During the First World War, the Sasso di Stria was one of the most important emplacements on the Dolomite front.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire had abandoned Cortina on 24th May 1915, the day of the declaration of war, retreating to the defensive line of the Tre Sassi Fort, built at the beginning of the century on the Valparola pass.
The Italians arrived at the foot of Mt. Sasso di Stria almost a month later, when the Austro-Hungarian troops already had put up a line of defence that proved to be insurmountable.
The Valpaola Pass road was barred by three rows of wire netting between the rock faces of the Lagazuoi and the Sasso di Stria, and was under crossfire from the machine guns of the Lagazuoi and from the emplacement at the saddle of Mount Sasso di Stria (Selletta).
Then the Austro-Hungarian army built defensive trenches between the Sasso di Stria and the Lagazuoi (Tre Sassi Emplacement subsequently called Vonbank after the commander) to ward off attacks from the Falzarego Pass.
Other trenches between the Sasso di Stria and the Settsass (Edelweiss Emplacement) stopped attacks from the Andraz wood.
On the saddle (Selletta), just under the summit of the Sasso di Stria, the Austro-Hungarians had entrenched a strategically important emplacement: well advanced on the Italian front, it limited the activity of the enemy patrols.
Positioned just opposite the Martini Ledge, although at a slightly lower altitude, it was under constant machine gun fire from the Italian artillery. This emplacement was named after the commander of the Puster Valley division of the Austrian army: Field Marshal Ludwig Goiginger.
After the evacuation of the Tre Sassi Fort at Valparola as a result of a heavy bombardment by the Italian artillery on 5th July 1915, the Sasso di Stria became the new fortification of the Austrians for the defence of the Badia Valley and the Puster Valley from the attacks launched by the Italian army from the Falzarego pass.
In 1916, the Commander Goiginger ordered the construction of a tunnel connecting Valparola with the emplacement on the saddle under the top of the Sasso di Stria, in order to avoid the Italian artillery fire and the fusiliers stationed at the Martini Ledge and thus guarantee the supply for his soldiers.
This tunnel has an entrance at the Valparola pass and runs almost 500 meters horizontally inside the east wall of the Sasso di Stria.
The Goiginger tunnel was equipped with a power generator, refrigerated water tanks, a kitchen, storage rooms, officers’ huts and dormitories for soldiers, searchlight positions and, of course, weapons: machine guns and the two 80 mm cannons "Max" and "Moritz", removed from the Tre Sassi Fort and taken onto the Sasso di Stria, pointing at the Italian emplacement of the Martini Ledge.
On the Sasso di Stria, on 27th January 1916, a telepher line was set up that went from Valparola as far up as the Nest Emplacement (Sasso Mitte). Another telepher linked Valparola to Armentarola and San Cassiano.
There were three Italian attempts to capture the Sasso di Stria.
With the first, carried out during the night of 15th June 1915, the Italians occupied the saddle (Selletta) o f the Sasso di Stria by surprise tactics but received the order to withdraw three days later.
The intense bombardment on 9th July 1915, that damaged the Tre Sassi Fort beyond repair, was also unsuccessful.
The action of October 1915, on the night preceding the occupation of the Martini Ledge, a patrol commanded by Lieutenant Mario Fusetti reached the peak but his platoon was overcome by the Austrians.
Since this defence line proved to be impenetrable, this warfare became a static trench battle.
The mine warfare began in 1916.
Given the impossibility of conquering the emplacements of the enemy, both armies dug the mountain, built tunnels to place explosive under the enemy's emplacements and blow them up. Four Austrian mines and a great Italian mine exploded on the Lagazuoi.
Since the passage through Valparola was barred, the Italians concentrated their efforts to the west, on the road to Bolzano and Trento.
For tactical reasons, it was necessary to conquer the surrounding peaks in order to enable the passage leading to South Tyrol and Trento. The first peak was the Col di Lana, in a direct line only two kilometres away from the Sasso di Stria.
To place a mine underneath the mountain top, the Italians dug a long tunnel and armed it with 5 tons of explosive, blowing it up on 17th April 1916. Half of the Austrian contingent was killed by the collapse of about 10,000 tons of rock (hence it was dubbed "Blood Mountain").
In order to control the mountain passes leading to the north and to the west, it was necessary to conquer the peak of Mt. Sief as well.
The attacks continued until October 1917, also here with a the explosion of a mine tunnel, but the Italians didn’t succeed in overcoming the Austro-Hungarian defence. The way towards Trentino remained barred.
Lieutenant Malvezzi, who conceived the mines of the Castelletto and Mount Lagazuoi, in 1917 worked out the ambitious project of a tunnel with several branches, an entrance under the Goiginger emplacement, two mine chambers and two exits for the soldiers.
The mine chamber to the west was intended to blow up the Edelweiss emplacement, the second one, eastward, to take down the entrance of the Goiginger tunnel and thus interrupt the supply route to the saddle (Selletta).
However, this project was never realized because in November 1917, after the Battle of Caporetto, the Dolomite front was abandoned.
The Great War on Mt. Lagazuoi:
the role of the Sasso di Stria for the defense of the Valparola pass and the attack on the Martini ledge on Mt. Lagazuoi. The fortifications and the artillery on the Sasso di Stria.