Through War Torn Europe: An official trip after WWI told in the words of James Gordon Steese
Number Twenty-Five
Paris, Friday, September 12th.
I celebrated my return to Paris by being decorated by the Republic of Panama with the medal of "LA SOLIDARIDAD", 2nd class. It has a very attractive red, white and blue ribbon and rosette. If China and Serbia come across, I'll have almost as many colors as ******, but for quite different services.

I expect to be quite busy here for the next few days. I shall then get another cadillac and hit the highway to Luxembourg. After that, Brest and Hoboken.

I saw General ********* this evening and we are having dinner together tomorrow night, "Duc Frederic" at the "Tour d'Argent". The General is just back from North Russia where he was sent last winter to straighten out the mess there. I knew him in Alaska and Washington and we have been good friends for many years. He was looking fine, weighs almost three hundred pounds, without an ounce of fat on him anywhere. With his six feet three and his massive shoulders, he looks the fine big active soldier that he is. He first won his spurs by going into the Klondike as a lieutenant and suppressing lawlessness by the force of his personality and the weight of his fist.

He also gave me a bit of the best rye whiskey I have had in ten years and the only rye since leaving Washington. He must have gotten it from the Ambassador.

Italian Operations

I have also had time to get straightened out on the operations on the Italian Front during the last fourteen months of the War. The Italians were completely taken by surprise when the great German-Austrian attack was launched on the foggy night of October 23-24, 1917. The Italian troops of the 2nd Army, guarding the pass leading to Caporetto were suddenly overwhelmed by a short but terrific bombardment and German infantry poured through the gap. The Austrians were likewise successful at Tolmino.

The Italian defense from Plezzo to Tolmino collapsed in 24 hours. On October 27th, the Germans entered Cividale. The Italian Amy was now forced to begin a prolonged and difficult retreat. The 3rd Army, occupying the Bainsizza Plateau, Gorizia and the Cargo, was driven back. Gorizia was evacuated on October 28th, and, on the next day, Udine, the Italian G. H. Q., was captured. Mt. Sabotino, which had so laboriously and at the cost of so much Italian blood been captured, was outflanked and its elaborate fortifications of no use. The 3rd Army, however, was able to retreat in good order, and to save its artillery.

The Italians were unable to make a stand on the Tagliamento. At Latisana, on the lower reaches of the river, the rear guard of the 2nd Army, consisting of 60,000 man, were cut off by the rapid German advance and surrendered. On November 5th, the Austrian Army under Boroevic, which was operating on their left, forced the passage of the Tagliamento near Pinzano. Three days later, the Livenza was crossed. In the meantime, the Austrians attacked the Italians along the Trentino front. On November 10th, Asiago was taken.

During the ensuing six weeks, the Austrians made numerous assaults upon the Italian lines on the Piave and on the Asiago Plateau, but the Italians were now able to hold their own and the Austrian advance was checked.

British and French troops were hurriedly sent to Italy's assistance, and, on December 10th, it was announced that they were on the firing line. The Austrians did not resume the offensive until their divisions in the East and Roumania had been transferred to the Italian theatre.

After long and careful preparations throughout the Spring of 1918, on June 15th, the offensive was opened. The Austrian plan was to achieve a break-through and reach the Venetian Plain. During the first days of the assault the Austrians succeeded in penetrating the Italian lines on the Asiago Plateau, on the Montello, and in crossing the lower Piave for some distance. The Italians counter-attacked successfully and, by June 20th, the situation was well in hand.

On June 23rd, the Austrians were compelled to retreat across the Piave, pursued by the Italians. The following day, the Italians restored the original battle line. On the 29th, they launched a counteroffensive which lasted until July 6th, during which they recovered some strategic points on the Asiago Plateau, and extended their line to the new Piave. After this defeat of the Austrians, the situation on this front remained unchanged until the latter part of October, 1918.

An offensive was planned by the Italians to begin on October 24th along the Piave with a diversion on the Asiago Plateau. The high water of the Piave prevented the carrying out of this plan, but a successful attack on Mt. Sisemol was launched by the French. On the next day, in spite of bad weather, the Italians, aided by the British, successfully attacked on the Grappa region between the Brenta and the Piave. On the 26th, although the Piave was still high, the Italians established bridgeheads across the river between Pederobba and the Grave Islands and crossed south of Pederobba, towards Sernaglia, and from Gozza and Roncadelle towards San Polo di Piave. The Austrians attempted a counterattack, but were driven back.

As a result of the heavy pressure exerted along the entire front by the Italians, hostile resistance was overcome. The Austrians were compelled to request an armistice. This was granted.

When the armistice went into effect at 3:00 P. M. on November 4th, the-Italian Army was advancing rapidly along the whole front. The 14th British Corps, a French Division, and the 332nd U. S. Infantry cooperated with the Italians. After the cessation of hostilities the Italians established themselves in the evacuated and conquered territory as far as the Armistice line, which was drawn to include most of Italia Irredenta and a strip of the Adriatic Coast over which they are, still in dispute with the Jugo-Slavs, etc.

End Notes and Bibliography