Battle of Vittorio Veneto
The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was fought between 24 October and 3 November 1918, near Vittorio Veneto, during the Italian Campaign of World War I. The Italian victory marked the end of the war on the Italian Front, secured the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was chiefly instrumental in ending the First World War less than two weeks later.
During the Battle of Caporetto, from 24 October to 9 November 1917, the Italian Army lost over 300,000 men and was forced to withdraw, causing the replacement of the Italian Supreme General Luigi Cadorna with General Armando Diaz. Diaz reorganized the troops, blocked the enemy advance by implementing defenses in depth and mobile reserves and stabilized the front-line around the Piave River.
In June 1918, a large Austro-Hungarian offensive, aimed to break the Piave defensive line and deliver a decisive blow to the Italian army, was launched. The Imperial army tried on one side to force the Tonale Pass and enter Lombardy, on the other side to make two converging thrusts into central Venetia, the first one southeastward from the Trentino, the second one southwestward across the lower Piave. The whole offensive came to worse than nothing, the attackers losing 60,000 dead, 90,000 wounded and 25,000 captured.
After the battle of the Piave, General Armando Diaz, the Italian commander in chief, despite aggressive appeals by Allied commanders, deliberately abstained from offensive action until Italy should be ready to strike with success assured. In the offensive he planned, three of the five armies lining the front from the Monte Grappa sector to the Adriatic end of the Piave were to drive across the river toward Vittorio Veneto, so as to cut communications between the two Austrian armies opposing them.
Allied forces totaled 57 infantry divisions, including 51 Italian, 3 British (48^ and 10^ Army), 2 French (23^ and 24^), 1 Czechoslovak (6^), and a token American regiment, along with supporting arms. The Austrians fielded an Army of roughly equal size, but one that was demoralized, with 52 infantry divisions and an inferior number of artillery pieces. On 24 October, the anniversary of the Battle of Caporetto, the offensive opened. A first attack in the Monte Grappa sector was launched to attract the Austrian reserves. The flooding of the Piave prevented two of the three central armies from advancing simultaneously with the third; but the latter, under the command of Lord Cavan, after seizing Papadopoli Island farther downstream, won a foothold on the left bank of the river on 27 October. The Italian reserves were then brought up to exploit this bridgehead. Svetozar Boroević von Bojna, the Austro-Hungarian commander, ordered a counter-attack on the Italian bridgeheads on the same day, but his troops refused to obey orders, a problem confronting the Austrians from that time on, and the counter-attack failed.
After crossing the Piave River, the Eighth Italian Army, led by General Enrico Caviglia, took Vittorio ("Veneto" was added to the name only in 1923) and advanced in the direction of Trento, threatening to block the retreat of Austrian forces.
On 28 October Czechoslovakia declared independence from Austro-Hungary. The next day the South Slavs proclaimed independence, and on 31 October Hungary withdrew from the union, officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian state. On 28 October, under these new political and military conditions, the Austro-Hungarian high command ordered a general retreat. As already mentioned, Vittorio Veneto was seized the next day by the Eighth Italian Army, which was already pushing on to the Tagliamento river. Trieste was taken by an amphibious expedition on 3 November.
The 11th Italian army, commanded by French General Jean Graziani, continued to advance, supported on the right by the 9th Army. The result was that Austria-Hungary lost about 30,000 casualties and between 400,000–500,000 prisoners (50,000 by 31 October; 100,000 by 1 November; 428,000 by 4 November). The Italians suffered 37,461 casualties (dead and wounded), including 145 French and 374 Britons.
On 29 October the Austro-Hungarians asked for an armistice. On 30 October 1918 the Austro-Hungarian army was split in two. The armistice was signed on 3 November at 3:20 p.m., to become effective 24 hours later, at 3 p.m. on 4 November.
The Austrian command ordered its troops to cease hostilities on 3 November. Following the signing of the armistice, Austrian General Weber informed his Italian counterparts that the Imperial army had already laid down its weapons, and asked to cease combat immediately and to stop any further Italian advance. The proposal was sharply rejected by the Italian General Badoglio, who threatened to stop all negotiations and to continue the war. General Weber repeated the request. Even before the order to cease hostilities, the Imperial Army had already started to collapse, beginning a chaotic retreat. Italian troops continued their advance until 3 p.m. on 4 November. The occupation of all Tyrol, including Innsbruck, was completed in the following days.
