Italy’s military operations in World War 1 would assume a repetitive pattern dictated by geography. The one route available for an assault on Austria-Hungary by conventional means was along the Isonzo valley. After a short delay, while Italy’s modest standing army was swelled by a massive conscription programme, the first battle of the Isonzo began on 23 June. Austria-Hungary was heavily committed to the war with Russia on its northern front but, although heavily outnumbered, its troops occupied formidable defensive positions on the heights surrounding the river. Marshal Cadorna, the Italian Chief of Staff, in what was to become a repetitive pattern, adopted a straightforward battleplan: first an artillery bombardment, followed by a full-frontal infantry assault. After two weeks of heavy casualties and minimum gains, Cadorna paused, before resuming the offensive on 18 July–3 August, this time with more sustained artillery bombardments, but with no greater success.
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