Sixth battle of the Isonzo, 4-17 August 1916

The sixth battle of the Isonzo was the first of the eleven Italian offensives on the Isonzo front to achieve any significant successes. It was fought in the aftermath of the Austrian offensive on the Trentino and took advantage of the reduction of Austrian strength on the Isonzo front.

The Italians attacked with sixteen divisions of the Third Army, under the Duke of Aosta, supported by 1,251 guns (533 heavy or medium) and 744 mortars (including 138 heavy 10in mortars). The attack benefited from a long period of careful preparation, which included good aerial reconnaissance of the Austrian lines. A secondary attack was made along the coast towards Trieste to divert Austrian attention (ending on 10 August).

Communication Trench, Monte Podgora
Communication Trench,
Monte Podgora

A two day artillery bombardment began on 4 August. Half of the Italian artillery (603 guns and 390 mortars) concentrated their fire on the Austrian 58th Division. When the infantry attack began on 6 August, that single Austrian division was hit by six divisions from the Italian VI corps (General Capello). In 45 minutes the Italians had captured Mt. Sabatino along with 8,000 prisoners of war. Elsewhere on the front line the Italians captured Oslavia, Grafenberg, Mt. Calvario and Mt. Mkhele (on the Carso).

By 8 August the Italians had cleared the west bank of the middle Isonzo. On that day they crossed the river and entered Gorizia, one of the initial objectives of the first battle of Isonzo, fourteen months earlier. The Austrians were eventually able to form a new front line to the north east of Gorizia, after reinforcements were transferred in from the eastern front.

The Italians also achieved some success in their attack along the coast. The Austrians were forced out of their line between Monfalcone and Doberdo, and were unable to form a new line until they were past Vallone. Once again a new line was formed and the Italian advance halted.

Cadorna launched a general assault along the entire Isonzo front on 14 August. This time the Austrians were ready, and over the next four days the Italians made little or no progress, at great cost. Finally on 17 August Cadorna ended the offensive.

The sixth battle of the Isonzo was the most successful of the first eleven battles of the Isonzo. The Italians advanced between three and four miles along a fifteen mile front. They suffered 51,232 casualties, amongst them 12,128 missing. Austrian losses were 49,035, including 20,000 prisoners of war. The Italian victory boosted morale at a crucial moment, but Cadorna had once again failed to achieve a breakthrough. Three more attacks would follow during 1916, not of which would come close to repeating the success of the sixth battle. 

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]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (31 August 2007), Sixth battle of the Isonzo, 4-17 August 1916 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_isonzo6.html

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