Within a week of Italy's declaration of war on 10 June 1940, the British 11th Hussars had seized Fort Capuzzo in Libya. Stockings, Craig; Hancock, Eleanor (2013). Journal of Contemporary History, Volume 24, 1989. By then, the Allies were on the Italian mainland. At Sidi Barrani, Graziani, unaware of the British lack of numerical strength,[nb 9] planned to build fortifications and stock them with provisions, ammunition, and fuel, establish a water pipeline, and extend the via Balbia to that location, which was where the road to Alexandria began. As Commander-in-Chief of all Italian armed forces, Vittorio Emanuele also commanded the Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) and the Royal Navy (Regia Marina). [39], The Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) was comparatively depleted and weak at the commencement of the war. British intelligence officer, Francis Rodd, believed that Mussolini was convinced to reverse policy by German pressure in the week of 2–8 February, a view shared by the British ambassador in Rome, Percy Loraine. On 28 October 1940, Italy started the Greco-Italian War by launching an invasion of the Kingdom of Greece from Albania. J, 'The Italo-Greek War in Context: Italian Priorities and Axis Diplomacy', Sadkovich, James J. Then, Italy would be able to march "either to the Indian Ocean through the Sudan and Abyssinia, or to the Atlantic by way of French North Africa". [46] Recognizing the Navy's need for close air support, the decision was made to build carriers. He opted to remain in the war as the imperial ambitions of the Fascist regime, which aspired to restore the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean (the Mare Nostrum), were partially met by late 1942. Together with the rapid advance of the German forces the Italians attacked Yugoslavia in Dalmatia and pushed the Greeks finally out of Albania. [59] In any event, a critical lack of fuel kept naval activities to a minimum.[60]. [120][121][122][123] During the Tunisian Campaign, where Italian units were involved in most encounters, such as Kasserine Pass, Mareth, Akarit and Enfidaville, it was observed by General Alexander, "...the Italians fought particularly well, outdoing the Germans in line with them". Updated studies (2010) by the Ufficio dell'Albo d'Oro of the Italian Ministry of Defence have however revised the military deaths to 319,207: Civilian losses were 153,147 (123,119 post armistice) including 61,432 (42,613 post armistice) in air attacks. Mussolini referred to this treaty as the creation of a Berlin-Rome Axis, which Europe would revolve around. Mussolini announced his decision—one bitterly opposed by his foreign minister, Galeazzo Ciano—to huge crowds across Italy on June 10. … 15", "Breve storia dell'internamento militare italiano in Germania Dati, fatti e considerazioni", ABC-CLIO Schools; Minorities and Women During World War II – "Italian Army", Mussolini’s War Statement – Declaration of War against USA, 11 December 1941, History of World War II by region and country, Sarawak, Brunei, Labuan, and British North Borneo, Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, Rape during the Soviet occupation of Poland, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Military_history_of_Italy_during_World_War_II&oldid=986591010, Military history of Italy during World War II, CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown, Articles with unsourced statements from February 2014, Articles with unsourced statements from October 2014, Articles containing Italian-language text, Articles with unsourced statements from September 2015, Articles with unsourced statements from January 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Total military dead and missing from 1940 to 1945: 291,376, Losses after the Armistice: 87,030 (42,916 killed, 19,840 missing, 24,274 died of disease). The 10th Light Flotilla, also known as Decima Flottiglia MAS or Xª MAS, which carried out these attacks, sank or damaged 28 ships from September 1940 to the end of 1942. By the summer of 1943, Rome had withdrawn the remnants of the 8th Army to Italy. The bulk of Italian artillery dated to World War I. Pressing the British advantage home, General Richard O'Connor succeeded in reaching El Agheila, deep in Libya (an advance of 500 miles (800 km)) and taking some 130,000 prisoners. MacGregor Knox. The Italian Army of World War II was a "Royal" army. The Italian Army was still pinned down in Albania by the Greeks when the Germans began their invasion. The oil and supplies brought to Malta, despite heavy losses, by Operation Pedestal in August and the Allied landings in North Africa, Operation Torch, in November 1942, turned the fortunes of war against Italy. the italian army - divisione folgore Over the walls of the Italian El Alamein Memorial, there are these words: " Folgore Division: Legion of souls watching over the desert " These men were the best-trained Italian soldiers of WW2 and they well deserve a place among the most glorious units in military history. The Italian Army had suffered heavy losses for only limited gains during World War One and in common with the other combatant nations the Army was drastically reduced in size and influence following the 1918 armistice. At the same time, the last four submarines made an epic voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to Bordeaux in France. However, this was only a brief happy time for Mussolini. If he cannot make a graceful dive, he will at least have to jump in somehow; he can hardly put on his dressing-gown and walk down the stairs again."