by Paolo Morisi
Solihul, Eng.: Helion / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2018. Pp. 344.
Illus., maps, tables, diagr., append., biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1912174987
Special Assault Forces in the Austro-Italian War
Paolo Morisi, author of a number of books in modern Italian military history, gives us a look at the origins and development of Italian and Austro-Hungarian special assault troops during the First World War.
Following an introduction in which he outlines the roots of military effectiveness, he gives us a chapter on Germany’s introduction of stosstruppen and their effect on the war. Morisi follows with a chapter each on the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies at the outbreak of the war. While both armies lacked realistic doctrine, good training, or proper equipment, and, worst of all, sound leadership, though did have some specialized troops – Italy’s Alpini and Bersaglieri, and Austria-Hungary’s Kaiserjaeger. Morisi then devotes two chapters to how each army came to see the need for, and raised, trained, and equipped special assault troops – Stosstruppen and Arditi.
Morisi then discusses the role of these troops in action, culminating in the Caporetto operation (Oct. 24-Nov. 19, 1917), which nearly knocked Italy out of the war. He follows this with a chapter covering the reorganization and reform of the Italian Army, the final Austro-Hungarian offensive, and the ultimate Italian victory. In an appendix he offers tips for those interested in visiting the battlefield.
One would wish that Morisi had discussed the influence of these special forces on the post-war armies, and at least touched on the role of their Arditi veterans in the rise of fascism, but overall Hell in the Trenches is a very good treatment of the development of special assault forces in the war.
Note: Hell in the Trenches is also available in several e-editions.
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