BATTLE OF VITTORIO VENETO | ITALY IN WW1

The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was fought from 24 October to 3 November 1918 near Vittorio Veneto during the Italian Front of World War I. The Italian victory marked the end of the war on the Italian Front, secured the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and contributed to the ending of the First World War less than two weeks later. Most Italians see Vittorio Veneto as the final culmination of the Risorgimento nationalist movement, in which Italy was unified.

On 24 October, the anniversary of the Battle of Caporetto, the offensive opened. A first attack in the Monte Grappa sector was launched to attract the Austrian reserves. The flooding of the Piave prevented two of the three central armies from advancing simultaneously with the third; but the latter, under the command of Earl Cavan, after seizing Papadopoli Island farther downstream, won a foothold on the left bank of the river on 27 October. The Italian reserves were then brought up to exploit this bridgehead. Svetozar Boroević von Bojna, the Austro-Hungarian commander, ordered a counter-attack on the Italian bridgeheads on the same day, but his troops refused to obey orders, a problem confronting the Austrians from that time on, and the counter-attack failed. After crossing the Piave River, the Eighth Italian Army, led by General Enrico Caviglia, took Vittorio ("Veneto" was added to the name only in 1923) and advanced in the direction of Trento, threatening to block the retreat of Austrian forces. On 28 October, Czechoslovakia declared independence from Austro-Hungary. The next day the South Slavs proclaimed independence, and on 31 October Hungary withdrew from the union, officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian state. On 28 October, under these new political and military conditions, the Austro-Hungarian high command ordered a general retreat. Vittorio Veneto was seized the next day by the Eighth Italian Army, which was already pushing on to the Tagliamento river. Trieste was taken by an amphibious expedition on 3 November. The 12th Italian army, commanded by French General Jean Graziani, continued to advance, supported on the right by the 8th Army. The result was that Austria-Hungary lost about 30,000 casualties and between 400,000–500,000 prisoners (50,000 by 31 October; 100,000 by 1 November; 428,000 by 4 November). The Italians suffered 37,461 casualties (dead and wounded), including 145 French and 374 Britons. On 29 October, the Austro-Hungarians asked for an armistice. On 30 October, the Austro-Hungarian army was split in two. The armistice was signed on 3 November at 15:20, to become effective 24 hours later, at 15:00 on 4 November.

The Austrian command ordered its troops to cease hostilities on 3 November. Following the signing of the armistice, Austrian General Weber informed his Italian counterparts that the Imperial army had already laid down its weapons, and asked to cease combat immediately and to stop any further Italian advance. The proposal was sharply rejected by the Italian General Badoglio, who threatened to stop all negotiations and to continue the war. General Weber repeated the request. Even before the order to cease hostilities, the Imperial Army had already started to collapse, beginning a chaotic retreat. Split in two the Imperial army collapsed, starting a chaotic retiring, since October, 28. Italian troops continued their advance until 3 p.m. on 4 November. The occupation of all Tyrol, including Innsbruck, was completed in the following days.

Under the terms of the Austrian-Italian Armistice of Villa Giusti, Austria-Hungary’s forces were required to evacuate not only all territory occupied since August 1914 but also South Tirol, Tarvisio, the Isonzo Valley, Gorizia, Trieste, Istria, western Carniola, and Dalmatia. All German forces should be expelled from Austria-Hungary within 15 days or interned, and the Allies were to have free use of Austria-Hungary’s internal communications. They were also obliged to allow the transit of the Entente armies, to reach Germany from the South. The battle marked the end of the First World War on the Italian front and secured the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire."The Battle of Vittorio Veneto during October and November saw the Austro-Hungarian forces collapse in disarray. There after the empire fell apart rapidly." Marshall Cavendish Corporation: History of World War I. As mentioned above, on 31 October Hungary officially left the personal union with Austria. Other parts of the empire had declared independence, notably what later became Yugoslavia. The surrender of their primary ally was another major factor in the German Empire's decision that they could no longer continue the war."...  Ludendorff wrote: In Vittorio Veneto, Austria did not lose a battle, but lose the war and itself, dragging Germany in its fall. Without the destructive battle of Vittorio Veneto, we would have been able, in a military union with the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, to continue the desperate resistance through the whole winter, in order to obtain a less harsh peace, because the Allies were very fatigued." On 30 October the Wilhelmshaven mutiny erupted, shortly afterwards the German Revolution of 1918–1919 started to spread from Kiel. In early November, the Germans requested an armistice.