[64]. Following the attacks on these two battleships, an Italian-dominated Mediterranean Sea appeared much more possible to achieve. [citation needed] The relatively weak economy, lack of suitable raw materials and consequent inability to produce suitable quantities of armaments and supplies were therefore the key material reasons for Italian military failure. However, the British Prime Minister Churchill and John Foster Dulles were resolutely against the idea, and so Italy's new government was left out of the Conference. Mussolini announced in 1934 that he can mobilize 6 Million soldiers, in 1936 he increased the number to 8 million and in 1939 to 12 million. The most successful involved the use of frogmen and riding manned torpedoes to attack ships in harbour. The Italians bombed Mandatory Palestine, invaded Egypt and occupied British Somaliland with initial success. By comparison, Great Britain produced 224.3 Mt of coal, 11.9 Mt of crude oil, 17.7 Mt of iron ore, and 13.0 Mt of steel and Germany produced 364.8 Mt of coal, 8.0 Mt of crude oil, 29.5 Mt of iron ore and 21.5 Mt of steel. Due to their generally smaller size, many Italian divisions were reinforced by an Assault Group (Gruppo d'Assalto) of two battalions of Blackshirts (MVSN). At the end of May, Rommel launched the Battle of Gazala where the British armoured divisions were soundly defeated. TM E 30-420 Handbook on the Italian Military Forces 1943-08-03. James J. Sadkovich. About Mussolini's declaration of war in France, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States said: On this tenth day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.[71]. [95], After the German invasion, deportations of Italian Jews to Nazi death camps began. [19][20] To break British control, her bases on Cyprus, Gibraltar, Malta, and in Egypt (controlling the Suez Canal) would have to be neutralized. [77], On 8 December 1940, the British launched Operation Compass. On 7 April, Italian forces landed in the country and within three days had occupied the majority of the country. The Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) had several modern battleships but no aircraft carriers. [a] He called Corsica, Tunisia, Malta, and Cyprus "the bars of this prison", and described Gibraltar and Suez as the prison guards. The Italians were pioneers in the use of self-propelled guns,[52][53] both in close support and anti-tank roles. Winston Churchill had long regarded southern Europe as the military weak spot of the continent (in World War I he had advocated the Dardanelles campaign, and during World War II he favoured the Balkans as an area of operations, for example in Greece in 1940). Graziani complained to Mussolini that his forces were not properly equipped for such an operation, and that an attack into Egypt could not possibly succeed; nevertheless, Mussolini ordered him to proceed. Despite being an Axis power, Italy remained non-belligerent until June 1940. The primary fighter of the Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) was the Fiat CR.42, which, though an advanced biplane with excellent performance, was technically outclassed by monoplane fighters of other nations. On 28 April 1945, Benito Mussolini was executed by Italian partisans, two days before Adolf Hitler's suicide. [38] Germany supplied Italy with about one million tons of coal a month beginning in the spring of 1940, an amount that even exceeded Mussolini's demand of August 1939 that Italy receive six million tons of coal for its first twelve months of war. Following the German conquest of Poland, Mussolini hesitated to enter the war. Corsica! [34] Adding to these problems was Italy's extreme debt position. [4], In 1935, Italy initiated the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, "a nineteenth-century colonial campaign waged out of due time". On his suggestion, Italy issued a formal declaration of war on Japan on 14 July 1945. Even before the invasion, Albania had been politically dominated by Italy; after the invasion it was formally made part of Italy and the Italian king took the Albanian crown. Other Italian troops, loyal to Mussolini and his RSI, continued to fight alongside the Germans (among them were the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano, the National Republican Army). [124] Rommel also conceded praise on several occasions. This in turn created the