing the effect of the artillery fire of the [Teutonic] allies as more terrible than the imagination can picture.

The men, who were with difficulty recovering from the sufferings and exertions they had undergone, agreed that they could not imagine conditions worse in hell than they had been for four hours in the trenches.

Corps, divisions, brigades, and regiments melted away as though in the heat of a furnace. In no direction was escape possible, for there was no spot of ground on which the four hundred guns of the Teutonic allies had not exerted themselves.

All the Generals and Staff Officers of one Russian division were killed or wounded.  Moreover, insanity raged in the ranks of the Russians, and from all sides hysterical cries could be heard rising above the roar of our guns, too strong for human nerves.

Over the remnants of the Russians who crowded in terror into the remotest corners of their trenches there broke the mighty rush of our masses of infantry, before which also the Russian reserves, hurrying forward, crumbled away.

In barely fourteen days the army of Mackensen carried its offensive forward from Gorlice to Jaroslav.  With daily fighting, for the most part against fortified positions, it crossed the line of three rivers and gained in territory more than 100 kilometres in an airline.

On the evening of the fourteenth day, with the taking of the city and bridgehead, Jaroslav, they won access to the lower San.  It was now necessary to cross this stream on a broad front. T he enemy, though, still held before Radymo and in the angle of San-Wislok with two strongly fortified bridge-heads the west bank of this river.  For the rest he confined himself to the frontal defence of the east bank.

While troops of the guard in close touch with Austrian regiments gained, fighting, the crossing of the river at Jaroslav, and continued to throw the enemy, who was daily receiving reinforcements, continually further toward the east and northeast, Hanoverian regiments forced the passage of the river several kilometres further down stream.

Brunswickers, by the storming of the heights of Wiazowinca, opened the way and thereby won the obstinately defended San crossing.  Further to the north the San angle was cleared of the enemy that had still held on there.

One Colonel, fifteen officers, 7,800 prisoners, four cannon, twenty-eight machine guns, thirteen ammunition wagons, and a field kitchen fell into our hands.  The rest found themselves obliged to make a hasty retreat to the east bank.

These battles and successes took place on the 17th of May in the presence of the German Emperor, who, on the same clay, conferred upon the Chief of Staff of the army here engaged, Colonel von Seeckt, the order Pour le Merite, the commander of the army, General von Mackensen, having already received special honours.

The Emperor had hurried forward to his troops by automobile.  On the way he was greeted with loud hurrahs by the wounded riding back in wagons.  On the heights of Jaroslav the Emperor met Prince Eitel Friedrich, and then, from several points of observation, for hours followed with keen attention the progress of the battle for the crossing.

In the days from the 18th to the 20th of May the Teutonic allies pressed on further toward the east, northeast, and north, threw the enemy out of Sieniawa and took up positions on the east bank of the river upon a front of twenty or thirty kilometres.  The enemy withdrew behind the Lerbaczowa stream.  All his attempts to win back the lost ground were unsuccessful.

In the month of May 863 officers and 268,869 men were taken prisoners in the south-eastern theatre of war, while 251 cannon and 576 machine guns were captured.  Of these numbers, the capturing of 400 officers, including two Generals, 153,254 men, 160 cannon, including twenty-eight heavy ones, and 403 machine guns, is to the credit of the troops under General Mackensen.

Including prisoners taken in the eastern theatre of war, the total number of Russians who have fallen into the hands of the Germanic allied troops during the month of May amounts to about 1,00 officers and more than 300,000 men.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. III, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A "box barrage" was an artillery bombardment centred upon a small area.

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