The Sixth Battle of the Isonzo
The situation on the Italian front. Preparation of the operation
Despite the beginning of the offensive on the Russian front, the Austrian army did not immediately cease its attacks against the Italians in the Trentino area and in June 1916 continued its attacks. However, they were already more demonstrative or local. The Austrians had no strength for the possible development of the attack. So, 28-29 June Austrians made a strong chemical attack positions 21 th and 22 th divisions (6 th corps). It was the first case of such a large-scale himataki and the Italians did not yet have sufficient chemical protection. The Austrians broke into the position of the Italians and killed many poisoned, but still living Italians. The parts that suffered this attack lost 6300 people. But the development of the Austrian attack did not have. Italian reinforcements drove the Austrians off their positions.
From June 21, the Austrians began to retreat along the whole front to a fortified position running through Mount Pazubio and Arziero. The Italians quietly gave them back heavy artillery, after which they tried to attack the enemy themselves, but they could not take the fortified Austrian position. Leaving their offensive attempts at Trentino, the Italian command again turned on the Isonzo.
The Italian commander-in-chief, General Cadorna, considered the attack on the Isonzo as the most important operation on the Italian front. The Italians began to prepare the operation against the Goritsky fortified area at the end of 1915. In the spring of 1916, the command of the 3 Italian Army received detailed instructions. The operation was planned to begin in the second half of June. However, due to the Austrian offensive in the Trentino area, the operation had to be postponed. Most of the troops, guns, ammunition and military materials had to be transferred to the Trentino area. In addition, a part of the forces and means were used to form the 5 (reserve) army in the Venice region.
2 June, when Cadorna discovered that having made the Austro-Hungarian army in Trentino weakened, he told the commander of the 3 Italian army, Duke Aosta, that he was going to resume preparations for the attack on the Isonzo. 16 Jun Cadorna confirmed his intention to launch an attack on the Isonzo. However, given the fact that a huge amount of forces and means were spent to repel an enemy strike, the scope of the operation was reduced. The Italian army concentrated its efforts on the Goritsa area with the sole purpose of completely seizing the Goritsy bridgehead. The remaining plans had to be postponed.
In June, 1916 began the return transfer of troops and assets from the 1 of the Italian army to the 3. First of all, they transported artillery, mortars and ammunition, in the second - troops. It was planned to start the operation in 8 days after the start of the transfer, so that the attack was sudden. In this regard, the Italians enjoyed all the benefits of the actions of the internal operational line. They could quickly deploy troops inside the country, and the Austrians had to use a long and roundabout route.
2-I Italian army, which was previously disbanded and its troops went to the creation of the 5-th army, July 3 was re-created. July 9 High Command ordered to stop all offensive actions in the direction of Trentino. July 27 began a general redeployment of troops to the Isonzo area. Artillery began to move a little earlier. By the end of July, all 58 medium-sized artillery batteries and 22 mortar batteries were transferred to the Isonzo. Behind them, two reserve corps were deployed - the 8 and 26.
This transfer of troops with a strategic goal was one of the largest in the First World War. As General Cadorna noted, she “made it possible to maneuver along the internal lines of a new type and of such magnitude that had never been achieved in the past, when troops were transferred only along unpaved roads without heavy artillery and in a much more limited space.”
Thus, the 3 Army, in addition to the existing 8 divisions, was reinforced by the 8 infantry and 1 dismounted cavalry divisions. Later, the 3 Army strengthened the 2 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions. The divisional artillery in the 3 Army was also reinforced by the 1 Army and the Carney Group transferred: 41 heavy weapon, 151 medium weapon and 44 light weapon. As a result, by 4 August, the 3-I Italian army had: 56 heavy guns, 467 medium-sized guns and 728 light guns, and 76 mortar batteries (774 heavy). Mortars were given a big role, they had to sweep away the barbed wire and destroy some of the other fortifications of the enemy. The Italian army has already mastered it. weapon.
The command of the 3 Army decided to attack between Plavoy and Monte San Michele with the main attack on the Sabotino-Podgora sector. The operation was carried out at three sites. On the left flank, the 6 Corps of General Capello was to hit in the area of Sabotino, Oslavia, Podgora and Luchinico. On the far right flank in the area of Monfalcone, the 7 corps was to launch a demonstrative attack before the main attack. 11 Corps attacked in the area of Monte San Michele. The restored 2 Army, which had a small number of troops, was to be limited to strong artillery preparation.
