AHC: Switch Austro-Hungarian and German Military Effectiveness

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Bad@logic, Oct 5, 2017.

  1. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

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    OTL during WW1 Germany widely overshadowed Austria-Hungary in the Central Powers and performed much better than them, becoming the dominant member and saving Austria-Hungary at critical points.
    Try to come up with a way to reverse this so that the Germans perform very badly and suffer heavily to Allied forces, with the Austro-Hungarians performing highly competently and saving their floundering and ineffectual German allies, while Austro-Hungarian industry keeps the CP afloat in contrast to the poor efforts of their northern neighbors.
    This war must still be a difficult struggle encompassing some length of time, utilizing an alliance structure which is preferably not excessively dissimilar to OTL (involving Austria and Germany on the same side at the very least) and the POD can stretch from 1900 onwards, with the war having to begin by 1920.

    Extra points: Dissolving states of the German Empire at the end of this war try to join the stable Austro-Hungarians, who although defeated on the battlefield have no collapsed internally, unlike their poor northern neighbors.
     
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  2. Stenz Don't judge the past by the standards of today... Monthly Donor

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    You’ll need a pre-1900 POD I would imagine
     
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  3. Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    Pretty hard to do.

    First of all, you have to go back to at least the Austro-Prussian War. Have the AH somehow work out a better army structure during the Ausgleich which does away with the Landwehr-Honvéd-Common Army system (or to be correct: never implements it). Also introduce sweeping changes to the military academies and get rid of the old guard and get a new, young, motivated officer corps. You also need better equipment, which was arguably there by WW1, but you'll also need bigger industry to support it (more ammo, more everything). I guess heavier industrialization of Hungary, not just Bohemia would help a lot and simultaneously crack down on the Hungarian nobility. The latter might come naturally if industrialization brings a bigger Hungarian middle class and capitalism. Urbanization also does wonders to the assimilation of the mostly rural Romanian and Slavic nationalities, who will have to assimilate when moving into the already Hungarian-majority cities. And also, there has to be a state ethos that is very strongly supported by the populace, namely that only a strong military can keep the Monarchy together. You will also likely need a military reformer on par with Moltke the older, to do this. At least, it would certainly help.

    As for Germany, have the Prussian militarist and industrialists outweighted in the Empire by other German states, blocking large military investments, block reforms or have them focus on complete dead-ends. Now this might even butterfly away WW1, so be careful. Maybe have even more money poured into the navy at the expense of the army, which slowly erodes the structure and officer corps, to the point where it is a paper tiger by the start of the war.
     
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  4. Justinian Well-Known Member

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    You would definitely need a national army system as Ultima Ratio mentioned. Definitely one factor was how much the Austro-Hungarians were spending on bribes and payoffs to maintain loyalty from the minorities. For example they would build a railroad in Croatia that didn't link to the national railroads as a form of protectionism. If the Austro-Hungarians simply decided or realized that they could rule the country just as good by the use of an enlarged standing army they would be inclined to do that. They'd spend more money on weapons procurement, training and officer education. Perhaps there may be more local rebellions but the use of crack troops to put them down rapidly would demonstrate the utility of this to the AH leadership.
     
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  5. BlondieBC Kaiser of Ozarks Banned

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    A lot of the "inevitable" things about WW1 are not even probably, much less inevitable. Often they are self fulling prophecy in action. I wrote a German win ATL where I tried to handle butterflies honestly, and endup wanking the hell out of the Ottomans. The A-H ended up nice too, and ended up dominating Poland with a good military reputation. You want a different scenario, and I think you can get that. What is required is that a couple years before the war, you get a better A-H GHQ. And let us start the rest on time. So a good GHQ would

    • Run War Plan Russia, not War Plan Serbia. This will keep the eastern front from collapsing. Wiking has a partially finished ATL that goes much along these lines, if memory serves me correctly.
    • GHQ does not lose its nerve, and encircles the Russian 5th Army.
    • We need Germany to do worse. Have Russia decide to do a Germany first strategy. We may want the UK to view Germany as the weak link, not the Ottomans.

    So now we have some ideas for a better A-H with a dual POD, or a POD plus a couple of butterflies. So lets go with the ATL.

