Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13th, 1914

- This morning Vice Admiral Spee discusses future operations of the German East Asiatic Squadron with his captains.  His two armoured cruisers lack the speed, and burnt coal too quickly, to be effective commerce raiders.  Instead, he has decided to keep the squadron together.  He also intends to use the vast size of the Pacific to hide his squadron, and fight on his terms.  He states that they will sail east towards the Pacific coast of South America, as other directions involve greater risks.  At Hong Kong is the British China Squadron, while Japan, though neutral at present, may yet enter the war with their substantial navy on Britain's side.  To the south the British battlecruiser Australia lurks, which by itself outgunned his entire squadron.  Conversely, there was no major surface threat to the east.  Further, German agents in South America were already acquiring coal to resupply Spee's squadron, an advantage that did not lie elsewhere in the Pacific.

Asking for comments, the captain of the light cruiser Emden suggests that his ship, the squadron's most modern and fastest light cruiser, was best suited to attacking Entente commerce, and suggested that it sail alone to the Indian Ocean.  Such a deployment would not only interdict British trade but also force the diversion of British warships from other commands to hunt her.  Spee agrees - a single ship can survive on coal from captured warships, and Emden is the ship best-suited to the task.

- The deployment of the Austro-Hungarian army in Galicia opposite Russia has been hopelessly botched.  Conrad's initial focus on Serbia had led to an inexcusable neglect of the far-greater Russian threat.  One of the few advantages Austria-Hungary had over Russia was the ability to mobilize its armies faster and thus attack before Russia was prepared.  However, the decision to focus on Serbia and delay mobilization against Russia has thrown away this advantage.  As of today, only 57 of 120 battalions and 39 of 63 batteries of 4th Army have arrived at its assembly point.  The Austro-Hungarian armies assigned to Gallicia - 1st, 3rd, and 4th Armies - are projected to be assembled between August 19th to 23rd.  Moreover, Conrad initially ordered deployment of these armies in defensive positions a hundred kilometres behind the Russian frontier, in line with his focus on Serbia.  Though he has changed his mind and desires a rapid offensive, the mobilization orders cannot now be changed - the result is that the three armies will have to walk from their deployment areas to the Russian frontier, even though there are railways that could have been used.  This says nothing of the debacle over the deployment of 2nd Army.  The Austro-Hungarian army is suffering from self-inflicted wounds before even engaging the Russians in combat.

- In twenty-four hours bombardment, Fort Pontisse has been hit by forty-five shells from the large German mortars.  The damage to the fort is sufficient to allow it to be taken by infantry assault today.  Two further forts also fall today.

- As the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia begins, General Potiorek issues orders that to counter Serbian guerillas and sabotage, the taking of hostages, arson, and reprisal hangings are authorized.

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