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Austrian troops in many places used the heavy snowfall to their advantage. By means of mines, bombs and artillery fire they produced avalanches artificially. Thus on March 8, 1916, some damage was done in this manner to Italian positions in the Lagaznos zone. On the same day Italian forces succeeded in pushing their lines forward for a slight distance in the zone between the Iofana peaks (in the Dolomites), as well as in the valley of the middle Isonzo and in the Zagara sector. Along the entire front vigorous artillery fire was maintained.
The artillery combat gradually increased in vehemence during the next few days, especially on the Isonzo front, indicating a resumption of offensive movements. About the middle of March, 1916, Italian troops began again to attack the Austrian positions. On March 15, 1916, a lively artillery duel and a series of attacks and counterattacks were repulsed from the Isonzo front.
Italian infantry carried out a number of successive attacks in the region of Monte Rombon in the Plezzo basin and on the height commanding the position of Lucinico, southeast of San Martino del Carso. After an intensive preparation by artillery fire the Austrians, on March 16, 1916, launched at dawn a counterattack against the positions conquered by the Italians the day before, but were at first everywhere repulsed, suffering heavy losses.
The Austrian concentration of artillery fire, in which guns of all caliber were employed, lasted uninterruptedly throughout the day, forcing the Italians to evacuate the positions during the course of the night.
The Fella sector of the Carinthian front and also the Col di Lana sector in the Tyrol were shelled by Italian artillery. Italian airmen dropped bombs on Trieste without doing any damage.
Again atmospheric conditions enforced a lull in military operations during the next few days and brought to a sudden end what had seemed to be an extensive offensive movement on the part of the Italian forces on the Isonzo front.
On March 17, 1916, however, violent fighting again developed on the Isonzo front in the region of the Tolmino bridgehead. It began with greatly increased artillery activity along the entire sector between Tolmino and Flitsch. Later that day the Austro Hungarians launched an attack against the Italian forces which netted them considerable ground on the northern part of the bridgehead, as well as some 500 prisoners.
The battle in the Tolmino sector continued on March 18 and 19, 1916, and to a slighter degree on March 20, 1916. On the first of these three days the Austro-Hungarian troops succeeded in advancing beyond the road between Celo and Ciginj and to the west of the St. Maria Mountain. Italian counterattacks failed. South of the Mrzli, too, the Italians lost a position and had to withdraw toward Gabrije, losing some 300 prisoners. Increased artillery activity was noticeable on the Carinthian front, particularly in the Fella sector; in the Dolomites, especially in the Col di Lana sector; in the Sugana Valley and at some points on the west Tyrol front. Goritz, too, was again subjected to heavy Italian gunfire.
On the following day, March 19, 1916, fighting continued at the Tolmino bridgehead as a result of Italian efforts to conquer positions firmly in Austro-Hungarian hands. The number of Italians captured reached 925 and the number of machine guns taken was increased to seven. Several Italian attacks against Mrzli and Krn (Monte Nero) broke down. On the Rombon the Austro-Hungarians captured a position and took 145 Italians and two machine guns.
Lively fighting continued on the Carinthian front. In the Tyrol frontier district Italian artillery again held the Col di Lana section and some points south of the front under heavy artillery fire.
On the Goritz bridgehead Austro-Hungarians in the morning set fire to an Italian position before the southern part of Podgora Height. In the afternoon Austro-Hungarian artillery shelled heavily the front before the bridgehead. During the night they ejected Italian forces from a trench before Bevma.
Again on March 20, 1916, Italian counterattacks against the positions captured by the Austro-Hungarians during the pro ceding days failed. Again fighting slowed down for a few days
As usual, resumption of military operations was indicated by increased artillery fire.
In the Rovereto zone on March 23, 1916, an artillery duel was followed during the night by Austro-Hungarian attacks against Italian positions at Moriviccio, near Rio Comeraso, and in the Adige and Terragnole Valleys. These were repulsed. Throughout the theater of operations bad weather limited, however, artillery action on the Isonzo, which was active only near Tolmino and the heights northwest of Goritz.
On March 25, 1916, Italian artillery again bombarded the Doberdo Plateau (south of Goritz), the Fella Valley and various points on the Tyrolese front. East of Ploecken Pass (on the Carnia front) Italian positions were penetrated and Italian attacks repulsed near Marter (Sugana Valley).