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BATTLE OF PIAVE RIVER | ITALY IN WW1

The Battle of the Piave River, fought between 15 and 23 June 1918, was a decisive victory for the Italian Army during World War I.

With the exit of Russia from the war in 1917, Austria-Hungary was now able to devote significant forces to the Italian Front and to receive reinforcements from their German allies. The Austro-Hungarian emperor Karl had reached an agreement with the Germans to undertake a new offensive against Italy, a move supported by both the chief of the general staff Arthur Arz von Straußenburg and the commander of the South Tyrolean Army Group Conrad von Hötzendorf.Rothenburg, G. The Army of Francis Joseph. In the autumn of 1917 at the Battles of Caporetto and Longarone, the Germans and Austrians had defeated the Italians who fell back to the Piave.

Italy's defeat at Caporetto led to General Luigi Cadorna's dismissal and General Armando Diaz replaced him as Chief of staff of the Italian Army. Diaz set up a strong defense line along the Piave. Up until this point in the war, the Italian army had been fighting alone against the Central Powers; with the defeat at Caporetto, France and Britain sent small reinforcements on the Italian front. These, besides accounting for less than a tenth of the Italian forces in theater, had however to be redirected for the major part to the Western Front as soon as the German Spring Offensive began in March 1918. The Austro-Hungarian Army had also recently undergone a change in command, and the new Austrian Chief of Staff, Arthur Arz von Straußenburg, wished to finish off the Italians. Straußenburg's army group commanders, Conrad von Hötzendorf (the former Austrian Chief of Staff) and Svetozar Boroević von Bojna, both wished to make a decisive assault against the Italians, but could not agree about the location of the attack. Conrad wanted an attack from the South Tyrolean Alps towards the Asiago Plateau and Vicenza. Boroević first favored a defensive action, but then when pressed preferred a frontal attack along the Piave River. Straußenburg himself was in favour of an attack on the western part of the front (the " Giudicarie" sector) leading to Brescia. Conrad and Boroević had a dislike for each other, and Straußenburg and the emperor, unable to decide between these two strong personalities, divided the army equally between them, reserving only a small part of the forces for a diversionary action on the Giudicarie sector. The preparation of the offensive began in February 1918, after a meeting in Bolzano between the Austrian and German high commands. It was strongly recommended by the Germans, as Ludendorff hoped that it could force the increasing American forces in France to be diverted to the Italian front, so Straußenburg modeled the attack after Erich Ludendorff's offensive on the Western Front. The Austrians, differently from their previous success at Caporetto and from the subsequent attempts to breakthrough on Monte Grappa, did not prepare the attack as a pinpoint one, but as an all-out frontal attack, employing the entire residual strength of their army all along the front. The Austro-Hungarian formations were trained to employ the tactics developed by the Germans on the Western Front for the Operation Michael as Austrian officials, returning from the Eastern Front, were extensively trained alongside their German counterparts. There were also innovations on the Italian side. Analyzing the defeat of Caporetto, the staff of Armando Diaz concluded that the main tactical causes of it were the lack of mobility of Italian units, caught in a too rigid defensive scheme, the too centralized command and control system, and the lack of depth of Italian defences, where too many soldiers were simply stuck on the frontline. The new schemes prepared for the battle led to the abolition of the continuous entrenchment and in the development of a highly mobile defence system, in which even the smaller units were allowed to freely move between previously recognized strongpoints, independently decide to retreat or counterattack, or directly call the support of the artillery. Moreover, 13 divisions, equipped with 6000 trucks, were organized in a central reserve, ready to be sent where it was needed.

