Mt San Gabriele, pictured after the Italian retreat from the area next month.
September 11 1917, Mt. San Gabriele–The Italian successes on the Bainsizza plateau in August soon became bogged down in attempts to take Mt. San Gabriele, which guarded the Vipacco valley above Gorizia. If it were taken, Cadorna was convinced that the Italians could push on towards Ljubljana to the east, and outflank the Austrian defenses guarding Trieste. On September 4, Cadorna renewed attacks on the mountaintop, taking it briefly. Boroevic was equally convinced as to the mountain’s importance, and devoted his last reserves to the battle, retaking the mountain that afternoon. However, he thought he could not hold onto it for long.
Over the next week, the fight for the mountain continued, in incredibly close quarters. During a brief pause in the battle one night, an Austrian mail carrier got lost and delivered his mail to the Italians instead. On September 8, Cadorna simply began trying to destroy the mountain, bombarding it with such intensity that its peak was reduced by more than thirty feet over the next three days. A defending Austrian recalled: “Who could full describe this San Gabriele, this sort of Moloch which swallows up a regiment every three or four days…”
On the night of September 11, Boroevic was able to scrounge up two elite companies of shock troops and backed them up with a whole artillery brigade. They pushed the Italians clear from the mountaintop, reversing the gains the Italians had paid for with over 10,000 casualties over the previous week. This was to be the furthest the Italians would push until the final days of the war.
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Sources include: John R. Schindler, Isonzo