The Bloodiest Battle of World War I: The Brusilov Offensive
The Brusilov Offensive began with the Battle of Lutsk on June 4, 1916. The Brusilov Offensive is named after Russian general Alexei Brusilov. When the Germans began to attack the fortress city of Verdun, France, the French requested aid from their Allies. The goal was simple; the Allies would engage the Central Powers at other sites and locations, weakening their resources for the attack on Verdun. In March 1916, Brusilov received permission to begin engaging with the Germans and Austro-Hungarians, outside of other planned offensives.
The Brusilov Offensive began with a strong artillery attack on Austro-Hungarian troops near the city of Lutsk, in modern-day Ukraine. This is a tactic used by other Allies later in the War, and used with particularly great success by the Germans. The front was some 200-miles in length. Austro-Hungarian troops outnumbered Brusilov’s Russian forces; however, the use of artillery brought a rapid Russian victory in Lutsk. Within two days, the Russians had inflicted 130,000 casualties on Austria-Hungary, forcing changes to the Austrian military strategy. By the 15th of June, the Germans were pulling troops from the Western Front to support Austro-Hungarian troops under attack by Brusilov’s forces.
Brusilov’s initial victory was followed by a series of additional successes, through the summer of 1916. Eventually, Russian resources began to run out, ending the remarkably successful Brusilov Offensive by mid-September of that year. This Russian victory is often forgotten, particularly since it was so soon followed by the chaos of the Russian Revolution.
Brusilov inflicted a destructive toll on the armies of Austria-Hungary. The Central Powers lost approximately one million men, and another 400,000 were captured. Russian casualties numbered between 500,000 and one million, making this the bloodiest battle of World War I.
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