15/5/1916 The Punishment Expedition: Austria smashes Italy

Since Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary last year fighting on the Italian front has followed a familiar pattern. Italian troops have staged a series of offensives in the Isonzo sector. All have been repulsed with heavy casualties, thanks to difficult terrain and the dogged resistance of the Austro-Hungarians.

Until now the initiative has remained with the Italians, for all that they have not been able to do much with it. But Conrad, Austria-Hungary’s chief of staff, has been planning his own counter-stroke. His plan is to attack the Italians in the west, in the Trentino sector that until now has been relatively quiet. Conrad’s men are to storm the Asiago plateau and then press on to the coast, cutting off the entire Italian army along the Isonzo. This he hopes will force the Italians to quit the war.

Bad weather forced the delay of Conrad’s offensive until today. Now Austro-Hungarian guns fire along the front and then the infantry push forward. Along a 20 kilometre front they smash the Italians, who have been caught completely by surprise.

Victory appears to be in Conrad’s grasp. The Austrians dub the offensive the Strafexpedition, the Punishment Expedition, as they are punishing Italy for its treachery.

image source:

map (Frederick Pollard’s A Short History of the Great War

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