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Video transcript
In the last video, we saw that despite the fact that Italy was an original member of the Triple Alliance, it was a very awkward relationship. You fast forward to the beginning of World War I, Italy tried to stay neutral arguing that the Triple Alliance was being on the offense as opposed to the defense. And then, as we mentioned, in the spring of 1915, it signs the secret Treaty of London with the Allies. Then in May, it actually declares war on Austria-Hungary. It actually wouldn't formally declare war on Germany until 1916. And so that lays the setting for the actual combat along the Italian Austro-Hungarian border that they share right over here. And so this next map I'm going to show you is essentially a zoom in of this part of this map. So that's this map right over here. So we can start in 1915. So we're going to start right over here in 1915. We already saw that in May Italy declares war on Austria. They didn't war on Germany until the next year. The first combat happens in June with the first Battle on the Isanzo River. I'm sure I'm mispronouncing it. The Isanzo River contours the then border between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian empire. So it goes right along this area right over here. It's actually a very mountainous region. And as we'll see, the Italian front involved many, many battles along the Isanzo River, in fact, 12 battles in all. June 1915, it was the first battle. And these continue into 1916. We get all the way until the Fifth Battle of the Isanzo River. So actually, let me draw that arrow a little bit longer. These continue all the way into 1916. And these essentially end up in a stalemate. A lot of people die in these battles. It's incredibly difficult terrain. It favors the defending forces. And so, nothing really happens to the border here. So far, all the offenses that the Italians had taken, nothing really happened. Then, as we get into May of 1916, the Austro-Hungarians decide to go on the offensive. And they go on the offensive in this part of the border right over here. And their offensive is called the Battle of Asiago, which is right over here. They are able to get as far as Asiago. But once again, even though they were able to claim some ground, they weren't able to keep the ground. There were spreading their troops out. They weren't able to maintain their supply chain, their supply lines. So by the end of that battle, the Italians had reclaimed that territory. And the actual front had not moved dramatically. So really the first two years of the conflict ended up in a bit of stalemate. In fact, it continues. We then to pick up in 1916 the Sixth Battle on the Isanzo River. And then these battles on the Isanzo River continue into 1917. So let me show you. These are the battles on the Isanzo River. These continue all the way into 1917. Now, as we enter into 1917, several interesting things are happening. One, as you might remember, on the Eastern Front in 1917, the Russians are starting to fall apart. They are starting to have revolutions at home. They're losing on Eastern Front. This allows the Germans to redeploy some troops. Also, at this point, Italy is formally at war with the Germans. So as we get to October of 1917, the Austro-Hungarians are able to get reinforced by the Germans. And it was just in time. Because frankly, by the 11th Battle of the Isanzo River in late 1917, the Austro-Hungarians aren't quite sure whether they can handle a 12th Battle on the Isanzo River. So the Germans essentially show up just in time. In October of 1917, along with the Austro-Hungarians, the Germans then launch their own offensive on the Isanzo River. And this one is actually the first dramatic movement that we see along the Italian front. And this is often called the Battle of Caporetto, which is right over here. But as you could imagine, it's right along the border between these two states and it's along the Isanzo River, so this is also referred to as the 12th Battle of the Isanzo River. And this one is a very successful offensive. They focused their troops near Caporetto at this point of the front. They're able to break the Italian front. And then push deep into Italian territory. So through October and early November, they're able to, over the next several weeks-- this is in October, November 1917-- they're able to push the Italians all the way back to behind it the Piave River, so this right over here. You may or may not be able to read it. That says the Piave River. So they're able to push the Italians roughly back to this boundary right over here. And so this takes us into 1918. Now at this point, the Germans are planning their last ditch spring offensive. They say, hey, look Austro-Hungarians, it looks like this war is taken. We're going to leave this front to you guys. You guys should be able to do the knock out blow on the Italians right now. We're going to go return to the Western Front, so that we can take care of the Allies, especially because if we don't do it sooner than later the Americans are going to be able to reinforce the Western Front. So the Germans redeploy to Western Front, away from this front. And essentially leave the Austro-Hungarians to try to essentially take out the Italians. And so in June 1918, the Austro-Hungarians attempt their final-- what they hope is their final-- offensive. And its along this boundary right here on the Piave River. Unfortunately for the Austro-Hungarians, and fortunately for the Italians, the Austro-Hungarians did not plan that assault well. Instead of doing a point offensive like they did with the Germans in the Battle of Caporetto, where they were able to break the trenches, break the lines, here it was less planned, less coordinated. It was more spread out along the entire line. On top of everything, the Italians got word of the exact time and date that the battle was going to start. It was literally going to start 3:00 AM on June 15. The Italians decide, well, it the battle's going to start at 3:00 AM on June 15, that means that all of their soldiers are going to be in the trenches ready to attack at 3:00 AM on June 15. So they started lobbing artillery into these densely packed trenches knowing that it was likely to hit a lot of people because there were a lot of people who were waiting in the trenches for an offensive. And so even before the battle began, they were able to inflict a lot of carnage on the soon to be invading Austro-Hungarians. The invasion itself was a bit of a debacle. When they were able to get on top of the Piave River, it isolated their troops. The Italians were able to take advantage of that. And those troops that were isolated the south bank of the Piave River, they were able to take care of them. And they were able to push the Austro-Hungarians back. And they secured huge losses. The Austro-Hungarian army was incredibly weakened. And some people believe that the Italians could have just done an immediate counter offensive and taken the Austro-Hungarians out. The Italians, on the other hand, they were still licking their wounds from the Battle of Caporetto and they decided to wait their chance and regroup a bit. And so they wait until October of 1918. You have a very weakened Austro-Hungarian army. And this is when the Italians do their decisive offensive of the Italian front, the Battle of the Vittorio Venito. Vittorio Venito is right over here. And once again, I apologize to all of the Italians out there for my mispronunciations. But this is what's essentially able to break the back of the Austrians. The Italians are able to pour through. They're able to, essentially, take out the Austrians. The Austrians were already weakened. They're starting to have internal strife. The empire is starting to fall apart. And so by November, the Austro-Hungarian empire essentially surrenders. And not just with the Italians, but surrenders relative to the Allies, which is essentially the end of the Italian front of World War I.