: Winning A Cause World War Stories
Italy, since 1860 at least, has cherished the dream that sometime all
European territory with Italian-speaking inhabitants would be united
under Italian government. When the World War began Italy was supposed
to be an ally of Germany and Austria. She had agreed to fight with
them in case they were attacked--in a defensive war.
At first she did not enter the World War. She perceived from the very
ng that Germany and Austria were the attackers and were not the
nations attacked. Her people began to understand what victory for the
Central Powers would mean and clamored for war on the side of the
Allies. Then the cry went up to redeem the lost Italian provinces held
by Austria and called Italia Irredenta or Unredeemed Italy, and
Italy entered the war May 23, 1915.
At first she declared war upon Austria but not upon Germany. She made
no attempt to work in harmony with the Allies. It was a war of her own
upon Austria to regain the lost Italian provinces of the Trentino and
Trieste. Although she fought against tremendous obstacles in the
mountain passes with wonderful courage and success, her entrance into
the war was of assistance to the Allies only as it kept a certain
number of Austrian soldiers from the eastern and western fronts.
In 1916, the Italians captured Gorizia and all Italy went wild and
began to dream of a more wonderful development than had ever seemed
possible before. In 1917, they fought on with seemingly great success
and dreamed wilder dreams than ever, for Russia was out of the war and
would have no claim to Constantinople and the straits. Italy in this
year sent an army across the Adriatic into Albania to assure Italian
control of that country.
And then the castles in the air were suddenly shattered. The Italian
army had not been properly supplied and the country was very short of
coal. The army had therefore not been able to follow up its successful
attacks. The enemy had also caused great discontent among the common
soldiers in the Italian forces by spreading lies among them. The
collapse of the Russian armies had also made many of them believe
Germany was unbeatable.
Then, too, it is said the Italian generals were too sure, too
confident, as athletic trainers would say, and had not properly
protected their armies and their northern provinces against a reverse.
Italy had declared war on Germany on August 27, 1916, and German shock
troops set free by the downfall of Russia were sent against the
incautious Italians and broke through their lines.
No prepared positions were ready back of the lines. The great bases
were close up to the lines. Therefore when the Italian armies were
obliged to retreat to prevent being surrounded and captured, they had
to retreat so far that their army bases with all their supplies were
lost and hundreds of thousands of Italian non-combatants were forced to
leave their homes on scarcely a moment's notice. 250,000 Italians
and 2000 guns were captured by the enemy.
The greatest humiliation and the worst suffering followed, however, for
the Italian people who were left behind in the provinces overrun by the
victorious Austrians and Germans. The following proclamation by the
Germans in the province of Udine is an excellent example of how the
Huns treated conquered territory and conquered peoples.
PROCLAMATION issued by the Headquarters of the German Military
Government at Udine to the inhabitants of conquered Italy.
A house-to-house search will be made for all concealed arms, weapons,
All victuals remaining in the houses must be delivered up.
Every citizen must obey our labor regulations.
ALL WORKMEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN OVER 15 YEARS OLD ARE obliged to work
in the fields every day, Sundays included, from 4 A.M. to 8 P.M.
Disobedience will be punished in the following manner:--
(1) Lazy workmen will be accompanied to their work and watched by
Germans. After the harvest they will be IMPRISONED for six months, and
every third day will be given NOTHING BUT BREAD AND WATER.
(2) Lazy women will be obliged to work, and after the harvest receive
SIX MONTHS' IMPRISONMENT.
(3) LAZY CHILDREN WILL BE PUNISHED BY BEATING.
The Commandant Reserves the Right to Punish Lazy Workmen with 20 Lashes
What a contrast to the proclamation of General Allenby when the English
captured Jerusalem whereby the inhabitants were guaranteed protection
in carrying on their business, and all homes and buildings were to be
safeguarded. When following the armistice the American soldiers
occupied German cities, the Germans were surprised to find that they
were in no wise punished or prevented from going about their regular
As a result of the World War, Italy recovered the unredeemed provinces,
and just before the signing of the armistice, she redeemed herself in
war by wiping out the memory of her humiliating defeat about a year
earlier at Caporetto.
The Italian war office in its official report of this second battle of
the Piave says in substance the following:--
The war against Austria-Hungary which under the supreme direction of
the king, the commander-in-chief of the Italian army, began May 24,
1915, and which since then, with inferior numbers and material, has
been conducted with unflagging faith and constant valor for forty-one
months has been won.
The gigantic battle of October 24 is victoriously ended. Fifty-one
Italian divisions, three British, two French, one Czechoslovak, and one
American regiment fought against sixty-three Austro-Hungarian divisions.
The Austro-Hungarian army is destroyed. It suffered very heavy losses
in the fierce resistance of the first days of the battle, and in
retreat it lost an immense quantity of material of all kinds, nearly
all its stores and depots, and has left in our hands over 300,000
prisoners, with their commands complete, and not less than 5,000 guns.
The defeat has left what was one of the most powerful armies in the
world in disorder and without hope of returning along the valleys
through which it advanced with proud assurance.
Church bells were rung all over Italy and parades and celebrations were
held in all the large cities.
President Wilson sent on November 4 the following message to the King
May I not say how deeply and sincerely the people of the United States
rejoice that the soil of Italy is delivered from her enemies? In their
name I send your Majesty and the great Italian people the most
During the war, Italy called to the colors from a male population of
only 17,000,000 nearly 5,500,000 men and suffered a loss of almost
1,000,000 of them. It is estimated that the nation's man power
suffered a permanent loss of over half a million.
But serious as is this loss, Italy inflicted an even greater punishment
upon the foe. In Austrian prisoners alone she captured over a million.
The Austrian loss in killed and wounded was doubtless far greater than
Over 2500 miles of roads were constructed on the mountains of Italy and
Albania, and 1000 miles of aerial cable railroads were built to carry
food, ammunition, and guns over deep ravines.
Italy's fighters and industrial workers accomplished their work with an
inadequate supply of materials and food that meant real and continuous
suffering such as probably was felt by no other of the warring peoples.
We will never bring disgrace to this, our city, by any act of
dishonesty or cowardice, nor ever desert our suffering comrades in the
ranks. We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city,
both alone and with many; we will revere and obey the city's laws and
do our best to incite a like respect and reverence in those above us
who are prone to annul or to set them at naught; we will strive
unceasingly to quicken the public's sense of civic duty. Thus in all
these ways we will transmit this city not only not less but greater,
better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.
The Oath of the Athenian Youth.