THE Italian army was placed under the command of Diaz, a junior corps commander, a sensible, hardworking man who knew far more about the men than his predecessor, but himself of no great personality or commanding stature as a strategist. At least he fulfilled his principal task of maintaining the spirit and increasing the efficiency of his army. Except for two weeks of intense fighting in June and October 1918 the whole front maintained an almost unbroken calm.1
The Austrians, conscious of the progressive decay in their fighting power, would have been well content to remain on the defensive. As, however, Karl had refused to give any help to the spring offensive in France, except a few heavy batteries,2 it was impossible to evade Hindenburg's demand for a vigorous effort on their own front.
In view of the fact that the opposing armies were approximately equal in numbers, Arz wished to postpone the operation as long as possible, and to keep it within modest limits. He intended to strike on either side of the Montello, the long guardian hill of the middle Piave, and simultaneously against Monte Grappa. If these converging blows were successful, the Italians might be driven back to the Adige with the minimum of effort. He felt convinced, however, that his resources were insufficient to compel peace through a decisive victory; moreover, he____________________