Back to the Austrian Commanders page
August von Mackensen
August von Mackensen was born on 6 December 1849.  He received education at the gymnasium and did subsequent university studies.  On 1 October 1869, Mackensen joined the 2. Leibhusaren-Regiment as a volunteer.  Together with this Regiment, Mackensen participated in the war Franco-Prussian War, and he became an active officer two years later.  He joined the Great General Staff in 1880.  Mackensen became the Commander of the 1. Husaren-Regiment.  He was then promoted to General ŕ la suite of Kaiser Wilhelm in 1901. 

Shortly after the start of WWI,  Mackensen commanded the XVII. Corps attached to the VIII. Army and suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Russian General Rennenkampf during the Battle of Gumbinnen.  However, Mackensen's force was among those quickly transferred by rail to surround the advancing Army of Samsonov, and he played a conspicuous part in the resulting famous Battle of Tannenberg.  Then, Mackensen took command of the IX. Army at Lodz and he was awarded the Pour le Merite in 1914 for defense of city.  He fought for Warsaw throughout October and November 1914.  Following the Battles of the Masurian Lakes, Mackensen's command  was transferred to the XI. Army on the Dunajec sector  of the Galician Front. 

In early April, Mackensen opened the spring offensive against Russia by bombarding the enemy positions at Tarnow, and this effectively split open the tired Russian front (see description, below).   Mackensen then ordered the march forward, but the difficult terrain and the fighting retreat by the Russians made for slow going.  Mackensen reached Przemysl in early June, and aided the Austrian recapture of Lemberg on 22 June 1915.  Meanwhile, Mackensen was given command of the k.u.k. Husaren-Regiment 10, on 11 June 1915.  

Following the glorious achievement of the campaign against Russia, Mackensen was given the task of leading the campaign against Serbia in October 1915.  This he did with great veracity, using both the German XIV. Army and the Austrian III. Army, along with help from the Bulgarians to destroy the Serbians.  When Roumania declared war on Austria in August 1916, the Germans, fearful of their ally's collapse, mobilised all resources against the invaders.  Mackensen was dispatched to Bulgaria, where he organised the Army of the Danube, made up of troops from Bulgaria, Turkey, Germany, and Austria.  He invaded the Dobruja, and reached the mouths of the Danube, battling the Russians who tried to block his advance.  Then he forded the river and marched to cut off the fleeing Roumanians.  His efforts sped the defeat of Roumania and he was promoted to field marshal.   Mackensen commanded the occupation army in Roumania until the end of the First World War.
The government of Mihaly Karólyi in the republic of Hungary saw to the disarming of German soldiers leaving Roumania throughout November.  They even arrested and interned the famous Field Marshal, which at first drew a glad eye from many of the leftists, but as the Roumanians advanced deep into Hungarian territory, Karólyi received much criticism from most Hungarians for his poor treatment of the man who conquered the hated Roumania.  He was released from Hungarian captivity shortly before the vicious bolshevik regime of Bela Kun took over in March 1919.

In 1920, he retired from active duty. During the 1920s, he was a supporter of German renewal movements.  In fact, he was an ardent supporter of the Nazis, and campaigned on Hitler's behalf.  Some authors contend that this spoiled Mackensen's reputation, but their program of national pride and rearmament was admired by most officers in Germany.  However, Mackensen was still pro-monarchist and defied Hitler by being conspicuously present at ex-Kaiser Wilhelm's funeral in 1941.  The 96 year-old August von Mackensen died at Schmiedeberg, Saxony on 8 November 1945.

GWS, 4/01 [rev. 4/03]
Mackensen was well-known for his love of commanding from the saddle, as this photo from 1916 suggests.
Orders of Battle:  Eastern Front, May 1915
Immediately preceding the Dunajec offensive
Armee Woyrsch, preuß. Generaloberst
v. Woyrsch
Deutsche XI. Armee, preuß. Generaloberst v. Mackensen
    Chief of Staff, preuß. Oberst
Seeckt
   Öst. VI. Korps, Kmdt. Feldmlt.
v. Arz
    Chief of Staff, Oberst Josef Huber
       39. Honvéd inf. div., Feldmlt.
v. Hadfy
              77. Honvéd inf. brig., Genmj. v. Molnar
              78. Honvéd inf. brig., Oberst Daubner
              39. field art. brig., Oberst Nowotny
        12. inf. div., Feldmlt. Kestranek
              23. inf. brig., Genmj. Ritt. v. Metz
              24. inf. brig., Genmj.
v. Puchalski
              12. field art. brig., Oberst v. Dobner
The Opening of the Dunajec Offensive, May 1915

General von Mackensen describes the scene at Gorlice and Tarnow when his armies crossed the Dunajec and inflicted a great defeat on the Russians:

"To the complete surprise of the enemy, large movements of troops into West Galicia had been completed by the end of April.  These troops, subject to the orders of [General von Mackensen], had been assigned the task in conjunction with the neighboring armies of our Austrian ally of breaking through the Russian front between the crest of the Carpathians and the middle Dunajec.  It was a new problem and no easy undertaking.  The heavens granted our troops wonderful sunshine and dry roads.  Thus flyers and artillery could come into full activity and the difficulties of the terrain, which here has the the character of the approaches of the German Alps, or the Hörsal hills in Thuringia, could be overcome.  At several points ammunition had to be transported amid the greatest hardships on pack animals and the marching columns and batteries had to be moved forward over corduroy roads.  All the accumulation of information and preparations necessary or breaking through the enemy's line had been quietly and secretly accomplished. 

