Italy had not fared especially well during the war. The front line with Austria-Hungary had been a stalemate most of the time, and the Italians had had a real scare two months ago, when Austria launched an offensive that seemed for a while as if it could defeat Italy. But all that changes this week: this week Italy breaks through. I’m Indy Neidell, welcome to the Great War. Last week, the carnage continued at the Somme, now over a month old. And at Verdun, now over five months old, and British high command began to wonder if the casualties at the Somme were really worth the gains. On the Eastern Front, the Brusilov Offensive continued rolling to Russian victory after victory as Austrian morale plummeted, but German reinforcements and German command were beginning to make a difference. Here’s what followed: The Russians continued their advance for starters, pretty much all week-long on their southwest front. On the 6th, they took the heights on the right bank of the Sireth and Groberka rivers. The next day they advanced throughout the region, captured Tlumacz and took a total of 4,000 prisoners. The day after that, they took Tysmienica and 7,400 prisoners. And on the 10th, as the Austro-German forces evacuated it, they took Stanislau and yet another 8,500 prisoners. However despite the advance, they were not threatening Hungary, Poland or even Western Galicia this week. And though German general Erich Ludendorff did said the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian army seemed imminently possible, German reinforcements were brought up from further north, and though the Austrian Second Army in the center of the line had taken truly horrible casualties, Vladimir Sakharov’s Russian 11th Army, the men pressing them again and again, were finally spent and the center of the front went quiet as everyone regrouped. But to the south, one front was anything but quiet: the Italian Front. Now, even as Austria-Hungary’s Trentino Offensive against Italy was concluding in June, Italian Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna was already thinking again about the Isonzo River front. But he now had more modest plans for how to proceed. He told the duke of Aosta that a new offensive there would take place soon and it was to capture the threshold of Gorizia. The idea being to get set up for a future attack on the city itself and on Monte San Michele and to prevent the Austrians from breaking out of the city. And now for the first time, he planned to concentrate artillery on a very narrow space, not a whole wide front. It would be the region between Podgora Hill and the city. The duke told Cadorna that the attack actually should include Monte San Michele, which in tactical terms was the southern edge of the whole Gorizia area. Cadorna agreed and figured that the Austrians would in no way be expecting a major operation so soon after Trentino. Now, that in itself was interesting because Cadorna had always scorned the element of surprise, so it seems like he actually learned something. So the duke made sure the three divisions that would attack Monte San Michele had good artillery support and lots of reserves. The actual task of getting a foothold on the strip of land between the river and the city went to the Sixth Corps under General Luigi Capello, whose orders echoed those of Cadorna: To capture a small bridgehead that could be defended by a few men with machine guns. Monte Sabatino also came under his command and this was a good thing. Since the winter, its western slope had seen an intricate network of trenches, tunnels and even caverns excavated and blasted in the limestone. So they were eventually close enough to the frontlines to give a good chance of success when an attack to take the peak, which dominated Gorizia, was launched. The divisions that had gone to Trentino in May and June were recalled. And by this time, there were over 200,000 Italians ready to go into action against Gorizia and Monte San Michele. The heavy guns were placed in front of the city, with amounts of shells never before available and with four times as many mortars as a year ago. On August 6, 1916 the bombardment began and Cadorna’s guns were shockingly effective. Austrian communications were wrecked. Their command centers knocked out ot action, and General Svetozar Boroević von Bojna wired Austrian high command immediately for reserves and heavy artillery. See, Cadorna had concealed his buildup pretty well, even making highly visible trips to Trentino to allay suspicion. And the Austrian high command was stretched to crisis against Russia, and didn’t have anything to spare for the Italian Front. So Boroević had to make do with what he had, which was 102,000 men along the river but only 18,000 of them deployed around Gorizia. He was also outgunned on the front 3 to 1 and near the city up to 12 to 1. Cadorna kept the artillery bombardment short and at 4 PM on the 6th, the first wave of infantry went over the top from Mount Sabatino’s upper trenches. They had large white disks tied to their backs and because of them, the Italian battery commanders coordinated their fire with the assault for the first time. The men stormed the summit and took it in just 38 minutes. This was pretty much the best news the Italians had had since they joined the war. But it was just for starters. The attack on Monte San Michele had begun at 3:30 and after heavy fighting, the Italians took the summit there. The entire sector fell to the Italians the next day. You know what? The taking of Monte San Michele over fourteen months had cost 110,000 casualties. The sector was just 8 km long. The Austrian lines around Gorizia crumbled. Podgora Hill was overrun. The Austrian artillery was out of shells and reinforcements would take days to arrive, too late to save the city. As night fell on the 7th, the Austrians retreated to their second line behind the city. Only 5,000 of them made it. By the afternoon of the 8th, Gorizia was in Italian hands, a major triumph, and they had taken over 20,000 prisoners. And to the southeast, some other Italians were gearing up for another offensive. From Salonika, where 5,000 Russians and 11,000 Italians had by now landed to join the Serbian, British and French troops already there. Salonika was part of Greece and earlier in the summer, neutral Greece had given the Bulgarians Fort Rupel on the Struma River. The Allies thought that this was treachery since Greece was neutral. But the Greeks said they had agreed with the Allies to neither help nor hinder the Central Powers, and this was a neutral act. They probably also again pointed out that having tens of thousands of Allied troops at Salonika was, in fact, a violation of that neutrality. There was even more action in that part of the world this week. On the 8th, Ottoman forces under Mustafa Kemal occupied Mus and Bitlis. This was big setback for Russia, since taking and holding Bitlis could open the door to Mesopotamia. Now let’s look at the Western Front to end the week. At the Somme, the British advanced 400 meters near Guillemont, but the attack lacked artillery preparation and they were mauled by machine gun fire. The French had some success there, advancing north of Hem Wood and taking German trenches south of Maurepas. At Verdun the main fighting was at Thiaumont, which the Germans gained, lost and regained during the week. And that was the week. The Russians finally exhausting themselves against the Austrians, and losing in Anatolia. The Balkans getting ready to heat up again, and the Italians surprising everybody, including themselves, with a great victory. The story at the Somme and Verdun was depressingly familiar. One thing that happened a few weeks ago at the Somme that I haven’t mentioned but which I find interesting was a charge of the Indian “Secunderabad” cavalry with lances. They managed to impale 16 German soldiers. By now at the Somme, thousands of men were leaving the battlefield with their nerves shattered. This was shell shock, but it wasn’t cut and dried for the military authorities. “To explain to a man that his symptoms were the result of disordered emotional conditions due to his rough experience in the line, and not, as he imagined, to some serious disturbance of his nervous system produced by bursting shells, became the most frequent and successful form of psychotherapy.” But it was at the Somme that special centers for shell shock were open in each army area. But still, men were “in no case to be evacuated to base unless his condition warrants such a procedure.” Whatever that means. Just imagine: There were millions. I’ll say it again. Millions of artillery shells fired at the Somme. Can you even…conceive of the noise and the terror? It’s not surprising that many of the men got shell shocked. What is surprising is that all of them didn’t. If you want to find out more about the symptoms of shell shock, their treatment and its social perception, you should check out our special episode. For that you can click here. Or here if you’re watching on your mobile. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Melissa Kenfield. Please consider supporting us on Patreon to keep this show running. To stay up to date with announcements from our team, like us on Facebook or subscribe to our sub-reddit.