The Italian front (World War I)


July 6, 2022

The Italian front during World War I ran from the Italian-Swiss border and in S-shape through South Tyrol, north of Lake Garda, through the Dolomites, the Carnic Alps, the Julian Alps and to the Isonzo River and the city of Monfalcone. The combatants were primarily Italy and Austria-Hungary. The fighting took place in very difficult environments, both climatically and in terms of terrain, in the high mountains and both the warring parties suffered heavy losses. Italy set out on a surprisingly initial offensive to secure their goal, but the war ended in a trench war unlike the one on the Western Front. The Italian objectives Italy had been a member of the Triple Alliance, but originally wanted to stay out of the war. But after a year of neutrality, Italy entered World War I in 1915 on the side of the Entente Powers. The Kingdom of Italy hoped that by joining the Entente Powers against the Central Powers, the country could gain the provinces of Trentino, South Tyrol, Istria with the port city of Trieste and Dalmatia. These were areas the country had rivaled with Austria-Hungary since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars. In the London Agreement of 26 April 1915, Italy transferred to the Entente Powers and received support in its territorial claims.



On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, and on June 23 launched an offensive across the Isonzo River against the Austrian county of Görz and the fortified city of Gorizia. The Italians also crossed the border through the mountain passes north of Trentino and into the Dolomites. Italian alpine troops climbed the 2,300 m high mountain of Monte Negro in the Julian Alps at night and chased the Austrian defenders from the top. However, the lack of equipment, especially artillery, made Italian progress difficult and Austria-Hungary established a line of defense some distance inside its own territory. There were also skirmishes in the Adriatic Sea and bombings by both sides across the Adriatic Sea. By December 1915, the Italians had launched four offensives across the Isonzo River, but with large losses and small gains.


In March 1916, Italy launched a fifth offensive at Isonzo, but this stopped after a few days due to bad weather. Instead, on May 15, Austria-Hungary launched a counter-offensive in Trentino against the city of Asiago. Austria-Hungary tried to cut through the Italian positions and reach Venice, so that the Italian forces at Isonzo were cut off. Despite strong Italian resistance, the Austro-Hungarian rapids slowly advanced through the demanding mountain landscape, but eventually the supply situation became too difficult and the offensive collapsed, and on June 26 the Italians were able to begin a counter-offensive in which they recaptured some of the lost. areas, including Asiago. In total, the Austro-Hungarian forces failed to advance more than 19 km during this Trentino offensive. The Italians also responded with a sixth offensive at Isonzo, and this time they succeeded in conquering Gorizia on 9 August. In August, the seventh, eighth, and ninth battles of Isonzo raged, and by this time Italian resources were being depleted.


During the summer of 1917, the Austro-Hungarian forces were reinforced with forces that had been liberated on the Eastern Front after the Russian February Revolution. At this time, Italy received Allied support and responded to the build-up of forces on the side of the central powers by keeping the initiative in the field. In the tenth and eleventh battles of Isonzo, the Italians managed to hold the initiative, and gained some territorial gain in the eleventh battle, but this further exhausted the Italians. In June, Italy also tried to take back the last areas Austria-Hungary had conquered during the Trentino offensive a year earlier, among other things to secure the flank against Venice and the forces with Isonzo better. But staunch Austro-Hungarian resistance gave little Italian gain and weakened morale. IN 1