Mussolini in the First World War: The Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist

By Paul O'Brien | Go to book overview

7
Victory Imagined
October 1917-November 1918

October 1918. Lightning advance beyond the Piave. Catastrophe of the enemy army.
Bulletin of 4 November… But is the war over in Italy? Not yet. We need to begin to
fight again… to defend the rights and above all the spirit of the Victory.

Mussolini, Speech in Parliament, 19 March 1928

The Victory was luminously Italian. Combatants! Already with the battle of June, and
by the admission of the enemy himself, the resistance of the Habsburg Empire was
crushed; and if it is true that the Allies sent some Divisions, it is equally true that in
May 1915 we gave the Allies an entire army.

Mussolini, Speech in Rome, 4 November 1928.


Mussolini and Defensive War

Following the Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo, Austro-Hungarian commanders became convinced that, as men were running short and could not be readily replaced, another Italian offensive in autumn 1917 or spring 1918 could not be contained. On 26 August the Emperor Karl asked Kaiser Wilhelm to replace Austrian troops on the eastern front and allow a strategic counter-attack against Italy between Plezzo and Tolmino, the latter being the only part of the river Isonzo not under Italian control. The Germans approved, but with the stipulation that they were to be involved. They added seven special divisions to the eight Austrian divisions, all of which would form the 14th Austro-German Army (General Otto von Below). Rather than aim at mountain peaks, the key attack was to proceed through the Isonzo valley via Caporetto. This would cut off Italian troops on the Mrzli-Mount Nero chain. Mounts Matajur, Maggiore, Kolovrat and Jeza would likewise be encircled. As a consequence, Mount Globocak would fall, forcing Italian troops stationed on the Bainsizza plateau and in the Carnia to retreat to a new line between Gorizia, Udine and Pordenone. Ideally, too, Italy's 3rd Army would have to withdraw from its advanced positions on the Carso. In short, the battle plan pointed towards the occupation of the triangle formed by the river Isonzo as it flows from Plezzo to Tolmino via the straits of Saga. Even if the offensive had only achieved these limited aims it would have been an enormous success.

-141-

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Mussolini in the First World War: The Journalist, the Soldier, the Fascist
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Stating the Programme November 1918-June 1919 11
  • 2: Man of Straw July 1914-May 1915 31
  • 3: Mind and Matter May-November 1915 59
  • 4: Digging in November 1915-June 1916 87
  • 5: Disenchanted Warrior July 1916-February 1917 107
  • 6: War and Revolution March-October 1917 123
  • 7: Victory Imagined October 1917-November 1918 141
  • 8: Envisioning Fascism October 1917-November 1918 163
  • Conclusion 183
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 201
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