Birthday: December 6, 1849
Died At Age: 95
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Anton Ludwig Friedrich August von Mackensen
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Trossin, Germany
Famous as: Military Leader
Spouse/Ex-: Leonie von der Osten (1908), Doris (Dorothea) von Horn
father: Louis Mackensen
mother: Marie Louise Mackensen
children: Eberhard von Mackensen, Hans Georg von Mackensen
Died on: November 8, 1945
place of death: Habighorst
education: Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
awards: Grand Cross of the Iron Cross
Order of the Black Eagle
Pour le Mérite
Who was August von Mackensen?
August von Mackensen was a German military leader who is remembered for his valiant contribution during World War I. He began his military career with the Franco-Prussian War. Some of his major battles of World War I were his campaigns against Russia on the Eastern Front, against Serbia, and against Romania. Emperor Wilhelm II patronized Mackensen. He was a highly decorated field marshal and retired from the army in 1920. During the ‘Nazi’ rule, Mackensen continued to be a loyal monarchist and often appeared at official functions in his war uniform. Though Hitler suspected him of being disloyal, nothing could be proved against him. Mackensen had married twice and died at the age of 95, after witnessing the fall of ‘Nazi’ Germany.
Childhood & Early Life
Anton Ludwig Friedrich August von Mackensen was born August Mackensen, on December 6, 1849, in Haus Leipnitz, near Dahlenberg (present-day Trossin) in the Prussian province of Saxony (Germany), to Ludwig and Marie Louise Mackensen. His father was an agricultural estate administrator.
In 1865, Mackensen was sent to ‘Realgymnasium’ in Halle. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps.
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In 1869, Mackensen started his military career, as a volunteer with the Prussian ‘2nd Life Hussars Regiment’ (Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 2). He became the second lieutenant at the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871. He also won the ‘Iron Cross Second Class’ for his services in the north of Orleans.
Following the war, he quit military service temporarily and joined ‘Halle University’ to study. However, he returned and joined his old regiment in 1873.
In 1891, Mackensen joined the ‘General Staff’ in Berlin without undergoing the 3-year preparation at the ‘War Academy.’
He also served as an adjutant of Alfred von Schlieffen and was patronized by Emperor Wilhelm II. On the emperor’s insistence, Mackensen was given the command of the ‘1st Life Hussars Regiment’ (Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 1) from June 17, 1893. After leaving the command on January 27, 1898, he became à la suite to the regiment.
Mackensen was the emperor’s aide-de-camp from 1898 to 1901. He was ennobled on January 27, 1899, the emperor’s 40th birthday, and thus became “August von Mackensen.”
Following this, he was given the command of the new ‘Life Hussar Brigade’ (‘Leib-Husaren-Brigade’) from 1901 to 1903. From 1903 to 1908, he was in charge of the ‘36th Division’ in Danzig.
After Schlieffen’s retirement in 1906, Mackensen was thought of as a probable successor, but Helmuth von Moltke the Younger succeeded Schlieffen instead.
World War I: Eastern Front
In 1908, Mackensen was put in charge of the ‘XVII Army Corps’ in Danzig. The Crown Prince was trained under him. The ‘XVII Army Corps’ was part of the ‘8th Army,’ initially under General Maximilian von Prittwitz and then under General Paul von Hindenburg. In August 1914, the army fought the battles at Gumbinnen and Tannenberg. They also fought at the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes and forced the invading Russians to move out of East Prussia.
On November 2, 1914, Mackensen took over the charge of the ‘9th Army’ from Hindenburg. He was also part of the invasions in Russian Poland, including the battles at Łodz and Przemysl. On November 27, 1914, Mackensen won the ‘Pour le Mérite,’ which was Prussia's highest military order, for his wins around Łódź and Warsaw.
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By April 1915, the Russians had invaded almost the entire western Galicia, the Austro-Hungarian part of Poland, and were marching into Hungary. Erich von Falkenhayn, the German supreme commander, decided to launch a campaign against the Russian forces, with a combined army.
Mackensen was chosen to command the coalition army. The ‘Army Group Mackensen,’ which consisted of German and Austro-Hungarian forces, was formed. It consisted of a new German ‘11th Army.’
As the commander of the ‘11th Army,’ Mackensen led his forces to a win at the battle near Gorlice-Tarnów on May 2, 1915.
