This post is a light post, so there is no need to get too high. But I see that Alessandro Barbero the historian is becoming very famous and he talks about it, with the small problem that is becoming a kind of oracle of history, when in reality it is noted that he has a certain tendency to "put his own".
Let's be clear, all Italian historians tend to put their own. And even abroad they don't joke to the point that there are visible frictions from storytellers and archaeologists. The real problem is that traditionally history was made in chronicles and annals. Library rats did it. Then we began to look through the finds, the tombs, the biologists began to study the skeletons, the mathematicians began to make statistics, the economists began to do the math, and poof … everything happened.
I'm not saying that Barbero is a bad historian: on the contrary, if people started listening to him, maybe he would know about things that happened but almost nobody knows. Beautiful. But he inherits a lot from the Italian school of historians (one of the) in which you also find people like De Rosa, who make history with the following motto: between two points not only a line passes, but all the fuck I think passes.
So the versions are accurate in terms of the sources, but the sources are not enough. What does it mean? It means that if I find two shopping lists in an old library, it is not enough to rebuild the economy of the time. Because there are only two. Because maybe we don't know what the recipients were. So from a shopping list where you go to buy anchovies we can know that anchovies were sold, but we can not invent to be in a city with a refined bourgeoisie.
But the thing that Barbero has in common with other Italian historians is that it is rather accurate when it speaks, for example, of the Middle Ages or the Roman period. It goes very well to Napoleon (and this makes you understand that I have watched many of his videos (which I find pleasant), but when he is approaching the last century, and we are approaching issues that resonate in today's politics, he does what they do all Italian historians They become politicians A classic example is De Rosa I give this example because reading his biography makes it clear how politicized certain faculties are .
And since the faculties are politicized, as long as we talk about the history of the Assyrians they can say the hell they want, but when we approach contemporary history we must at all costs take sides with the consortium, with the lodge or with the faculty. End.
As a result, I began to notice heavily the narrative component when I saw his videos on Caporetto. The military history of the First World War I studied it with a discreet passion for other reasons, and the problem of the First World War is that to understand it, it is necessary to simply REMOVE all the narrative that political historians love to put on it.
Because if you take it off, you discover that the First World War and the Second World War are identical for Italy. And the governments of the First World War behaved exactly like that of the Second World War: not all over the world, I am referring to Italy. And to understand that between the government that managed the First World War and the one that managed the Second there was NO difference in behavior (at least in how the war was managed) it helps. It helps to understand that Mussolini did not make fascism: he kept what was there.
But let's go in order and go back to Barbero.
Barbero complains that the Italians believed that they would win the war. Which was. And there was a reason why they believed it: by entering the war a year later, they had already realized that Austria would collapse, and probably Germany too. It was a low-hanging fruit, because in any case, Austria collapsed throughout the First World War. Diaz, the much acclaimed, organized the comeback against a country in whose capital there was no food and people were starving on the streets. He could also wait on the Piave, and the Austrians would collapse under his eyes.
To understand how useless this clarification is, and to understand how useless Barbero's insistence on this detail is, we should ask ourselves “but are there governments that go to war without having been attacked, thinking of losing ? Obviously not: this compulsive clarification of Barbero is due to his political position. It does not add any information, and consequently cannot explain anything . Instead for Barbero
explains everything. Everything is explained by the fact that it was thought to win the war easily. But even this "easily" is not really true.
But let's go by steps.
What was Cadorna holding?
He was holding a ragged army. When he received some divisions from the south, he was pointed out that some brigades were barefoot. They were those poor people who the Piedmontese had enlisted to combat banditry, and were usually low-cost soldiers, usually former shepherds, so they had minimal equipment. They had "reorganized", it is said, but in fact they had only added other infantrymen.
The academies were made up of useless cialtroni, that is, nobles and humanists. The most popular was the Turin Artillery School, which threw out the top, because to use artillery you had to know how to read, at least the officers. Who knew how to read, because in the vast majority of cases they were … lawyers. They had no idea how the sine or cosine of something was calculated, and they left it up to non-commissioned officers. Who knew how to use ballistic cards and marks, that is, they knew how to aim only if the point was marked on the maps. To understand this, the enemy gunners knew how to aim during the maneuvers based on new points taken by the explorers. They don't. Also because they had few explorers on horseback, but this also admits Barbero, I see.
