The Italian Alpine Soldiers

On a recent trip to Stresa in the lake region of Italy, Diane photographed this statue of an Alpine soldier, and I needed to learn more of these brave men.                      

Alpine soldier monument, Stresa, Italy

The Alpini are the elite mountain warfare soldiers of the Italian Army.
Formed in 1872 they are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world. Their original mission was to protect Italy’s northern mountain border with France and Austria. They distinguished themselves during World War I when they fought a three year long campaign in the Alps against Austro-Hungarian  and the German Alpenkorps in what has since become known as the “War in snow and ice”.
During World War II, the Alpini divisions fought alongside Axis forces on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans Campaigns.
Each division consisted of two Alpini regiments with 573 officers and 16,887 NCOs and soldiers for a total strength of 17,460 men. Also each division had almost 5000 mules and 500 vehicles of various types at its disposal.
In 1942, Alpine divisions were sent to fight in the Soviet Union. Instead of being deployed in the Caucasus Mountains as expected, they were tasked with holding a front on the plains of the Don River. As a result of this disastrous strategic decision, troops armed, trained, and equipped for mountain warfare were pitted in the plains against tanks and mechanized infantry for which they were neither equipped nor trained. The Alpini held the front until January 1943, when, due to the collapse of the Axis front, they were encircled by the advancing Soviet Army. One third of the Tridentina division (4250  of 15000 troops deployed) and one tenth of the Julia (1200/15000) survived.
The Alpini are and have been among the bravest of all fighting forces!

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2 Comments on “The Italian Alpine Soldiers”

  1. Diane Says:

    Love this article! You do travel with a most accomodating photographer…I hope she is well compensated (think food :))

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