They then marched eastward, without giving the Russians enough time to retaliate. They took over most of eastern Galicia by reclaiming Przemyśl and Lemberg. This was a huge triumph for the ‘Central Powers.’ The Russians were forced to move out of Poland.
Mackensen won the ‘Oak Leaves to his Pour le Mérite’ on June 3, 1915. On June 22, he was made the field marshal. He was also awarded the ‘Order of the Black Eagle,’ the highest-ranking order of knighthood of Prussia.
He won countless awards from German states and their allies, including the ‘Grand Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph,’ which was the highest military honor of the Kingdom of Bavaria, on June 4, 1915.
World War I: Serbia
On June 22, 1915, Mackensen’s forces reclaimed Lwow. A newly formed ‘Army Group Mackensen,’ consisting of the German ‘11th Army,’ the Austro-Hungarian ‘3rd Army,’ and the Bulgarian ‘1st Army,’ launched their successful campaign against Serbia, in October 1915. They forced the Serbian army to retreat to Albania.
After Mackensen’s return to Vienna, he was invited to a dinner and a personal meeting with Emperor Franz Joseph. He was also awarded the ‘Military Merit Cross 1st Class with Diamonds.’
World War I: Romania
After Romania attacked Austria–Hungary on August 15, 1916, Mackensen was given the charge of the composite army consisting of Bulgarians, Austro-Hungarians, Ottomans, and Germans, with General Emil von Hell as his chief of staff.
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His forces gathered in northern Bulgaria and then marched into Dobruja. By September 8 that year, they had besieged the two main forts on the Danube’s right bank.
Following this, a German and Austro-Hungarian military group, under Falkenhayn, invaded Wallachia through the Vulkan Pass.
During this time, Mackensen crossed the Danube by seizing parts of the left bank. The Romanian forces and their Russian allies were forced to retreat. Bucharest fell on December 6, 1916, Mackensen’s 67th birthday.
On January 9, 1917, Mackensen earned the ‘Grand Cross of the Iron Cross,’ thus becoming one of five recipients of this award in the First World War.
The emperor named a battlecruiser after Mackensen. Mackensen was then made the high commander of the army and the military governor of a major portion of Romania.
He suggested making a German prince the king of Romania, but that did not happen. His final campaign saw him try to crush the Romanian army, which had been reformed after the Kerensky Offensive.
The Battle of Mărăşeşti saw the Romanian army win. By December 1917, the Russian army had been defeated, and Romania had to sign the ‘Armistice of Focșani’ and the ‘Bucharest Peace Treaty.’ Mackensen stayed in Romania, as the “de facto” ruler and the military governor, until the war ended.
Following the armistice, he and his army were on their way home when they were captured by General Louis Franchet d'Espèrey's army in Hungary.
Mackensen was held captive till November 1919. He was accused of being a war criminal, but the list of war criminals was ultimately allowed to lapse.
After the War
Mackensen retired from the army by 1920. He initially avoided public appearances. Around 1924, he started appearing in public in his ‘Life Hussars’ uniform. He also participated in the activities of the ‘Stahlhelm’ and the ‘Schlieffen Society.’
In 1932, Mackensen supported Paul von Hindenburg in the general elections, against Adolf Hitler. In 1933, after Hitler’s win, Mackensen passively supported the ‘Nazi’ party. In October 1935, Mackensen was awarded the Brandenburg demesne of Brüssow.
Due to his unclear stance on the ‘Nazis,’ in the early 1940s, Hitler suspected Mackensen of being disloyal but did not take any action. Mackensen was a loyal monarchist. In June 1941, he appeared at Emperor Wilhelm's funeral in the Netherlands, in the imperial uniform.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Mackensen married Doris (Dorothea) von Horn in 1879. Her father, Karl von Horn, was the Oberpräsident of East Prussia.
The couple had two daughters, Else and Ruth, and three sons, Hans, Manfred, and Eberhard.
Eberhard later became a Generaloberst and the commander of the ‘III Army Corps,’ while Hans became an ‘SS Gruppenführer.’
After being widowed in 1905, he married 22-year-old Leonie von der Osten in 1908.
Mackensen died on November 8, 1945, at 95. He remains buried in the city cemetery of Celle.