Flashpoint Trieste by Christian Jennings is the story of a contested city at the end of World War Two that can reasonably be described as the first battle of the Cold War.
Trieste is part of modern day Italy, tucked away in an enclave that borders onto Slovenia and Croatia. The population was largely a mix of Italians and Slovenes and had formally been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, before being ceded to Italy after WW1. It was an important port and with nearby Montfalcone, a shipbuilding centre.
In 1945, the allies were slogging their way up Italy past Venice, while the Yugoslavian partisans and the Red Army were coming from the other direction.
The book describes the race for Trieste as leading elements of the allied armies, a New Zealand battalion, arrived in Trieste just as the partisans were occupying it. A line across the city was drawn, known as the Morgan Line, which split the city in two.
The city then became a hotbed of intrigue with the rival intelligence forces operating on both sides of the line. Wartime scores were settled and war crime suspects executed. There were numerous incidents between the two armies, which after the initial liberation turned hostile. In one incident a Gurkha decapitated a partisan with his Kukhri knife! The actions of an intelligence sergeant arguably stopped a shooting war.
At a political level, the British and US governments were seeking to contain communist expansion, while Tito wanted the whole region, without Yugoslavia being swallowed up by the Soviet Union. This led to his split with Stalin, who abandoned Tito and his territorial claims.
This is a really interesting story that reads a bit like a Cold War thriller, with the difference that it actually happened. Plenty of scope for an interesting 'What if' game for the wargamer as well.
|Partisan 120mm mortar team|
Post a Comment