Italy During World War I

1914: On June 28, 1914 Archduke of Austria Francis Ferdinand and his wife are murdered in Sarajevo by a Serbian irredentist. This act of regicide is the spark for the fire that leads to the declaration of World War I. In reality, the true reasons can be attributed to the imperialistic and economic conflict between Germany and England. Germany was entering South-Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire for commercial and economical purposes. The creation of a German hegemony in Balkan Europe was intimidating France and Russia and threatening British interests in the Middle East.

Furthermore, France was aiming to reacquire ownership of the Alsace-Lorraine territories from Germany, lost in 1870. The decline of Turkish influence in the Balkans encourages the rivalry between Austria and Russia, which acts to protect the Slavs. Serbian irredentism emerges encouraging revenge against Austria.

July 23, 1914: Austria issues an ultimatum to Serbia and five days later war is declared. On August 1, Germany declares war to Russia and France and allies itself with Austria. On August 3, England goes to war on the side of France and Russia.

1914: Italy, still an ally of Austria and Germany, declares its neutrality on August 3. Such declaration provokes heated protests among the interventionists, led by the nationalists. Giolitti’s liberals, the socialists and the Catholics, instead, prefer to remain neutral.

1915: The new government of Antonio Salandra opens negotiations with the Entente and signs the Treaty of London on April 26, 1915. By becoming an ally of England, France and Russia, Italy would obtain the unredeemed territories of Trento and Trieste, Istria, Dalmatia, the Albanian port of Valona (already occupied in 1914) and some colonies in Africa.

May 24, 1915: Italy exits the Triple Alliance and declares war on Austria and Germany on August 29. The leader of the Italian army is General Luigi Cadorna who concentrates the operations on the Carso (Karst), the South East line.

1916: Four battles are fought on the Isonzo River. Italian troops are unable to break the Austrian defence. The war of movement turns into deadly trench warfare.

1917: Tenth and eleventh battle on the Isonzo River. The Austrians and the Germans attack the Italians by surprise and enter in Cividale and Caporetto (twelfth battle on the Isonzo). Italian troops withdraw to the Piave River and Monte Grappa. General Cadorna is replaced on November 8 with Armando Diaz, who becomes the new Commander–in-Chief.

1918: The last year of war. Thanks to equipment and weapons provided by the new American ally, the Italian troops manage to resist on Piave and between October 24 and 30 start the counter-offensive and win the battle of Vittorio Veneto. On November 3, Austria signs the Armistice of Villa Giusti, near Padua, with Italy. Italians obtain Trento, Trieste and Gorizia.

1919: The Paris Peace Treaty. The representatives of the winning countries, Lloyd George for England, Clémenceau for France, Wilson for United States and Orlando for Italy, meet in Paris. President Wilson criticizes the Italian land claims on Dalmatia and the Balkans. With the Treaty of Versailles a new state is born, Yugoslavia, and the League of Nations is founded to guarantee people’s safety without the use of weapons.

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