Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Wartime Legend: Mte. Cengio and the Grenadier's Leap

Site of the Grenadier's Leap
In 1916, scenic 4,400-ft.-tall Mte. Cengio, which has breathtaking views of Venice and the Adriatic, was a "back door" to the Asiago Plateau or "Altipiani" and the Italian position that had been stabilized after the spring 1916 "Strafexpedition" of the Austro-Hungarian Army. It would be the scene of ferocious fighting in mid-1916 with attempts to penetrate the Italian defenses from the rear by their opponents. Had the Austrian forces been able to clear the Altipiani and move down on to the Veneto, they would have been in the rear of both Italian Armies on the Isonzo, the major battle sector at the time. Consequently, Mte. Cengio was for a period of the greatest strategic importance. 

The summit (wartime photo on left) was defended by the 2nd Regiment of the Sardinian Grenadiers. In June 1916 the Grenadiers found themselves with their ammunition exhausted and engaged in furious hand-to-hand fighting at the edge of a precipice. Exhausted, yet still determined not to surrender, an unknown number of the Grenadiers wrapped their arms around their opponents and jumped, dragging their enemies off the cliff, to their mutual deaths.

Grenadier Memorial at the Site of the Leap, Mte. Cengio
Your Editor (right) with My Friend and Guide Rebeschin Fausto 

Today, the haunting metallic statue above honors the 2,000 Sardinian Grenadiers who perished on the mountain in 1916, some of whom died taking an opponent with them in the "Grenadier's Leap." Afterward, sensing it was a weak point in their defensive line, the Italian Command turned it into a major defensive position. A series of galleries were built for artillery and observation posts and mule paths (mulaterria) were constructed to supply them.

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