In May 1915, Italy declared war on the Habsburg Empire. Nearly 750,000 Italian troops were killed in savage, hopeless fighting on the stony hills north of Trieste and in the snows of the Dolomites. To maintain discipline, General Luigi Cadorna restored the Roman practice of decimation, executing random members of units that retreated or rebelled.
With elegance and pathos, historian Mark Thompson relates the saga of the Italian front, the nationalist frenzy and political intrigues that preceded the conflict, and the towering personalities of the statesmen, generals, and writers drawn into the heart of the chaos. A work of epic scale, The White War does full justice to the brutal and heart-wrenching war that inspired Hemingwayâ€™s A Farewell to Arms.
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Mark Thompson holds a PhD in Social Sciences from Cambridge. The author of Forging War and A Paper House, he lives in Oxford, England.From Booklist:
Hundreds of thousands of men are fed into a meat grinder in futile charges against entrenched positions; opposing armies are forging a weird sense of camaraderie as they fraternize during lulls in the slaughter; and rows of rotting corpses are scattered over a bleak, pockmarked landscape. But this isn’t the familiar western front in France. Rather, these stark images are part of a stunning and emotionally wrenching account of war between Austria and Italy over the disputed terrain they both claimed. Although the struggle was recounted in the writings of Ernest Hemingway, the Italian front was regarded as a sideshow by many European journalists as well as Allied war planners. Whatever the strategic value of the campaign, Thompson illustrates that this was a massive, epic struggle that may have cost a million lives. He crafts a narrative rich in detail and which does not shrink from describing the horrors of a war that began, on the Italian side, in a spasm of wild nationalistic fervor but quickly degenerated into resigned cynicism. This is a masterful and moving chronicle. --Jay Freeman
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