Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Why Italy Must Have Her Boundary on the Oriental Border of the Julian Alps (1918)

Italy's War For Her Natural Confines

It has, for centuries, been the wish of the Italian population to reach its natural confine; one war follows another always with the same net, precise and irrevocable aim; Italy wants to reach the Alps; Italy wants to have, in her possession, the doors of her home!

The coming peace conference will certainly sanction ostracism of any military institution having offensive aims but it cannot but sanction all that shall, instead, be understood to assure the defence of the single states.

No matter how purely defensive the aim of a military organism of a nation can be, it is to be considered that one must combat in order to defend himself.

An army, to combat, must first collect itself. The massing of an army is carried out under the protection of the covering troops which are normally dislocated to the menaced frontier.

The massing is usually effected as near as possible to the menaced frontier, compatibly with the exigences for its security. It is, therefore, generally executed behind a natural obstacle, which guarantees the regular procedure of operations, even in the case of a break through the covering troops.

The more rapid is the massing, better it answers its purpose. Such rapidity finds its first factor in the conformity of the nation. It can assist the military organizer with enrichment of the networks of roads (ordinary and railroad) of communication and with opportune dislocation of troops and storehouses, even from peace time, but the power of organization, if it can in some instances remedy, it cannot certainly abolish inconveniences due to the disadvantageous natural conformation of the region. If we examine the massing problem relative to Italy, we observe:

1) Italy belted by the sea, on three sides, cannot be attacked by earthly means, except across the thick alpine mass. The massing of her army for defensive action, should therefore be executed on the prealpine plain.

2) Considering Italy's lengthly peninsular form (over 1300 Km, from Reggio Calabria to Udine) the massing demands time in order that the bulk of army, which must needs journey from the southern and insular regions, arrive propitiously, and answer efficaciously to its aim.

This fact is endangered by the Appennine relief, which by contributing a large natural barrier, limits the communications between southwestern and northeastern Italy. Furthermore such an obstacle prevents a rich railroad organization apt to compensate (with number) the length of the courses, therefore causing scarse reach of trains (due to the slopy and irregular ground to overcome).

Finally the inconvenient is rendered still more vital as two of the great railroads run along the coastal regions (Adriatic and Tyrennian) and are thereby easily exposed to nautical offense, which can determine their interruption, and what is worse, render their output precarious.

3) The massing, which will be necessarily slow, will effect itself on the prealpine plain, under the protection of the covering troops methodically spread on the Alpine chain.

It is, therefore necessary that the Alps lend themselves to easily arrest the first endeavours of enemy invasion, by engaging them for that period of time necessary for the collection of the army, and thus mass against the enemy.

Now, whilst the Alps form a gigantic barrier to the west, and to the north of the prealpine plain, they have maintained themselves in a much more accessible way to the east.

Thus, while, owing to the natural obstacle constituted by the Western and Northern Alps, the troops that are in immediate relation sufficing for the construction of the first defences, we could not, however, have with sufficient rapidity, those forces required to ensure the defence of the oriental frontier.

And, in fact, the line Mt. Tricorno Golfo Quarnero measures well, in direct line, 120 Km. of which but 80 are (Idria Quarnero pass) of easy practicability.

On such a line a first defence would therefore require, at least 10 divisions, which would impose the stay of many army corps in the reach of this chosen line of defence, so as to arrive there sooner than the enemy.

A glance at the railroad and ordinary networks of roads in the zone, immediately indicates the impossibility of summoning, in time, troops to the stipulated line if they have not, at least, already reached the Isonzo.

On the other hand, if we consider the opportunity and feasibility of a similar dense concentration of troops (various army corps) at our oriental confine, we instantly observe that it is not practicable, for we could not, normally, mobilize such forces in this region, even in peace time.

Being, therefore, unable to place confidence and reliance on a real strong natural obstacle, and, furthermore, being unable to have, immediately, the disposed troops on the locality, it will therefore be necessary to dispose of a more profound zone, in which it will be possible to multiply the obstacles, thereby gaining that time necessary for the massing of the forces.

Owing to the natural conformity of the ground, it is understood that the massing of the army for the oriental defence cannot be done but on the west of the Isonzo.

Such a massing certainly requires a score of days. It is therefore necessary that the covering troops assure this period by means of their work.

For this aim the boundary should fall to the Sava.

An enemy would then be obliged to renounce to his concentration at the Laibach or Krainberg basins, and in the meanwhile the Italian Army would have all the time necessary to guarantee the safety of the Julian Alps.