opportunity Mussolini needed to begin to realize his imperial goals. [citation needed], Historians have long debated why Italy's military and its Fascist regime were so remarkably ineffective at an activity - war - that was central to their identity. [citation needed][55] None of these developments, however, precluded the fact that the bulk of equipment was obsolete and poor. The Viceroy of Ethiopia, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, surrendered at the stronghold of Amba Alagi in May. By February, the Axis forces in Tunisia were joined by Rommel's forces, after their long withdrawal from El Alamein, which were re-designated the Italian First Army (under Giovanni Messe) when Rommel left to command the Axis forces to the north at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. On 17 April, Yugoslavia surrendered to the Germans and the Italians. Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, marked the beginning of World War II. "The North African Campaign 1940-43: A Reconsideration. An Italian "Spring Offensive" in March 1941, which tried to salvage the situation prior to German intervention, amounted to little in terms of territorial gains. From August 1942 to February 1943, the 8th Army took part in the Battle of Stalingrad and suffered many losses (some 20,000 dead and 64,000 captured) when the Soviets isolated the German forces in Stalingrad by attacking the over-stretched Hungarian, Romanian and Italian forces protecting the Germans' flanks. Mussolini was fiercely disappointed with Graziani's sluggishness. [21][22][17] Through armed conquest Italian North Africa and Italian East Africa—separated by the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan—would be linked,[23] and the Mediterranean prison destroyed. The Individual Italian soldier was for the most part brave and willing to fight, but they were ineptly led, … Badoglio and Roatta were appalled given that, acting on his orders, they had demobilised 600,000 men three weeks prior. [85] Hitler later stated in hindsight that Greece would have been defeated with or without German intervention, and that even at the time he was of the opinion that the Italians alone would have conquered Greece in the forthcoming season. [nb 1][nb 2][44][45] Almost 40% of the 1939 budget was allocated for military spending. Because of the time it took for the new Italian government to negotiate the armistice, the Germans had time to reinforce their presence in Italy and prepare for their defection. In some regions, military records begin about 1792 and give information about the man’s military career, such as promotions, places served, pensions, and conduct. Italy's military outside of the Italian peninsula collapsed, its occupied and annexed territories falling under German control. Italian East Africa, however, was isolated and far from the Italian mainland, leaving the forces there cut off from supply and thus severely limited in the operations they could undertake. By then they had been able to penetrate deep into Albania. As in Egypt, Italian forces (roughly 70,000 Italian soldiers and 180,000 native troops) outnumbered their British opponents. [40] Of the Regia Aeronautica's approximately 1,760 aircraft, only 900 could be considered in any way combat-worthy. The British commander for land forces in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean, General Sir Archibald Wavell, correctly predicted that Mussolini's pride would ultimately cause him to enter the war. Italian troops would occupy parts of Greece and Yugoslavia until the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943. The war also marked a shift towards a more aggressive Italian foreign policy and also "exposed [the] vulnerabilities" of the British and French. Italy - Italy - World War II: Only in June 1940, when France was about to fall and World War II seemed virtually over, did Italy join the war on Germany’s side, still hoping for territorial spoils. In light of the economic difficulties it was proposed, in 1933, by Marshal Italo Balbo to limit the number of divisions to 20 and ensure that each was fully mobile for ready response, equipped with the latest weaponry and trained for amphibious warfare. The Italian Army in World War One. Other and unknown 6,844 (3,695 post armistice). [citation needed] One of his officers wrote: "We're trying to fight this... as though it were a colonial war... this is a European war... fought with European weapons against a European enemy. [37] On 1 March, the British announced that they would block all coal exports from Rotterdam to Italy. [61] Comando Supremo (the Italian High Command) consisted of only a small complement of staff that could do little more than inform the individual service commands of Mussolini's intentions, after which it was up to the individual service commands to develop proper plans and execution. These included the battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and Valiant (damaged in the harbour of