A few days ago on the Isonzo D’Annunzio ordered Italian artillery to shell his own men after they had surrendered to the Austro-Hungarians. This willingness to treat their own men brutally is not uncommon in the Italian officer corps. In the last month alone, 54 Italian soldiers have been executed after court martial, while others have been summarily shot for perceived failures in their duty. Italians officers are far more willing to kill their own men than those of any other European army, with executions dwarfing those being applied elsewhere.
The contrast with the French army is instructive: the French are facing widespread unrest across their army with many men refusing to attack or to occupy front line positions. While the French are arresting and in some cases executing perceived ringleaders, their response is far more conciliatory than that of the Italian military authorities to far less serious offences.
Cadorna however would draw a different lesson from the contrast between his and the French army. His officers are applying iron discipline and his men are continuing to fight, while the softer approach of the French officers has led to their army’s mutiny.
Luigi Cadorna (WW2 Weapons: the World Wars 1914-18 and 1939-45)