The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914 in Bosnia-Herzegovina - then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - brought the tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia to a head.
This triggered a chain of international events that embroiled Russia and the major European powers. Thirty-seven days later the world was at war.
The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne sat next to his beloved wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in an open-topped car. As they were driven along the streets of Sarajevo, 19 year-old Sebian Gavrilo Princip shot them at close range with a semi-automatic pistol.
He was one of six assassins positioned along the motorcade route by Danilo Ilić, a leader in the secret radicalist organization, Black Hand. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck, the bullet opening his jugular vein and lodging in his spine.
Another bullet penetrated the left of the car and fatally wounded Sophie in the abdomen; she was pregnant with their fourth child. The political objective of the assassination was to break the Austro-Hungarian south-Slav provinces off so they could be combined into a Greater Serbia or a Yugoslavia.
The assassins' motives were consistent with the movement that later became known as Young Bosnia. At the top of these Serbian military conspirators was Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence Dragutin Dimitrijević, his right hand man Major Vojislav Tankosić, and Masterspy Rade Malobabić.
Major Tankosić trained the assassins and armed them with bombs and pistols. They were also given access to the same underground railroad that Rade Malobabić had used for the infiltration of operatives and the transportation of weapons into Austria-Hungary. The assassins, the key members of the underground railway, and the key Serbian military conspirators who were still alive were arrested, tried, convicted and punished. Those who were arrested in Bosnia were tried in Sarajevo in October 1914.
The other conspirators were arrested and tried before a Serbian kangaroo court in French-occupied Salonika in 1916–1917 on unrelated false charges; Serbia executed the top three military conspirators. Much of what is known about the assassinations comes from these two trials and related records. Assignment of responsibility for the bombing and murders of 28 June is highly controversial because the attack led to the outbreak of World War I one month later. An evidential approach must be taken to weed through the various claims and counter-claims concerning responsibility.
After Mass, on 28 June 1914, Franz Ferdinand and his party proceeded by train from Ilidža Spa to Sarajevo. Governor Oskar Potiorek met the party at Sarajevo station. Six automobiles were waiting. Due to a mistake, three local police officers got into the first car with the chief officer of special security; the special security officers who were supposed to accompany their chief got left behind.
The second car carried the Mayor and the Chief of Police of Sarajevo. The third car in the motorcade was a Gräf & Stift open sports car with its top folded down. Franz Ferdinand, Sophie, Governor Potiorek, and Lieutenant Colonel Count Franz von Harrach rode in this third car. The motorcade's first stop on the preannounced program was for a brief inspection of a military barracks. According to the program, at 10:00 am, the motorcade was to leave the barracks for the town hall by way of the Appel Quay.
The motorcade passed the first assassin, Muhamed Mehmedbašić. Danilo Ilić had placed him in front of the garden of the Mostar Cafe and armed him with a bomb. Mehmedbašić failed to act. Ilić placed Vaso Čubrilović next to Mehmedbašić, arming him with a pistol and a bomb. He too failed to act.
Further along the route, Ilić placed Nedeljko Čabrinović on the opposite side of the street near the Miljacka River arming him with a bomb. At 10:10 am, Franz Ferdinand's car approached and Čabrinović threw his bomb. The bomb bounced off the folded back convertible cover into the street. The bomb's timed detonator caused it to explode under the next car, putting that car out of action, leaving a one foot diameter and 6.5 inches deep crater, and wounding a total of 20 people according to Reuters. Čabrinović swallowed his cyanide pill and jumped into the Miljacka.
Čabrinović's suicide attempt failed as the cyanide only induced vomiting, and the Miljacka was only four inches deep. Police dragged Čabrinović out of the river, and he was severely beaten by the crowd before being taken into custody. The procession sped away towards the Town Hall leaving the disabled car behind. Cvjetko Popović, Gavrilo Princip and Trifun Grabež failed to act as the motorcade passed them at high speed.
TOWN HALL RECEPTION
Arriving at the Town Hall for a scheduled reception, Franz Ferdinand showed signs of stress, interrupting a prepared speech of welcome by Mayor Curcic to protest "Mr. Mayor, I came here on a visit and I get bombs thrown at me. It is outrageous." Duchess Sophie then whispered into Franz Ferdinand's ear, and after a pause, Franz Ferdinand said to the mayor: "Now you may speak." He then became calm and the mayor gave his speech.
Franz Ferdinand had to wait as his own speech, wet with blood as it had been in the damaged car, was brought to him. To the prepared text he added a few remarks about the day's events thanking the people of Sarajevo for their ovations "as I see in them an expression of their joy at the failure of the attempt at assassination." Officials and members of the Archduke's party discussed how to guard against another assassination attempt without coming to any coherent conclusion.
A suggestion that the troops outside the city be brought in to line the streets was reportedly rejected because they did not have their parade uniforms with them on manoeuvres. Security was accordingly left to the small Sarajevo police force. The only obvious measure taken was for Count Harrach to take up a protective position on the left hand running board of the car. This is confirmed by photographs of the scene outside the Town Hall.
After the reception at the Town Hall, Franz Ferdinand decided to go to the hospital and visit the wounded victims of Čabrinović's bomb. Sophie abandoned her planned program to accompany her husband. At 10:45am, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie got back into the motorcade, once again in the third car.
After learning the truth – that the assassination had been unsuccessful – Princip had gone to a nearby food shop (Schiller's delicatessen) to get a sandwich. Emerging, he saw Franz Ferdinand's open car reversing, after having taken a wrong turn as it drove past, near the Latin Bridge. The driver, Leopold Loyka, had not been advised of the change in plan and had followed the first two cars who, for whatever reason, had continued on a route that would take the Archduke and his party directly out of the city.
Pushing forward to the right hand side of the car, Princip fired two shots from a Belgian-made 9x17mm (380 ACP) Fabrique Nationale model 1910 semi-automatic pistol. Pistol serial numbers 19074, 19075, 19120 and 19126 were supplied to the assassins; Princip used #19074. According to Albertini, "the first bullet wounded the Archduke in the jugular vein, the second inflicted an abdominal wound on the Duchess." Princip later claimed that his intention was to kill Governor Potiorek, not Sophie.
Both victims remained seated upright, but dying while being driven to the Governor's residence for medical treatment.
As reported by Count Harrach, Franz Ferdinand's last words were "Sophie, Sophie! Don't die! Live for our children!" followed by six or seven utterances of "It is nothing..." in response to Harrachs' inquiry as to Franz Ferdinand's injury. These utterances were followed by a long death rattle. Franz Ferdinand was dead on arrival at the Governor's residence. Sophie died 10 minutes later.
All of the assassins were eventually caught. Those in Austro-Hungarian custody were tried together with members of the channel who had helped deliver them and their weapons to Sarajevo. Mehmedbašić was arrested in Montenegro, but was allowed to "escape" to Serbia where he joined Major Tankosić's auxiliaries, but in 1916 Serbia imprisoned him on other false charges. Anti-Serb rioting broke out in Sarajevo in the hours following the assassination until order was restored by the military.