The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919

TitleThe White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsThompson, Mark
Number of Pages454
PublisherFaber and Faber

In May 1915, Italy declared war on the Habsburg Empire, hoping to seize its "lost" territories of Trieste and Tyrol. The result was one of the most hopeless and senseless wars of modern times. Nearly 700,000 Italians and perhaps half as many Austro-Hungarian troops were killed, with most of the deaths occurring on the bare, stony hills north of Trieste, and in the snows of the Dolomites. Outsiders who witnessed these battles were awestruck by the incredible difficulty of attacking on such terrain. To maintain discipline in the face of desperation and low morale, the Italian chief of general staff restored the Roman practice of decimation, executing random members of units that retreated or rebelled. Italy was plunged into chaos and, eventually, fascism. Some would say it has never recovered from the havoc of World War I. Mark Thompson relates the saga of the Italian front. Not merely a history of the cruelty and destruction of battle, The White War tells the story of the nationalist frenzy that preceded the conflict, the poetry it inspired, the haunting landscapes and political intrigues, and the outsize personalities of the statesmen, generals, and writers who were drawn into the heart of the chaos.

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