The other academy (Barbero also recognizes it) was that of Modena, which were the beggars. They were more modern rags, because they came from that little bourgeoisie that existed, and therefore often they had learned to do the math in papa's little factory. But they were few and had little career.
But Cadorna had an army of illiterate former peasants. Italian GDP for the period was 93% agricultural, and only 7% industrial and "services". See you.
How do you make war instead? It is done with three ingredients: technologies (weapons), men and budgets. So there was little of Budget. Of technologies, being Italy a little industrial country, there were few. Cadorna was to make war with men. I mean with the infantrymen.
What does a general do when deciding on a strategy based on these three pillars? Well, if your war is based on money, you know that winning it will cost a lot of money. If your war is based on technology, you know that the consumption of resources and materials will be enormous. If your war is based on men, you know they will die like flies .
Cadorna knew very well that it was going to be a bloody war. Not for nothing, he ordered to silence the human losses in the war bulletins . And he didn't care so much about his soldiers, because they were dying . They were so dead that their electrons' orbitals were 90% of the time underground. There was no reason to look after their well-being, because Cadorna knew perfectly well that they would crack like flies.
Here you start to see fascism: don't you notice the eight million bayonets? Don't you notice the "nation poor in material means but rich in men of value", of which Mussolini spoke with Hitler?
And the government (the governments) of the time? Well, ditto. So much so that they did not care so much about Cadorna's order to issue only press releases without the losses, and fell asleep, enjoying the countless "advances" and "assaults" on the Isonzo. The statement said that the assault had taken place (which gave Italy an image of aggressiveness, dynamism, momentum), that the Flavia hill, the Maria valley and the GAetano Pass had been conquered. Which in fact amounted to an advance of six hundred meters, but who was not local did not know and did not understand. And no one told him that those five hundred meters had cost 28,000 dead.
Here too, don't you see exactly the Second World War? Don't you see the same sleep of the political class in the face of the defeats, the same desire to look elsewhere, the same sloppiness of fascism? Don't you see the same propaganda techniques, the same lying, the same hiding?
What else did Cadorna have? Ah, the allies. That held the central empires in a naval embargo. So that the Italian navy, with the help of the French navy, had an easy game in closing the Adriatic and bombing the Austrian coasts.
And here too the good old man returns "but we have an ally" of the Second World War. You see? It was all the same. It was already a 100% fascist management of the war, both internally and internationally. Mussolini didn't change anything: all the flaws, the sloppiness and the mediocrity 'were present from before. Mussolini ferries them for 20 years, that's all.
If we move on to aviation, we find the germ of stuttering. An aviation of heroes, made to write pages of history rather than to win, made up of too many seaplanes (a setting that prevented the Italian Air Force from modernizing, from thinking about aircraft carriers, and especially that Balbo liked to pick up women in its "ocean transvolate"). Fascism was already all there. With Mussolini he took the aesthetic form conceived by D'Annunzio, but in fact I did not change ANYTHING . Italy was "fascist" well before Mussolini, perhaps since its foundation.
But the point is that neither Cadorna nor the Italian government thought they could win easily : they would not have hidden the fallen otherwise. They thought they were going to win, but any general based not on technique, not on budget, but on men, SA who will have huge losses . Point. And Cadorna counted the dead from the first battles. And also the Italian government.
What did Diaz have?
It had the Austrians collapsing. Vienna had been without food for a year now, entire Austrian divisions that deserted, an Austrian army without logistics, consumed on the Serbian front, in short, Austria was on the verge of collapse. If it had been Quinto Fabio Massimo, called Cunctator, ("Temporeggiatore"), he would NEVER have done the battle of Grappa. It was enough to wait. (And keep the French calm, who wanted the Italians to bang more. Even here, obeying the ally did not invent Mussolini)
What worthless merits did Diaz take? Diaz had no more budget, had no better technologies, had simply had a lot more conscripts (the boys of the 99). Once again, the premise of a massacre: a war based on the number of men (not corroborated by new weapons or new military spending) is ALWAYS a massacre.
And then what merits they gave him, just to justify the fact that
had they changed coach to Kobarid?
They gave him the merit of having "raised the morale of the troops" and "taking care of the well-being of the soldiers".
