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"Italy in World War II" Topic

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World War Two on the Land

770 hits since 10 Jul 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 2:23 p.m. PST

"When it comes to World War Two, most subjects discussed, debated or researched involve the political and military actions of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan or the Soviet Union. Events associated with the Italian war effort are usually limited to a footnote or as a punch line to a joke.

The problem with overlooking the Italian involvement in World War II is much like watching "most" of a movie. Although you may understand the overall plot and storyline of the picture, you will miss the finer details and subplots that could make an otherwise good movie great.

The following snapshots of the Italian actions in World War Two may come as a surprise to some. I hope each reader will develop a better appreciation of the lesser-known Axis country, Italy…"
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Lee49411 Jul 2018 3:04 p.m. PST

For people with nothing better to do …..

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2018 4:21 p.m. PST

What's that supposed to mean?

Blutarski11 Jul 2018 5:33 p.m. PST

The hard fighting of the Italian Ariete Division at Gazala saved the Afrika Korpa at the climax of the battle. Many brave Italians died while fighting with comically obsolete equipment for a self-deluded national leader pursuing ambitions far beyond the reach of his nation's resources.


goragrad11 Jul 2018 8:19 p.m. PST

Definitely a list focusing on the positives.

Yugoslavs and Greeks could provide a list of achievements that wouldn't be quite as positive.

ancientsgamer11 Jul 2018 8:23 p.m. PST

Lest we forget the RSI fought on against Germany as well.

Gaz004511 Jul 2018 10:20 p.m. PST

The RSI fought on with the Germans……the monarchist forces under Badoglio joined the Allies.

Legion 412 Jul 2018 6:06 a.m. PST

As was posted by Huscarle on another thread here :

You can't call any nation hero or coward; it all comes down to the individuals that make up that nation, there will be some heroes, some cowards, and most will just want to survive.

The same goes here for Italy in WWII. Many units and individuals fought well and many died … Just like every other nation involved in WWII.

28mm Fanatik12 Jul 2018 6:27 a.m. PST

The Italians made good ships, but they could have used some better tanks.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 9:27 a.m. PST



thomalley12 Jul 2018 9:43 a.m. PST

Try the book "Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts" about the Italian armor through North Africa.

Mark 112 Jul 2018 9:54 a.m. PST

I find the subject of Italy in WW2 quite interesting. And, like many of the "lesser" combatants (although Italy was perhaps more correctly considered as being on the border between "major" and "lesser" combatants), the experience of the Italian individuals, whether soldiers or citizens, in WW2 is almost a faustian tragedy.

The Italians made good ships, but they could have used some better tanks.

A fair statement as far as it goes.

To my readings, Italian ship designs were pretty reasonable. However it appears to me that while the ships themselves were capable, they fell behind as the war developed and progressed.

The guns mounted on those ships were a bit of a mixed bag, though, as the Italian emphasis on velocity seems to have affected accuracy. My reading of naval combat gives me a rather strong impression that the first side to land hits was at a great advantage in any surface engagement. Warships had very little empty space, and armor or no armor, hits on ships reduced their combat effectiveness. If you hit first, you gain advantage. Hit more often, and your advantage grows. Giving up accuracy for any other characteristic (other than perhaps rate of fire) seems to be the wrong trade-off.

Also the Italians seem to have fallen behind on sensor technologies. Good radar and sonar, as well as complimentary technologies like radar warning receivers, were very significant contributors to naval combat.

Whether the ship designs were good or not, if their adversaries were more likely to detect first, and hit first, then what appeared to be very good ships were at a dis-advantage in combat.

Their tanks were not bad for 1939/40. But again they were unable to keep up with the rapid rate of advancement that took place during the war.

I find that the Regia Aeronautica (Italy's Royal Air Force) is also a very interesting topic. Their fighter aircraft designs were in several ways quite good. But they lacked high-performance engines and stout armament. The first issue was in part resolved as the war progressed by accessing German engines, resulting in excellent fighters produced in piddly quantities. It is harder for me to understand how/why they were so far behind in arming their fighters. It's not like Italy didn't have good gun producers and working 20mm auto-cannons.

