On this day in 1916, Italian forces during World War I initiate the Eighth Battle of the Isonzo, essentially continuing a previous assault on Austrian positions near the Isonzo River and attempting to increase gains made during previous battles in the same region.
The mountainous terrain around the Isonzo, at the border between Italy and Austria-Hungary, despite being ill-suited to offensive operations, saw no fewer than 12 battles over the course of World War I, beginning in the late spring of 1915 after the entry of Italy into the war on the side of the Allied powers. After the Italians established positions at Gorizia, including a long-desired bridgehead across the river in a successful offensive in the Sixth Battle of Isonzo in August 1916, Luigi Cadorna, chief of staff of the Italian army, was determined to extend his gains. In mid-September, the Italians launched the seventh of the Isonzo battles; they were quickly pushed back by Austro-Hungarian forces and suffered heavy casualties.
The Eighth Battle of the Isonzo, fought from October 10-12, 1916, was a continuation of these Italian attempts to extend their positions at Gorizia. As in the previous month, the short, concentrated burst of fighting resulted in heavy Italian casualties, prompting Cadorna to call the offensive off pending his army’s recuperation. Although the Italians made a fifth and final attack of the year, the Ninth Battle of the Isonzo, on November 1, stalemate in the region continued until the following October, when Austria-Hungary called on its ally, Germany, for reinforcements in the region. The resulting offensive, the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, or the Battle of Caporetto, was a decisive victory for the Central Powers, and a crushing blow for the Italian forces—one that resulted in Cadorna’s dismissal and a comprehensive change in strategy. By war’s end, Italy had suffered some 600,000 casualties—fully half of those came in the Isonzo region.