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The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was fought between 24 October and 3 November 1918, near Vittorio Venetomarker, during the Italian Campaign of World War I. The Italian victory marked the end of the war on the Italian Front and secured the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Some Italians see Vittorio Veneto as the final culmination of the Risorgimento nationalist movement, in which Italy was unified.

Background

During the Battle of Caporettomarker , 24 October to 9 November 1917 the Italian Army lost over 300,000 men and was forced to withdraw, causing the replacement of the Italian Supreme General Luigi Cadorna with General Armando Diaz. Diaz reorganized the troops, blocked the enemy advance by implementing defenses in depth and mobile reserves and stabilized the front-line around the Piave Rivermarker.

In June 1918, a large Austro-Hungarian offensivemarker, aimed to break the Piavemarker defensive line ending the war, was launched. The Imperial army tried on one side to force the Tonale Passmarker and enter Lombardy, on the other side to make two converging thrusts into central Venetia, the first one southeastward from the Trentino, the second one southwestward across the lower Piave. The whole offensive came to worse than nothing, the attackers losing 100,000 men.

The battle

After the battle of the Piave, General Armando Diaz, the Italian commander in chief, deliberately abstained from offensive action until Italy should be ready to strike with success assured. In the offensive he planned, three of the five armies lining the front from the Monte Grappamarker sector to the Adriaticmarker end of the Piave were to drive across the river toward Vittorio Venetomarker, so as to cut communications between the two Austrian armies opposing them.

On 24 October, the anniversary of the Battle of Caporettomarker, the offensive opened. A first attack in the Monte Grappamarker sector was launched to attract the Austrian reserves. The flooding of the Piave prevented two of the three central armies from advancing simultaneously with the third; but the latter, under the command of Lord Cavan, after seizing Papadopoli Island farther downstream, won a foothold on the left bank of the river on 27 October. The Italian reserves were then brought up to exploit this bridgehead.

After crossing the Piave Rivermarker, the Eight Italian Army, led by General Enrico Caviglia took Vittoriomarker ("Veneto" was added to the name only in 1923) and advanced in the direction of Trentomarker, threatening to block the retreat of Austrian forces.

On 28 October Czechoslovakiamarker declared independence from Austro-Hungary. The next day South Slavsmarker proclaimed independence and on 31 October Hungarymarker ended the personal union officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian state. On October 28 under these political and military conditions the Austro-Hungarian high command ordered a general retreat. As already mentioned, Vittorio Veneto was seized the next day by the Eight Italian Army, who were also pushing on already toward the Tagliamentomarker river. Triestemarker was taken over by an amphibious expedition on 3 November.

The 11th Italian army, commanded by French General Jean Graziani, continued to advance, supported on the right by the 9th army. The result was that Austria-Hungary lost about 30,000 casualties and between 300,000-500,000 prisoners (50,000 by 31 October, 100,000 by 1 November, 428,000 by 4 November). The Italians lost about 38,000 casualties, including 145 French and 374 Britons.

On 29 October the Austro-Hungarians asked for an armistice. On 30 October 1918 the Austro-Hungarian army was split in two.The armistice was signed on 3 November at 3.20pm, to become effective 24 hours later, at 3.00pm on 4 November.

The Austrian command ordered its troops to cease hostilities on 3 November. Following the signing of the armistice, Austrian General Weber informed his Italian counterparts that the Imperial army had already laid down its weapons, and asked to cease combat immediately and to stop any further Italian advance. The proposal was sharply rejected by the Italian General Badoglio, who threatened to stop all negotiations and to continue the war. General Weber repeated the request.. Even before the order to cease hostilities, the Imperial Army had already started to collapse, beginning a chaotic retreat.Italian troops continued their advance until 3.00pm on 4 November. The occupation of all Tyrol, including Innsbruckmarker, was completed in the following days.

Under the terms of the Austrian-Italian Armistice of Villa Giusti, Austria-Hungary’s forces were required to evacuate not only all territory occupied since August 1914 but also South Tirol, Tarvisiomarker, the Isonzomarker Valley, Goriziamarker, Triestemarker, Istriamarker, western Carniola, and Dalmatia. All German forces should be expelled from Austria-Hungary within 15 days or interned, and the Allies were to have free use of Austria-Hungary’s internal communications. They were also obliged to allow the transit of the Entente armies, to reach Germany from the South.

Result

The battle marked the end of the First World War on the Italian front and secured the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire. As mentioned above, on October 31 Hungarymarker officially left the personal union with Austria. Other parts of the empire had declared independence some days earlier, notably what later became Yugoslavia. The surrender of their primary ally was a major factor in the German Empire deciding they could no longer continue the war. On October 30 the Wilhelmshaven mutiny erupted, shortly afterwards the November revolution started to spread from Kielmarker. In early November, the Germans requested an armistice.

At the end of the battle General Diaz issued to the Army and the Nation the famous Bollettino della Vittoria, which is today written in every town hall and military barracks of Italy and became the symbol of the Italian victory in World War I.

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