Karl Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin

Karl Pflanzer was born at Fünfkirchen (Pecs) on the 1st of June 1855 as the son of the later General-Auditor Wilhelm Pflanzer. After three years at the Unterrealschule he attended the cadet-institutes at Marburg and then at Eisenstadt. He graduated successfully from the Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt with class mates like Karl Freiherr von Kirchbach and Arthur Giesl von Gieslingen. On the 1st of September 1875 he was commissioned as a Leutnant in dragoon regiment number 1. During 1877/78 he attended the brigade officers' school at Pardubitz and from 1878 to 1880 the Kriegsschule at Vienna which he completed with "good success" followed by his promotion to Oberleutnant on the 1st of November 1880. Oberleutnant Pflanzer was assigned until 1889 in various staff appointments at Lemberg (Lwów), Przemysl, Temesvár and with the 18th Infantry Division at Mostar having been promoted to Hauptmann on the 1st of May 1884. In 1889 he was transferred for troop duty with ulan regiment number 2 at Tarnów where he married Hedwig Feger with whom he had two sons, one of whom was killed in action during the 1st world war. After successfully passing the senior officers' promotion examinations Karl Pflanzer received his promotion to Major on the 1st of May 1891 followed by the appointment as an instructor at the Kriegsschule where he taught "operational general staff duties" until 1895. On the 20th of March 1893 his father Wilhelm was ennobled as "Edler von" which was also conferred on him on the 8th of April. For his efforts as an instructor Karl Edler von Pflanzer, meanwhile promoted to Oberstleutnant on the 1st of May 1894, was honored with the award of the Military Merit Cross on the 15th of October 1895. On the 1st of May 1897 he received his promotion to Oberst followed by the appointment of chief of general staff of the 11th corps at Lemberg in October of the same year. His childless uncle, the retired Hauptmann Josef Freiherr von Baltin, succeeded in getting permission to transfer his nobility and coat of arms to Karl von Pflanzer on the 21st of February 1898. From then on he used the name Karl Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin.

For his performance at the headquarters in Lemberg he was honored with the award of the 3rd class of the Order of the Iron Crown on the 9th of April 1901 and the commander's cross of the Order of the Star of Romania in November 1901. In March 1903 he took over command of the 32nd infantry brigade followed by his promotion to Generalmajor on the 1st of May 1903. During all these years his annual evaluations from his commanding officers contained excellent phrases like: very reliable, multitalented, strong willed, fine character. In March 1907 Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin assumed command of the 4th infantry division at Brünn followed by his promotion to Feldmarschall-Leutnant on the 1st of November 1907 with seniority from the 30th of October. In the following four years at this post his main task was to increase the tactical knowledge of his troops. He was especially criticized for instructing the lower ranks in tactics by some senior circles within the officer's corps but with a powerful will he put his decisions in practice. Finally he was successful with his ideas; for his achievements he was honored with the knight's cross of the Order of Leopold on the 9th of March 1909 and he became General-Inspektor der Korps-Offiziersschulen in October 1911 where he could continue to further his educational theories on a larger scale. It seems now that his career had come to an end. He had received the Romanian jubilee medal of King Carol and the Prussian Order of the Crown 1st class (1910) and received the honorary promotion to General der Kavallerie mit Titel und Charakter on the 29th of October 1912. In June 1914 he asked for his release and prepared for his final retirement but the outbreak of the war changed everything.

When the war started in the summer of 1914 the army could not do without senior Generals like Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin and so his final retirement was postponed and he was called to duty with the technical military committee. Already on the 1st of October 1914 he received his first field command shortly followed by the substantive promotion to General der Kavallerie on the 1st of November 1914 with seniority from the 21st of August 1914. Assuming command over the troops in Siebenbürgen his main task was to defend the Carpathians but his reorganization of his troops was so successful that his wish to attack was soon granted . The Armeegruppe Pflanzer-Baltin was enlarged with the addition of Corps Hoffmann and the Polish Legion. With these reinforcements General Pflanzer-Baltin was able to stop the Russian advance and drive them back to the peacetime frontier. On the 26th of December 1914 General Pflanzer-Baltin was honored with the award of the 1st class of the Order of Leopold with war decoration for his excellent leadership performed as commander of his army group. Around Christmas 1914 he was able to occupy the important Uszok Pass, now dominating the whole area from Uszok to Luczhina. During the offensive in February 1915, reinforced by German troops, he was able to surmount the mountain range quickly and to liberate Czernowitz. To halt Pflanzer-Baltin's further advance the Russian General Brussilow planned to cut off the army group and then destroy it. However Pflanzer-Baltin evaded and was able to stop the Russian offensive near Okna on the 4th of April 1915. These actions would be one of the main reasons for his award of the commander's cross of the Military Maria Theresia Order in October 1918. Meanwhile General Pflanzer-Baltin was honored with the grand cross of the Order of Leopold with war decoration on the 1st of April 1915, the honorary title of Geheimer Rat (Privy Councillor) on the 25th of April 1915 and the Merit star of the decoration of the Society of the Red Cross with war decoration on the 31st of May 1915. On the 13th of February 1915 he received a quiet unique kind of honor, his seniority was changed to the 28th of October 1912! The German allies honored him with the award of the Prussian Iron Cross 2nd class on the 5th of May 1915 and the Iron Cross 1st class on the 14th of June 1915 but soon he would lose their favour.

