Book Review: Fall of the Double Eagle: The Battle for Galicia and the Demise of Austria-Hungary


by John R. Schindler

Lincoln: Potomac Books, 2015. Pp. x, 350. Notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 1612347657

The Austro-Hungarian Disaster in Galicia

Schindler, author of the excellent Isonzo: The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Great War, takes a look at the Austro-Hungarian disaster in Galicia in 1914, which he argues ultimately doomed the Dual Monarchy.

Schindler opens with some background on the very complex nature of the Austro-Hungarian “state” and the even more confusing structure of the monarchy’s armed forces, which aside from the Imperial-and-Royal Navy, had three different armies and several other regional autonomous military institutions, and spoke nearly a dozen languages. Nevertheless, despite this organizational and linguistic confusion, Schindler points out that the monarchy’s “Army” was better than its reputation, it fought hard and was remarkably loyal to the dynasty, although nationalist propaganda at the time – and since – regarding the reliability of some of the ethnic groups. He then reviews military preparations, professionalism, war planning and more, before addressing the role of the armed forces in the July Crisis. This takes up about a third of the book.

Schindler then proceeds to cover the opening operations of the war, from August through October of 1914, in great detail. He demonstrates how events on the Serb front helped bring about disaster in Galicia, where an attempted offensive was shattered by a far superior Russian counter offensive, giving us very good accounts of the battles of Lemberg and Rava-Ruska, which inflicted very heavy losses on the army from which it never recovered; the loss of large numbers pre-war officers was particularly costly, as linguistic skills could not be replaced. In the course of telling this story, Schindler offers many good profiles of individuals, not only Emperor Franz Joseph and Chief-of-the General Staff Conrad, but many others, some able, such as Svetozar Boroevic, and some less able, such as the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand and Oskar Potiorek and of course the notorious spy Colonel Alfred Redl, who although dead more than a year before the Great War began, may have had the most important influence on the outcome of the fighting in Galicia in 1914.

Despite an unfortunate lack of maps, which makes following the battles rather difficult, Fall of the Double Eagle is a very good, well told account of an important, but largely overlooked campaign, and one of the most interesting armies of modern times.

Note: Fall of the Double Eagle is also available as an e-book.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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