During the decades leading up to the outbreak of World War I, Italy, which was formally unified during the second half of the 19th century, did not hesitate to approach both the German and Austro-Hungarian empires following the growing disagreements caused by the colonial crisis with the French and British. Through this rapprochement, Italy accepted a defensive military alliance that brought together both the Germans and the Austrians to confront any possible aggression that might affect one of these three powers.
But less than a year after the start of World War I, Italy did not hesitate to suddenly change its alliance to declare war on its former allies. After promises and privileges obtained at the London Conference, Italy officially declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23, 1915, before sending large numbers of its forces north to attack the Austrians.
Fierce battles in rugged areas
In addition, during the spring, Italy hastily gathered about 1.2 million soldiers and prepared to send them to the regions of South Tyrol and the Isonzo River to fight the Austrians. Meanwhile, the Italians lacked military preparedness, as the Italian authorities did not have enough weapons at the time, and were only able to equip about 732,000 soldiers with adequate military equipment.
Austrian soldiers in World War I
At the time, these areas represented an unsuitable environment for battles and confrontations due to the large amount of snow. After a slight advance made by the Italians at the beginning of the conflict, the Italian forces were forced to stop, to be forced to fight fierce battles in the snow-capped mountains against the Austrians.
In addition, the mountainous regions near the Isonzo River on the Italian-Austrian border represented a rugged terrain that terrified both sides during the winter. To describe the horror of the scene in these areas, the Austrian generals emphasized that their fear of winter in the mountains was much greater than their fear of confronting the Italians.
10 thousand dead
On December 13, 1916, the Austrian generals’ fears turned into reality. While they were inside their barracks in the Gran Poz area at the top of Mount Marmolada, the Austrian soldiers were surprised by an avalanche, which resulted in the burial of about 300 of them under the snow in what was known as the events of Black Friday. During the same day, the region witnessed another avalanche that ended with the loss of hundreds of Austrian and Italian soldiers.
Italian soldiers in World War I
Over the course of a week, the avalanches continued in the area, dragging large numbers of soldiers from both sides with them. According to Austrian and Italian sources, this natural disaster resulted in the burial of at least 10,000 soldiers under the snow.
By spring and the beginning of the snow melt, the bodies of many of the soldiers who went missing in the events of Black Friday have appeared. The Italians and Austrians then went to exhume her for a proper burial.