But not being able to pretend this for reasons which appear obvious, it is, at least, essential to control that which takes place in the above mentioned basins, and it is, therefore, necessary to possess the border of the Julian Alps, which we can consider defined from : Passo d'Idria (Idria Pass) Varco di Nauporto (between Longatico and Nauporto) the mountainous line Ljubljanski – Kameni – Vini Vehr-Mt. Pomario (Javornik) Bickagora-Mt. Nevoso.

On such a line, which shall have to be employed as a line of observation, can be actuated a primary defence, enough to consent to the arrival of the covering troops on the real line of resistance constituted by the stronghold formed by the oriental slopes of the Selva di Ternova, by Mt. Re (Mt. Nanos) Mt. Nevoso, or, should it fall, by Mt. della Vena, Mt. Maggiore.

But we could not consider this line of resistance as line of confine, inasmuch as it is the only barrier (in a military sense) really efficacious for the support of a good systemization.

At any rate were this single barrier the confine, it would be prominently exposed to small attacks and would fail to give the nation that security, that it must militarily claim.

An enemy forestalling us on this line of resistance would in sole march reach Triest, completely isolating Istria from the rest of Italy, and what is worse, in a march he would also be at Gorizia, thus breaking all the Isonzo defences with a sole stroke, and immediately opening an outlet to the plains.

Recapitulating: if we wish to consent to the Italian Army massing behind the Isonzo to affront an attempted enemy irruption from the oriental door, it is indispensable to have the confine at the line: Passo d'Idria (Idria Pass) Varco di Nauporto – Ljublianski – Vini Vehr – Mt. Pomario (Javornik) Mt. Bickagora – Mt. Nevoso – Mt. Risnjak – Mt. Tuhuvic; for any other arreared line would permit:
a) the immediate isolation of Istria;
b) the immediate fall of Triest;
c) the easy and rapid fall of all our Isonzo defences;
d) it would consequently compel the Italian Army to mass itself behind the Friuli under the weak protection of the covering troops, and be, in fact, open to invasion.
This is, therefore, the minimum confine, for which Italy must contend with all her forces. Neither could it be objected that with this, Italy would place in an inferior condition the confining state. If we should, furthermore, consider that while Italy, for reasons already exposed, has a forcedly slow massing, the conformity of the confining regions and the predisposed networks of railroads consent to the near state, a much superior rapidity for the execution of such an operation.

Aside from the assertion that Italy has never had the velleity of expansion over the Alps, on grounds not ethnically hers, or on such of great economic value, the fact still remains that the nation that will confine with us, shall always have in her complete possession, numerous and magnificent lines of defence.

Thus, even if one of our offensive thrusts in the Laibach Basin succeeded in conquering this, (after having smashed the strong line formed by the Klecica ranges – Visoki – Pasirovan – Krim B) it would result enclosed in the great Alpine « pincers » constituted by Mt. Karavanka to the north, by the Sannthaler Alpen, by the mountainous groups of Cerna, of Velka at north-east, and by the Kumberg Dolgobrdo, Kutschel, Makovec knots to the south-east.

Analogously, an Italian thrust more to the south, aimed at Reifnitz Agram would hit against an infinite series of heights which extend themselves in chains parallel to one another to the south of Laibach with a north western - south eastern course, stopping an imponent mountainous obstacle which can be considered militarily insuperable, if animated by the presence of a few troops.

Therefore if Italy should lose the mountainous obstacle of the Julian Alps she has the enemy in her home, moreover, in her plains; vice versa even in the case of her army forcing the Julian Alps she would find herself against a strong high wall of enclosure belonging to the enemy, which in order to arrest the advance has but to close his few narrow doors which constitute the entrances.

On the other hand it would suffice to observe an « isometric » map in order to note that the profundity of the mountainous obstacle, respectively to the east and west of the confine minimum to Italy's needs, is all to the advantage of the confining state, inasmuch as at a medium profoundness of 35 km. for Italy, it corresponds, to a medium of about 100 Km. for the eastern confining region.

Therefore the indicated confine is for Italy, militarily indispensable and is besides a modest request, an equitable division. Following the watershed, it also represents the real limit with regard to the current life materials. On the whole it is a true right of Italy, for with it, she will have realized her national aspirations to the east.

After four wars for independence, Italy, with such a successful realization of her aspirations, can sheathe her honest sword and stimulate the endeavours of her 40 million intelligent inhabitants, good arid labourous in the work of peace, to which their long standing civilization and renewed vitality conduct them.