16/8/1916 Italy claims victory as the Sixth Battle of the Isonzo draws to a close

The Sixth Battle of the Isonzo started well for the Italians. The Austro-Hungarians had weakened their lines by sending men off to face the Russian offensive in Galicia. Thanks also to better than usual preparations, the Italians had been able to overrun the enemy’s frontline positions and finally capture the city of Gorizia.

Their success came as something of a surprise to the Italians, who had expected only modest gains. Cadorna rushed men forward in an attempt to exploit the Austro-Hungarian discomfiture, but then progress began to slow. The Austro-Hungarians were reinforced and retreated to prepared positions. Fighting began to assume the character of previous Isonzo battles, with the Italians throwing their lives away in futile assaults on strongly defended enemy positions.

Now Cadorna halts the Italian attacks. Casualties in this battle have been heavy for both sides, with the Austro-Hungarians suffering some 50,000 casualties and the Italians around twice as many. For all the disparity in blood-letting, the Italians still hail the battle as a victory, thanks to the capture of Gorizia.

Given the pummelling the Austro-Hungarians are taking in Galicia, perhaps one more Italian offensive will be all that is needed to knock them out of the war. Cadorna orders preparations to begin for the seventh battle.

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Map (Storia e Memoria di Bologna)

Italian troops occupying Gorizia (Corriere della Sera)

8/8/1916 Gorizia falls to the Italians

Along the Isonzo line the Italians are attacking. The previous five Isonzo battles were disasters, but this time the Italians are enjoying astonishing successes. The Austro-Hungarians have had to thin their lines to send men to fight Brusilov’s offensive in Galicia; the depleted ranks remaining are unable to resist the Italian juggernaut.

Today Gorizia falls. The city has long been a target of Italian ambitions. Now it is largely deserted, a city in ruins.

Given the failures of the previous Isonzo battles, the current successes have caught the Italians by surprise. Now Cadorna orders a general assault in the hope of causing an Austro-Hungarian collapse. But the going may not be so easy now. The Austro-Hungarians are withdrawing to well-prepared positions. And with the Russian offensive in Galicia beginning to wind down, Conrad has been sending reinforcements to the Isonzo.

image source (Il Primato Nazionale)

6/8/1916 The Sixth Battle of the Isonzo: unexpected Italian success

Austria-Hungary’s Trentino Offensive left the Italians reeling. They were only just able to see off that threat, thanks largely to the timely efforts of their Russian allies in Galicia. Now Italy’s Cadorna is ready to strike back against the enemy. His men launch another assault in the Isonzo sector. Previous Isonzo offensives have seen the over-ambitious Italians taken enormous casualties for minimal gains. This time Cadorna’s goals are more more modest: he wants to push the line a bit forward so that in a future battle his men will be able to threaten Gorizia.

Today everything seems to go the Italians’ way. Their preparations for the assault have escaped the enemy’s notice, who assumed that the Italians were too weak after the Trentino Offensive. Italian artillery is unusually devastating and far better coordinated with the infantry than has previously been the case. The Italians also find that they are attacking weakly defended positions, as the Austro-Hungarians have had to send men away to fight the Russians in Galicia.

As a result, the Italian gains are much greater than expected. Italian troops seize the summit of Mount Sabotino and overrun many Austro-Hungarian positions. Suddenly it looks like Gorizia, long the target of Italian ambitions, might fall now rather than in some future battle.

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Italian troops advance (My States History)