Battle of Vittorio Veneto
The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was fought from 24 October to 3 November 1918 near Vittorio Veneto on the Italian Front during World War I. The Italian victory marked the end of the war on the Italian Front, secured the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and contributed to the end of the First World War less than two weeks later.
During the Battle of Caporetto, from 24 October to 9 November 1917, the Italian army lost over 300,000 men and was forced to withdraw, causing the replacement of the Italian Supreme General Luigi Cadorna with General Armando Diaz. Diaz reorganized the troops, blocked the enemy advance by implementing defense in depth and mobile reserves and stabilized the front-line around the Piave River.
In June 1918, a large Austro-Hungarian offensive, aimed at breaking the Piave River defensive line and delivering a decisive blow to the Italian army, was launched. The Austro-Hungarian army tried on one side to force the Tonale Pass and enter Lombardy, and on the other side to make two converging thrusts into central Venetia, the first one southeastward from the Trentino, the second one southwestward across the lower Piave. The whole offensive came to worse than nothing, the attackers losing 60,000 dead, 90,000 wounded and 25,000 captured.
After the Battle of the Piave, General Armando Diaz, the Italian commander in chief, despite aggressive appeals by Allied commanders, deliberately abstained from offensive action until Italy would be ready to strike with success assured. In the offensive he planned, three of the five armies lining the front from the Monte Grappa sector to the Adriatic end of the Piave were to drive across the river toward Vittorio Veneto, so as to cut communications between the two Austrian armies opposing them.
Allied forces totaled 57 infantry divisions, including 51 Italian, 3 British (23rd, 7th and 48th), 2 French (23rd and 24th), 1 Czechoslovak (6th) and the American 332nd Regiment, along with supporting arms. The Austrians fielded an army of roughly equal size, but one that was demoralized, with 52 infantry divisions and an inferior number of artillery pieces.
Order of Battle
- 7th Italian Army (Giulio Cesare Tassoni) : between the Stelvio and the western shore of Lake Garda.
- 2 Army corps
- 1st Italian Army (Guglielmo Pecori Giraldi) : from the west bank of the Lake Garda to the Val d'Astico.
- 3 Army corps
- 6th Italian Army (Luca Montuori) ; from the plateau of Asiago to the left bank of the Brenta.
- 3 Army corps
- 4th Italian Army (Gaetano Giardino) : Monte Grappa to Cima Palon.
- 3 army corps
- 4 assault groups
- 1 regiment of cavalry.
- 12th Franco-Italian Army (French General Jean César Graziani) : from Monte Tomba up to the bridges of Vidor on the Piave.
- 1 Italian Army corps
- 12th French Army Corps.
- 8th Italian Army (Enrico Caviglia) : along the Piave, from Vidor to Priula Bridge.
- 4 Army corps
- The assault corps of General Francesco Saverio Grazioli.
- 10th British-Italian Army (Earl of Cavan) along the Piave from Ponte Priula to Ponte di Piave.
- 3rd Italian Army (Duke of Aosta) : from Ponte di Piave to the sea.
- 2 Army Corps
- 2 assault units
- 3 cavalry regiments
- 332nd US Infantry Regiment
- 9th Italian Army (Paolo Morrone) : in reserve.
- 2 Army corps
- 1 cavalry corps
- 6th Czechoslovak Division
- Heeresgruppe Erzherzog Joseph (or Heeresgruppe Tirol) (Archduke Joseph of Austria, from 26 October Alexander von Krobatin)
- Heeresgruppe Boroević (Svetozar Boroević)
On 24 October, the anniversary of the Battle of Caporetto, the offensive opened. A first attack in the Monte Grappa sector was launched to attract the Austro-Hungarian reserves. The flooding of the Piave prevented two of the three central armies from advancing simultaneously with the third; but the latter, under the command of Earl Cavan, after seizing Papadopoli Island farther downstream, won a foothold on the left bank of the river on 27 October. The Italian reserves were then brought up to exploit this bridgehead. Svetozar Boroević von Bojna, the Austro-Hungarian commander, ordered a counter-attack on the Italian bridgeheads on the same day, but his troops refused to obey orders, a problem confronting the Austrians from that time on, and the counter-attack failed.