This is the moment when Barbero shows his being a humanist. The moral story is not real first. Low morale is easily measured by the number of defectors. Which was not very high, it was less than that of the Austrians BY A FACTOR TEN. Whole Austrian divisions had deserted, to the point that there was an Italian division made up only of Austrian deserters who had changed the flag because the Italians ate every day . Austrian soldiers at that stage of the war ate (= received daily meals) once every 3 days, on average.
There were not all these desertions, not even (considering the disaster) after Caporetto. There was a spike during the retreat, of course, but they were shot and shot. And there weren't so many, considering the disaster.
But in addition to the fact that all this low morale cannot be measured except in the letters of the solts (who participate in a huge carnage, so they are not so happy), the problem is that the First World War was already technological. If you go to fight against a barbarian, adrenaline and motivation make the difference. If you are attacking Jerusalem, the centurion's talk will change your life. Because in muscle struggle morale is needed.
But if you have barbed wire, Friesian horses, machine guns and flamethrowers, you can make beer with morale. It doesn't change a shit. You don't become bulletproof if you have high morale. It was already too technological a war for morale to be the winning move. If the Austrians had been in the condition of 1914, Diaz would have been rejected and counted mountains of dead men (and horses). I mention this because he had the brilliant idea of using heavy cavalry in mountainous places. But let's forget personal opinions.
The point is that Cadorna was faced with a functional Austrian army, and when they were desperate the Germans came to help. Diaz found himself facing an already losing army, semi-defeated, and literally hungry , however scourged by the Spanish. The Boers offered themselves prisoners to eat .
Diaz made a little bit of ammuina, instituted the soldier's magazines, gave them a discount on brothels, and new uniforms. All things that, you know, in front of a machine gun count.
But Barbero, and it is here that he demonstrates his limits, describes the war by weighing that it is a war still done with the physical strength of the soldiers (where the motivation is VERY important), when he faces the first highly technological war in Europe. In this sense, morale matters, BUT LESS. I could take the extreme by saying that morale matters less and less as war technology advances, and to overcome the argument I could ask you how much the morale of a guy sitting in Washington who orders a drone to drop a bomb matters. It would be easy to win.
But Barbero evidently belongs to a political school that wants to accuse some, but sell indulgences on others. So Diaz, a very modest general, becomes a dragon because he understands the morale of the troop. Bah.
Let's go to Kobarid. Here Barbero seems to completely underestimate the technological factors, the quantitative factors and the material reality.
Russian events (Russia became weak due to the revolution) allowed the Germans to free divisions. And they sent them to the aid of the Austrians. So, "suddenly" the front changes. In front of you have people who participate in the First World War while inventing the tactics of the second. The BlitzKrieg. Among the officers was a certain Rommel. To make a name. You will find professional soldiers, who all speak the same language (the Austrian army officially spoke ten), and are almost all veterans.
Suddenly in Cadorna his enemy doubles. I say suddenly even if in reality it took the Germans months to organize the logistical chain necessary for the leap forward without the risks of a salient.
The weapons of the Germans were new. And Italian gas masks didn't stop cyanide gases. The German howitzers were pointing in no time compared to the Italian ones, which were slow, both to point and to move. Many were seized by the coastal defense to make up for the shortcomings. Costal cannons repainted. (imagine how easy it was to move something made to not be moved).
But what mattered was that they had a new war doctrine . Yes, it was true, it was not unknown: even the Italians had experienced boldness, with the "hand strokes" that were the correspondent of the EinsatzKommando on which the blitzkrieg was based. But in the Italian case they were local organizations that acted as a "hat" to the traditional war. In the German case they were already war doctrine .
Then Berber says that Cadorna was wrong in underestimating the Germans, and that he did little or nothing. Interesting. And what was he supposed to do?
Ask for new more modern weapons? Italy did not have them. And he didn't have time to train men. Who were illiterate and therefore difficult to train. And then more modern weapons would have required a new war doctrine. There was no time. Asking for more budgets to build even more fortifications? The Italian government never gave him a budget again. And he wasn't very well on the financial side.
Asking for more conscripts? Cadorna did it. And he had them. Lots of them came. Unfortunately in Rome they did not know that conscripts work only if commanded, and therefore if you leverage a lot you must also train complement officers. But there was no human material: very few graduates and graduates. So Cadorna received what was there. Inexperienced but no official passwords.