By 4 August the preparation of the operation was completed. Mount Sabotino was to attack the detachment of Colonel Badoglio (Infantry Regiment, two separate battalions, 2 engineer companies, 2 mortar and 2 mountain batteries). The second detachment of General Galliano (an infantry regiment, one separate battalion and 2 combat engineers) advanced on the height of San Mauro. The height of 188 was to be attacked by the Lambro Brigade, Oslavius by the Abruzzi Brigade, and Peumu by the 11 Division.
The Italian troops conducted a serious preliminary preparation of the operation. An extensive network of trenches, communications, shelters, hidden approaches to enemy positions was created. Especially large works were carried out in the Sabotino area, under the personal supervision of Colonel Badoglio, who commanded the mixed detachment, which was to attack in Sabotino. Mount Sabotino was considered the key to the Goritsky positions.
This time, the Italian army had a chance of success, as the Austrian high command, in preparation for the big offensive against Italy, pulled the troops into the Trentino area from all directions, including the Isonzo. In July, the Austrians began to transfer part of the troops back, but they had to go a longer way than the Italians. As a result, the 5-I Austrian army defending the area of Gorica had only 9 divisions and 540 guns at the beginning of the battle. Directly the city defended the 58 division (3 brigades) with 5-6 marching battalions, three more regiments were in reserve. The Austrians had excellent artillery positions here. However, all defenses and firing positions were well known to the Italians according to aerial and ground reconnaissance, the testimony of prisoners.
3 August 1916, the 7 Corps (16 and 14 Divisions) conducted a demonstrative attack. Some positions changed hands several times. 6 August the Italian army delivered the main attack on Sabotino and Goritsa. The Italians conducted an artillery preparation of unprecedented power in this area. Many Austrian fortifications were badly damaged, many batteries were crushed. The Austrian soldiers were demoralized for some time by a fire strike.
General Cadorna considered this battle an exemplary breakthrough operation. The actions of the Italian artillery and mortars "are a classic example of concentrating fire on fortified positions. This fire was prepared for a long time and was calculated in advance to the smallest details; reconnaissance of the area was carried out from airplanes and using optical instruments. The positions of the enemy were precisely studied and mapped, the artillery targets were accurately distributed both along the front and in depth, the firing techniques were indicated with exceptional accuracy. Thus, at the appointed moment, a real hurricane of steel and fire suddenly struck enemy positions, destroying all their fortifications and observation posts and disturbing their rear. ”
At 16 hours, the Italian infantry went on the attack. The detachment of Colonel Badoglio quickly climbed Mount Sabotino, suppressed the enemy garrison. The Italians also captured the somewhat lower Mount San Valentino. Italian soldiers captured many prisoners who were hiding in shelters, caves and tunnels. The onset of Badollo squad was unexpected for the Austrians, so the losses were small. Badollo’s squadron entered into contact with the neighboring Galliano squadron. Galliano squad met strong resistance and suffered serious losses. Among the dead was the commander of the detachment. He was replaced by General de Bono.
Meanwhile, the team of Abrutia quickly captured positions at Oslavia and the height of 165, for which they had to fight long and hard for a long time. However, the Lambro Brigade met with strong resistance at 188 and its advance slowed down. Brigade Cuneo brilliantly started, went to Grafenberg, but then she was stopped. Some advanced Italian units were blocked. Treviso Brigade failed to break the resistance of the enemy on the heights of Peuma. Pavia's brigade captured enemy fortifications on Calvario, between the highway and the railroad on Goritsa, but then faced the fierce resistance of the enemy at the height of 240.
Persistent fighting in the heights from Sabotino to Podgora continued throughout the night. The Austrians recovered from the first strike and counterattacked. However, during the fierce battles, the Austrians were pushed aside and lost the entire array of Sabotino, which was one of the foundations of the Goritsky fortified area. The main role in this success was played by the detachment of Colonel Badoglio. This victory glorified him and when he later became a marshal, he received the title of Marquis del Sabotino.