General Diaz learned the exact timing of the Austrian attack: 3:00 a.m. on 15 June, so at 2:30 a.m., the Italian artillery opened fire all along their front on the crowded enemy trenches, inflicting heavy casualties. In some sectors the artillery barrage had the effect of delaying or stopping the attack, as Austrian soldiers began to retreat to their defensive positions, believing they had to face an unexpected Italian attack but on the greater part of the front the Austrians still attacked. Boroević launched the first assault, moving South along the Adriatic Coast and in the middle course of the Piave River. The Austrians were able to cross the Piave and gained a bridgehead fifteen miles wide and five miles deep in the face of Italian heavy resistance, before Boroević was finally stopped and forced to order a retreat. On the subsequent days Boroević renewed the assault but the artillery barrage destroyed many of the river's bridges and the Austrian formations that crossed the river were unable to receive reinforcement and supplies. To make matters worse, the swollen Piave isolated a great number of units on the west bank of the river, which made of them an easy target for the Italian fire. An estimated 20,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers drowned while trying to reach the east bank. Halsey, Francis Whiting: The Literary Digest History of the World War: Compiled from Original and Contemporary Sources.  On 19 June Diaz, counterattacked and hit Boroević in the flank inflicting heavy casualties. In the meantime Conrad attacked along the Italian lines west of Boroević on the Asiago Plateau (on 15 June), with the objective of capturing Vicenza. His forces gained some ground but came upon stiff resistance by Italian units; 40,000 casualties were added to the Austrian total. In the aftermath, Boroević was particularly critical about the behavior of Conrad who, after the complete failure of the first attack, preferred to continue the assaults in the subsequent days but with diminished strength, rather than send reinforcements to the Piave sector. Lacking supplies and facing attacks by armored units, the Austro-Hungarians were ordered to retreat by Emperor Karl, who had taken personal command, on 20 June. By 23 June, the Italians recaptured all territory on the southern bank of the Piave and the battle was over.

After the Austrian retreat Diaz was pressed by the allies, particularly by General Ferdinand Foch, to press on and try an assault to break the Austrian defences and gain a decisive victory over the Empire. However, the Italian General recognized that the same tactic, that proved so effective on defence, prevented an immediate offence, as the Italian formations at that time were too scattered and mixed up to be effectively coordinated in a decisive assault. Moreover, once the Italian Army crossed the river, they would have to face the same logistic problems as the Austrians. For these reasons, in the subsequent days, only limited actions were fought to gain better start positions for the decisive assault. On the other side, the Battle of the Piave River was the last great military offensive of Austria-Hungary. A clear failure, the operation struck a major blow to the army's morale and cohesion and had political repercussions throughout war-weary Austria-Hungary. The battle signaled the end of its army as a fighting force and the beginning of the collapse of the Empire, which was finished off at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto four months later."The comprehensive failure of the offensive served merely to hasten the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian army. Its destruction was completed by the Italians at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in the autumn.

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ELEVENTH BATTLE OF THE ISONZO | ITALY IN WW1

The Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo was a World War I battle fought by the Italian and Austro-Hungarian Armies on the Italian Front between 18 August and 12 September 1917.

On the Soča (Isonzo) River, Luigi Cadorna, the Italian Chief of Staff, concentrated three quarters of his troops: 600 battalions (52 divisions) with 5,200 guns.