Under the terms of the Austrian-Italian Armistice of Villa Giusti, Austria-Hungary’s forces were required to evacuate not only all territory occupied since August 1914 but also South Tirol, Tarvisio, the Isonzo Valley, Gorizia, Trieste, Istria, western Carniola, and Dalmatia. All German forces should be expelled from Austria-Hungary within 15 days or interned, and the Allies were to have free use of Austria-Hungary’s internal communications. They were also obliged to allow the transit of the Entente armies, to reach Germany from the South.
The battle marked the end of the First World War on the Italian front and secured the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire. As mentioned above, on 31 October Hungary officially left the personal union with Austria. Other parts of the empire had declared independence, notably what later became Yugoslavia. The surrender of their primary ally was another major factor in the German Empire's decision that they could no longer continue the war. On 30 October the Wilhelmshaven mutiny erupted, shortly afterwards the German Revolution of 1918–1919 started to spread from Kiel. In early November, the Germans requested an armistice.
- "... Ludendorff wrote: In Vittorio Veneto, Austria did not lose a battle, but lose the war and itself, dragging Germany in its fall. Without the destructive battle of Vittorio Veneto, we would have been able, in a military union with the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, to continue the desperate resistance through the whole winter, in order to obtain a less harsh peace, because the Allies were very fatigued." Pasoletti, Ciro: A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008, page 150. ISBN 0-275-98505-9
- "The Battle of Vittorio Veneto during October and November saw the Austro-Hungarian forces collapse in disarray. Thereafter the empire fell apart rapidly." Marshall Cavendish Corporation: History of World War I. Marshall Cavendish, 2002, pp. 715–716. ISBN 0-7614-7234-7
- Stavenson, David, With our backs to the wall. Victory and defeat in 1918, ISBN 978-0-7139-9840-5, Harvard University Press, 2011, p. 157: "According to the Comando supremo the Allies had 57 divisions and 7,700 guns."Google Book
- Duffy, Michael (1 February 2002). "The Battle of Vittorio Veneto, 1918". FirstWorldWar.com. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2008.
- Stavenson, David, With our backs to the wall. Victory and defeat in 1918, ISBN 978-0-7139-9840-5, Harvard University Press, 2011, p. 157: "According to Austrian sources, on the eve of the battle the Austro-Hungarian forces comprised 55 infantry and 6 cavalry divisions"Google Book
- Burgwyn, H. James: Italian foreign policy in the interwar period, 1918–1940. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997. Page 4. ISBN 0-275-94877-3
- Schindler, John R.: Isonzo: The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Great War. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001. Page 303. ISBN 0-275-97204-6
- Mack Smith, Denis: Mussolini. Knopf, 1982. Page 31. ISBN 0-394-50694-4
- Arnaldi, Girolamo : Italy and Its Invaders. Harvard University Press, 2005. Page 194. ISBN 0-674-01870-2
- Caporetto is the Italian name of the town of Kobarid, today in Slovenia
- "Foch urged Diaz to exploit the success. Diaz, knowing his troops were weary and short of munitions, confined himself to local operations." Seton-Watson, Christopher:Italy from Liberalism to Fascism, 1870–1925. Taylor & Francis, 1967. Page 500. ISBN 0-416-18940-7
- David Stevenson, loc. cit. p. 160 Google-books
- Pier Paolo Cervone, Vittorio Veneto, l'ultima battaglia, Mursia (Gruppo Editoriale), 1994, ISBN 88-425-1775-5
- Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito, "L'esercito italiano nella Grande Guerra", Ufficio Storico, vol. 5, Tomo 1,2, 2bis, Roma, 1988
- Fritz Weber, "Das Ende der alten Armee. Österreich-Ungarns Zusammenbruch, ISBN 3-901185-09-7: Split in two the Imperial army collapsed, starting a chaotic retiring, since October, 28.
- Low, Alfred D.The Anschluss Movement, 1918–1919, and the Paris Peace Conference. American Philosophical Society, 1974. Page 296. ISBN 0-87169-103-5
- Pier Paolo Cervone; "Vittorio Veneto l'ultima battaglia"; Mursia; 1994
- Robbins, Keith: The First World War. Oxford University Press, 2002, page 79. ISBN 0-19-280318-2
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