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The WWI Victory Medal Series – Italy

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Posted 7 years ago

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At the start of the war, Italy found itself allied by treaty to the Central Powers, but with strong diplomatic relations to the Allied side. Italy argued that the treaty was for defense only, and remained neutral while conducting secret negotiations with both sides. Eventually Italy made an agreement with the Allied powers to come in on their side in exchange for territorial concessions after the war, to include Italian speaking regions ruled by Austria-Hungary. Italy entered the war in 1915, with much of the fighting conducted in the Alps along the Austrian border. Like the Western Front, the fighting quickly wound down into trench warfare. However, instead of the muddy fields of places like Flanders, The Italians and Austrians fought each other in trenches dug into rocky mountainsides and glaciers, sometimes up to 9,800 feet above sea level.

Approximately two million Italian Victory Medals were issued. The medal was designed by Gaetano Orsolini. According to government decree, the medal was to be struck from the bronze of captured enemy cannons, but it is uncertain that this actually happened. Unlike other medals with a ring, the ribbon fits through a slot attached above the medal rim, called a staffa. This is traditional with Italian medals. The front depicts winged Victory on a triumphal chariot drawn by four lions (a four horse chariot pulling Italia was a symbol of the Italian empire). The reverse depicts a sacred tripod (an ancient Roman symbol) from which fly two doves. Around the upper rim is the text "GRANDE GVERRA PER LA CIVILITA" (The Great War for Civilization), and to either side the war years in Roman numerals. Instead of listing all the allies, at the bottom it reads "AL COMBATIENTI DELLA NAZIONE ALLEATE ED ASSOCIATE" (To the combatants of the allied and associated countries).

This time both medals in the first photo are official, but made by different manufacturers. The one on the left in the first photo and in the second and third photos was made by the firm of Lorioli & Castelli of Milan, and their name appears on the front, bottom right. The designer’s name, “Orsolini” appears at the bottom left. The other medal was produced by S. Johnson of Milan, and last photo is the reverse without ribbon, so you can better see the staffa. Unlike the Lorioli & Castelli version, The Johnson version lists the die maker’s name “G.Villa” on the back. Somehow the Johnson medal acquired a piece of American Victory Medal ribbon, and you can see the difference from the Italian ribbon in the first photo. At least six manufacturers made official Italian issues. Some medals say Sacchini of Milan, while other issues are not marked with a manufacturer at all.

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When Italy was still neutral, both sides of the war actively sought to bring it to their side with secret promises and public propaganda. The allies even paid some Italian journalists to write favorable articles to sway the public in favor of the allies. One of the journalists on the allied payroll was the editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti, a fellow named Benito Mussolini.


  1. scottvez scottvez, 7 years ago
    Thanks for sharing.

    I'd never heard the Mussolini/ journalist story before.

  2. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 7 years ago
    Thanks Scott
  3. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 6 years ago
    Re-reading my post after all this time, I think I should have added that inspite of all the secret negotiations, for the Italian people this was a patriotic war. Adding those Italian speaking territories represented the final unification of the Italian nation.

  4. scottvez scottvez, 6 years ago
    GREAT post chris!


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