Tenth battle of the Isonzo, 12 May-8 June 1917

The tenth battle of the Isonzo (12 May-8 June 1917) saw the renewal of fighting on the Isonzo front after a six month gap over the winter of 1916-17. It had originally been intended to form part of the Allied spring offensives of 1917, along with the second battle of Arras (9 April-17 May) and the second battle of the Aisne (16 April-15 May), but in the event the attack on the Isonzo was delayed and did not begin until the British and French offensives had failed.

The Italians allocated 28 divisions, of the Third Army and the Gorizia Command to the fighting, supported by 1,058 heavy guns and 1,320 field guns. The Austrian Fifth Army contained only 11 divisions, supported by 1,400 guns.

The Italian bombardment began on 12 May and lasted for two days. At noon on 14 May the Italian infantry attack began. Its main thrust was north of Gorizia and east of Plava. The attack made some progress, capturing Mt. Kuk (2004ft) and Vodice Ridge, expanding the Italian bridgehead around Gorizia.

An Austrian counterattack on 17 May failed, even though the Italians were already moving artillery to the south for a renewed offensive on the Carso Plateau. An Austrian attack at Vodice, on the night of 19/20 May, also ended in failure.

The Carso offensive began with a 6 hour artillery bombardment on 23 May. At 16:00 the infantry attack began, supported by 130 aircraft. On the first day four target hills were captured and held against counterattacks. By 26 May the Italians were at the River Timavo, and on 28 May Italian guns were at the northern tip of the Gulf of Trieste, and were only ten miles from Trieste itself.

By this point the Italian offensive was beginning to lose its momentum. General Cadorna began to plan for his next offensive, what would become the eleventh battle of Isonzo. A final Italian offensive on 1 June was aimed at widening the Italian toehold on the coast by pushing towards Kostanjevica.

The battle ended with an Austrian counterattack, launched on 4 June by General Wurm with three fresh divisions. This counterattack pushed the Italians back off Mt. Hermada, a crucial piece of high ground on the approaches to Trieste.

At the end of the battle the Italians had suffered 157,000 casualties (including 27,000 men taken prisoner), while the Austrians had suffered 75,700 casualties (including 23,400 prisoners). The eleventh battle would come close to breaking the Austrian army, forcing them to call in German aid. In turn the Germans would come close to breaking the Italian armies during the battle of Caporetto.

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), Tenth battle of the Isonzo, 12 May-8 June 1917 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_isonzo10.html

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