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snow thaws, all this jumble of obstacles reappears tangled together.
"Other ghastly sights also reappear, like the 600 Austrian corpses on Monte Nero—most awe-inspiring of heights. They had fallen in the snow which had covered them. In the summer they reappeared one morning in strange attitudes, frozen hard and lifelike, and gave the Italian garrison their first fright.”
On April 11, 1916, in the Monte Adamello zone, while a heavy storm was raging, Italian detachments attacked the Austrian positions on the rocky crags of the Lobbia Alta and the Doss di Genova, jutting out from the glaciers at an altitude of 3,300 meters, (10,918 feet). On the evening of April 12, 1916, they completely carried the positions, fortifying themselves in them and taking thirty-one prisoners, including one officer and one machine gun.
The next day, April 13, 1916, saw some severe fighting in the Sugana Valley in the Dolomites, where Italian troops carried with the bayonet, a position at Santosvaldo, west of the Sarganagna torrent, taking seventy-four prisoners, including five officers.
Three days later, April 17, 1916, Italian Alpine troops in the Monte Adamello zone, occupied and strengthened the Monte Val di Fumo Pass, at an altitude of 3,402 meters (11,161 feet).
During the night of April 18, 1916, one of the most spectacular and important exploits of this period was executed. In the upper Cordevole zone Italian troops, after successful mining operations, attacked Austrian positions on the Col di Lana and occupied the western ridge of Monte Ancora. The Austrian detachment occupying the trenches was mostly killed. The Italians took as prisoners 164 Kaiserjägers, including nine officers.
This successful operation of the Italians was of exceptional importance. The Col di Lana is a mountain 4,815 feet high, which forms a natural barrier in the valley of Livinallengo and protects the road of the Dolomites from Falzarego to the Pordoi Pass and dominates the road to Caprile. The Italians had already occupied Col di Lana, but could not drive the Austrians
from its western peak, where an entire battalion of Alpine troops, Kaiserjägers, was strongly intrenched and protected by semipermanent fortifications with field and machine guns.
It was impossible for the Italians to attack the enemy's positions, within range of the Austrian artillery on Mount Sief, which is nearly on the same level, so the entire western margin of Col di Lana was carefully and patiently mined, an undertaking which probably took months of hard work, and several tons of high explosives were distributed in such a way as to destroy the whole side of the mountain above which the enemy was intrenched.
The explosion that followed was terrific. The earth shook as if rocked by an earthquake, and the havoc wrought was so great that out of the 1,000 Austrians who held the position, only 164 survived.
Of course, the Austrians launched many counterattacks against this new strong position of the Italians. But the latter had fortified it so well that all attempts of their opponents to dislodge them failed.
Considerable further fighting also occurred during the second half of April, 1916, and the first half of May, 1916, in the Adamello zone, adjoining the Camonica Valley, especially in the region of the Tonale Pass. The same was true of the Tofana sector on the upper Boite. But though spectacular, the results were of comparatively small importance.
AUSTRIAN MAY DRIVE
BOUT May 15, 1916, the Italians were at the gates of Ro
vereto, less than twelve miles south of Trent and seriously threatening that city. East of Rovereto the Italian lines ran along the crest of Doss di Somme to the Monte Maggio beyond Val Terragnolo and then northward to Soglio d'Aspio. The Aus
trian forts of Folgaria and Lavarone compelled the Italians to follow the frontier as far as Val Sugana, where they occupied good strategical positions on Austrian territory and held Ronsegno, on the railroad between Borgo and Trent. Further north the Italians held dominating positions in front of the Austrian forts at Fabonti and Monte Cola.
During the preceding months the Austrian forces along the Italian front had gradually been increased, until they now numbered about thirty-eight divisions. Of these, it was estimated that sixteen divisions, or over 300,000 men had been massed by May 15, 1916, between the Adige and Brenta Rivers. Artillery, too, in comparatively great quantity and of as heavy caliber as the country permitted, had been assembled.
Suddenly on May 15, 1916, the Austrians along the Trentino front followed up an intense bombardment which had lasted throughout May 14, 1916, with an attack by large masses of infantry against the Italian positions between the Adige and the upper Astico. Although the Italians valiantly resisted the first onrush they had finally to give way, losing some 2,500 men and sixty-five officers. Austrian troops have occupied Italian positions on Armentara Ridge, south of the Sugana Valley, on the Folgarone Plateau, north of Cagnolo Valley and south of Rovereto. On the Oberdo Plateau they entered trenches east of Monfalcone, capturing five officers and 150 soldiers belonging to five different Italian cavalry regiments.
