Italian Front: The Bloodiest Battles Of World War I Fought Between Italy And Austria-Hungary in Mountains

In May 1915, Italy attacked Austria-Hungary to capture the territories which are believed to be rightfully Italian. Italy entered the Great War, after the secret promises made by the Allies in the Treaty of London. Unlike the larger-scale battles, this battle was dictated by the landscape of the sizable mountain range. These battles were fought between 1915 and 1918 and are known as The Italian Front or Alpine Front.

Italian troops started the invasion by marching on Austro-Hungarian positions in the Karst Plateau and the Julian Alps, hoping to break through with speed and overwhelming numbers. But they face massive resistance and Austro-Hungarians were able to repulse one attack after another. The combat zone was 2000m above the sea level and the temperature was extremely freezing. Both countries had to rely on innovative methods of warfare and outstanding acts of bravery. There was no proper infrastructure (roads and rails) to move the arms and other military equipment. The Italians used cable cars and mules to transport food and munitions up to the mountain-top front lines – and to take the wounded back down to the plains, where hospitals were situated. The combat was very difficult, the artillerymen failed to identify the enemy targets, the infantrymen carrying heavy packs and weapons struggled to climb the mountains, they became separated as they scrambled over rough terrain. The supply lines were continuously failing to provide the material and weapons to move forward. Snow and cold added to the soldiers’ misery. On Dec. 13, 1916, 10,000 men were buried by avalanches.

In October 1917, some 400,000 German and Austro-Hungarian troops attacked the Italian army at Vaporetto, and Italians lost 11,000 soldiers, and more than a quarter-million had been taken as prisoners. A great number of these surrendered voluntarily. The battle was eventually ended on Nov. 3, 1918, when 300,000 Austro-Hungarian troops surrendered and an armistice was signed. Both sides suffered more than two million casualties.

#1 Austrian soldiers defend a mountain outpost in the Isonzo region.

#2 Austrian forces watch the front line from a high point. 1917.

#4 Italian troops on skis advance on Austrian forces in the Julian Alps. 1916.

#5 Members of an Italian alpine regiment leave a stone hut high in the Alps. 1915.

#6 Italian Alpini Companies ski in the Carnic Alps. 1918.

#7 A Swiss soldier mans an army outpost in the high Alps where the war fighting between the Austrians and the Italians can be observed. 1918.

#11 An Italian alpine regiment on a glacier in the Italian Alps. 1916.

#12 Austrian soldiers construct a tunnel near the front. 1918.

#13 An Italian soldier outside a mountain bunker. 1916.

#14 A group of Alpine Infantry soldiers camped at the foot of Mount Vilau. 1915.

#15 Italian artillery gunners load shells decorated with Easter messages. 1916.

#16 A Hungarian Workers Unit transports oven components for use in soldier shelters in the Dolomites. 1916.

#17 Austro-Hungarian heavy artillery in the Karst Mountains.

#18 Austrian mountain infantry haul ordnance up a slope. 1916.

#19 A mule carries heavy weaponry on the high trails of the Isonzo front. 1916.

#21 Soldiers haul 7cm guns up a 3,400-meter peak. 1916.

#22 Italian soldiers scale Monte Nero on the Karst plateau during the Second Battle of the Isonzo. 1915.

#23 A soldier carries a field gun to higher ground. 1916.

#25 An Austro-Hungarian field telephone outpost on Mount Rombon. 1917.

#26 Soldiers advance to support a flamethrower attack. 1917.

#27 Austrian troops near the front line in the Dolomites. 1917.

#29 German soldiers pass through destroyed Italian positions near St. Daniel during the 12th Battle of the Isonzo. 1917.

#31 Austro-Hungarian troops scale the slopes of Monte Nero. 1917.

#33 Soldiers lower a wounded comrade down a cliff. 1915.

#34 Austro-Hungarian soldiers carry a wounded comrade to a field hospital on Monte Nero. 1916.

Avatar of Benjamin Grayson

Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing, i loved it!

    Not so fun facts: after the Germans annihilated the Italian army at caporetto, many soldiers walking back to the Italian borders were sure the war was over and were walking happily at home, while taking food and other things from the houses they found on the way but if the carabinieri found stuff in their pockets they would shoot them.

    When they reached the Piave River there were so many people (soldiers and civilians escaping from Austrians) that a bridge got clogged, they got the warning that it will be blown up to cut off the Austrians, they didn’t manage to leave and the bridge exploded with them on it.