The Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-1936 is sometimes seen as one of the lead-ins to World War II. Italy had previously tried to conquer Ethiopia in the 1890’s, without success. Citing a border dispute between Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland, Italy invaded Ethiopia in October 1935.
Since Trentino was annexed to Italy as a result of World War I, many Trentini men were conscripted into the Italian army for service in Ethiopia. The 11th Alpini Regiment was one of the units formed in late 1935 and sent to Ethiopia to take part in the fight.
Due to nationalistic feelings in Trentino, there was quite a bit of resentment toward this service. An example of this resentment can be seen in the November 20, 1935 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, in which an article with the following headline appeared on page 2: “Italy Accused of Sacrificing Tyrol Soldiers –
Bare High Casualty Rate in Africa”
According to the article, some factions suspected that the Italian high command was deliberatel sacrificing Tyrolese troops in the Ethiopian War. Letters to relatives back home in the Trentino villages from the war front show that the small Tyrolean villages suffered thousands of war dead. An exaggeration? possiblly, although it was noted that Bolzano, a village of 600, suffered 30 soldiers dead due to fighting or disease. The article also states that hundreds of young men from the villages are fleeing into the mountains to escape being drafted for duty in Africa.