Italy Enters World War I

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When World War I began in July 1914, Italy was a partner in the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, but decided to remain neutral. However, a strong sentiment existed within the general population and political factions to go to war against Austria-Hungary, Italy’s historical enemy.

Annexing territory along the two countries’ frontier stretching from the Trentino region in the Alps eastward to Trieste at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea was a primary goal and would “liberate” Italian speaking populations from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while uniting them with their cultural homeland. During the immediate pre-war years, Italy started aligning itself closer to the Entente powers, France and Great Britain, for military and economic support.

On April 26, 1915, Italy negotiated the secret Pact of London by which Great Britain and France promised to support Italy annexing the frontier lands in return for entering the war on the Entente side. On May 3, Italy resigned from the Triple Alliance and later declared war against Austria-Hungary at midnight on May 23.

At the beginning of the war, the Italian army boasted less than 300,000 men, but mobilization greatly increased its size to more than 5 million by the war’s end in November 1918. Approximately 460,000 were killed and 955,000 were wounded in the conflict.

Objects From the Museum's Collection

The service record illustrated is for Antonio Zanussi, who served in the 2nd Engineers. Zanussi was conscripted in February 1917, entered the service March 17, 1917 and fought in the campaign against Austria-Hungary in 1917-18. The record states that Zanussi served with good conduct and faithful service.

A postcard honors the memory of Captain Giuseppe Tagliamonte, commander of the 10th Infantry Company at the battle of Selz along the Italian/Austro-Hungarian frontier in northeastern Italy during the 2nd Isonzo Offensive. Tagliamonte was killed during the battle on July 19, 1915 and was awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor, among Italy’s highest military decorations.