The following vivid picture of the vehemence of the Austrian attack is given in the "Comere della Sera":
“The Austrians have opened a breach in the wall of defense which we have won by heavy sacrifices beyond our frontier. They have beaten with a hurricane of fire upon our Alpine line at its most delicate point, striving with desperate fury to penetrate into Italian territory. This is the hardest moment of our war; it is also one of the most bitter and violent assaults of the whole European war.
“The battle rages furiously. The Austrian attack is being made with colossal forces in the narrow zone between the Adige and the Val Sugana. The enemy had assembled fourteen divisions of his best troops. An Austrian officer who was taken prisoner said:
“ 'You are not far from the truth in reckoning that there are three hundred thousand men against you. These comprise the armies of Dankl, Koevess, and the Boroevic, and these armies are served by unlimited artillery. More than two thousand pieces are raining on a twenty-five-mile front projectiles of all calibers.'"
“On Sunday morning, May 14, 1916, three shadows approached the Italian trenches. As they advanced they were recognized as Austrian Slav deserters. They said:
“ "The attack has been ordered for to-morrow. The bombardment will last from dawn to 6 p. m., when the infantry will attack.'
“The information was exact. A bombardment of incredible violence began. Aeroplanes regulated the fire of a 15-inch naval gun, which sent five projectiles on the town of Asiago. After the bombardment had ceased the first infantry attack came. The troops attacked en masse, and at the same time attacks were made from the Adige to the Val Sugana. Four onslaughts were made on Zugna Torta. Our machine guns cut down the blue masses of men; the wire entanglements were heaped with dead. The bombardment had destroyed all the first-line trenches. The infantry then hurled itself against the advance posts of the Val Terragnolo. The Alpini, deafened by twelve hours of bombardment, defended every foot of the ground, fighting always in snow. Three terrible bayonet counterattacks lacerated the Austrian lines, but the assailants were innumerable, and no help could come, as the entire front was in action. The Alpini who remained, so few in number, threw themselves on the enemy again, permitting the retirement of the main body to the line running from Malga Milegna to Soglio d'Aspio. Even here there was one avalanche of fire. The enemy artillery had been pouring explosives on these positions for ten hours. The enemy infantry here attacking were annihilated and the enemy dead filled the valleys, but fresh troops swarmed up from all parts.
“Night fell on the first day's slaughter."
The following day, May 16, 1916, the Austrians attacked again the Italian positions on the northern slopes of the Zugna Torta in the Lagarina Valley in five assaults. In the zone between the Val Terragnolo and the upper Astico a violent concentrated fire from the Austrian artillery of all calibers forced the Italians to abandon their advanced positions. In the Asiago sector persistent attacks were repulsed. In the Sugana Valley the Austrians vigorously attacked between the Val Maggio bridgehead and Monte Collo. The prisoners taken by the Austrians were increased to forty-one officers and 6,200 men, and the booty to seventeen machine guns and thirteen guns. Along the whole remaining front there was artillery fire. Sporadic infantry attacks were made in the San Pellegrino Valley, the upper But, at Monte Nero, Mrzli, the Tolmino zone, the northern slopes of Monte San Michele, the region east of Selz, and Monfalcone.
Austrian aeroplanes shelled Castel Tesino, Capedaletto, Montebelluna, and the stations at Carnia and Gemona. Italian aeroplanes shelled Dellach and Kotsschach in the Gail Valley.
The shelling of Zugna Torta was renewed on May 17, 1916, when five attacks against the Italian positions were repulsed with heavy losses.
Meanwhile artillery fire continued against the Italian positions between Val Terragnolo and the upper Astico. After three days of intense and uninterrupted artillery fire the Italians abandoned their positions on Zugna Torta on May 18, 1916, but repulsed two attacks against their positions further south. The Italians also abandoned their line of resistance between Monte Soglio d'Aspio and retired upon other prepared positions.
Zugna Torta, the ridge running down upon Rovereto, between Val Lagarina and Vallarsa, was a dangerously exposed salient. The western slopes were commanded by the fire of the Austrian artillery positions at Biaena, north of More, on the western side of Val Lagarina, and the rest of the position lay open to Ghello and Fenocchio, east of Rovereto. The Italians had never been able to push forward their lines on either side of this salient. Biaena blocked the way on the west, and the advance east of Vallarsa was held up by the formidable group of fortifications