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junction of the Nos and Campomulo Valleys on the Asiago Plateau, while Austrian aeroplanes dropped bombs on Padova, Giorgio di Nogaro, and Porto Rosega.
The Italian advance was steadily maintained from now on, not without, however, finding everywhere the stiffest kind of resistance, which at times made it even possible for the AustroHungarians to gain slight local successes. These, however, were not extensive or frequent enough to change the general picture of military operations on the Austro-Italian front. The Austrians, though still on Italian territory in a number of localities, were on the defensive with the Italians, though making only very slow and painful progress, unquestionably on the offensive.
On June 16, 1916, the Italians advanced northeast of Asiago, between the Frenzela Valley and Marcesina. Notwithstanding the difficult and intricate nature of the terrain and the stubborn resistance of the Austrians, intrenched and supported by numerous batteries, the Italian troops made progress at the head of the Frenzela Valley, on the heights of Monte Fior and Monte Castel Gomberto and west of Marcesina. The best results were attained on the right wing, where Alpine troops carried the positions of Malga Fossetta and Monte Magari, inflicting heavy losses on the Austrians and taking 203 prisoners, a battery of 6 guns, 4 machine guns, and much material.
During the next few days the most fierce fighting occurred on the plateau of Sette Comuni. All Austrian attempts to resume the offensive and continue their advance failed. The Italian advance was scarcely more successful; fighting had to be done in the most difficult territory; strong Austrian resistance developed everywhere. Thunderstorms frequently added to the difficulties already existent. Yet slowly the Italian forces pushed back the invader.
On June 18, 1916, Alpine troops carried with the bayonet Cima di Sidoro, north of the Frenzela Valley. Fighting developed in the Boite sector, where the Italians had made some slight gains during the previous days, which the Austrians tried to dispute. Heavy Italian artillery bombarded the railway station at Toblach and the Landro road in the Rienz Valley. Artillery
and aeroplane activity was extremely lively during this period. Not a day passed without artillery duels at many scattered points along the entire front from the Swiss border down to the Adri. atic. Aeroplane squadrons of considerable force paid continuously visits to the opposing lines, dropping bombs on lines of communication and railway stations.
Alpine troops captured a strong position for the Italians on June 20, 1916, at the head of the Posina Valley, southwest of Monte Purche. On the 22d the Italians pushed their advance beyond Romini in the Arsa Valley, east of the Mezzana Peak, and on the Lora Spur, west of Monte Pasubio.
On the same day the Austrians counterattacked with extreme violence at Malga Fossetta and Castel Gomberto, but were repulsed with heavy losses. On the 21st a further Austrian attack at Cucco di Mandrielle resulted in a rout. On the 22d the Italians, while holding all the Austrian first-line approaches under heavy fire to prevent the bringing up of reserves, attacked on the entire front, but still encountered a strong resistance. During the night of the 24th the remaining peak of Malga Fossetta, held by the Austrians, Fontana Mosciar, and the extremely important Mandrielle were taken by storm, while the Alpini on the right made themselves masters of the Cima Zucadini by the 22d.
Henceforth retreat was inevitable, and during the night of the 25th the Italians on Monte Fior, seeing that the Austrian resistance had greatly diminished, pushed their offensive vigorously. Shortly after the advance was begun along the whole right. Monte Cengio, which had received an infernal bombardment for three days and nights, fell at last, and the advance proceeded apace.
On June 26, 1916, Italian troops in the Arsa Valley carried strong trenches at Mattassone and Naghebeni, completing the occupation of Monte Lemerle. Along the Posina front, after driving out the last Austrian detachments from the southern slopes of the mountain, the Italians crossed the torrent and occupied Posina and Arsiero, advancing toward the northern slopes of the valley.
On the Sette Comuni Plateau Italian infantry, preceded by cavalry patrols, reached a line running through Punta Corbin, Fresche, Concafondi, Cesuna, southwest of Asiago, and passing northeast of the Nosi Valley, and occupied Monte Fiara, Monte Lavarle, Spitzkaserle and Cimasaette.
On the right wing Alpine troops, after a fierce combat, carried Grolla Caldiera Peak and Campanella Peak.
The inside workings of the Italian armies engaged in this offensive movement are interestingly pictured in the following account from the pen of the special correspondent of the London “Times," who, of course, had special opportunities for observation:
“Thanks to the courtesy of the Italian Government and higher command, I have been allowed to go everywhere, to see a great deal on the chief sectors of a 400-mile Alpine border, and to study the administrative services on the lines of communication.
“I have visited the wild hills of the upper Isonzo, have inspected the strange Carso region on the left bank of the river, and have continued my investigations on the Isonzo front as far as Aquileia and the sea. I have threaded beautiful and rugged Carnia nearly as far west as Monte Croce, have ascended the valley of the But to Mount Timau, where the Austrians, as elsewhere, are in close touch, and, passing on to wonderful Cadore, have visited the haunts of the Alpini above the sources of the Tagliamento and Piave.
“Coming then to the Trentino sector, I have traversed the Sugana Valley as far as was practicable, accompanied the army in its reconquest of Asiago Plateau, and concluded an instructive tour by ascending the mountains which dominate Val Lagarina to the point of contact between the contending armies.
“The rest of the front, from the Lago di Garda to the Stelvio and the frontier of Switzerland, is not at present the scene of important operations, so I contented myself by ascertaining at second hand how matters stand between the Valtellina and the Chiese.
“I have had the honor of a private audience with his Majesty the King of Italy, and have seen and talked to nearly all the lead
ing soldiers. Nothing could exceed the kindness with which I have been received, and my grateful thanks are due especially to Colonels Count Barbarich and Claricetti, who were placed at my disposal by General Cadorna and accompanied me during my tour.
"It is necessary for those who wish to have a clear understanding of Italy's share in the war to look back and realize the situation of our Italian friends when, at the most critical moment for the cause, they threw the weight of their sword into the scales.
“Italy, like England, had lost the habit of considering policy in military terms. Home politics ruled all decisions. The army had been much neglected, and the campaign in Libya had left the war material at a very low ebb. United Italy had not yet fought a great modern campaign, and neither the army nor the navy possessed in the same measure as other powers those great traditions which are the outcome of many recent hard-fought
Italy was without our coal and our great metallurgic industries. She did not possess the accumulation of resources which we were able to turn to warlike uses; nor could she find in her over-sea possessions, as we did, the strength and vitality of self-governing younger people of her own race. The old Sardinian army had given in the past fine proofs of valor, but it was not known how the southern Italians would fight, and it was at first uncertain whether the whole country would throw itself heart and soul into the war.
“These impediments to rapid decisions and the extreme difficulty of breaking with an old alliance explain the apparent hesitation of Italy to enter the war.
“On the other hand, there were compensations. The heart of Italy was always with the Allies, and the hatred of Austria was very deep. There was every hope that the long-prevailing system of amalgamating the various races of Italy in the common army would at last bear fruit, and that this amalgamation, combined with the moral and material progress of Italy in recent years, and the pride of the country in its past history, would enable Italy to play an honorable and notable part in the war
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