After the battle of Tarnáw-Gorlice General Pflanzer-Baltin's troops, meanwhile renamed as the 7th army, were able to advance to the river Dnjestr. At the end of August 1915 during the general offensive the left wing of the 7th army had reached  the river Sereth but following the penetration of the German lines to the South his army was also compelled to withdraw. General Pflanzer-Baltin again conducted this withdrawal very skillfully with a minimum of loss and confusion. During October and November 1915 the 160 kilometres long frontier was fixed by advanced trenches which could stand the massive Russian attacks during December and January with superior forces. On the 20th of December 1915 he was honored with the title of Oberstinhaber of infantry regiment number 93, on the 14th of February 1916 he received the Military Merit Cross 1st class with war decoration and finally he received his promotion to Generaloberst on the 1st of May 1916 with seniority from the 8th of May 1916. The Ottoman Empire honored him with the Golden and Silver Imtiaz medals and the University of Czernowitz made him a honorary doctor of law. Generaloberst Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin had now reached the pinnacle of his career He was known as a Master of Skirmish Warfare and very popular with his troops.

When the so-called Brussilo -Offensive started Generaloberst Pflanzer-Baltin had to suffer his first setbacks. On the 4th of June 1916 the Russian 7th and 9th armies joined the offensive and were able to breakthrough the troops of Pflanzer-Baltin on the 6th of June near Jastowic and on the 10th of June near Okna. The Austrian 7th army had now to withdraw receiving heavy causalities. On the 18th of June 1916 the Russians again captured Czernowitz and forced the 7th army to relinquish the eastern Bukowina and the way to the important Carpathian passes. The German and Austro-Hungarian troops had to conduct several heavy battles to again stabilize the eastern front in July 1916. During this eventful fighting the German Headquarters started to criticize Generaloberst Pflanzer-Baltin's way of leading his troops more and more, finally they refused to subordinate German troops under Pflanzer-Baltin's command. All started with the rumor that German units under his command had to suffer more causalities than his Austro-Hungarian troops and at the end it became a power struggle between the two Headquarters. Finally the Austro-Hungarian Headquarter scarified the popular Generaloberst. Erzherzog Friedrich wrote him a letter containing the plain truth: "..For a long time the German high Command has repeatedly expressed it's objections over the leadership of the 7th army and always resists, when it is a matter of placing German troops under the command of your excellency. Now the Headquarters of Army Group Erzherzog Karl also reports that there seems to be a certain feeling of insecurity with your excellency. With a heavy heart and after long hesitation I have now decided to give your excellency the well-intentioned advice to report sick and to request your own relief from army command.... I need not assure your excellency, how difficult it was for me, an old serving General, to write these lines, but with the tremendous dimensions, which this, the largest war of all times has assumed, personal factors must take second place."  Generaloberst Pflanzer-Baltin followed this "advice" and on the 8th of September 1916 he was relieved from his command and on the 19th of November 1916 he was retired on "health grounds" at his "own request". On the occasion of his relief he received the special commendation of the Kaiser which allowed him to wear the Large Golden Military Merit Medal (Großes Signum Laudis) on the ribbon for merit in war. When the swords were introduced he retroactively received them for this and all other previously awarded decorations during the war.

But his retirement did not last long. On the 8th of March 1917 the new Kaiser Karl recalled the popular Generaloberst back to duty. He received the appointment of General-Inspektor der Fußtruppen, which was the new name for the General-Infanterie-Inspektor, and he put all his efforts into the instruction of infantry replacement troops. In the autumn of 1917 he was honored with the Ottoman War Medal, the so-called Iron Crescent. On the 13th of July 1918 Generaloberst Pflanzer-Baltin again received a field command and took over the command of all Austro-Hungarian troops in Albania. Only the fact of having a new and popular commander gave these troops renewed vigour and with only a few reinforcements they were able to stop the French-Italian offensive. As was typical of Pflanzer-Baltin he started to counter attack the superior enemy on the 24th of July 1918 and was finally able to force them to withdraw to the south and east until August 1918. Only the huge causalities caused by Malaria forced him to stop his victorious offensive. On the 25th of August 1918 Generaloberst Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin was honored with the award of the grand cross of the Order of St. Stephan and finally he received the commander's cross of the Military Maria Theresia Order on the 2nd of October 1918 for his actions in the Carpathians in 1914 and in the Bukowina and East-Galicia in 1914/15.

After the collapse of Bulgaria even a General like Pflanzer-Baltin had no further chance to hold his positions. At the end of October 1918 his troops reached in a systematic withdrawal the old frontier near Cattaro. After the war he retired to Vienna where he died on the 8th of April 1925. Generaloberst Karl Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin was buried at the Hietzinger Friedhof with full military honours and thousands of former subordinates paid this popular General their respects on his final journey.

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