Cadorna asked for everything possible : how can you say I underestimate '? And what was possible did: during the Caporetto retreat, the Italian troops were ordered to destroy the reserves of food accumulated everywhere for the troops, often food of French origin, to prevent the starving Austrians from feeding. And they had to destroy a lot. All that was possible, Cadorna asked for it and had it. He underestimated what?
The trouble is that the enemy had doubled, or perhaps tripled, in warfare.
Of course, the officers wrote to each other "and what will these Germans ever be different from the Austrians?" And this seems to Barbero proof of undervaluation. But it's a forced theory. For a reason. The letters of the soldiers (those few who knew how to write) and the officers (who generally knew how to write) were checked. And there was the death penalty for those who gave useful information to the enemy or sown defeatism . If someone had written to someone else "these make us an ass like that", he would have ended up shot. If you remember, from the first battles of the ISonzo, they had forbidden the number of deaths to be known to hide it from the population . It is OBVIOUS that you will not find any trace of despair in the letters. It was forbidden to write such things.
This thing of Cadorna that underestimates the adversaries, when he screamed at more 'I can not have reinforcements and to stop the internal defeatism due to the pacifists, it knows of ball.
It is obvious, however, that if a guy continues to accuse others of defeatism, and makes it a political issue (moreover welcome to the government) he will never say anything that shows him worried. It is a forced theory.
The fall of Cadorna.
That Caporetto would end like this was obvious.
The enemy army had doubled, the Italian soldiers remained stiff in the trenches for the cyanide gases, their faces covered by useless and old-fashioned masks designed for agents in dust or suspended drops. The positions were crushed by a very precise artillery, the Piedmontese heavy cavalry was in front of the machine guns already aimed, the untrained Italian conscripts could not fight as well as the German professional veterans hardened on the Russian front, and so on. Ah, did I mention that the machine guns were missing? (At the beginning of the war the Italians had 618 for 270,000 total men).
At that point Cadorna makes a mistake. He sends a dispatch in which he says that the defeat was avoidable, and it would have been if some cowards had not fled with wide legs. This was ungenerous, in the sense that the "cowards" that he had in mind had remained dead in the trenches. But Cadorna could not have known it because the Piedmontese doctrine of the war was not really rich in light cavalry for exploration and "intelligence", which could tell what had happened.
But there is a point. These kinds of accusations weren't new. And they had never given a scandal before ending up in newspapers around the world. An example?
Before the sixth battle of the ISonzo there was a "small" defeat. The Austrians managed to free soldiers from the Serbian front and organized a battle that reached the Asiago plateaus. They called it the punitive expedition, Strafexpedition. Cadorna was forced to retreat, had to ask for reinforcements, and after some maneuvers he managed to return to the previous situation. But the dead were many and Cadorna lost a lot of territory.
And guess what he said, about ten battles before Caporetto ?
That it was the fault of the cowardly deserters, because it was the fault of the leftist pacifists if so many soldiers deserted (in reality they did not desert so many), and that he had to win a war in Italy in order to win the war against Austria. The press drank that hoax all the time, since it was also convenient for the government. Guess what? It was all the fault of the communists back then. Before they existed, he was already whining about the pacifist communists who boycotted the effort.
Consequently, Cadorna's release was nothing new . It was the usual fascist frigneria that they lost because of others and for traitors. And for the defeatists. I repeat, Italy was already fascist, it had all the "qualities". Including whining against bad communists.
But the statement after Caporetto was also sent to the allies. And Italy, which was already fascist and as such a substitute for the allies , finds French and English (who pay large sums in aid to help the boot with the war) at the door that say "but how, we give you money and help and your soldiers run away "?
It was at that moment that the rumor of the Italian coward who fled in front of the enemy spread throughout the world. Only the Germans, who knew the truth, didn't believe it.
The Italian government, which was already fascist and therefore weak with the strong, as well as pathetic, tries to retract the press release but it is now late. Suddenly the Italian public discovers that the national team, which "has played in attack all the time", has scored a goal.
Let me be clear, in the final analysis Cadorna did not misuse the resources. And Caporetto was not the end of the war. By now the Austrians were collapsing.
Before Caporetto, Cadorna had almost half a million men against one hundred thousand very tenacious and defensive Austrians, so he did nothing but have patience and beat, and retort, waiting for them to wear out (which happened). The Italian commanders knew well that with three open fronts (Russian, Serbian / Balkan and Italian) they would not last. And he didn't even do a bad job, considering he had an army of peones. Besides, with that army he couldn't do anything else.
