Bosniak Troops Open Gap for Italians in Tyrol, Though Italians Miss Opportunity
Ljudevit Pivko (1880-1937), a Slovene doctor and Austrian officer who attempted to open the way into South Tyrol for the Italians.
September 18 1917, Carzano–While both Austrians and Italians had been distracted with the Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo, the Austrian defenses in the Tyrol had been neglected. Furthermore, over the course of the summer, a Slovene officer in the Austrian army, Ljudevit Pivko, had been in steady contact with Italian intelligence, giving them accurate maps and invaluable information about troop and artillery deployments. Pivko had also been slowly building a conspiracy in the Austrian lines, recruiting Bosniaks with little loyalty to the Empire. When the time came, Pivko was ready to cut off Austrian communications, destroy ammunition dumps, and leave the main road to Carzano wide open for an advance on Carzano and the entirety of Austrian South Tyrol.
Although the officer Pivko had been in contact with was enthusiastic about the plans, it had been difficult to convince his superiors. This led to delays, which proved costly to Pivko. He was nearly found out when he was betrayed by a Czech officer; however, Pivko’s word was better trusted, and he even briefly met with Emperor Karl, who told him that “I regret that somebody wished to cast a shadow over one of my most valiant officers.” Time was also running out, as Pivko’s Bosniaks were soon to be transferred out of the sector.
In the wee hours of September 18, the Bosniaks duly opened the way to Carzano, and the leading Italian troops enter the town with little resistance. However, the pace of the units behind them is painfully slow, as they show an overabundance of caution or a deep mistrust in the Bosniaks. By dawn, the loyal Austrian troops in the area had realized something was afoot, and set up machine gun posts bisecting the road to Carzano. The Bosniaks, along with the leading Italian columns, were cut off. Many were killed trying to escape (some by Italian artillery fire), while nearly 1000 were forced to surrender. Pivko himself was able to escape, and continued to work with the Italians for the remainder of the war.
Sources include: Mark Thompson, The White War.