The attack was carried forth from a front from Tolmin (in the upper Soča (Isonzo) valley) to the Adriatic Sea. The Italians crossed the river at several points on temporary bridges, but the main effort was exerted on the Bainsizza Plateau, whose capture was to further the offensive and break the Austro-Hungarian lines in two segments, isolating the strongholds of Mount Saint Gabriel and Mount Hermada. After fierce and deadly fightings, the Italian Second Army, led by General Capello, pushed back Boroević's Isonzo Armee, conquering the Bainsizza and Mount Santo. Other positions were taken by the Duke of Aosta's Third Army. However, Mount Saint Gabriel and Mount Hermada turned out to be impregnable, and the offensive wore out. After the battle, the Austro-Hungarians were exhausted, and could not have withstood another attack. Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for their opponents), so were the Italians, who could not find the resources necessary for another assault, even though it might have been the decisive one. So the final result of the battle was an inconclusive bloodbath. Moreover, the end of the battle left the Italian Second Army (until then the most successful of the Italian Armies) split in two parts across the Soča (Isonzo), a weak point that proved to be decisive in the subsequent Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo. To commemorate the participation of the Royal Bavarian Infantry Lifeguards Regiment, Georg Fürst wrote the March "Isonzo-Marsch".

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TWELFTH BATTLE OF THE ISONZO (CAPORETTO) | ITALY IN WW1

The Battle of Caporetto (also known as the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, the Battle of Kobarid or the Battle of Karfreit as it was known by the Central Powers), took place from 24 October to 19 November 1917, near the town of Kobarid (now in north-western Slovenia, then part of the Austrian Littoral), on the Austro-Italian front of World War I. The battle was named after the Italian name of the town (also known as Karfreit in German). Austro-Hungarian forces, reinforced by German units, were able to break into the Italian front line and rout the Italian army, which had practically no mobile reserves. The battle was a demonstration of the effectiveness of the use of stormtroopers and the infiltration tactics developed in part by Oskar von Hutier. The use of poison gas by the Germans played a key role in the collapse of the Italian Second Army.

In August 1917 Paul von Hindenburg decided that to keep the Austro-Hungarians in the war the Germans must help them to give the Italian army a severe beating. Erich Ludendorff was opposed, but was overruled In September three experts from the Imperial General Staff led by the chemist Otto Hahn went to the Isonzo front to find a site suitable for a gas attack. They proposed the quiet Caporetto sector, where a good road runs west through a mountain valley to the Venetian plain. A new 14th Army was formed, with nine Austrian and six German divisions, commanded by a German, Otto von Below. The Italians inadvertently helped by providing weather information over their radio.

Foul weather delayed the attack for two days, but on 24 October there was no wind and the front was misted over. At 02:00, 894 metal tubes (Gaswurfminen) dug into a reverse slope were triggered electrically to simultaneously fire canisters containing 600 ml of chlorine and phosgene gases, smothering the Italian trenches in the valley in a dense cloud of poison. Knowing that their gas masks could protect them only for two hours or less, the defenders fled for their lives, though 500-600 still died. Then the front was eerily quiet until 06:00 when all the Italian wire and trenches to be attacked were peppered with mortar fire. At 06:30, 2200 artillery pieces opened fire, many targeting the valley road along which reserves were advancing to plug the gap. At 08:00 two large mines were detonated under strong points on the heights bordering the valley and the infantry attacked. Soon they penetrated the almost undefended Italian fortifications in the valley, breaching the defensive line of the Italian Second Army between the IV and XXVII Corps. To protect the attackers' flanks Alpine Troops infiltrated the strong points and batteries along the crests of the adjoining ridges, Mount Matajur and the Kolovrat Range, playing out their telephone lines as they advanced to maintain contact with their artillery. They made good use of the new German model 08/15 Maxim light machine gun, light trench mortars, mountain guns, flamethrowers and hand grenades. The attackers in the valley marched almost unopposed along the excellent road toward Italy, some advanced a remarkable 25 km (16 mi) on the first day. The Italian army beat back the attackers on either side of the sector where the central column attacked but von Below's successful central penetration threw the entire Italian Army into disarray. Forces had to be moved along the Italian front in an attempt to stem von Below's breakout, but this only weakened other points along the line and invited further attacks. At this point, the entire Italian position was threatened. The Italian 2nd Army commander Luigi Capello was commanding while bedridden with fever. Realizing that his forces were ill-prepared for this attack and were being routed, Capello requested permission to withdraw back to the Tagliamento. He was overruled by Cadorna who believed that the Italian force could regroup and hold out. Finally, on 30 October, Cadorna ordered the majority of the Italian force to retreat to the other side of the Tagliamento. It took the Italians four full days to cross the river, and by this time the German and Austro-Hungarian armies were on their heels.

