Isonzo: The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Great War

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001 - History - 409 pages

This is the first account in English of a much-overlooked, but important, First World War battlefront located in the mountains astride the border between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Not well known in the West, the battles of Isonzo were nevertheless ferocious, and compiled a record of bloodletting that totaled over 1.75 million for both sides. In sharp contrast to claims that neither the Italian nor the Austrian armies were viable fighting forces, Schindler aims to bring the terrible sacrifices endured by both armies back to their rightful place in the history of 20th century Europe. The Habsburg Empire, he contends, lost the war for military and economic reasons rather than for political or ethnic ones.

Schindler's account includes references to remarkable personalities such as Mussolini; Tito; Hemingway; Rommel, and the great maestro Toscanini. This Alpine war had profound historical consequences that included the creation of the Yugoslav state, the problem of a rump Austrian state looking to Germany for leadership, and the traumatic effects on a generation of young Italian men who swelled the ranks of the fascists. After nearly a century, Isonzo can assume its proper place in the ranks of the tragic Great War clashes, alongside Verdun, the Somme, and Passchendaele.

 

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User Review  - Shrike58 - LibraryThing

A comprehensive survey of one of the lesser known charnal houses of the Great War. If you're wondering how the Italian army could fight a dozen battles on essentially the same field of action for so ... Read full review

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John R. Schindler's outstanding book on the numerous battles fought along the Isonzo River during the Great War is one of the best military history accounts I have read for some time. The Isonzo River ran between the then warring nations of Italy and Austria (Habsburg Empire) and saw some of the bloodiest fighting of World War One. According to the author over 1.75 million men became casualties during the numerous offensives fought along this river and upper valley and should be placed along such names as Verdun, the Somme, and Passchendaele. After reading his book I fully agree with the author in this regard. Before reading this book I had never really appreciated this campaign in the context of the Great War. I knew of the role of the young German officer, Erwin Rommel, and the Battle of Caporetto. Before now I had never read of the outstanding valour shown by the Italian and Austrian-Hungarian soldiers who fought for four grueling years along this forgotten front line. I was not aware that Benito Mussolini had fought as an Italian Alpini soldier along this front and that he was a dedicated and brave soldier. I learnt from reading this book that the many ethnic nationals that made up the old Habsburg Empire fought bravely and without compliant for their Emperor regardless of what was happening to the old Empire back home. The descriptions of the fighting were excellent and the details of the many campaigns and offensives never once got boring. The story was well told and the accounts of the many soldiers and officers involved were well told and insightful. This is an excellent historical account and rightly sub-titled as "The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Great War". The narrative was compelling throughout and I found it hard to put the book away late at night. In just under 350 pages of text we get a fascinating and before now untold account of a terrible conflict. The author offers a highly interesting chapter on the ramifications of this WW1 campaign on the region after the end of the Great War. He also provides a chapter outlining the battlefield as it is today. There are a number of black and white photographs of the area and numerous maps (which could have been better but were sufficient). I cannot recommend this book highly enough for any World War One reader. Although the price tag may put off some buyers, it actually took me a few months to make the decision to buy this book, it is well worth the expenditure.  

Contents

Italia Irredenta
3
A Hopeless Struggle
23
The Hour of the Triumph of the Finest Values
41
The Battle of Monte San Michele
61
AssemblyLine War
85
The Superior Is Always Right Especially When He
105
A SoCalled Battle
129
The Battle of Gorizia
151
Caporetto
243
An Italian Renaissance
269
Austria Is in Your Camp
289
Since Then
315
The Battlefield Today
339
Notes
349
A Note on Names and Pronunciations
369
Bibliography
381

The Triumph of Attrition
173
A Hundred Thousand Shells an Hour
197
Bainsizza Breakthrough
219

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About the author (2001)

John R. Schindler, a historian specializing in Modern European and Military History, is a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and Adjunct Professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His research interests include multiethnic states and ideologies, military theory, and the history of intelligence. He holds three degrees in history: a BA and MA from the University of Massachusetts and a PhD from McMaster University. His writings have won numerous awards and have taken him to several countries.

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