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

By Paul O'Brien | Go to book overview

5
Disenchanted Warrior
July 1916-February 1917

The Fascist State does not remain indifferent to the fact of religion in general and to
that particular positive religion which is Italian Catholicism… The Fascist State does
not… vainly seek, like Bolshevism, to expel religion from the minds of men. Fascism
respects the God of the ascetics, of the saints, of the heroes, and also God as seen and
prayed to by the simple and primitive heart of the people.

Mussolini, Dottrina del fascismo, 1932


Winter on the Carso, November-December 1916

Once the front had resettled after the Strafexpedition, Cadorna oversaw an enormously successful transfer of huge quantities of men, animals, arms and munitions to the Isonzo in July. Between 07.00 and 16.00 on 6 August he unleashed a new offensive against an outgunned enemy who was also short on reserves. Italian infantry captured Mount Sabotino in only thirty-eight minutes. The peaks of Mount San Michele also fell into Italian hands and on 9 August Italian troops finally entered Gorizia. But the enemy fell back on the previously prepared Mount San Gabriele-Mount San Marco-Vertoinizza line. On 16 August Cadorna called a halt to the action. Italy had 51,200 casualties against the Dual Monarchy's 37,500. After this, the Sixth Battle of the Isonzo, Italy felt confident enough to declare war on Germany on 27 August. Despite a revival of Cadorna's credentials both at home and abroad, the offensive's strategic limits were, however, soon apparent. From Mount Santo to Mount Hermada via Mount San Daniele, San Gabriele and San Marco, Austrian defences were even more robust now than they had been at the Gorizia bridgehead. Moreover, the road to Trieste was blocked by the powerful TrstelyHermada defence line. It was against the latter that Cadorna focused attention in his three 'autumn shoulder pushes' (spallate autunnale), or the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Battles of the Isonzo, dated 14-17 September, 10-13 October and 1-4 November respectively. In exchange for almost 80,000 casualties Cadorna conquered some trenches to the east of Oppachiasela, plus the Nad Logem, the Pecinka and the important strategic positions of Veliki Hribach and the Dosso Faiti. But the road to Trieste remained blocked (Rocca, 1985: Ch. 8, 169-73; Pieropan, 1988: Chs 24, 27, 28 and 30; Isnenghi and Rochat, 2000: 183-90; Schindler, 2001: Chs 8 and 9).

-107-

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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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