Their bombers were also in many cases quite good.

Overall, though, Italy as a nation was grossly mis-managed throughout the war. There was no coherency in the military acquisition process, nor any rational industrial planning. There was no energy policy or plan. The Regia Marina did not have enough oil to fuel their fleet, and nothing was done about this simple reality. The very few heavy industry concerns set their own priorities of which contracts they would fulfill and which ones they would miss on, given the limited raw materials they could access, based largely on what was most profitable. So ship building continued when the fleet that already existed was port-bound, while new infantry weapons didn't get delivered.

Italian military theorists were actually quite innovative. They had a lot of good concepts, and some useful doctrine. As with any military, they also had some real losers in high levels when the war started. As with most autocratic leadership systems personal loyalties meant more than competence, and so poor leaders often remained in positions of responsibility longer than their "use by" date. But more importantly they did not have a national industrial base or political leadership to match their military theory. This mis-match pushed failure to the front from whatever good ideas were generated.

Still, they're a great idea for miniatures wargamers. I get more gaming potential per dollar spent on Italian figures than any others. My Italians can be put on the table to fight Americans, Brits, French, Germans, or Russians!

(aka: Mk 1)

Legion 412 Jul 2018 1:26 p.m. PST

And no one mentioned the Italian UDTs … "riding the Pig" to sink some Allied ships …

ancientsgamer12 Jul 2018 10:20 p.m. PST

Gaz, ty for correction, got them reversed lol Don't reply at 1:30 AM lol

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2018 3:20 a.m. PST

The Italians seemed to have this knack for always balancing any advantage they may have had with a systematic disadvantage that was almost always impossible to overcome.

The country has a strong industrial base, much better than they are usually given credit for, but they lack resources of any kind. They do have a strongly developed northern part of the country that is offset by the south being poorer than dirt.

Ditto for the autocratic leadership, they were highly ambitious and part of their reforms contributed to the post-war economic miracle, but this was all burdened by their utterly unrealistic political and military ambitions.

The Italian army was one of the first to put great emphasis on specialist, highly trained troops to perform some operations and the training and theory of branches like artillery and tanks yielded excellent results, but industry could not properly equip them, priority was given to "political troops" who were often more enthusiastic than not, but rarely capable.

Italian tanks were very good by 1930's standard with good armour and an excellent 47mm gun, but by 1941-1942 their flaws are too great to overcome and Italian industry is already pressed to keep up numbers, let alone introduce a new, better design.

As said Italian ship engineering was hardly less than that of other nations and sometimes much better, but requirements, even realistic ones, exceeded Italy's abilities.

The 1920's and especially the 1930's where awash with new military theories. Everyone had seen that modern warfare could lead to a deadlock if not properly managed and new theories sought to fix the problem, in that regard Italy was in the vanguard, but an early crash program and fast development meant that their tanks and aircraft though relatively cutting edge at the time of conception were outdated and the theories, while of a relatively sound basis, had already been tweaked by actual experience against proper opponents, the Italians ultimately failed to solidify the theory against third-world opponents and against second-tier troops, by the time they had made the required improvements they were stuck one cycle behind the others and never got out of that situation.

Don't underestimate the Italians, they fought like devils in North Africa and Italy, but courage would never overcome the many systemic problems inherent to Italy, like a crippling lack of motorized transport, which is often a death sentence in modern warfare.

donlowry14 Jul 2018 7:35 a.m. PST

There is also the question of how the Italian people felt about the war. My impression is that they were not generally behind it.

Legion 417 Jul 2018 7:20 a.m. PST

From what I understand that is generally true don. Like many in Europe, etc., the Italians suffered greatly during WWI. In both blood and treasure. Not just a lot of dead, but a lot of infrastructure destroyed as well. So probably many didn't want to go to war at the level again …

Don't underestimate the Italians, they fought like devils in North Africa and Italy, but courage would never overcome the many systemic problems inherent to Italy, like a crippling lack of motorized transport, which is often a death sentence in modern warfare.
Agreed …

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