The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/How the Austrian Slavs Helped the Italians

The Bohemian Review, volume 2, no. 10 (1918)
How the Austrian Slavs Helped the Italians
3599838The Bohemian Review, volume 2, no. 10 — How the Austrian Slavs Helped the Italians1918

How the Austrian Slavs Helpea the Italians.

It is well known that on the Italian front there is engaged in fighting against the Austrians a Czechoslovak Army numbering some 25,000 men, and that a Jugo Slav Army, laso composed of former Austrian soldiers, will soon take its place alongside of the Italians. But it is not so well known that Slav soldiers, while still in Austrian uniforms, rendered valuable services to the Italians in the ill-fated Austrian offensive of last June. The Vienna Neue Freid Presse of July 28th published a statement issued by the Austrian War Press Bureau which explains to some extent the poor showing made by the Austrians in their offensive along the Piave.

In the morning of June 15th our attack was launched on a long front exetnding fro mthe Tirol mountains to the Adriatic; it had behind it a storming power such as could be produced only by forces worked out to the least detail and by complete co-operation of all the branches of the service. But at the very beginning of the fighting it became evident that the enemy was exceedingly well prepared to resist and counter-attack at the very places that were selected for the penetration of his lines. It was also ascertained that our adversaries were minutely informed about the extent, the day and the hour of our attack. Thus the moment of surprise, so important to the success of an offensive, failed us. Shortly after, the fact became established by documents that a number of deserters furnished the Italian High Command with material which, upon checking up and comparison, enabled the enemy leaders to form a fairly exact conception of our dispositions for attack.

Officers and men of numerous English, French and Italian regiments taken prisoners stated unanimously that their units were advised on the evening of June 14th that the Austro-Hungarian offensive would start at 2 o’clock on the following morning. They understood that Jugo-Slav deserters told the exact time of attack. The enemy took steps against the expected gas bombardment, which naturally failed to have any results.

To pick out several illustrations: the Bersaglieri battalion 3-20 received orders on June 14th to increase the supply of cartridges for each man from 72 to 240. The Pinerolo brigade stood ready for fighting at 2 o’clock in the morning. In a captured order issued in the evening of June 14th, it states: “According to careful advices it appears that the enemy will begin a cannonading preparatory to an attack in the early hours of June 15th. Gas sentries must double their vigilance. At midnight hot coffee and preserved meat will be served out. An alarm will be sounded on June 15th at 1 o’clock; the soldier sare to be on watch with weapons in their hands and ready to put on their gas masks.”

It is natural that the Italian High Command did not make public the names of the deserters to whom it was due that the Italian defeat was not turned into a collapse of its entire armed strength. Nevertheless, a systematic study of numerous captured documents has thrown much light on this subject. The names of some of the deserters are now known, and it has been ascertained what information has been furnished by these traitors to the Italians. For some time the Italian High Command has been engaged in spreading disaffection in our lines. In Italian prison camps Slav soldiers were—against all international law—urged to join the Czechoslovak Legion. Their total ignorance of the real war situation as a whole is due to the clever Italian censoring of news from their home, and it was used with results by certain conscienceless propagandists. At order of the Third Italian Army Command, No. 1658 Prot. H. I. dated May 14th, 1918, speaks of an active propaganda by means of Czech volunteers to invite deserters from the Austro-Hungarian armies to the Italian side. The willing tools of high treason whose feverish imagination makes then completelyl blind to the real needs of their country are deceived by official Italian claims that riots and rebellions follow each other in Bohemia. In the above mentioned order it is claimed that some attempts at the corruption of Czech elements have been successful. No doubt a number of Czech soldiers went over to the Italians, others remained in order to go over when they should have important news to bring. Even though the contemptible means which Italy is using to seduce our men into high treason and perjury shattered themselves on the heroic opposition of our troops without regard to nationality, three have yet been individual persons who allowed themselves to be used by the enemy for spying services. Two specially flagrant cases may be mentioned here:

Private Rudolph Paprakar of the Machine Gun Detachment, according to a report of the commander of his regiment, dated June 8 1918, jumped into the Piave near the villa Jacur and swam across the stream at the risk of his life. He gave away the location, strength and composition of his command and on the basis of his careful observation and spying he communicated highly important advices from which the Italians could ascertain our plans of attack against Montello. He further communicated to the enemy full details of our preparations for the crossing of the Piave, as well as carefully collected information about the movement of troops, position of batteries, etc.

The Italian command ascribes the greatest part of this treason to Lieut. Karl Stiny of one of the infantry regiments, who deserted in the neighborhood of Norenta. From a voluminous document in which the information brought by him is summed up it appears that he gave away completely our preparations on the Piave and also brought to the enemy a number of very valuable reports. An official Italian estimate of Stiny reads thus: “The lieutenant is a highly intelligent Czech, with glowing national feelings and strong anti-Austrian sentiments. His statements bear the character of complete reliability. He purposely gathered all possible information before he went over in order that he might communicate it to us. He inspires full confidence. Stiny, who has sufficient professional knowledge, gathered with care and system all data that to him appeared of value. His exposé of the prep arations and plans for the offensive is so thorough and complete that we could figure out completely the real plans of the offensive preparations.” As to that let it only be said that Stiny, by his lying reports of the Austro-Hungarian situation at the front and in the rear, only tried to put himself in a good light, as all traitors do. It is characteristic of his statements that he claimed that in case of an offensive the Austro-Hungarian troops would to a large extent surrender, unless they were driven forward by German or Bulgarian bayonets.

This work was published before January 1, 1929 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 95 years or less since publication.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse