Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Richard H. Jackson, United States Staff Representative in Paris, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

ACTION COPY.                                 File No. 18-3-[2?]. 

CABLEGRAM RECEIVED   June: <24, 1918.> 02523

Origin:  Comfran, Brest.                      Ser No. 3178.

     Ref’d to       Date

       S-3        26 June

Sigcode

Simsadus.

3178. Latest dispatches from Italian front indicate probability of substantial victory over Austrians who began retiring beyond Piave via rafts and bridges night June 22nd. Heavy rains previous 6 days had jeopardized their positions. Early June 22nd rains seriously interfered with movements of Austrian troops who first began orderly retreat later demoralized and disorderly. Many prisoners taken, much material abandoned due to swampy ground following heavy rains.1 This with Italian counter attack on western front near Reims night June 23rd has remarkably increased esprit of Italian troops.2 Jackson UNQUOTE. 22124 3178

Wilson                  

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The handwritten date is confirmed by the time/date stamp at the end of the text. Document identifier in columnar fashion in top right-hand corner: “6/J/1/3/5/6/0.”

Footnote 1: According to one historian, the battle of the Piave, fought between 15 and 24 June, “wreaked similar havoc on the Austro-Hungarian army to that wreaked by the Ludendorff offensives on the German.” Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall: 98-99. While Jackson says heavy rains on 22 June forced the Austro-Hungarians to retreat, historians do not agree. They credit the Italians who, because of their superior intelligence network, concentration of force, and amassing of equipment, particularly artillery and machine guns, were able halt the advance and then counter-attack. Facing defeat, the Austro-Hungarian high command decided to abandon their beachheads south of the Piave. In doing so they had to abandon much of their equipment, supplies, and wounded. The Italians did not attempt to obstruct their retreat nor did they try to cross the river themselves. “The Italian army had failed to prevent the Austrians from either crossing the Piave or re-crossing it in good order. Yet the Austrians never attacked again, and [Italian commander-in-chief Gen. Armando] Diaz correctly judged the outcome as a major strategic reverse for them and that their army would now dissolve without his assistance.” Ibid., 105.

Footnote 2: Two Italian divisions were part of the force that blunted the German Marneschütz or Friedenssturm offensive that began on 13 June.

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