You have to really believe in your battle plan to repeat it again and again when it repeatedly fails to give you the breakthrough victory you’re after. Italian Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna did just that, because this week he launched the Ninth Battle of the Isonzo River. I’m Indy Neidell. Welcome to the Great War. Last week, the big news was the recapture of Fort Douaumont by the French at Verdun. That battle had raged for eight months and it now looked like the French had the upper hand. The Germans also lost a bit of ground at the Somme, but the mud of the battlefield there prevented major action. German-led forces were advancing in Romania though, taking the Cernavodă-Constanța railway line and pushing to the Danube River. Here’s what came next. New action on the Italian Front. After the Eighth Battle of the Isonzo two and a half weeks ago, the Carso Plateau was in horrendous condition, thanks to the colossal Italian artillery bombardment. So the Austro-Hungarian engineers had been hard at work, fixing whatever fortifications they could salvage and making new machine gun posts and trenches. Austro-Hungarian general Svetozar Boroević von Bojna did manage to take two of its most damaged divisions out of the front lines. But he couldn’t afford to relax, because intelligence said that Italian Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna was planning another final push before winter shut down large scale operations. This was true. Boroević had faced overwhelming odds in both the Seventh and Eighth battles and had avoided defeat. But he was well aware that his exhausted troops were near to collapse. His losses, unlike those of the Italians, were mostly irreplaceable. And he knew that when the Italians resumed the attack, it would be with even more men and more guns and morale was collapsing. Austro-Hungarian soldiers had surrendered in large amounts for the first time during the last battle. He pleaded with his superior, Conrad von Hötzendorf, for more troops knowing he could expect no German help, since their High Command thought of the Italian Front as only a diversion. But he was mistaken. Because German Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg was now worried enough about an Austrian defeat and an Italian advance into Central Europe, that he allowed one Austro-Hungarian division to move from the Russian Front to the Italian Front. Conrad, for his part, managed to get Boroević’s men some steel helmets and a few more big guns. Cardona’s plans for the Italian attacks of the Ninth Battle of the Isonzo were exactly the same as those for the Eighth. And his superiority in men and artillery would be around 3 to 1. And it happened this week. Actually, it started last week. The preliminary artillery barrage began on the morning of October 25th. But a dense fog stopped the shelling in the afternoon. The next day, the fog had lifted. So the barrage resumed and carried on for three days. The results were enormous. Thousands of Austrian casualties and the destruction of many of their trenches and machine gun nests. On October 31st, began what was pretty much a carbon copy of the Eighth Battle. That afternoon, Italian infantry probed for weak spots and the next day every one of Cadorna’s guns opened up their annihilation fire on the Imperial front lines. When the guns went silent, waves of infantry poured out onto the stunned defenders. On the northern flank, 12,000 Italians attacked on a front of only around 400 meters. Unfortunately for them, this was one place where the machine guns had not been knocked out and the Austrian lines held with heavy casualties on both sides. But on the northern Carso, the Duke of Aosta’s men began to systematically rolled back the Austrians, taking 8,400 prisoners and the Austrians were close to collapse. Archduke Joseph’s men had no reserves to stabilize the line or organize a retreat to the second defense line. Still, as the day turned to evening and evening to night, they managed to counter attack and regain some of their lost positions. But they were taking big casualties and in the morning, the Italians repeated yesterday’s procedure and there was no alternative but Austrian retreat. It was total chaos. And yet by the night, they managed to reach the second line without collapse. Of course, there would be a new Italian offensive the next morning. South of Gorizia, the situation was much the same. The Austrians bravely and barely held their ground, but the assault on November 3rd finally caused them to fall back. A final Italian breakthrough was inevitable. But one man, Hungarian captain Peter Roosz and his men, a battalion made of Austrians, Hungarians, Romanians and Bosnians, made the difference. He had been an undistinguished officer so far. But now, he led his single battalion out to face six battalions of cracked Italians in vicious combat on the Carso. Swords, bayonets, rocks, you name it. His men managed to hold off the Italians for hours. And as evening came, so too did the Austro-Hungarian 14th Division, finally arriving from the Eastern Front. And that was basically the end of the Ninth Battle of the Isonzo River. There was another failed Italian assault the next day, but that was really it. Both armies now prepared to face the onset of winter. Austrians were going back and forth on another front this week as well in the Transylvanian mountains. Well, it was Austrians, Germans and Romanians all playing give and take this week. On the 28th, the Romanians took 2,000 prisoners in the Valea Jiului–the Jiu Valley. And over the next couple of days, pushed the Germans back there and in the Vulcan Pass. On the 31st, the Austrians were stopped at Torzburg Pass, but as November began, they advanced in the Torzburg, Predeal and Roten Turm passes. Still though, at the end of the week, the situation in the mountains looked good for King Ferdinand’s Romanian armies. The Central Powers hadn’t made any real gains and Berlin and Vienna had even admitted in the press that Romania had recaptured Rusnâ, a border position east of the Predeal Pass. On the other Romanian Front in Dobrogea, Russian general Vladimir Sakharov took command of the Russian forces there and prepared to fight the Bulgarian forces. Here’s a little side note about something Russian from that front. Georgy Zhukov, who had won the St George’s Cross in Romania, was blown from a horse and his hearing was damaged. He was sent to hospital but later wrote that he was delighted that he’d been posted to an active combat regiment. He would be Chief of Staff of the Soviet Army in World War Two, led the counter offensive at Stalingrad, and accepted the German surrender after the capture of Berlin. He would later be Soviet Minister of Defense. And another individual side note. Philosopher and logician Ludwig Wittgenstein, though pessimistic about his nation Austria-Hungary winning the war, gave the Austrian Treasury a million crowns to buy a 12-inch howitzer. It was his income from the past three years. We also saw some action at sea this week, though really there was action at sea every week. On the 28th, the Donaldson liner SS Marina was sunk by a sub with six Americans on board. On the 29th, the neutral Greek volunteer transport Algeniki was torpedoed. Observers wondered how long before these sinkings caused the US to declare war on Germany. Also, US president Woodrow Wilson told the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce: “I believe that the business of neutrality is over. The nature of modern war leaves no state untouched.” This is true, because neutral Greece was certainly affected considering a Five Nation Army was using Greece as a base of operations. That army had some success this week on the Macedonian Front. Repeatedly repulsing Bulgarian attacks the 28th, and with the British taking Barakli, Juma and Kumli. The French advanced in Macedonia as well, but more importantly on the Western Front, followed up last week’s success at Verdun. On the 1st, the Germans evacuated Fort Vaux and on the 3rd, The French advanced to the outskirts of Vaux itself. And here’s another note to end the week. The great German flying ace Oswald Boelcke died October 28th. He was, in many ways, the father of fighting tactics in the air. He died after a mid-air collision with fellow German ace Erwin Böhme. Böhme and Boelcke had, together with Manfred von Richthofen, the future Red Baron, been in a dogfight with several British fighter planes at the time. And another week of war comes to an end. A battle beginning and ending on the Italian Front. The Romanians holding their own in the mountains, and the Bulgarians losing ground in the Balkans. The death of a German national hero, and more deaths at sea that perhaps pulled America closer to joining the war. I think it was pretty true that Wilson said: “The nature of modern war leaves no state untouched.” True for this war at any rate. How can you avoid it? And what would happen afterwards? Well, we’ve got some serious foreboding this week when the Russian Army Censorship Bureau reported soldiers saying: “…after the war…we’ll have to settle accounts with the internal enemy.” Whatever your history teachers told you, this was not going to end well for anybody.