But the Caporetto thing shook everyone in Italy, and the fact that the general spat on his soldiers (which had lasted for at least six or seven battles) became THE problem. Because the pacifists felt stung and had been scolded for months and months. That was an opportunity to get Cadorna out of the way, who reproached them for the weakening of the political front and the war commitment.
The Italian government had the grain of French and English who threatened not to give more money and aid. And as a good fascist government, that is, cowardly and supine to the allies, he changes coach and puts Diaz there. Mainly to torpedo the Duke of Aosta, whom the King feared as a possible successor. So it was a choice not due to merit. And Diaz had few merits.
Diaz is coming and what does he do? The same things as Cadorna. And what else could he do with the same front, the same enemy, the same army, the same weapons, even more inexperienced and even less official soldiers?
He made a lot of ammuina, making "reorganizations" that were not relevant in the war scenario, many who still lost 43,000 men in the battle of the solstice: he lost a figure (in deaths) very similar to the losses of Caporetto. But he was a lot smarter, and didn't upset the Anglo-French allies. That they didn't believe him much anyway, so many that during the battle of the solstice the Americans (who participated in the First World War, and how) refused to go to his aid.
What happens then, after another appalling defeat in the battle of the solstice? It happens that the Austrian empire begins to collapse. The ethnic groups accuse each other of hunger and defeat, ethnic riots appear, the Germans DO NOT trust them because the Austrians had attempted a separate peace (during the war!) Leaving them with a match in hand, and therefore everything goes definitely down the drain.
And to make matters worse, the Spanish epidemic in Austria is part of it. BAwas waiting, Quinto Fabio Massimo would have said.
At that point, the French and the English demand that the Italians attack. If for no other reason than to prove that they don't run away. And from Rome pressure is starting on Diaz to attack.
After all, he faced an enemy of hunger, with a civil war between ethnic groups within himself, plagued by the most deadly flu epidemic in history, and without a true ally because they had tried to betray him with a separate peace and trust was over.
Then Diaz is preparing for the battle of Grappa, generally mixed and confused as the battle of Vittorio Veneto. Did Diaz shine? NO. Not even a little bit. It was a badly orchestrated battle from the start.
In which Diaz has the brilliant idea of attacking in the center, obtaining a salient situation (loser), and being directly between the fourth and fifth Austrian armies. If he had done it two years earlier, he would not have saved one of Italians .
Let's skip the fact that Quinto Fabio Massimo was turning over in his grave, so much so that attacking immediately was useless . But given the bullshit Diaz made, it was not initially successful and was repulsed with losses even by a dying army. How obvious it is if you are in a salient between two enemy ARMIES. And you also got it yourself .
But Diaz has an ass. Because the two armies are of two different ethnicities, the Austro-Hungarian Empire splits into many nations at that time, and the armies refuse to obey the orders of imperial commands. In short, Diaz was in the ring while the opponent led him like a blacksmith, when the opponent passes out (and goes into a coma for the Spanish). And then his arms come off.
And the next day they ask for the armistice, since Prague has now detached itself from the empire, and some troops are no longer responding to the command, even Croatia has detached itself and even the Croats no longer fight, in short: l the Austro-Hungarian empire is gone.
And what does Diaz do? He orders the air force to strafe, defeat an army that is no longer fighting and is returning home, and reports that he has won the war .
The Italians in Diaz believe, because they want to believe it.
English and French and Americans, on the other hand, DO NOT believe it, in fact, in the subsequent peace treaty, Italy does NOT receive anything. “You didn't win, your opponent passed out! ". The "mutilated victory".
And Italy, which is already fascist and therefore wants to believe its narrative, decides to celebrate Diaz (who escaped a basket of blows for pure ass), and if the other allies do not recognize any value to a maneuver ridiculous, they will whine about "mutilated victory".
They were already fascists at the time. World War II is a photocopy of the first, in every sense . From political management to military management to internal politics to propaganda. Italy was already Fascist VERY before Mussolini took power, because it showed ALL the flaws of Fascism, and all the characteristics of Fascist Italy since before the First World War.
And is it this EXTREME similarity that, perhaps, Barbero does not like to point out?