By 2 November, a German division had established a bridgehead on the Tagliamento. About this time, however, the rapid success of the attack caught up with them. The German and Austro-Hungarian supply lines were stretched to breaking point and consequently they were unable to launch another attack to isolate a part of the Italian army against the Adriatic. Cadorna was able to retreat further, and by 10 November had established a position on the Piave River. Even before the battle, Germany was struggling to feed and supply its armies in the field. Erwin Rommel, who, as a junior officer, won the Pour le Mérite for his exploits in the battle, often bemoaned the demands placed upon his "poorly fed troops". The Allied blockade of the German Empire, which the Kaiserliche Marine had been unable to break, was partly responsible for food shortages and widespread malnutrition in Germany and the Central Powers in general. When inadequate provisioning was combined with the gruelling night marches preceding the battle of Caporetto (Kobarid), a heavy toll was imposed on the German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Despite these logistical problems, the initial assault was extremely successful. However, as the area controlled by the combined Central Powers forces expanded, an already limited logistical capacity was overstrained. By the time the attack reached the Piave, the soldiers of the Central Powers were running low on supplies and were feeling the physical effects of exhaustion. As the Italians began to counter the pressure put on them by the Central Powers, the German forces lost momentum and were once again caught up in another round of attrition warfare.

Italian losses were enormous: 10,000 were killed, 30,000 wounded and 265,000 were taken prisoner – morale was so low among the Italian troops, mainly due to Cadorna's harsh disciplinary regime, that most of these surrendered willingly. Furthermore, roughly 3,000 guns, 3,000 machine guns and 2,000 mortars were captured, along with an untold amount of stores and equipment. Austro-Hungarian and German forces advanced more than in the direction of Venice, but they were not able to cross the Piave River. Although up to this point the Italians had been left to fight on their own, after Kobarid (Caporetto) they were reinforced by six French infantry divisions and five British infantry divisions as well as sizeable air contingents. However, these troops played no role in stemming the advancing Germans and Austro-Hungarians, because they were deployed on the Mincio River, some 60 miles behind the Piave, as the British and French strategists did not believe the Piave line could be held. The Piave served as a natural barrier where the Italians could establish a new defensive line, which was held during the subsequent Battle of the Piave River and later served as springboard for the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, where the Austro-Hungarian army was finally defeated after four days of stiff resistance.

The battle led to the conference at Rapallo and the creation of a Supreme War Council, with the aim of improving Allied military co-operation and developing a unified strategy. Luigi Cadorna was forced to resign after the defeat. The defeat alone was not the sole cause, but rather the greatest of an accumulation of failures, as perceived by the Italian Prime Minister, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando. Throughout much of his command, including at Kobarid (Caporetto), Cadorna was known to have maintained poor relations with the other generals on his staff. By the start of the battle he had sacked 217 generals, 255 colonels and 355 battalion commanders.Geoffrey Regan, More Military Blunders, page 160 In addition, he was detested by his troops as being too harsh. He was replaced by Armando Diaz and Pietro Badoglio. He had already been directing the battle 20 miles behind before fleeing another 100 miles to Padua. This led Allied governments to understand that fear alone could not adequately motivate a modern army. After the defeat at Caporetto, Italian propaganda offices were established, promising land and social justice to soldiers. Italy also accepted a more cautious military strategy from this point on. General Diaz concentrated his efforts on rebuilding his shattered forces while taking advantage of the national rejuvenation that had been spurred by invasion and defeat.

