Tales from a forgotten front

Craig tipped me to this piece on a little known slice of history.

When we think of World War I, most of us think the epic bloodshed on the nearly static Western Front, with French and British troops, and later Americans, facing off across No Man’s Land against the Germans of the Kaiser. I’ll leave it to URR to tell the tale of the horrendous slaughter that occurred on the Eastern Front.

A less well known theater was the mountaintop struggle between Italy and Austria-Hungary. Fighting in an environment that could easily have inspired Lucas’s vision of the Battle of Hoth, both sides suffered the horrors of war compounded by some of the most inhospitable terrain and weather possible. And so many of the dead were to lay* where they fell.

Now, after almost a century, glacial retreat is exposing some of these fallen.

This became clear in 2004, when Maurizio Vicenzi, a local mountain guide and the director of Peio’s war museum, whose own family fought for the Austrians, stumbled on the mummified remains of three Hapsburg soldiers hanging upside down out of an ice wall near San Matteo — at 12,000ft, scene of some of the highest battles in history. The three were unarmed and had bandages in their pockets, suggesting they may have been stretcher-bearers who died in the last battle for the mountain, on September 3 1918. When a pathologist was granted permission to study one of the bodies, to try to understand the mummification process, there was an outcry among local people who felt that the dead were being profaned.

*It’s early, I haven’t had my coffee. Lie? Lay?


On this day in 1945, representatives of the Japanese empire boarded the USS Missouri, and in a brief ceremony, signed the articles of surrender that brought to a close World War II.




Roughly 16 million Americans would serve in uniform during the war, about 10% of the population.  Four hundred thousand of them would die. A million would be wounded.

On the Axis side, Germany and Japan were devastated, and Italy in scarcely better condition.

Of the Allied powers, France and the British Empire were exhausted. Russia, while triumphant, had suffered casualties that boggle the mind to this day.

Only the United States ended the war with its population and infrastructure intact.

The war had ushered in ever greater horrors, from concentration camps, aerial bombing campaigns and of course, the atom bomb.

And if the war failed to bring universal peace to our planet, it did show a glimpse of what warfare could be in the future. That wars since then have been, by comparison, modest affairs, is , if not a good thing, better than the alternative.


The Aviationist Captured a Crash

I’m a big fan of airshows. I don’t think that will surprise anyone.

Having said that, I’m also a bit conflicted about them. Operating aircraft near the edge of their performance envelope, and doing so at low altitude, with the pressure to “put on a good show” tends to raise the accident rate to far higher than normal levels.

Five years ago, at an airshow in Italy, David Cenciotti, The Aviationist, caught an Italian NH90 helicopter in its last moments.

Head on over for the story, and the rest of the pictures.