The Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes
known as the Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes
was the northern part of the Central
' offensive on the Eastern Front
in the winter of
offensive was intended to advance beyond the Vistula River and perhaps knock Russia out of the war.
German Chief of
Staff Erich von Falkenhayn
strongly believed that the war was going to be won on the Western Front and was hesitant
to lend support to Paul von
Hindenburg, commander of the Eastern Front.
Falkenhayn did eventually sanction Hindenburg's planned offensive.
would personally lead the northern offensive in the area of the
Lakes (site of the 1914 Battle of the Masurian
Lakes). General Alexander von Linsingen would lead
an attack against the Russians in the Carpathians aimed at Lemberg, and further
south General Borojevic von Bojna
would attempt to relieve the besieged
fortress at Przemysl.
Hindenburg had available for the northern offensive the German Eighth Army
, commanded by Fritz von Below
. A newly created force, the
German Tenth Army
, commanded by
Colonel-General Hermann von
was also being sent to the east. Facing Hindenburg was
General Sievers' Russian Tenth Army in the area of the Masurian
Lakes. To the south along the Russian line near the Masurian Lakes
was the Russian Twelfth Army under Pavel
On the February 7
, in the middle of a
snowstorm, Below's Eighth Army launched a surprise attack against
Sievers and advanced 70 miles within the week, inflicting severe
casualties on the Russians. The Russian withdrawal was disorderly
and many of them were taken prisoner. The greatest loss came
when the Russian 20th
Army Corps, under General Bulgakov, had become surrounded by
the German Tenth Army in the Augustow Forest; on February 21 the
entire corps surrendered.
though the Russians had lost an entire corps, its heroic stand had
enabled the rest of the Russian Tenth Army to form a new defensive
position. On February 22
, the next day,
Plehve's Russian Twelfth Army counterattacked and checked the
German advance. The counterattack ended any further German advances
and brought the battle to an end.
The Second Battle of Masurian Lakes ended the German offensive in
the north. The Russians had suffered severe losses of soldiers and
ground, but they had prevented the Germans from advancing far into
Russia. Germany had also failed to come close to knocking Russia
out of the war. Further south, Alexander von Linsingen
had failed with the severe losses and the fortress at Przemysl had
been forced to surrender to the Russians. Overall the
Austro-Hungarian/German offensive of 1915 had failed in its major
objectives. The German high command ended operations in which
Germans operated as an independent force, supporting Austrian
campaigns in the south. From this point on in the war, Germany and
joint operations on the Eastern Front.