Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The start of what came to be known as White Friday (although it apparently was a Wednesday), 1916

 Mount Marmolata vom Sellajoch, in the Dolomites before World War One.  The disaster commenced on this mountain where Austrian troops were garrisoned on the summit.  A local officer, Rudolf Schmid, had asked for permission to withdraw prior to the disaster, recognizing the danger, but had been denied.  He survived the disaster.

On this day in 1916 nature and war combined to eventually kill over 10,000 Italian and Austrian soldiers in the Italian Dolomites.  The day featured a catastrophic series of avalanches which would continue to carry on the rest of the week.  The majority of the casualties were Austrian with only 300 Italians loosing their lives in the disaster, if "only" is an appropriate word for death on such a colossal scale.

Austrian recruiting poster omitting, curiously, death.

An oddity of this event is that it is recalled as "White Friday", but it didn't solely or even principally occur on a Friday. The disaster was the start of a series of such events that would apparently culminate in some fashion on Friday.  Given this, it's often reported as if the full disaster occurred on a single day and a significant number of deaths occurred on the first day, but they did not end that day, and the day they first occurred on did not lend itself to the title of the day in history.

By any measure, however, it was a horrific event.

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