italian-wars

Italian Breakthrough on the Isonzo

August 22 1917, Gorizia–The initial Italian attacks in the Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo had made progress mostly on the Bainsizza plateau.  After continued attacks, by the evening of August 21 the Italians had opened up a gap a mile wide in the Austrian lines.  The next morning, the Italians, with the help of Fiat trucks, had been able to rush up further reinforcements to exploit this.  The Austrians, on the other hand, were nearly out of reserves and had a truck shortage; no reserves could reach the Bainsizza for another twenty four hours.  This would prove to be too late.

On August 22, the Italians completely overran the last Austrian lines on the Bainsizza and began advancing into the undefended forests beyond.  One Austrian said that “the human wall that had withstood ten battles has burst.” Boroevic met with Emperor Charles, who happened to be visiting the front, that afternoon, and informed him of the gravity of the situation.  Charles, who had witnessed the ferocity of the fighting to the west, soon agreed with Boroevic that there was no choice but to order a retreat off of the Bainsizza plateau and hope to regroup to the east before the Italians could exploit their victory.  At 9PM, Boroevic ordered a general retreat for the next day, hoping that a final artillery barrage could provide some cover for it.

Today in 1916: Turkey Sends Troops to the Eastern Front
Today in 1915: Wilson Threatens to Break Off Diplomatic Relations with Germany
Today in 1914: Ludendorff and Hindenburg Dispatched to Eastern Front

The Italian Wars, 1494-1538.

The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Italian Wars or the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars or the Renaissance Wars, were a series of conflicts from 1494 to 1559 that involved, at various times, most of the city-states of Italy, the Papal States, the Republic of Venice, most of the major states of Western Europe (France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, England, and Scotland) as well as the Ottoman Empire. Originally arising from dynastic disputes over the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples, the wars rapidly became a general struggle for power and territory among their various participants, and were marked with an increasing number of alliances, counter-alliances, and betrayals.

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I really love the stats on Italian planes in War Thunder but I’m not big into facism so I thought I’d try to give the Italians a rebranding as a “Garf Force” but now everybody team kills me in simulator battles

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THE GOLDEN QUARTET: SULEYMAN I, HENRY VIII, FRANCIS I, CHARLES V.
Never before had the world seen four such giants coexisting. Sometimes friends, more often enemies, these men held Europe in the hollow of their hands.

Mountain Warfare on the Italian Front

The white war.

In May 1915, Italy joined the Entente and attacked Austra-Hungary, its neighbor and great rival, along their Alpine border. Four years of mountain warfare commenced, which some of the most brutal fighting of World War I in its least hospitable conditions.

Geography and strategy did not align well for Italian planners. Most Italians had not been particularly enthusiastic for war, and Rome wanted a quick victory that would take Austria’s last Italian possessions, like Trentino and Trieste. Therefore Italy’s army needed to attack. But virtually the entire Austro-Italian border consisted of the Alps, running from the virtually impassible Dolomites at Trentino, to the somewhat gentler east, where stood the Isonzo River and the rocky, barren, Karst Plateau. This is where Italy’s Commander-in-Chief Luigi Cadorna made eleven vigorous attacks during the war, heading eastward over the Isozo into Slovenia, coming to a head at the town of Gorizia.

The Austrians had suffered severely on the Eastern Front by 1915, but Cadorna’s opposite number, General Conrad von Hötzendorf, knew precisely where to deploy his limited men. The Austrians heavily fortified the Isonzo, blasting trenches, dugouts, and artillery positions into Alpine rock. The highest peaks became crucial observation points. Even if they ran out of machine gun bullets and gun shells, the Austrians could probably roll rocks down the mountains and still have an advantage over the Italians attacking uphill.

Austrians keep watch over the Isonzo.

The following four years covered the Alps in blood. Italy fought four battles alone for the Isonzo in 1915. Each proved indecisive and costly. The Austrians gave better than they got, but had too few men to counter-attack themselves. In the higher ranges of the Alps, a “white war” started in the snow and ice. Ski-troops and mountain climbers were the norm, avalanches caused by artillery killed thousands in seconds. Even supplying the men here required Herculean logistical efforts: guns, soldiers, horses, etc. were brought up mountain peaks with complex pulley-systems, elevators, and even ziplines.

An Italian Alpini mountain specialist ziplines from one peak to another.

The pattern of failed Italian offensives changed suddenly in October 1917, when Austrian and German troops launched a surprise attack at Caparetto that routed the defending Italians. Some 20,000 prisoners fell into Central Powers hands within a few days. Thousands of demoralized Italian soldiers were abandoned by Cadorna as he pulled forces back; yet the general had no sympathy for his men - some claim he literally reintroduced the ancient Roman practice of decimation, killing one man in ten in some units. More likely he had individual stragglers executed for cowardice.

A tough place for a war.

Despite this poor showing of Italian arms, they turned defeat into victory in 1918, halting a final Austrian attack on the Piave and launching their own counteroffensive which soon turned into a full-scale pursuit of terrified and starving Austrian troops. The cherished revanchist territory of Trentino and Trieste finally fell into Italian hands. But the unpopular war had come at terrible cost: at least 600,000 dead, almost twice that wounded. These are only estimates. To this day, the frozen corpses of Italian and Austrian soldiers show up every summer in the Alps. Perhaps it is no surprise that so many Italian soldiers, like Benito Mussolini, returned home bitter, anxious for rapid political change, and full of hate.

An Austrian soldier sits near several partially buried Italians. The Tenth Battle of the Isonzo lasted from May 10 to June 8, 1917, but Italian troops had little confidence in their generals. A popular ditty suggested their attitude:

Il General Cadorna

Ha scritto alla Regina

“Se vuoi veder Trieste,

Compra una cartolina…”

* General Cadorna, Has written to the queen: “If you want to see Trieste, buy a postcard…

Captured King Francis I of France surrendering his weapons to the Spanish commanders at the Battle of Pavia (1525)
The French defeat was decisive. Aside from Francis, a number of leading French nobles—including Montmorency and Flourance—had been captured; an even greater number—among them Bonnivet, La Tremoille, La Palice, Richard de la Pole, and Lorraine—had been killed in the fighting.