28/5/1917 A bizarre episode on the Italian Front

The Tenth Battle of the Isonzo is winding down. The Italians have failed again to smash through the Austro-Hungarians, though for a while it did look like the defenders of the Carso Plateau would collapse before the Italian onslaught.

While the main Italian effort is now over, they are still staging local assaults. One of these occurs today, an attempt by Italian troops to cross the river Timavo and seize the village of Duino, from where they are to raise an Italian flag which will be visible in distant Trieste.

The attack fails. The terrain is extremely unsuitable to the kind of advance the Italians were planning and the Austro-Hungarian defence is too vigorous. The Italians are thrown back with heavy casualties, including the commander of the assault. Many of the Italian assault troops surrender once they realise how suicidal is the plan of attack.

The surrenders enrage Captain D’Annunzio, the modernist poet who had joined the army in pursuit of martial glory. He orders the artillery to shell the Italian prisoners as the Austro-Hungarian prisoners escort them to the rear. He also boasts of having prevented his mortally injured commander from taking poison, so that he would die a slow and painful death.

image source:

Italian troops attack (Metropostcard.com)

Gabriele D’Annunzio (left) and fellow officer (Wikipedia)

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