Why this book?
The book is a stunning tale of death and disaster. In February 1915 one Austro-Hungarian army and one German army tried to relieve the Russian-besieged Habsburg fortress of Przemyśl and its 120,000-man garrison. The Austro-Hungarian troops advanced along the 1,200-meter high ridges of the Carpathian Mountains in snowstorms and dense fog. Intermittent sleet, snow, wind, and ice battered the men. Temperatures plummeted to -25 degrees Celsius. Sudden thaws turned the battlefields into seas of mud. Men either froze to death or drowned in the ooze. Hunger, starvation, disease (typhus and cholera), frostbite, and wolves took their toll. Horses and dogs became a dietary staple. Life expectancy was down to five or six weeks. Countless troopers committed suicide.
The butcher’s bill was astronomical: 800,000 casualties, more men than would fall at Verdun or the Somme one year later. Despite the deadly relief effort, the Przemyśl garrison surrendered to the Russians on 23 March 1915. The Habsburg Army had lost its most experienced officers and noncommissioned officers. The Austrian official history referred to the once-proud Royal and Imperial Army after February 1915 as little more than a “militia” force. Its vaunted commander, Conrad von Hötzendorf, lost both respect and reputation. In the author’s words, the Carpathian Winter War was the “Stalingrad of World War I.”
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
The Carpathian campaign of 1915, described by some as the ""Stalingrad of the First World War,"" engaged the million-man armies of Austria-Hungary and Russia in fierce winter combat that drove them to the brink of annihilation. Habsburg forces fought to rescue 130,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers trapped by Russian troops in Fortress Przemysl, but the campaign was waged under such adverse circumstances that it produced six times as many casualties as the number besieged. It remains one of the least understood and most devastating chapters of the war-a horrific episode only glimpsed previously but now vividly restored to the annals of history…