Alexandria on 18 December 1941), and 111,527 long tons (113,317 t) of merchant shipping. They also usually include information about his age, birthplace, residence, occupation, physical description, and family members. Jan 13, 2014 - Explore Lawrence's board "WWII, Italian Army Tanks & Equipment" on Pinterest. In addition, the Greeks were naturally adept at operating in mountainous terrain, while only six of the Italian Army's divisions, the Alpini, were trained and equipped for mountain warfare. Plans to attack the harbour of New York City with CA class midget submarines in 1943 were disrupted when the submarine converted to carry out the attack, the Leonardo da Vinci, was sunk in May 1943. The absence of motorised transport did not allow for rapid reorganisation, if needed. Since the British Navy had as a principal task the supply and protection of convoys supplying Britain's outposts in the Mediterranean, the mere continued existence of the Italian fleet (the so-called "fleet in being" concept) caused problems to Britain, which had to utilise warships sorely needed elsewhere to protect Mediterranean convoys. [138] Ian Walker wrote: ....it is perhaps simplest to ask who is the most courageous in the following situations: the Italian carristi, who goes into battle in an obsolete M14 tank against superior enemy armour and anti-tank guns, knowing they can easily penetrate his flimsy protection at a range where his own small gun will have little effect;[nb 14] the German panzer soldier or British tanker who goes into battle in a Panzer IV Special or Sherman respectively against equivalent enemy opposition knowing that he can at least trade blows with them on equal terms; the British tanker who goes into battle in a Sherman against inferior Italian armour and anti-tank guns, knowing confidently that he can destroy them at ranges where they cannot touch him. The invasions ended with a complete Axis victory in May when Crete fell. Italy capitulated to the Allies on 3 September 1943. At this time, the British had only 36,000 troops available (out of about 100,000 under Middle Eastern command) to defend Egypt, against 236,000 Italian troops. "Understanding Defeat." With Allied assistance some Italian troops in the south were organized into what were known as "co-belligerent" or "royalist" forces. [92] A Supermarina (Italian Naval Command) broadcast led the Italians to initially believe this attack was carried out by the British.[93]. In November 1942, the Italian Royal Army occupied south-eastern Vichy France and Corsica as part of Case Anton. THE ROYAL ITALIAN ARMY CO: Maresciallo d’Italia Rudolfo Graziani UNDER DIRECT CONTROL Crucially, the bulk of the Greek Army (fifteen divisions out of twenty-one) was left facing the Italians in Albania and Epirus when the Germans intervened. [78] The Allies nearly destroyed the 10th Army, and seemed on the point of sweeping the Italians out of Libya altogether. [106], The genocide of Roma people was 1,000 persons. Winston Churchill, however, directed the advance be stopped, initially because of supply problems and because of a new Italian offensive that had gained ground in Albania, and ordered troops dispatched to defend Greece. [136] Gerhard L.Weinberg, in his 2011 George C. Marshall Lecture "Military History – Some Myths of World War II" (2011) complained that "there is far too much denigration of the performance of Italy's forces during the conflict."[137]. The final Allied victory over the Axis in Italy did not come until the spring offensive of 1945, after Allied troops had breached the Gothic Line, leading to the surrender of German and RSI forces in Italy on 2 May shortly before Germany finally surrendered ending World War II in Europe on 8 May. However, German and Japanese actions in 1941 led to the entry of the Soviet Union and United States, respectively, into the war, thus ruining the Italian plan of forcing Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement.[1]. There were designs for a protectorate over Albania and for the annexation of Dalmatia, as well as economic and military control of Yugoslavia and Greece. [131] According to Sadkovich, Rommel often retreated leaving immobile infantry units exposed, withdrew German units to rest even though the Italians had also been in combat, would deprive the Italians of their share of captured goods, ignore Italian intelligence, seldom acknowledge Italian successes and often resist formulation of joint strategy. However, according to Bauer[75] he had only himself to blame, as he had withheld the trucks, armaments, and supplies that Graziani had deemed necessary for success. [75] This task was being obstructed by British Royal Navy attacks on Italian supply ships in the Mediterranean. Weeks later the first troops of the German Afrika Korps started to arrive in North Africa (February 1941), along with six Italian divisions including the motorized Trento and armored Ariete.