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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

100 Years Ago: The Tenth Battle of the Isonzo Winds Down

Tenth Battle of the Isonzo
12 May–8 June 1917

By 1917 Italy had agreed to coordinate its operations with its allies. Spring of that year was to be the occasion of a decisive breakthrough on the Western Front to be led by French general Robert Nivelle. Italy, therefore, also had to plan for a decisive breakthrough in its only feasible area for offensive operations, the Isonzo. The usual priority, expansion of the Gorizia corridor for a further push to Trieste, was this time turned into a diversionary part of a broader attack. So the initial attack was on the Carso Plateau, but in the overall scheme, it was to be a diversion.  Serious fighting, though, would ensue toward the end of the Tenth Battle as Austrian forces were ground down.

Italian Trench During the Battle (Possibly Carso Plateau)

For mysterious reasons, however, in the spring of 1917 Comando Supremo seemed bent on capturing as many mountains as possible. Moving from north to south, they engaged in an indecisive war of mines for control of Mte Krn's peak east of Caporetto. The largest assault (sound in concept but weak in execution) on the Tolmino bridgehead began on 15 May and failed. Mte Kuk and Mte Vodice near Plava were successfully captured, but Mte Santo across the river from Mte Sabatino was not, at first.

Hills Around Gorizia from the Austro-Hungarian Position

As the main battles in the north staggered to conclusion with Mte Santo finally secured by General Capello's Second Army, Third Army was ordered to attack again on the Carso. After some initial progress, they reached the outskirts of Mte Hermada in the last days of May but eventually were halted and pushed back by stiff Austrian counterattacks on 6–8 June  as reinforcements arrived. Elements of the Catanzaro Brigade refused to advance in a last futile attack on Mte Hermada and were subsequently formally decimated as punishment in July. After taking 157,000 casualties (killed, wounded, and captured), it was time for General Cadorna to adjourn the bloodletting.

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.