The Austro-Hungarian Storm Troopers and the Italian Arditi of World War I were elite special forces charged with carrying out bold raids and daring attacks. These units were comprised of hand picked soldiers that possessed above average courage, physical prowess as well as specific combat skills. Many military historians have argued that World War I was mainly a static war of positional attrition, but these special shock troops where responsible for developing breakthrough tactics of both fire and movement that marked a significant change in strategy. Both armies used the special assault detachments to capture prisoners, conduct raids behind enemy lines and attack in depth in order to prepare the way for a broad infantry breakthrough. The book traces the development of Austrian and Italian storm assault tactics in the context of trench warfare waged in the mountainous front of the Alps and the rocky hills of the Carso plateau. It not only examines their innovative tactics but also their adoption of vastly improved new weapons such as light machine-guns, super-heavy artillery, flame-throwers, hand grenades, daggers, steel clubs and poison gas.
This book offers a historically dense narration of the organisational development of the shock and assault troops, of their military operations and it also covers their combat methods. The bulk of the chapters are devoted to the historical reconstruction of the assault detachments combat missions between 1917-18 by utilising previously unreleased archival sources such as Italian and Austrian war diaries, official manuals, divisional and High Command reports and the soldiers own recollections of the war. Finally, it offers a comprehensive description of their uniforms, equipment, and weapons, along with a large number of illustrations, maps and period photographs rarely seen.
This epic trial of military strength of these special storm troops cannot be properly understood without visiting, and walking, the battlefields. The appendix thus offers the reader a series of walks to visits key high mountain fortifications in the Italian Dolomities, many of which have attained almost legendary status.