Severe fighting took place on March 26, 1916, at several points. At the Goritz bridgehead the Austro-Hungarians captured an Italian position fronting on the northern portion of Podgora Heights, taking 525 prisoners. Throughout the entire day and the following night the Italian troops in vain attempted to regain the positions which they had lost the day before east of Ploeck Pass.
In the Doberdo sector on March 27, 1916, the artillery was again active on both sides. Italian attacks on the north slope of Monte San Michele and near the village of San Martino were repulsed. East of Selz a severe engagement developed.
In the Ploecken sector all Italian attacks were beaten back under heavy losses. Before the portion of the Carinthian front held by the Eighth Chasseurs Battalion more than 500 dead Italians were observed. Austro-Hungarian airmen dropped bombs on railroads in the province of Venice.
Especially severe fighting occurred once more in the region of the Gonby bridgehead during March 27, 28 and 29, 1916. On the last of these days the Italians lost some 350 prisoners. Without cessation the guns thundered on both sides on these three days on the Doberdo Plateau, along the Fella and Ploecken sectors, in the Dolomites and to the east of Selz. Scattered Italian attacks at various points failed. Then, with the end of
March, the weather again necessitated a stoppage of military operations.
An interesting description of the territory in which most of this fighting occurred was rendered by a special correspondent of the London "Times" who, in part, says:
“There is no prospect on earth quite like the immense irregular crescent of serrated peak and towering mountain wall that is thrown around Italy on the north, as it unrolls itself from the plains of Lombardy and Venetia. How often one has gazed at it in sheer delight over its bewildering wealth of contrasting color and fantastic form, its effect of light and shade and measureless space! But now, for these many months past, keen eyes have been bent upon it; eyes, not of the artist or the poet, but those of the soldier.
“It was such a pair of military eyes that I had beside me a day or two ago, as I stood upon the topmost roofs of a high tower, in a certain little town in northern Italy, where much history has been made of late; and, since the owner of the eyes was likewise the possessor of a very well-ordered mind and a gift of lucid exposition, I found myself able to grasp the main elements of the extraordinarily complex strategic problem with which the chiefs of the Italian army have had to grapple. As I looked and listened I felt that the chapter which Italy is contributing to the record of the greatest war of all time is one of which she will have every reason to be proud when she has at length brought it to its victorious conclusion.
“There are few such viewpoints as this. In the luminous stillness of a perfect morning of the Italian summer I could look north, and east, and west, upon more than a third of the battle line, that goes snaking among the mountains from near the Swiss frontier to the Adriatic. And what a length of line it is! In England some people seem to think this is a little war that Italy has on hand, little in comparison with the campaigns in France and Russia. But it is not small, weighed even in that exacting balance. The front measures out at over 450 miles, which is not very far short of the length of ribbon of trench and earthwork that is drawn across western Europe.
“Here, as there, every yard is held and guarded. It is true that there is not a continuous row of sentries; for on the AustroItalian front there are places where the natural barriers are impassable even for the Alpine troops, who will climb to the aerie of the eagles. But wherever nature has not barred the way against both sides alike the trenches and fortified galleries run, stretching across the saddle between two inaccessible peaks, ringing around the shoulder of a mountain, dipping it into the valley, and then rising again to the very summit or passing over it.
""There are guns everywhere-machine guns, mountain guns, field guns, huge guns of position, 6-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch-which have been dragged or carried with all their mountings, their equipment, their tools and appurtenances, up to their stations, it may be, 3,000, 4,000, 6,000 feet above the level. And at those heights are the larders of shell which must always be kept full so that the carnivorous mouths of the man-eaters may not go hungry even for the single hour of the single day which, at any point, an attack may develop.
"Such is the long Italian battle line. When you know what it is you are not surprised that here and there, and now and again, it should bend and give a little before an enemy better supplied with heavy artillery, and much favored by the topographical conditions; for he has the higher mountain passes behind him instead of in front, and is coming down the great Alpine stairway instead of going up.
“That of course is the salient feature of the campaign. The Italians are going up, the Austrians coming, or trying to come, down. On the loftier uplands, range beyond range, in enemy territory, the Austrians before the war had their forts and fortified posts and their strategic roads; and almost everywhere along the front they have observing stations which overlook, at greater or less distance, the Italian lines. Thus the Italians have had to make their advance, and build their trenches, and place their guns, in the face of an enemy who lies generally much above them, sometimes so much above them that he can watch them from his nests of earth and rock as though he were soaring in an aeroplane."