The elite group of Italian soldiers known as Alpini (Alpines in English) formed in 1872 and are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world. Their mission was to protect Italy’s northern mountain border with Austria and France.
Africa was their first mission abroad (which they returned to many times), but they became more widely known during the First World War, when they fought against the Austro-Hungarian Kaiserjäger and the German Alpenkorps for three long years (the “War of ice and snow”) During the Second World War, the Alpini fought alongside *Axis forces on the Eastern front and in the Balkans Campaign.
With the reorganization of the Italian Army in the 1990’s, many brigades were disbanded. The Alpini are known world-wide for having the best trained well equipped mountain troops and are presently active in Afghanistan.
*Axis forces – countries that were opposed to the Allies during WWII – such as Germany and Japan, although some nations entered and later left the Axis during the course of the war.