Battle of Caporetto, 24 October - 12 November 1917 (Italy)

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Battle of the First World War, also known as 12th Battle of Isonzo. By October 1917 the Italians, although making little progress, were at all points fighting on Austrian soil. Ludendorff decided that the Austrians would probably be unable to withstand another Italian attack, and so decided to launch an attack of his own. He send a German expert on mountain warfare, General Konrad Kraft von Dellmensingen to examine the front. Kraft von Dellmensingen recommended an attack on the northern end of the Izuno flank, centred on the village of Caporetto. Ludendorff agreed to the plan, and sent General Otto von Below to command it. The buildup to the attack was well disguised, and well planed. On 2 A.M. on 24 October the attack began with a four hour bombardment, using both gas and conventional shells. The Italians, under General Luigi Cadorna, were badly prepared to resist any attack. The bulk of his army was in the front line trenches, devastated by the bombardment, while the Italian gas masks proved unable to deal with the German gases, putting any counter bombardment out of the question. The German and Austrian troops began moving at 6.30 A.M., and achieved success beyond their expectations, advancing up to fourteen miles on the first day, and containing that advance over the next few days. Cadorna ordered a general retreat on 27 October, by which time one had already started on the ground. The German and Austrian advance only ended at the Piave river, seventy miles behind the original front, when a combination of an improved Italian defense, heavy rain and a lack of motorized transport made it impossible to go on. The battle was a spectacular victory for the Central Powers. Cadorna was replaced, while Britain and France were forced to rush troops to prop up their ally. However, the battle also showed up flaws in the German and Austrian armies. The British naval blockade had started to have an impact on supplies for the frontline soldiers, and days were lost while German troops looted Italian food stores, something that would repeat itself during the German offensives of 1918.

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

Rommel & Caporetto, John Wilks and Eileen Wilks. Two interesting books in one - first a general history of the battle of Caporetto, where the Germans and Austrians nearly broke the Italian army and second an examination of the young Rommel's role in the battle where he first made his name. [read full review] cover cover cover
coverThe First World War , John Keegan. An excellent narrative history of the First World War, especially strong on the buildup to war. Good on detail without losing the overall picture. Keegan keeps to a factual account of the war, leaving out the judgement calls that dominate some books. [see more] cover cover cover
Caporetto and the Isonzo Campaign, The Italian Front 1915-1918, John Macdonald with Zeljko Cimprié. An excellent study of the First World War on the Italian front, focusing on the twelve battles of the Isonzo, one of the most costly campaigns of the entire war. A good background to the campaign is followed by useful accounts of each of the battles, something quite difficult to find. [read full review] cover cover cover
How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (4 March 2001), Caporetto, battle of, 24 October - 12 November 1917, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_caporetto.html

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