After this battle, the term "Caporetto" gained a particular resonance in Italy. It is used to denote a terrible defeat – the failed General Strike of 1922 by the socialists was referred to by Mussolini as the "Caporetto of Italian Socialism". Many years after the war, Caporetto was still being used to destroy the credibility of the liberal state. The Battle of Caporetto has been the subject of a number of books. The Swedish author F.J. Nordstedt (i.e. Christian Braw) wrote about the battle in his novel Caporetto. The bloody aftermath of Caporetto was vividly described by Ernest Hemingway in his novel A Farewell to Arms. Curzio Malaparte wrote an excoriation of the battle in his first book, Viva Caporetto, published in 1921. It was censored by the state and suppressed; it was finally published in 1980. Today, a museum in the town of Kobarid is dedicated to the Isonzo Battles in general, and the Caporetto Battle in particular.

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TENTH BATTLE OF THE ISONZO | ITALY IN WW1

The Tenth Battle of the Isonzo was an Italian offensive against Austria-Hungary in the course of World War I.

With nine largely unsuccessful Isonzo battles conducted within an eighteen-month period to date, Italian Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna - responsible for launching all nine - became increasingly uncomfortable at the prospect of German intervention to aid their weakening Austro-Hungarian ally on the Italian Front. For while it was clear that the Austro-Hungarian Army was suffering in what had become a war of attrition, the same could be said of Cadorna's army. Casualties suffered to date were tremendous and with each renewed battle tended to be higher on the Italian attackers side. The UK's new Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, had long believed that the war could not be won on the Western Front alone. Dubbed an "easterner" at home Lloyd George was nevertheless in favour of diverting British and French resources from the Western Front to the Italians along the Soča (Isonzo), to "knock the props out" from under the Central Powers. However Lloyd George's own field commanders, including Commander in Chief Douglas Haig - along with the French - disagreed, arguing that resources could not be spared from the Western Front, particularly with French Commander-in-Chief Robert Nivelle's upcoming Aisne Offensive, aimed at ending the war in the west within 48 hours. Consequently Nivelle dispatched Ferdinand Foch to meet with Cadorna and discuss their possible options. In the event the British and French agreed to rush aid to the Italians only in the event of an emergency - for example, large-scale German military assistance to the Austro-Hungarians; a contingency plan was thus developed to meet with such an eventuality. The agreed plan was duly invoked - too late - in late October 1917 in the wake of the Italians' disastrous performance at Caporetto in the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo. With the contingency plan arranged the French pressed Cadorna to launch a major offensive of his own along the Soča (Isonzo) to generally co-ordinate with their own large-scale Aisne Offensive (deployed in April 1917). Cadorna agreed and the tenth Isonzo offensive was launched with a preliminary artillery bombardment on 10 May 1917.

The Italians, deploying 38 divisions - against only 14 of the Austro-Hungarians - switched tactics once again. The previous three Isonzo battles had seen Cadorna concentrate short, sharp initiatives against closely defined targets, generally aimed at extending their sole bridgehead east of Gorizia. This time the Italians returned to the Kras plateau south-east of Gorizia, setting in train an infantry advance along a 40 km front in order to achieve a breakthrough towards Trieste. The second aim of the offensive was to conquer Mount Škabrijel, thus opening the way to the Vipava Valley. Initially success appeared likely. By the close of May the Italian army had advanced to within 15 km of Trieste almost reaching the coastal town of Duino, although subsidiary attacks elsewhere failed. Nevertheless, a major Austro-Hungarian counter-offensive launched on 3 June reclaimed virtually all lost ground and by the time the battle was called off by Cadorna on 8 June little territory had been gained. Some fighting also took place in the northern sections of the front in the Julian Alps, where the Austro-Hungarians strengthened their positions along the Vršič mountain ridge. Casualties continued to be high: 157,000 Italian losses were sustained, with a further 75,000 Austro-Hungarian casualties. With morale in the Italian army plunging Cadorna planned one further breakthrough attempt as he massed the greatest number of divisions and artillery yet along the Soča (Isonzo) river. Accordingly the Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo was initiated some two months later on 19 August 1917.

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