Hell in the Trenches

Austro-Hungarian Stormtroopers and Italian Arditi in the Great War

Paolo Morisi

This is the first account in English of a much-overlooked, but important, First World War battlefront located in the Italian Alps. Not well known in the West, the battles of the Italian Front were equally as violent and ferocious as those in the Western Front. The author's account includes the main operations and battle tactics of the special assau
Date Published :
November 2018
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
124 b/w photos, 2 b/w ills, 7 b/w maps, 3 tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781912174980
Pages : 344
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available
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The Austro-Hungarian Stormtroopers and the Italian Arditi of World War I were elite special forces charged with carrying out bold raids and daring attacks. These units were comprised of hand-picked soldiers that possessed above-average courage, physical prowess as well as specific combat skills. Many military historians have argued that the First World War was mainly a static conflict of positional attrition, but these shock troops were responsible for developing breakthrough tactics of both fire and movement that marked a significant change to the status quo. Both armies used special assault detachments to capture prisoners, conduct raids behind enemy lines and attack in depth in order to prepare the way for a broad infantry breakthrough. This account traces the development of Austrian and Italian assault troop tactics in the context of trench warfare waged in the mountainous front of the Alps and the rocky hills of the Carso plateau. It not only examines their innovative tactics but also their adoption of vastly improved new weapons such as light machine-guns, super-heavy artillery, flamethrowers, hand grenades, daggers, steel clubs and poison gas.

This book offers a narrative of the organizational development of the shock and assault troops, of their military operations and their combat methods. The bulk of the chapters are devoted to a historical reconstruction of the assault detachments' combat missions between 1917-18 by utilizing previously unreleased archival sources such as Italian and Austrian war diaries, official manuals, divisional and High Command reports and the soldiers' own recollections of the war. Finally, it offers a comprehensive description of their uniforms, equipment, and weapons, along with a large number of illustrations, maps and period photographs rarely seen.

This epic trial of military strength of these special stormtroops cannot be properly understood without visiting, and walking, the battlefields. The appendix thus offers the reader a series of walks to visits key high mountain fortifications in the Italian Dolomites, many of which have attained almost legendary status.

About The Author

Paolo Morisi is a military historian who has written extensively on the Italian Army during World War One and Two. He has published several books and articles on such topics as the Folgore Parachute Division, the Alpini and Austro-Hungarian stormtroopers of the First World War, the Savoia Marchetti S.79 torpedo bomber and the Axis air forces of the Second World War.


The author should be heartily congratulated on a book that is not only extremely well written, but is also about a very little known part of the Great War. The bravery and audacity of the Italian and Austria-Hungarian troops shows in every picture and almost every page. Mankind's ability to overcome nature is shown in the book to be absolutely astounding. The fact that both sides had to, at most times, use explosives and sheer manpower to cut their trenches into the very rock of these heights is mind boggling.

- Robert Peterson, A Wargamers Needful Things

"...overall Hell in the Trenches is a very good treatment of the development of special assault forces in the war."

- The NYMAS Review

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