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Caporetto and the Isonzo Campaign: The Italian Front 1915-1918, by John Macdonald, with Željko Cimpric

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2015. Pp. xiv, 194. Illus., maps, biblio. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 1473845726.

An Introduction to the Great War on the Isonzo Front

John MacDonald, a management specialist with a lifelong interest in the Italian Front, had just completed this introductory account of the dozen principal battles on the Isonzo Front at the time of his death in 2011. Written with considerable input from Zeljko Cimpric, the head of the Kobarid (Caporetto) Museum in Slovenia, this profusely illustrated work offers a readable, accurate overview of the protracted struggle between the Italians and Austro-Hungarians on the Isonzo Front, while touching upon other aspects of the war between the two powers.

MacDonald gives us a concise, yet informative look not only at how the battles unfolded, within the framework of the greater war. He gives us some excellent looks at the respective armies, their equipment, organization, and evolution through the war, and at their commanders, most notably the inept and brutal Italian chief-of-staff Luigi Cadorna, incapable of understanding the nature of the war, and very able Svetozar Boroevic, an ethnic Croatian Austro-Hungarian general. MacDonald gives us tales of some amazingly brave troops on both side fighting under the most extraordinarily hostile environmental conditions. In the end it is not surprising that the Italian armies repeatedly suffered major defeats, but rather that they managed to attain any success at all, which by mid-1917 actually caused Germany to commit significant forces to the theatre, initiating the Caporetto Campaign, which almost drove Italy out of the war. MacDonald goes on to discuss how Caporetto led to a major reshuffling of the Italian command, which led to success in 1918.

Although, as MacDonald himself notes, there are far more detailed and scholarly treatments of these battles, and the larger war between Austria-Hungary and Italy, such as Mark Thompson’s The White War or John Schindler’s Isonzo, Caporetto and the Isonzo Campaign, 1915-1918 is certainly the best short account of the campaign, an useful for anyone looking for a quick introduction.

Note: Caporetto and the Isonzo Campaign is also available as an e-pub, 978-1-7815-9930-3, and in several other e-editions

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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