Italian troops continued to assault enemy positions. In the morning of August 7, the Lambro Brigade took the height of 188 by storm, and the Abruzzo Brigade took the height of 165. The Italians also broke into Peuma and captured 700 people there. On Podgora, the Austrians still fought back and carried out strong counterattacks, but in general the situation was bad for them. The Austrians blew up the railway bridge. The Italian troops that attacked Podgory were reinforced by units of the 48 Division.
8 August Italians took to the Isonzo River. The 11 Division overcame Peum's heights, the Cuneo Brigade captured the fortifications and the village of Grafenberg. By noon, the Austrians, who were still at 240, capitulated. The advanced Italian units forced the Isonzo on a highway bridge, which the Austrians did not have time to destroy, and a part of the ford along the river that was shallowing at that time.
At the same time a fierce battle was going on in the Carso region. The Italians stormed the four peaks of Mount San Michele. 7-9 August stubborn fighting continued. 23-I, 22-I and 21-I divisions gradually crowded the enemy, expanding the captured territory and seizing one position after another. By August 10, Italian troops broke through enemy defenses in the Carso region. Austrian troops retreated to the valley of Vallone, but here they could not resist, continuing the withdrawal. On the right flank of the 13, the Italian corps was confronted with an extremely difficult terrain, reinforced by fortifications, but here too the Italians moved forward.
After the Italian advance units entered Gorica and the rest of the troops forced the Isonzo into avalanche, General Cadorna planned to build on his success, seize the heights east and northeast of Goritsa and pave the way to Laybah. For the development of the offensive, a mobile detachment was formed under the command of General Barathieri. However, the Italian cavalry patrols quickly discovered that the enemy had created a new defensive line at the commanding heights east of the Isonzo.
When the 10 of August the troops of the Italian 6 and 8 corps attacked the new Austrian front, they met with strong resistance. The Austrians prepared well-equipped positions and repulsed the enemy onslaught. In addition, the Austro-Hungarian army began to receive reinforcements that came from various places. And the Italian army was already tired and drained of blood by the last battles, having lost the original strike power. There was no suddenness factor either. Therefore, the attacks of the Italians have not had the same success. In the following days, the battles were fierce, but they did not bring any noticeable results. The Italians took several heights, but the Austro-Hungarian forces held the main positions of the new front.
Part of the 3 Army in the area of Goritsy poured into the 2 Army. The fighting in the Goritsy direction was somewhat halted in order to give the tired troops a rest, change the most exhausted units to more fresh ones, regroup their forces and prepare a blow to the new Austrian front.
In the Karso area, the Italians continued their attacks. 12-13 August Italian troops captured a number of Austrian positions. The 14 August offensive continued, the Italians seized several heights and trenches, but the Austrians held the main positions. Then the bloodless 21 and 23 divisions of the 11 corps were replaced by the 22 and 49 divisions, but their attacks on August 15-16 also did not lead to success. The operation on Carso was suspended. And part of the artillery of the 3 Army decided to transfer to the aid of the 2 Army, which was still trying to attack the heights to the east and north-east of Goritsy.
14 August in the Goritsy direction attacked the 4 corps of the 2 Italian Army. However, the enemy now had an advantage in artillery and beat off all the attacks of the Italians. 14-16 August were fierce battles, which were accompanied by heavy losses on both sides. But the Italian army achieved no noticeable success.
17 August The sixth battle on the Isonzo River was completed. This operation gave the Italian army a partial victory, in contrast to previous unsuccessful attacks. Italian troops captured a number of settlements, including the city of Goritsa, improved the operational situation of the Italian army. The fighting spirit strengthened, the country and the army felt the taste of victory, finally, a piece of enemy territory was captured, to which the Austrians attached great importance.
During this battle, the Italian army lost 74 thousand people killed and wounded, the Austro-Hungarian army lost 61 thousand people killed and wounded and 20 thousand prisoners. In this case, the Austrians were able to save most of the artillery. Italians captured all 30 guns.
The Italians were able to achieve some success in this offensive operation, since for the Austrians the blow to Goritsa came as a complete surprise. The Austrian command did not anticipate that the Italian army would recover so quickly after two months of brutal battles in the Trentino battle and transfer such large forces from this direction to Isonzo.
- Alexander Samsonov
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