1915 Austro-German forces attack Russians at Przemysl

On June 2, 1915, Austro-Hungarian and German troops continue their attacks on the Russian soldiers holding Przemysl (now in Poland), the citadel guarding the northeastern-most point of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Used as the Austrian army headquarters during the first months of World War I, Przemysl was ordered to hold out until the end in the face of the surprisingly effective Russian advance into Austria-Hungary in the fall of 1914. After six months under siege, facing severe food shortages and heavy casualties, the last Austro-Hungarian troops at Przemysl finally relinquished control of the citadel on March 22, 1915.

With their hard-fought victory, Russia’s troops had gained a certain measure of control in the much-contested Galician region of Austria and were poised to move into Hungary. This was not to be, however, as the powerful German army stepped in to offer more help to their faltering ally. Over the course of the next several months, Austro-German forces began moving swiftly and aggressively on the Eastern Front, recapturing the passes of the Carpathian Mountains and moving steadily forward into Galicia. On May 25, the Germans announced they had taken some 21,000 Russian prisoners east of the San River; the Russians were soon pushed back toward Przemysl, and battle began there once again.

On June 2, 1915, Austro-German forces were nearing victory against the exhausted Russians at Przemysl; the citadel fell back into the hands of the Central Powers the following day. The recapture of Przemysl effectively marked the end of Russian control in Galicia. As a British observer wrote dismissively of the Russian troops, This army is now a harmless mob.


1916 Germans launch attack on British lines in Ypres Salient

On the first day of June 1916, as German and British naval forces clash in the North Sea during the Battle of Jutland and the French resist the persistent German siege at Verdun, German army troops launch a major attack on British lines in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front.

As the nexus of an Allied salient that blocked any German advance to the English Channel, the town of Ypres, Belgium, saw nearly constant fighting during World War I. Three major battles—in October-November 1914, April-May 1915 and July-November 1917—punctuated a stream of smaller attacks, including one on June 1, 1916, by German troops. The Germans advanced 700 yards through the British trenches along a 3,000-yard front near Ypres; among the casualties were one British general killed and one taken prisoner. Within 48 hours, however, the British were able recover some of the captured ground.

On the same day, at the city of Verdun, France, where French troops had been under siege since February 21, 1916, the Germans began a fresh attack against Fort Vaux, one of two principal fortresses used to defend Verdun. The other, Fort Douaumont, had fallen on February 25, but Fort Vaux had managed to hold out for three months under a relentless German onslaught. A previous assault, on March 2, had been thrown back by French forces, though one of the prisoners taken that day was Captain Charles de Gaulle, wounded in the thigh by a German bayonet. The German attack that began June 1 proved too much for the French defenders, and on June 7 the Germans finally captured Fort Vaux and its 600 surviving soldiers.

Verdun itself, however, continued to hold out, as the French desperately urged their allies, Britain and Russia, to launch offensives of their own to divert German men and resources. Russia responded first, with the famed Brusilov Offensive—named for General Alexei Brusilov—that nearly decimated the Austro-Hungarian army on the Eastern Front. In early July, Britain struck the Germans near the Somme River in France, as grinding, bloody battles continued on all fronts of World War I.