After crossing the Piave River, the Eighth Italian Army, led by General Enrico Caviglia, took Vittorio ("Veneto" was added to the name only in 1923) and advanced in the direction of Trento, threatening to block the retreat of Austrian forces.
On 28 October, Czechoslovakia declared independence from Austria-Hungary. The next day, the South Slavs proclaimed independence, and on 31 October, Hungary withdrew from the union, officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian state. On 28 October, under these new political and military conditions, the Austro-Hungarian high command ordered a general retreat. Vittorio Veneto was seized the next day by the Eighth Italian Army, which was already pushing on to the Tagliamento river. Trieste was taken by an amphibious expedition on 3 November.
The 12th Italian Army, commanded by French General Jean Graziani, continued to advance, supported on the right by the Eighth Army. The result was that Austria-Hungary lost about 30,000 casualties and between 400,000–500,000 prisoners (50,000 by 31 October; 100,000 by 1 November; 428,000 by 4 November). The Italians suffered 37,461 casualties (dead and wounded), including 145 French and 374 Britons.
On 29 October, the Austro-Hungarians asked for an armistice. On 30 October, the Austro-Hungarian Army was split in two. The armistice was signed on 3 November at 15:20, to become effective 24 hours later, at 15:00 on 4 November.
The Austrian command ordered its troops to cease hostilities on 3 November. Following the signing of the armistice, Austrian General Weber informed his Italian counterparts that the Imperial army had already laid down its weapons, and asked to cease combat immediately and to stop any further Italian advance. The proposal was sharply rejected by the Italian General Badoglio, who threatened to stop all negotiations and to continue the war. General Weber repeated the request. Even before the order to cease hostilities, the Imperial Army had already started to collapse, beginning a chaotic retreat. Italian troops continued their advance until 3 p.m. on 4 November. The occupation of all Tyrol, including Innsbruck, was completed in the following days.
Under the terms of the Austrian-Italian Armistice of Villa Giusti, Austria-Hungary’s forces were required to evacuate not only all territory occupied since August 1914 but also South Tirol, Tarvisio, the Isonzo Valley, Gorizia, Trieste, Istria, western Carniola, and Dalmatia. All German forces should be expelled from Austria-Hungary within 15 days or interned, and the Allies were to have free use of Austria-Hungary’s internal communications. They were also obliged to allow the transit of the Entente armies, to reach Germany from the South.
The battle marked the end of the First World War on the Italian front and secured the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire. As mentioned above, on 31 October Hungary officially left the personal union with Austria. Other parts of the empire had declared independence, notably what later became Yugoslavia. The surrender of their primary ally was another major factor in the German Empire's decision that they could no longer continue the war. On 30 October the Wilhelmshaven mutiny erupted, shortly afterwards the German Revolution of 1918–1919 started to spread from Kiel. In early November, the Germans requested an armistice.
American troops of the 332nd Infantry Regiment advance through Grave di Papadopoli during the latter stages of the offensive on the afternoon of October 31, 1918
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... Ludendorff wrote: In Vittorio Veneto, Austria did not lose a battle, but lose the war and itself, dragging Germany in its fall. Without the destructive battle of Vittorio Veneto, we would have been able, in a military union with the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, to continue the desperate resistance through the whole winter, in order to obtain a less harsh peace, because the Allies were very fatigued.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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The Battle of Vittorio Veneto during October and November saw the Austro-Hungarian forces collapse in disarray. Thereafter the empire fell apart rapidly.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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According to the Comando supremo the Allies had 57 divisions and 7,700 guns.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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Foch urged Diaz to exploit the success. Diaz, knowing his troops were weary and short of munitions, confined himself to local operations.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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Split in two the Imperial army collapsed, starting a chaotic retiring, since October 28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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