Vittorio Veneto: was it true glory?

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

On November 4, 1918, on the Italian Front, the Great War ended (they were not numbered at the time), with the Armistice of Villa Giusti with the Austro-Hungarians.

The Battle of Vittorio Veneto, fought from 24 October to 3 November 1918, was the last battle of the Royal Army on the Italian Front. But was it really a decisive battle for the fate of the conflict?

The perplexities concern not so much the value of Italian soldiers, their self-denial after three years of bloody assaults, after months of desperate resistance on the Piave line. Rather, they arise from the conditions in which that battle was fought.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was in dissolution, on November 12 in Vienna the republic was proclaimed. The Imperial Army, after the extraordinary effort (supported by 7 German divisions) made to break through in Caporetto, was practically devoid of supplies and reserves. Whole departments were abandoning their positions, although many others refused to retire with a desperate courage.

On the part of the Italian Commands, it was probably understood that it would be enough to push and the scaffolding would collapse (even if this push cost more than 28.000 losses to the Royal Army). General Caviglia, the true architect of Vittorio Veneto, broke through and won. The Austro-Hungarians retreated for a week, pursued by Italian soldiers, until Vienna was forced to ask for a ceasefire.

More than a century after a glorious date for Italy, the lost and meaning of Vittorio Veneto is still being discussed.

As regards the judgment of historians on the battle, it is necessary to highlight two opposite extremisms: that of the English Taylor "... the Italians emerged from behind the English and French troops, where they had kept themselves hidden and in the great victory of Vittorio Veneto - a rare triumph of Italian arms - they captured hundreds of thousands of unarmed Austro-Hungarian soldiers who offered no resistance". Which, in addition to being a lie, is also a false historian.

On the other hand there is Mussolini's rhetoric which proclaimed: "The other famous battles in history pale in comparison".

It was enough simply to tell how the battle had unfolded and highlight the factors that, beyond the war episode, had led to victory. Like the events that preceded that success, namely the Battle of the Solstice (Battaglia d'Arresto) of the previous June; the resistance of the troops of General Giardino on Monte Grappa; but above all the miracle of the reconstitution of an army after the disaster of Caporetto, when our departments, before tactically, had collapsed psychologically and the refusal to continue in the useless "shoulders" of Cadorna sull'Isonzo.

Caviglia, after having led the divisions of Badoglio (main responsible for Caporetto) to safety up to the Piave, crossed the river on 28 October 1918, bypassing the Austrians at Nervesa. For the first time, in the matter of the conflict, a commander proved that a maneuvering war could be waged, after having advanced head-on for three years, suffering frightening losses.

Trento and Trieste were freed and the useless massacre finally ended.