[79][80]. Hitler commented that the Italians "had so weakened [Greece] that its collapse had already become inevitable", and credited them with having "engaged the greater part of the Greek Army."[87]. See more ideas about army tanks, italian army, italian tanks. The SS. [101] A brief summary of data from this report can be found online. On 24 June 1940, France surrendered to Germany. Sadkovich, Walker and others have found examples of actions where Italian forces were effective, yet are rarely discussed by most histories. Along with the intervention in the Spanish Civil War and the invasion of Abyssinia, the invasion of Albania was part of the Italian contribution to the disintegration of the collective security the League of Nations instituted after World War I. Some 28 Italian divisions participated in the Balkan invasions. Italian Genealogical Records Online; Lists of military recruitment. The Italian navy found other ways to attack the British. These vehicles were ready in 1922, and served well to forge Italian interwar armored tactics. [nb 3] Three series of modern fighters[nb 4], capable of meeting the best allied planes on equal terms,[48][nb 5] were in development, with a few hundred of each eventually being produced. [citation needed]. This stalemate situation dragged on for the whole of 1916. The initial Italian offensive was quickly contained, and the invasion soon ended in an embarrassing stalemate. To bypass that line, the Allies landed some 50,000 seaborne troops, with 5,000 vehicles, at Anzio, only 33 miles south of Rome, on … From the beginning, Italy played an important role in the conflict. During this operation, Italian casualties amounted to 1,247 men dead or missing and 2,631 wounded. The army was commanded by Pietro Badoglio during most of World War II, and then by Rodolfo Graziani after September 1943 when the Salo Republic was created. Nearly four million Italians served in the Italian Army during the Second World War and nearly half a million Italians (including civilians) lost their lives between June 1940 and May 1945. Allied press reports of Italian military prowess in the Second World War were almost always dismissive. [81] Nonetheless, D-day was set at dawn on 28 October. Many of the Italian POWs captured in the Soviet Union died in captivity due to harsh conditions in Soviet prison camps. The pact was the culmination of German-Italian relations from 1936 and was not defensive in nature. On 31 March, Mussolini stated that "Italy will not truly be an independent nation so long as she has Corsica, Bizerta, Malta as the bars of her Mediterranean prison and Gibraltar and Suez as the walls." This was followed by "the familiar lament that Italy was a prisoner in the Mediterranean". Savoy! However, Italy's conquests were always heavily contested, both by various insurgencies (most prominently the Greek resistance and Yugoslav partisans) and Allied military forces, which waged the Battle of the Mediterranean throughout and beyond Italy's participation. [25] Rather, the pact was designed for a "joint war against France and Britain", although the Italian hierarchy held the understanding that such a war would not take place for several years. The Italian campaign was New Zealand’s primary combat contribution to the war following the hard-won victory over Axis forces in North Africa. [16], Beginning in 1939 Mussolini often voiced his contention that Italy required uncontested access to the world's oceans and shipping lanes to ensure its national sovereignty. Italy occupied a swath of French territory along the Franco-Italian border. The machine guns of the British armoured cars pepper them with bullets which easily pierce their armour. Other examples: Bishop and Warner (2001) – "It was Germany's misfortune to be allied to Italy.....the performance of most Italian infantry units risable.....could be relied on to fold like a house of cards.....dash and elan but no endurance"; The phrase "prisoner in the Mediterranean" had been used in parliament as early as 30 March 1925, by the naval minister Admiral. The northern half of the country was occupied by the Germans with the cooperation of Italian fascists, and became a collaborationist puppet state (with more than 500,000 soldiers recruited for the Axis), while the south was officially controlled by monarchist forces, which fought for the Allied cause as the Italian Co-Belligerent Army (at its height numbering more than 50,000 men), as well as around 350,000[3] Italian resistance movement partisans (mostly former Royal Italian Army soldiers) of disparate political ideologies that operated all over Italy. After reorganising and re-grouping the Allies launched Operation Crusader in November 1941 which resulted in the Axis front line being pushed back once more to El Agheila by the end of the year. Distinctive Branches, or Specialties 6-11 5 II. General Caroni, who was tasked with defending Rome, was given duplicitous orders to have his troops abandon Rome (something he did not want to do), and essentially to provide rear