Last year at Caporetto the Austro-Hungarian and Germans smashed the Italians with an offensive of such intensity that the country was almost forced out of the war. Since then Diaz, who succeeded Cadorna as the Italian commander, has striven to rebuild the Italian army. Knowing that the army’s morale is brittle he has resisted pressure put on him to attack the Austro-Hungarians: he fears the effect of another Isonzo style bloodbath on his men. Even at the most desperate stage of the German spring offensives this year Diaz denied Foch‘s request for him to launch a diversionary attack on the Austro-Hungarians.
Now though Diaz is coming under pressure to attack from his own government. Prime Minster Orlando sees that the Western Front is approaching its end game. An armistice there could bring the war to an end at any moment. It would be a disaster for Italy if her troops were seen to have sat out the war’s end, as it would weaken Italian claims to Austro-Hungarian territory on the Dalmatian coast and Istrian peninsula.
Orlando has been pushing Diaz to attack for some time now. Diaz agrees that an attack is necessary but his preparations for one are proving to be a bit drawn out. Now Orlando learns that the Austro-Hungarians are planning to withdraw unilaterally from the all territory they are occupying before suing for peace. Orlando needs to have Italian blood shed. He telegrams Diaz frantically: “Between inaction and defeat, I prefer defeat. Get moving!”.
Orlando’s message adds some urgency to Diaz’s preparations, who decides that that the attack will begin on the 24th of October. His plan is to combine a northwards assault on Monte Grappa with amphibious attacks across the Piave river towards Vittorio Veneto. The Italians hope that they will have better luck crossing the Piave than the Austro-Hungarians did in June.