Battle of San Matteo

Coordinates: 46°22′44″N 10°34′0″E / 46.37889°N 10.56667°E / 46.37889; 10.56667
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46°22′44″N 10°34′0″E / 46.37889°N 10.56667°E / 46.37889; 10.56667

Battle of San Matteo
Part of the Italian Front
(World War I)

Italian monument dedicated to the victims of the battle, on the way to the Gavia Pass
Date13 August – 3 September 1918
Result Austro-Hungarian victory
 Kingdom of Italy  Austria-Hungary
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Italy Arnaldo Berni   Austria-Hungary Hans Tabarelli de Fatis
307th and 308th Alpini Companies of the Battalion "Monte Ortler" 150 Kaiserschützen (3rd KuK Kaiserjäger Regiment)
Casualties and losses
10 killed 17 killed

The Battle of San Matteo took place in the late summer of 1918 on the Punta San Matteo (3,678 m) during World War I. It was regarded as the highest battle in history until it was surpassed in 1999 by the Kargil Conflict at 5,600 m.

At the beginning of 1918 Austro-Hungarian troops set up a fortified position with small artillery pieces on the top of the San Matteo Peak. The base of the peak lies at 2800m altitude and it takes a four-hour ice climb up a glacier to reach the top. From this position, they were able to shell the road to the Gavia Pass and thus harass the Italian supply convoys to the front line.

On August 13, 1918, a small group of Alpini mountain troops (308th Company, Battalion "Monte Ortler") conducted a surprise attack on the peak, successfully taking the fortified position. Half of the Austro-Hungarian soldiers were taken prisoner; the other half fled to lower positions.

The loss of the San Matteo Peak constituted a loss of face to imperial Austria, and reinforcements were immediately sent to the region while the Italians were still organizing their defence on the top of the peak.

On September 3, 1918, the Austro-Hungarian forces launched operation "Gemse", an attack aimed to retake the mountain defended by now by the 307th Alpini Company, Battalion "Monte Ortler". A large scale artillery bombardment, followed by the assault of at least 150 Kaiserschützen of the 3rd KuK Kaiserjäger Regiment stationed in Dimaro, was eventually successful and the lost position was retaken. The Italians, who already considered the mountain lost, began a counter-bombardment of the fortified positions, causing many victims among both the defending Italian and the Austro-Hungarian troops.

The Austro-Hungarians lost 17 men in the battle and the Italians 10. The counterattack would be the last Austro-Hungarian victory in World War I.

During the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, the peak of San Matteo would be taken for the second and final time by the Alpini on November 3 after an intense artillery preparation.[1] The Armistice of Villa Giusti, concluded on November 3, 1918, at 15:00 at Villa Giusti (near Padua) ended the war in the mountains on November 4, 1918, at 15։00 h.

In the summer of 2004, the ice-encased bodies of three Kaiserschützen were found at 3400m, near the peak.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ L’Esercito Italiano Nella Grande Guerra (1915-1918), Volume V, Tomo 2, Le Operazioni Del 1918, Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, Ufficio Storico, Roma, 1967, p. 788
  2. ^ "WWI bodies are found on glacier" BBC News 23 August 2004
  3. ^ Roberto Bianchin Il ghiacciaio dei soldati-mummia Corpi intatti dopo 86 anni La 22 August 2004

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