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Italy in World War I 

 

 

 

map of Italy on the eve of WWI

 

At the beginning of World War I Italy remained neutral. The

Italian government claimed that the Triple Alliance was only

for defensive purposes and Italy had stipulated against being

drawn into a war with Great Britain.The new prime minister

of Italy, Antonio Salandra, publicly announced on Aug 3, 1914

that Italy was neutral, to great acclaim in Italy, as most did

not want to be dragged into a foreign war. Therefore, the

Triple Alliance did not apply to a war that was started by the

Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, both the central empires

and the Triple Entente continued efforts to attract Italy on

their side. In April of 1915, the Italian government agreed to

sign the London Pact and to declare war on the

Austro-Hungarian Empire in exchange for several territories.

 

 

 Italy in World War 1

 

The London Pact awarded Trento, Trieste, Istria, and part of

Dalmatia to Italy, claimed by the Irredentism. On May 24,

1915 Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary and later against

Germany, Turkey and Bulgaria. Austro-Hungry found itself in a

3 front war against Russia, Serbia and Italy.

 

 

 WW1: The Italian Army in Combat in the World War

(1914-1918)

 

At the outbreak of war between Italy and Austria Hungry, the

stronger Italian navy keep most of the Austro-Hungarian fleet

bottled up in the Adriatic .

 

Austrian attack through the Trentino

 

 

mountainous conditions

 

 

 

  

  Austrian gunners

 

At the Trentino, the Austrians massed 4 veteran divisions

from the Russian front and attacked in May 1916. In a month

the Italians were pushed back 10 miles, then the Austrian

advance stalled . Austrian had to withdraw troops to fight the

Russians and the Italians regained their position . The

Italians lost 145,000, the Austrians 80,000.

 

Location of the Battles of the Isonzo

 

  

Italian soldiers

 

The other main front of the war was 55 mile long front at the

Isonzo, where Italy wanted to seize Trieste. there would be

12 Battles of the Isonzo. The war bogged down into trench

warfare with huge losses, many from splinters of rock of

artillery shells in the mountains . The the 12th Battle of the

Isonzo or Caporetto on Oct 24, 1917, Germany sent forces

to bolster the weakening Austrians . The Germans and

Austrians led an attack after a 4 hour bombardment with gas

shells used . The plan was to outflank the Italians and strike

for the Italian heartland. The Italians retreated 70 miles,

many surrendered, with 275,000 giving themselves up in one

day. The Italian gas masks were of little protection against

mustard gas .The Austrians and Germans advanced as far as

the Piava River, north of Venice, where they were halted .The

French and British sent divisions to Italy to keep it in the

war. The next spring the Italians, with British, French and

Americans reinforcements were able to beat off Austrians last

offensive. Many of the German troops had by this time been

withdrawn to the Western Front. In Oct, the Italians launched

an offensive, by Nov an estimated 300,000 Austrians soldiers

had surrendered. By the time the Austro-Hungarian empire

was falling apart. The Italians continued to advance, taking

Trieste and Trento.

 

The Austro-Hungarian battleship Szent Istvan, sunk by an

Italian torpedo boat June 10, 1918

 

On Nov 3, the Austro-Hungarian commander sent a flag of

truce and peace took effect on Nov 4. Italy lost an estimated

650,000 men fighting in the war. After the war, there was

economic distress in Italy and anger at the Allies who many

Italians thought failed to deliver on their promises of

territorial gains for Italy . the Italians did gain Trentino and

Trieste, but failed to get any spoils from Germany's colonial

empire or from the breakup of Turkey. Italians were also

refused Dalmatia . In the post war period the People's Party

(Popolari) and Socialists gained power. In the depression

following the war there were strikes . The spread of riots led

some landowners to form protective societies that were

supported by the  Fascio di Combattimento or Union of

Combat, an ultra nationalist group. This group had been

founded by Mussolini in 1919.

  

 

 

 

 

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