    1914: War starts on time. A-H runs War Plan Russia. IOTL, the Russians had 7 armies at first, then going to 10 armies. Of the first 7, two goes against Germany, five versus A-H. Here the A-H destroy one Russian army. Due to the initial German retreat in Prussia, Tsar Nicholas decides to divert a third army to attack Prussia. One more army than OTL. So now we have three armies attacking Prussia, and three armies attacking A-H. I will leave German performance alone, so they can still win Tannenberg. Notice that the Austrians are holding their lines well, and have superior forces. Concentrating to excess on Prussia and the loss of the 5th Army leaves Poland open which A-H occupies against light resistance. We go to winter of 1914-15. Where Austria is holding its defensive lines well, and has occupied large parts of Poland.

    Winter 1914/15: Russia keeps pounding Germany in the East. Race to the Sea went a lot like OTL. German is beginning to see some manpower issues, but is too proud to ask for help. Austria is good shape, and we have save their NCO cadre compared to OTL. Looking at the map, A-H wants to deal with Serbia quickly. A-H is a lot more dominant diplomatically than Germany compared to OTL. A-H gets Bulgaria to enter the war earlier by cutting some backroom deals with Bulgaria. Bulgaria enters the war early. Lets have the UK still do Gallipoli. Russia and France plan to pound Germany in 1915.

    Spring 1915: The Serbian campaign goes well. Germany is taking a beating. So are the Ottomans. Since A-H is in good shape, they start taking the strategic initiative. It is Austrian artillery units (maybe using German artillery) who are transferred to help Gallipoli. These units get the glory for turning the tide. The actual battle goes much as OTL or better, or chance. The Austrians also have a couple more divisions on the Italian border compare to OTL. And we get to the moment that defines A-H greatness. Italy still enters the war, but with stronger defenses, the Italians are stopped cold. A-H is viewed as a savior of the Ottomans. The Germans are struggling in Prussia. So A-H launches a major offensive around June or July to relieve pressure. It works, and it can be different types of attacks. Maybe a major drive towards Kiev that forces the Russians to transfer troops from Prussia to the Ukraine. Or a major drive right towards Minsk.

    Self fulling Prophecy: We are not where things compound. The Entente view Germany as the weak link since Germany has been the only real target of the Entente, and has struggled. A-H has been given relatively easy wins. The 1916 plan is to knock Germany out of the war. Austria is taking over more and more of the Eastern front so German forces can be used in the west. Austrian divisions are even key to holding parts of Prussia. Then just keep up this ATL. Either side can win, and you will have a situation where A-H had a great reputation. Italy is handled without need for help. Serbia falls quickly. Eastern Front is generally a win for A-H. Careful analysis will still show German divisions are better, but the masses will point to 3-4 years of A-H victories as proof the Hapsburgs run a better military.
     
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  6. Max Sinister Retired Myriad Club Member Banned

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    The many different languages of A-H are a challenge. Forcing everyone to learn German didn't work out well, and making every officer be fluent in ~5 languages would be hard as well.
     
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  7. BigBlueBox Well-Known Member

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    Just make all the minority officers learn German at officer's school. You don't need the enlisted and NCOs to know German, just the officers leading them.
     
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  8. Ultima Ratio The Last Baron

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    IIRC that's how it actually was OTL.
     
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  9. Max Sinister Retired Myriad Club Member Banned

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    Not always. Once, an officer learned that there'd be two newcomers to his company - a Chinese prince and a Hungarian nobleman. So he asked: "Does he know German?" Answer: "The chinaman does, but the Hungarian doesn't."
     
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  10. Stenz Don't judge the past by the standards of today... Monthly Donor

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    This.

    To improve the A-H military you need to get a proper grip on the Hungarians. Either subsume them into the Common Army (along with the Austrian units, obviously) or make certain areas purely their AOR.

    And remove Conrad.
     
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  11. BigBlueBox Well-Known Member

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    Can someone explain why having the Landwehr and Honvéd separate from the Common Army was bad? Was it because they had separate chains of command? If so, couldn't they just unite them under the same command?
     
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  12. Obergruppenführer Smith Chasing the Man in the High Castle Banned

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    Given how much lopsided leverage the Hungarians had to secure their independence and power?
     
