Tannenberg World War One began on August 4, 1914, when Britain declared war on Germany. The beginning of World War One was caused by the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand, on June 28 1914; he was heir to the throne of Austria. The assassination of the archduke caused outrage in Austria, they suspected that Serbia had plotted the killing. Russia at that time was allied with Serbia, so when Austria decided to retaliate against them for the killing, Russia aided the Serbs. Germany and Austria were allies, so when Russia came into the fighting Germany declared war on them. In 1892 France had made a Dual Alliance with Russia so they were also dragged into the war, and declared war on Germany. In order to attack France, Germany would have to go through Belgium. Great Britain had agreed to help defend Belgium if needed when Germany came to Belgium Great Britain entered the war.
That marked the beginning of World War One.
The war started out having two main fronts, known as the Eastern Front and the Western Front. The plan for a two front war was made by a German General Alfred von Schlieffen. Some fighting later took place in the Middle East. The two sides of the war were the Allies and the Central Powers. The countries forming the allies were, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Japan, Russia, Serbia, Italy, Romania, and Greece. The U.S. later joined the Allied Force after the sinking of the Lusitania. The countries that made up the Central Powers were, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria.
One of the major battles of the Eastern Front was the Battle of Tannenberg. The battle was fought by the Germans and the Russians. It was one of the greatest German victory of the war. Germany held the province of East Prussia, and Russia planned to invade it. The attack was going to come from two different directions the southwestern corner and the northeastern corner. The plan was that the Russian first and second armies would come through the two sides and meet in the middle to destroy the German Eighth army from the front and the back.
The two Generals in charged of the invasion were General Alexander Samsonov, and Paul von Rennenkampf. Samsonov was to take the Russian Second Army into the southwest and Rennenkampf was to take the Russian First Army into the northeast. General Samsonov had served as a cavalry officer during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877.General Rennenkampf had also served in the cavalry during the Boxer Rising in 1900. The two Generals had a personal quarrel and had trouble working together before in the Battle of Mukden in 1905.
During the beginning of the invasion in the southwest General Samsonov, encountered the German Eighth Army, led by General Maximilian Prittwitz. Samsonov overcame Prittwitz from the rear. Prittwitz ordered his army to retreat and abandon East Prussia. Before they could retreat German Army Chief of Staff dismissed Prittwitz. His replacement was ,sixty-six year old, General von Hindenburg, and his Chief of Staff Ludendorff.
General Hindenburg now had a new plan proposed by Colonel Maximillian Hoffman. He planned to set a trap and surround Samsonov in the southwest. The Germans would try to confuse Rennenkampf by attacking him with cavalry. They knew that the two Generals had personals grievances with each other so Rennenkampf would be unlikely to aid Samsonov.
General Samsonov, believing the German army still to be retreating pursued them towards the Vistula, and directed one Corps north towards Seeburg-Rastenburgh. Samsonov reached the outskirts of the German lines on August 22; he was defeating the Germans as he went so he continued on, while he was accidentally surrounding himself in the German's trap. General Hindenburg had sent troops, lead by General Francois, by rail to Samsonov's left side. Hindenburg sent two of his corps to the right side of Samsonov well as another corps that was waiting on him at Vistula.Because of lack of communications Samsonov didn't know Rennenkampf had stopped their movement to meet him after his first encounter with the German forces with Prittwitz.
Samsonov had the Germans on the retreat since his victory at the Battle of Orlau-Frankenau. He was going to pursue the Germans to Tannenberg. While on the way back from meeting with General Francois, Hindenburg intercepted a message transmitted by Rennenkampf and Samsonov. It told of the distance between the armies and also told where Samsonov was going. The Germans now knew that they wouldn't have to worry about interference from Rennenkampf, because they were no longer headed to the same place.
The Germans began attacking Samsonov on August 27, his army was split up by the attacks. General Francois moved his forces east to cut of any retreat to the Russian border. Meanwhile Russian headquarters sent Rennenkampf west to Konigsberg, putting a huge distance between the two armies. The also intercepted this command, they now knew there was no danger from Rennenkampf army.
Samsonov was short on supplies, his forces were spread out and many of them trying to escape to the Russian border. Russia tried to help Samsonov with reinforcements and counterattacks but it was unsuccessful. Samsonov was totally surrounded and wherever his troops ran they were cut down. After defeating Samsonov they later pushed Rennenkampf out of East Prussia.
Russia sustained heavy losses in the Battle of Tannenberg, they started out with 150,000 troops, 95,000 were captured 30,000 were wounded or killed. Only about 10,000 troops managed to escape. Greatly outnumbering the Germans, the Battle of Tannenberg was a terrible defeat for the Russians and was a huge shock to the Allies. General Samsonov was unable to face up to his defeat so he committed suicide. The Germans later found his body and gave him a military burial. General Hindenburg and Ludendorff were praised as heroes in Germany for their great victory.