The Ice Fortresses of World War I,
The Italian front of World War I was one of the most unique battlegrounds in history. When it comes to World War I, most people envision muddy trenches, the Italian Front of WWI was mostly fought in the Alps. Thus, entire armies were fighting on steep cliffs and frozen glaciers, often thousands of feet above sea level. It was not uncommon for both the Italians and Austro-Hungarians/Germans to carve large and intricate ice fortresses within Alpine glaciers, complete with machine guns, artillery ports, miles and miles of tunnels and rooms.
One of the largest ice fortresses was a complex created by the Austrian Army and designed by Austrian engineer Leo Handl. Called “The City of Ice”, the fortress consisted of a complex of buildings and fortifications which were carved directly out of the ice of Marmolada glacier on Mount Marmolada in the northwestern corner of Italy. The complex featured 5 miles of tunnels, enough barracks to house 1,500 troops, a number of artillery and machine gun ports, trenches, a cafeteria, a chapel, an armory and a saloon. The Italians had a similar size ice fortress called cittá del ghiaccio.
The Italian Front of World War I was an especially brutal war, where just as many men died due to storms, exposure, and avalanches as did bullets and bombs. In one fateful night in 1917, massive storm caused several avalanches, killing up to ten thousand men. Today, melting Alpine glaciers are revealing the detritus and frozen corpses of World War I.