Sea Skimmer wrote:The initial attacks say otherwise, German and Austrian forces had to go right through numerous peaks, and in any event, the penetration of all the forward defenses was so general that claiming anything fell from lack of supplies is completely missing the point. This was you know an attack on a ~15 division front and every sector broke through. As well a number of mountains fell in the Austrians abortive 1916 offensive.
As far as I recall, the initial attack was so successful due a number of factors:
1)Italian high command had determinated that you couldn't use poison gas in mountain, resulting in one case of an Italian unit being completely wiped out with gas so fast that nobody realized it (it was initially thought the unit had deserted en-masse, at least until, during the Fascist regime, the corpses were found) and other units suffering losses due the lack of any gas mask;
2)Italian troops were well-trained for the old-style attack but had little knowledge of the use of stormtroopers (mainly concentrated in the Arditi, the Italian version of the stormtroopers) and none of the infiltration tactics, with the officer corps unable and/or unwilling to adapt;
3)the morale of Italian soldiers and noncoms was crap
. They were fighting a war they didn't care for, didn't know they were about to win the war by attrition, the discipline was hard and hellish (partly as result of Cadorna, a stern disciplinarian, being the commander in chief) and enforced by continuous punishments and the presence of military police, the armament was inferior, for number and quality, to what the Austrians had (this in spite of Cadorna's efforts to correct the mess left to him by his predecessors), supplies were scarce, training was almost non-existent outside the Bersaglieri (assault troops), Alpini (mountain troops), Carabinieri (military police) and Arditi (stormtroopers raised from the line troops, that joined the Arditi to leave the trench), and the Austrians were perceived as perfects shots ('cecchino', the Italian word for 'sniper', started as nickname for the Austrian troops). While the Third Army had excellent morale due the quality and brains of its commander and his political connections (Emanuele Filiberto, the Duke of Aosta, was second in the line of succession to the throne, and enjoyed a freedom of treatment of the troops and priority in supplies the other generals didn't even dream), the rest of the army was on the verge of collapse, and when they started seeing the Austro-Germans were they weren't supposed to be they only checked if the Carabinieri were still behind them before routing (it was at this point that the Second Army dissolved
and the Duke of Aosta retreated the Third);
4)the Italian artillery, while enormous
, was badly used, partly due insufficient training and partly because the communication lines were all phone-based and left overground, and interrupted by the initial shelling;
5)the majority of the officer corps were morons
, who got their rank for political connections and corruption (the Duke of Aosta himself got his rank and job due his connections, as his ability as general was still unknown), and the higher the rank, the higher the chance they were idiots. While Cadorna wasn't stupider than the average early war commander in chief (and arguably smarter, as he had understood the need for superior firepower even before the war showed it to him), he was hard-headed and liable to sack anyone who tried to tell him he was wrong, and what little precaution he took when he realized the Austrians were about to receive reinforcements from the Russian border was wasted by the incompetence of the generals under him (mainly Capello, who disobeyed orders to assume a defensive posture due his personal preference for offensive, and Badoglio, who actually anticipated the breakthrough and had prepared a killing zone in a place where the Austrians had to pass, but wasted it due his unwillingness to stay with the guns and the Austrian shelling having interrupted the phone lines).
It was after the initial breakthrough and the Second Army collapse that the fortified positions in high mountain started falling due lack of supplies, with the fate of their garrisons depending on how fast they noticed there wouldn't be any more supply.
About the fate of the mountains fallen during the Battle of the Plateaux of 1916, it achieved that limited success due a combination of Italian incompetence and refusal of accepting the Austrians would attack there (Cadorna could consider an attack on the Isonzo front but considered the Trentino impassable) and the fact it was fought on plateaux
, with the mountains not much higher than the surrounding grounds. The Grappa, on the other hand, was on a forced passage and there was no plateau near it. It was a well-chosen position, and the Austrians simply lacked the manpower to take on in.
Sea Skimmer wrote:Doubtful, precious few positions in history have been truly storm proof. It just ceases to make sense in many cases when you can attack many other positions, and supple lines were better and the snow shallower for attacks further south on the Piave.
The thing is, the Grappa was
attacked when the Piave line held, if only because attacking from North had already worked once and passing that position meant occupying the Val Trompia area, where the vast majority of Italian weapon factories were (you conquered it and Italy was virtually out of the war, and everyone knew it).
Sea Skimmer wrote:Taken with enormous human losses sounds like an awful lot of positions in WW1. Glad to see you realize that such a position could in fact be captured though.
Denial of such fact would mean I'm an idiot. And the one reason the Austrians couldn't apply that tactic during WWI was that they lacked the sheer numbers: early on they were outnumbered by the Russians on the Eastern Front, later the Russian presence meant they couldn't concentrate enough troops on the Italian front to prevent Cadorna from enforcing an attrition war on his favor, and when they could finally move the eastern troops on the Italian front the losses in the previous two years had been so great that they didn't have enough troops (the Italians had to extend conscription to the seventeens, but they still matched the Austro-Hungarians in terms of numbers, and actually enjoyed numerical superiority again
after being reinforced by six allied divisions). That, and even after Caporetto the Italian artillery remained superior in terms of numbers and firepower, and was starting being used well.
Sea Skimmer wrote:Battle of attrition between Germany and Italy is certain German victory. The Germans will become more and more superior in every class of war material as well as shear manpower.
Debatable: not taking in account the navies (the Italian navy was superior, but there was no way to use it in this war) if the Italians start shelling from high mountain they can compensate the higher German numbers, and if Britain start supplying the Italians with raw materials (they had already started realizing the danger posed by Hitler, and making Italian economy dependent on them neutralized a potential threat) they can replace the losses and, once the Bf 109 start showing the Italians why the biplane was antiquated as a fighter airplane, actually end stronger
(before that they would see no reason, as the CR.32 then in service was superior to the Ar 64 and He 51).
Sea Skimmer wrote:They total all of six divisions in WW2, which is not enough to hold the required front of some ~120 miles, let alone with any reserves to spare.
There's no need to hold the whole 120 miles. It's the passes
that count: without those chokepoints the Alpini would be overran faster than they could ask for a whiskey, but with those they can resist.
Sea Skimmer wrote:Also doesn't solve the problem of Mussolini historical insistence that his blackshirts take the lead in every operation.
Actually, it would solve it nicely by wiping them out
in the counterattack for Vienna. I seriously doubt they'd stop thinking long enough to realize they have to retreat, and after that disaster the Blackshirts would have to be either disbanded (improbable), retreated from the front for retraining and reorganization to be used as shock troops (what was done after their defeat in the Spanish Civil War: apart three divisions wiped out in Africa, most Blackshirts were in battalions attached to divisions and used as shock troops to weaken the enemy before the attack of the regular army or the Bersaglieri, with the ones that didn't get the crap beaten out of them being reinforced in actual elite troops), or used to keep order in the occupied territory.