Italy and Austria-Hungary fought a nasty and little-known war-within-the-war in the high Alpine territory along their national border, running from the Asiago Plateau and down the Isonzo River valley, beginning with the Italian declaration of war in 1915 and lasting until most of the Italian Alpine positions had to be abandoned due to the realignment of the front resulting from the Austro-Hungarian and German offensive in October 1917.

Me atop Mt. Klabuk (3,660 ft.) captured by Lt. Erwin Rommel’s Wurttemberg mountain troops on October 25th, 1917

It’s truly amazing that soldiers built fortifications and fought battles on the tops of the craggy Dolomites, which are quite monolithic, with 18 peaks over 9,800 feet high. Many of the sites are accessible only by strenuous, even difficult climbing. As a result, many are in very good condition. There is a lot of battlefield junk lying around, although recently artifact hunters have sharply increased their activity – there is even a report of them extracting an artillery piece with a helicopter.

Here’s a fascinating article in The Smithsonian magazine about one small part of this campaign.

This author says that there has never been another mountain war like it, but this isn’t true. In the 1999 Kargil conflict Indian and Pakistani soldiers fought at heights as high as 18,000 feet, above the effective operating ceiling of their helicopters.

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official from Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and is affiliated with the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Salonika Campaign Society and the Gallipoli Association.