guard protection to the King and his entourage so they could flee to the Abruzzi hills, and later out to sea. On 19 July, an Allied air raid on Rome destroyed both military and collateral civil installations. Most importantly, Badoglio never gave the order "OP 44" for the Italian people to rise up against the Germans until he knew it was too late to do any good; that is, he belatedly issued the order on 11 September. Italo-German forces had also achieved victories against insurgents in Yugoslavia, and had occupied parts of British-held Egypt on their push to El-Alamein after their victory at Gazala. Italy still had a predominantly agricultural-based economy, with demographics more akin to a developing country (high illiteracy, poverty, rapid population growth and a high proportion of adolescents) and a proportion of GNP derived from industry less than that of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Sweden, in addition to the other great powers. [69] Mussolini was well aware of the military and material deficiencies but thought the war would be over soon and did not expect to do much fighting. Italian Army. Italian Records: WWII POWs: Archived military records (usually for those born in or before 1912) are in the provincial archives of their birth town. This had been made clear during the Italo-German negotiations for the Pact of Steel, whereby it was stipulated that neither signatory was to make war without the other earlier than 1943. On the Greek island of Cephallonia, General Antonio Gandin, commander of the 12,000-strong Italian Acqui Division, decided to resist the German attempt to forcibly disarm his force. James Sadkovich, Peter Haining, Vincent O'Hara, Ian Walker and others have attempted to reassess the performance of the Italian forces. Despite the Axis success at Kasserine, the Allies were able to reorganise (with all forces under the unified direction of 18th Army Group commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander) and regain the initiative in April. However, by the time the German advance reached the Campagna concentration camp, all the inmates had already fled to the mountains with the help of the local inhabitants. From this point on, a large Italian resistance movement located in northern Italy fought a guerilla war against the German and RSI forces. [citation needed] On 13 September, elements of the 10th Army retook Fort Capuzzo and crossed the border into Egypt. Both formed the bulk of the Italian army corp, until new models arrived in 1935. Rev. Libya had been pacified under the fascists and was undergoing Italian settlement. Wavell would compare Mussolini's situation to that of someone at the top of a diving board: "I think he must do something. This page was last edited on 11 March 2020, at 20:48 (UTC). Some Italians, after their defeat, waged a guerilla war mainly in Eritrea and Ethiopia, that lasted until fall 1943. Notable among them was Amedeo Guillet. At this stage Italian losses remained minimal, but the efficiency of the British Royal Navy would improve as the war went on. [nb 7] There was insufficient budget to train the men in the services, such that the bulk of personnel received much of their training at the front, when it was too late to be of use. Italian tanks were of poor quality and radios few in number. The rocky terrain had prevented an anti-tank ditch from being dug and there were too few mines and 47 mm anti-tank guns to repel an armoured advance. Tunisia! [134] He criticises Rommel for ignoring the good advice of Italians during the Crusader Offensive (although he also presents a positive picture of the Field Marshal in general),[135] and in review of Sadkovich's work The Italian Navy in World War II, criticises it for being unreliable and recommends Bragadin and the Italian official history instead. In 1940, the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) could not match the overall strength of the British Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea. [58] Air units had not been trained to operate with the naval fleet and the majority of ships had been built for fleet actions, rather than the convoy protection duties in which they were primarily employed during the war. Ceva, Lucio. This attempt was also fruitless. [10] The aftermath of the war in Ethiopia saw a reconciliation of German-Italian relations following years of a previously strained relationship, resulting in the signing of a treaty of mutual interest in October 1936. [41], Italian authorities were acutely aware of the need to modernize and were taking steps to meet the requirements of their own relatively advanced tactical principles. Balbo had said "Our light tanks, already old and armed only with machine guns, are completely out-classed. Sadkovich, James. [26] However, despite the Italian impression, the pact made no reference to such a period of peace and the Germans proceeded with their plans to invade Poland.

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