This Inept Italian General Killed More of his Own Men Than his Enemies

Luigi Cadorna World War I General. Wikipedia

When history is filled with military leaders who inspire awe, the only word that can describe Italian General Luigi Cadarna is inept, and there are many reasons for this. The primary reason, however, is that while in World War I, he didn’t win a single major battle.

Luigi Cadorna was appointed the Chief of Staff of the Italian Army in 1914. He was also at times the Marshal of Italy and a Major General. At the beginning of World War I, he was in charge of almost 900,000 men. By the time he was replaced, nearly two thirds of them were either dead or had surrendered to the Germans.

In fact, his record was so horrid, that he is considered by many historians as one of the worst generals ever to lead an army. That is distinction that no one wants to have.

It is quite difficult to determine what his greatest failure is. Cadorna led four different attacks on the same target (the Fortress of Gorizia), and all four times he failed. Moreover, during those attacks he lost almost 300,000 men.

Luigi Cadorna. BBC

Most of these battles took place in the Mountains of the Alps, and as Hannibal found out in 218 BCE, the Alps are terrible places for troops. Between terrible terrain, miserable conditions, and poor supply routes, the Alps offer no quarter to a standing or moving army. A lot of the troops that Cadorna had during these initial offensives were eliminated not by an enemy, but by the conditions of the Alps themselves.

In 1917, the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians attacked at Kobarid, and within just two weeks had completely destroyed the Italian Army. In the end, 275,000 troops would surrender to the enemy, severely restricting the already hamstrung Italian Army. It was only after this failure that Cadorna was replaced at the insistence of the Allies.