Book Review: Hell in the Trenches: Austro-Hungarian Stormtroopers and Italian Arditi in the Great War


by Paolo Morisi

Solihul, Eng.: Helion / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2018. Pp. 344. Illus., maps, tables, diagr., append., biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1912174987

Special Assault Forces in the Austro-Italian War

Paolo Morisi, author of a number of books in modern Italian military history, gives us a look at the origins and development of Italian and Austro-Hungarian special assault troops during the First World War.

Following an introduction in which he outlines the roots of military effectiveness, he gives us a chapter on Germany’s introduction of stosstruppen and their effect on the war. Morisi follows with a chapter each on the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies at the outbreak of the war. While both armies lacked realistic doctrine, good training, or proper equipment, and, worst of all, sound leadership, though did have some specialized troops – Italy’s Alpini and Bersaglieri, and Austria-Hungary’s Kaiserjaeger. Morisi then devotes two chapters to how each army came to see the need for, and raised, trained, and equipped special assault troops – Stosstruppen and Arditi.

Morisi then discusses the role of these troops in action, culminating in the Caporetto operation (Oct. 24-Nov. 19, 1917), which nearly knocked Italy out of the war. He follows this with a chapter covering the reorganization and reform of the Italian Army, the final Austro-Hungarian offensive, and the ultimate Italian victory. In an appendix he offers tips for those interested in visiting the battlefield.

One would wish that Morisi had discussed the influence of these special forces on the post-war armies, and at least touched on the role of their Arditi veterans in the rise of fascism, but overall Hell in the Trenches is a very good treatment of the development of special assault forces in the war.


Note: Hell in the Trenches is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close