The Great War



The war manoeuvres in Marmolada can be separated in to three timeframes.

First phase: from May 24, 1915, to spring 1916

This period was marked by wartime activities concentrated on the mountain chains parallel to Mounts Padon (2511) and Mesola (2536) to the North; in between were Costabella (2759), Cima Uomo (3003) and Passo Ombretta (2704).


Second phase: from March,1916, to February 1917

A peculiar military dynamic developed after the discovery of the Marmolada.
The Austrians occupied Forcella Marmolada (2910), Punta Penia (3343), Punta Rocca (3259), Sass delle Undici (2792, “U” Stellung), Sass delle Dodici (2720, “D” Stellung) and Forcella Vu (“Vesura” Scharte).
The Italian troops dug in on Forcella Serauta (2875) and at the Summit “Quota 3065” with a stronghold of the 51st infantry division, Alpine battalion (“Alpi”), but they were soon evicted by an Austrian counteroffensive.
On April 30th, 1916, Alpines from the 7th and infantrymen from the 51st took the Austrian outpost on Forcella Serauta (2875) after a frontal attack.
On May 2nd, Italians occupied the summit “Quota 3065”, beating back the Austrians on Forcella Vu, a position of fundamental strategic importance for control of the ice.
Thus began an extensive war for position, with the additional enemy called General Winter.
Lt. Leo Handl, an engineer, conceived the idea for “Eisstadt”, The City of Ice, to be built within the numerous crevices in the glacier, invisible to the enemy and protected from cannon fire: a combination of wooden barracks set up as dormitories, warehouses, meeting halls, infirmary, chapel, etc. for about 300 Austrian soldiers.
There were colossal avalanches on both sides of the Marmolada. In March 1916, they took countless military and civilian Italian lives at Tabià Palazza, Malga Ciapèla and the Serrai di Sottoguda.
The most disastrous slide, on December 13th, 1916, buried the labyrinthine barracks of the “Gran Poz”, causing the death of more than 300 Austrians.

Third phase: from February to November 4th, 1917

The opposing sides were busy reinforcing their respective positions until July 4th, when the Italians, after repeated, fruitless and bloody attacks on the Forcella Vu, dug a tunnel through which they attacked and captured it once and for all.

On September 21st, 1917, after 79 days of hard work, the last slab of rock fell through and a furious hand to hand battle ensued. A platoon from the 51st infantry commanded by Lt. Flavio Rosso captured the upper Austrian cavern on the eastern wall of the forcella. He was rewarded for his actions with the Silver medal for Military Valour.

On the Marmolada, there were neither victors nor vanquished, only victims. The massacre ended with the breakthrough at Caporetto (October 25th to November 10th, 1917): the Italians retreated to Grappa and Piave, and the Austrians abandoned their City of Ice.

Silence returned to the eternal snows of the Marmolada.



War Declarations


  • 28 July: Austria-Hungary against Serbia
  • 1 August: Germany against Russia
  • 3 August: Italy declares neutrality
  • 4 August: Great Britain against Germany
  • 6 August: Austria-Hungary against Russia
  • 10 August: France against Austria-Hungary
  • 12 August: Great Britain against Austria-Hungary
  • 29 October: Turkey against Russia
  • 6 November: France and Great Britain against Turkey


  • 23 May: Italy against Austria-Hungary


  • 27 August: Italy against Germany


  • 6 April: United States against Central Empires
  • 7 December: United States against Austria-Hungary

Main Battle Events


  • 20-25 August: Battle of the Ardenne
  • 26-31 August: Battle of Tannenberg
  • 5-10 September: Battle of the Marna
  • 9-14 September: Battle of the Masuri Lakes
  • 30 October -24 November: Battle of Ypres
  • 20 December 1914 -10 March 1915: Battle of Champagne


  • 7-21 January: Battle of the Masuri Lakes
  • 22 March: Austrians surrender to Russians at the Przemlysl fort
  • 22 April -25 May: Battle of Ypres
  • 2 May -27 June: Battle of Gorlice-Tarnow
  • 24 May: Italy goes to war against Austria-Hungary
  • 8 June: Italians capture Ombretta – Ombrettola sector
  • 6-21 August: Battle of Gallipoli
  • 17 October – 20 December: failed Italian attempts to capture the Mesola


  • 21 February -18 December: Battle of Verdun
  • 20 March: Austrians occupy Forcella Marmolada
  • 8 April: first Italian occupation of Forcella Serauta
  • Up until 17 April: the area of Serauta passes continually from Italian to Austrian control
  • 30 April: definitive occupation of Serauta by the Italians
  • 10 May – 9 July: Austrian-Hungarian Straf expedition against Italy
  • 3 June: Austrian attack on the Mesolina
  • 9 June: heavy combat on the Collinetta della Morte (Little Hill of Death) (Mesola sector)
  • 18 June: failed Italian attack at Forcella V
  • 24 June-13 November: battle of the Somme
  • 1 July: failed Italian attack at Forcella V and Sasso delle Undici
  • 3 July: failed Italian attack at Forcella V
  • 6 August: battle of the Isonzo
  • 15 September: battle on the Somme with British tanks
  • 24 October: battle of the Douaumont fort (Verdun)


  • 9-16 April: English offensive at Arras
  • 12 May: battle of the Isonzo
  • 25 June: US troops land in France
  • 31 July -10 November: battle of Ypres
  • 19 August: battle of the Isonzo
  • 22 September: Italians capture Forcella V, using a tunnel carved out in the months before
  • 26 September: Austrian mine explodes at Forcella V. Lt. Rosso dies
  • 24 October: Italian mine at Forcella V explodes
  • 24 October -10 November: battle of Caporetto
  • 28 – 31 October: scaling and temporary capture of summit quota 3153 by a group of soldiers led by Pietro and Giacomo Dell’Osbel
  • 4 – 5 November: Positions on the Dolomite front are abandoned because of the breakthrough at Caporetto
  • 2 December: peace on the Eastern front between Russia and Germany (singed March 3rd at Brest-Litovsk)


  • 21 March: battle of the Somme
  • 15-22 June: battle of the Solstizio (High plains of Asiago, Monte Grappa, Piave)
  • 15-18 July: battle of the Marna
  • 18 July – 5 August: battles on the Aisne and on the Marna
  • 5 October: battle on the Hindemburg line
  • 24 October -3 November: battle of Vittorio Veneto
  • 3-4 November: armistice between Italy and Austria-Hungary at Villa Giusti, Padova
  • 11 November: armistice of Compiègne between Germany, Triple Alliance and USA


  • 28 June: the peace treaty is signed at Versailles, ratified by Germany on July 9th; and by Great Britain on July 21st
  • 10 September: Signing of the treaty of St. Germain between Austria and the Allied States