"On the first of May in the afternoon the artillery began its fire on the Russian positions.  These in some five months had been perfected according to all the rules of the art of fortification.  In stories they lay one over the other along the steep heights, whose slopes had been furnished with obstacles.  At some points of special importance to the Russians they consisted of as many as seven rows of trenches, one one behind the other.  The works were very skillfully placed, and were adopted to flanking one another.  The infantry of the Allied [Teutonic] troops in the nights preceding the attack had pushed forward closer to the enemy and had assumed positions in readiness for the forward rush.  In the night from May 1st to 2nd, the artillery fired in slow rhythm at the enemy's positions.  Pause in the fire served the pioneers for cutting the wire entanglements.  On the 2nd of May at 6 a.m. an overwhelming artillery fire, including field guns and running up to the heaviest calibres, was begun on the front many miles in extent selected for the effort to break through.  This was maintained unbroken for four hours.

"At 10 o'clock in the morning these hundreds of fire-spouting tubes suddenly ceased and the same moment the swarming lines and attacking columns of the assailants threw themselves upon the hostile positions.  The enemy had been so shaken by the heavy artillery fire that his resistance at many points was very slight.  In headlong flight he left his defenses, when the infantry of the [Teutonic] Allies appeared before his trenches, throwing away rifles and cooking utensils and leaving immense quantities of infantry ammunition and dead.  At one point, the Russians themselves cut the wire entanglements to surrender themselves to the Germans.  Frequently the enemy made no further resistance in his second and third positions.  On the other hand, at certain other points of the front he defended himself stubbornly, making an embittered fight and holding the neighborhood.  With the Austrian troops, the Bavarian regiments attacked Mount Zameczyka [Zamczysko, which has a vast war cemetary along the top of the hill], lying 250 metres above their positions, a veritable fortress.  A Bavarian infantry regiment here won incomparable laurels. 

"To the left of the Bavarians, Silesian regiments stormed the heights of Sekowa and Sakol [Sokól and Sékowa; the former is today part of Gorlice municipality].  Young regiments tore from the enemy the desperately defended cemetary height of Gorlice and the persistently defended railway embankment at Kennenitza [Kamieniec].  Among the Austrian troops, Galician battalions had stormed the steep heights of Puski Hill [Putski, where there is another cemetary], Hungarian troops having taken in fierce fighting the Wiatrowka heights.  Prussian guard regiments threw the enemy out of his elevated positions east of Biala and at Staszkowka stormed seven successive Russian lines which were stubbornly held.  Either kindled by the Russians or hit by a shell, a naphtha well behind Gorlice burst into flames.  Higher than the houses the flames struck up into the sky and pillars of smoke rose to hundreds of metres.

"On the evening of the 2nd of May, when the warm Spring sun had begun to yield to the coolness of night the first main position in its whole depth and extent, a distance of some sixteen kilometres, had been broken through and a gain of ground some four kilometres had been attained.  At least 20,000 prisoners, dozens of cannon, and fifty machine guns remained in the hands of the allied troops that in the battle had competed with one another for the palm of victory.  In addition, an amount of booty to be readily estimated, in the shape of war materials of all sorts, including great masses of rifles and ammunition, had been secured."
Orders of Battle:  Serbian Front, October 1915
Amidst the Quadruple Alliance's invasion of Serbia in October 1915
Mackensen Army, FM August Mackensen
III. Armee, Gen. d. Inf. Kövess von Kövesshaza
      LXII. inf. div., Feldmlt. von Kasler
      Streith Group, Genmj. Streith
      Sorsic Group, Feldmlt.
von Sorsic
  XIX. Korps, Feldmlt.
Trollmann
       LIII. inf. div., Genmj. von Pongracz
      XXII. Deutsch res. Korps, Gen. Erich Falkenhayn
      XLIII. inf. div., Genmj. von Runckel
      XLIV. res. div., Genmj. von Dorrer
      XXVI. (I. k. Württemberg) inf. div., Genlt. Herzog Wilhelm von Urach
   VIII. Korps, Feldz.
Scheuchenstuel
      LVII. inf. div., Feldmlt. von Goiginger
      LIX. inf. div., Feldmlt.
Snjaric
Deutsch XI. Armee, Gen. d. Art. Gallwitz
   III. Korps, Gen. d. Inf. von Lochow
        VI. inf. div., Genmj. Herhudt von Rohden
    XXV. res. inf. div., Genmj. von Jarotzky
IV. Korps, Genlt. von Winckler
       XI. Bayerisch inf. div., Genlt.
von Kneußl
       CV. inf. div., Genmj. von der Esch
      CVII. inf. reg., Genmj. von Moser
   X. res. Korps, Genlt. Kosch
      CI. inf. div., Genlt. von Kräwel
      CIII. inf. div., Genlt. von Estorff
   K.u.K. Group Füllöp, Feldmlt. Füllöp
I. Bulgarian Armee, Genlt. K. Bojadiev
     I. inf. div. (Sofia), Genmj. Draganov
     VI. inf. div. (Vidin), Oberst Popov
     VIII. inf. div. (Tundschana), Genmj. Mitov
     IX. inf. div. (Plevna), Genmj. Neresov
Keeping Busy in the Third Reich:  Mackensen's Visible Contributions
The famous Feldmarschal marches alongside the Führer in 1935.  Mackensen's early support of the Nazis was more obvious than any other officer from WWI, and lent legitimacy to the Third Reich.
A perhaps confused veteran greets General Mackensen with a Hitler salute, 1937.
1