Was World War I
an avoidable debacle ?
Why did Italy join the Allies?
The Triple Alliance was a mutual support pact between Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Germany. The alliance went into effect in 1882. By the terms of the Triple Alliance, if any one of the three nations were to be attacked, the other two would provide military assistance.
Italy, however, had supplemented the declaration by providing Britain immunity. This effectively meant that if Austria-Hungary or Germany were to be attacked by Britain, Italy would not provide military support. By t1902, Italy had signed a secret pact with France guaranteeing France a similar immunity.
In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Italy chose to take a neutral stance.
Italian Foreign Minister Marquis Antonio Peterno Castello di San Giuliano preferred to take a neutral stand. Baron Ludwig von Flotow, the German Ambassador, in his telegram to the German Foreign Office said "Austria's procedure against Serbia must be regarded as an act of aggression, and that consequently a casus foederis, according to the terms of the Triple Alliance treaty, did not exist. Therefore Italy would have to declare herself neutral."
Mussolini himself supported Italy’s neutrality and issued the slogan “Down with the war.” He believed that Italy should not spill one drop of blood for a cause that had nothing to do with the country.
Through 1914 and1915, Britain and France wooed Italian territories that belonged to Austria-Hungary. Most of the inhabitants of Trieste and Trentino were of Italian origin. Italy was offered these in addition to South Tyrol, north Dalmatia, Istia, and Gorizia.
Italy was also sanctioned a loan of £50 million by the Allies. Internally Italy was facing mounting support to join the Allies. On May 23, 1915, Italian Prime Minister, Antonio Salandra addressed the country and declared Italy’s support of the Allied cause. War was declared against Austria-Hungary and Italy entered World War I.
World War I did not turn out as expected for Italy. The territorial annexations of Italy from 1915 to 1917 were insignificant. The Italian army fought twelve battles along the Isonzo River. The Battle of Caporetto was a resounding defeat. Fighting ended on the Italian Front on November 4, 1918, with the signing of the Armistice of Villa Giusti.
World War I cost Italy the lives of 650,000 soldiers, and an additional 947,000 Italian soldiers were wounded. The financial burden on Italy was high and the country was disappointed with the Italian leaders’ participation at Versailles.