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  13. Aqua817 Eternally Exhausted

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    I feel like the only way that Austria-Hungary can really survive after a certain point is if Austria essentially turned against Hungary, meaning that either there was a unified "Austrian" ethnic group (not Austrian German, I mean essentially an artificial ethnic group; weirder things than this happened in this time period, though the chances of this backfiring and essentially just creating another ethnic group are quite high.) or Austrian German is made pretty much the official language of the Empire.
     
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  14. BigBlueBox Well-Known Member

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    Maybe they could implement a mechanism to put them under joint command during external wars with the permission of the Hungarian parliament? Kind of like US National Guard units being federalized, except the Hungarians need to be asked for permission first.
     
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  15. Obergruppenführer Smith Chasing the Man in the High Castle Banned

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    The impossibility of that without serious reforms and political fights only proves just how dysfunctional the AH Empire was by the 20th century.
     
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  16. Alex Zetsu Well-Known Member

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    Geee... I think we're talking a 1870s POD or earlier (no I don't mean stopping Prussia from unifying Germany)
     
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  17. BooNZ Well-Known Member

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    Instead, let's pimp Conrad's influence to extend beyond A-H military circles (warning - scenario may contain nuts)

    In 1908 Conrad converts OTL Serbian belligerence into an open war, resulting in a crushing victory for A-H over wee Serbia. Serbia is removed as a military consideration for 20 years and Conrad gains rock star status within A-H. Conrad's increased status, coupled with tensions with Imperial Russia result in A-H military spending being almost proportional to Germany.

    In 1911 while the Italian military is distracted by an earthquake, Conrad launches a preemptive war against Italy, resulting in another crushing victory for A-H. Italy is removed as a military consideration for 20 years and the Hungarians are cowered into supporting further increases in military spending. Conrad gains rock star status among the international military community - including the Germans. This results in closer military liaisons between A-H and Germans - Conrad gains a detailed understanding of the Germans French first strategy.

    Through Colonel Redl the Russians soon learn of the Germans intent to throw everything at the French. With a modern and more focused A-H military, the Russians decide it would be more prudent to focus on the Germans while they are distracted in the West. Meanwhile Conrad (after some combat experience) concludes without multiple fronts to worry about, he can conserve his forces while Germany deals with France and then together they can hunt the bear.

    So when war kicks off in 1914 per OTL, A-H has to only deal with one front, has a truly modernized military and has adopted a tactically defensive posture. Meanwhile Russia has decided to place greater resources against the Germans and the French (courtesy of Colonel Redl) know exactly what to expect from the Germans (sort of).
     
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  18. wiking Well-Known Member

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    Rename Germany Austria-Hungary and rename Austro-Hungary Germany. That's about it, because if the German military was as incompetent as A-H and vice versa, there wouldn't have been a Germany in 1914, just Austria, Prussia, and the German confederation.
     
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  19. BooNZ Well-Known Member

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    Around 1900 A-H had a very competent continental army, but simply did not keep pace during a time of accelerated military innovation and military spending. A-H was the least prepared of all the great powers, probably had the worst start of all the great powers and yet survived the duration of the war despite facing multiple fronts. I think it is not unreasonable to suggest something could have gone better for A-H.

    In respect of Imperial Germany I tend to agree. Despite the pre-war distraction of the naval race and a muppet like Molke Jr being in charge, the German army were still far better prepared than any other power. That said, Joffre did his bit to destroy what had been a perfectly decent French army.
     
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  20. Magyarország Legitimizta és Szociáldemokrata

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    Erm, all the armies (and the Navy) were placed under the Armeeoberkommando (AOK) in 1914. So, yeah, both the Honvéd and Lanwehr were 'federalised' when the war began.

    The problems weren't related to chains of command, though they were separate in peacetime. The problems stem from the fact that the Common (K.u.K.) Army, the Austrian Landwehr and Hungarian Honvéd all answered to different ministries; one of those answering to the common Ministerial Council (i.e. directly to the Emperor-King, the two prime ministers and the ministers of the common Ministries) and the other two answering to two different legislatures.

    In practice, this meant that the two territorial armies were relatively underfunded and kept a large amount of manpower away from the Common Army; despite widespread belief of the contrary, the K.u.K. Army was relatively better funded than either national armies. This meant that until the AOK was formed and command streamlined out of pragmatism thanks to the war, there were serious disparities between the forces.
     
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