Military history of Italy during World War II

Military history of Italy during World War II
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During World War II (1939–1945), the Kingdom of Italy had a varied and tumultuous military history. Defeated in Greece, France, East Africa and North Africa, the Italian invasion of British Somaliland was one of the only successful Italian campaigns of World War II accomplished without German support.

In addition to the official Italian Army which fought under Benito Mussolini, many Italians in 1943-45 fought for the Allied cause in the Italian Co-Belligerent Army (which at its height numbered more than 50,000 men) and the Italian Resistance Movement.


Outbreak of World War II

World War II started when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, but Italy remained neutral for the following ten months even though it was one of the Axis powers.

Mussolini's Under-Secretary for War Production, Carlo Favagrossa, had estimated that Italy could not possibly be prepared for such a war until at least October 1942. This had been made clear during 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.[1] Although considered a major power, the Italian industrial sector was relatively weak compared to other European major powers. Italian industry did not equal more than 15% of that of France or of Britain in militarily critical areas such as automobile production: the number of automobiles in Italy before the war ranged at ca. 372,000, in comparison to ca. 2,500,000 in Britain and France. The lack of a stronger automotive industry made it difficult for Italy to mechanize its military. 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.[2] In terms of strategic materials, in 1940, Italy produced 4.4 Mt of coal, 0.01 Mt of crude oil, 1.2 Mt of iron ore and 2.1 Mt of steel. 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, respectively.[3] Most of the raw material needs could be fulfilled only through importation, and no effort was made to stockpile key materials before the entry into war. Also, approximately one quarter of Italy's merchant fleet were located at foreign ports and given no forewarning of Mussolini’s rash decision to enter the war, and were immediately impounded.[4][5] Another handicap was the large number of weapons and supplies given by Italy practically free to the Spanish forces fighting under Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.[6][7] The Italians also sent the "Corps of Volunteer Troops" (Corpo Truppe Volontarie) to fight for Franco. The financial cost of this war was between 6 and 8.5 billion lire, approximately 14 to 20% of annual expenditure.[7] Added to these issues was Italy's extreme debt position. When Benito Mussolini took office in 1921 the government debt was 93 billion lire, un-repayable in the short to medium term. Yet only two years later this debt increased to 405 billion lire.[8]

The Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) therefore remained comparatively depleted and weak at the commencement of the war. The Italian tanks were of poor quality, and radios were few in number. The bulk of the Italian artillery dated from World War I. The Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica's) primary fighter was the Fiat CR-42, though an advanced design for a biplane with excellent performance characteristics,[9] it was obsolete compared to the then current generation monoplane fighters of other nations. The Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) had several modern battleships, but no aircraft carriers. In addition, the Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) could field approximately 1,760 aircraft, of which only 900 of them could be considered as "front-line machines".[10]

Yet whilst equipment was lacking and outdated, Italian authorities were acutely aware of the need to maintain a modern army[nb 1] and were taking the necessary steps to modernize in accordance with their very own relatively advanced tactical principles.[nb 2][13][14] Almost 40% of the 1939 budget was allocated to military spending.[15] Awareness existed, albeit belatedly, of the need to have close air support for the Navy, and the decision was made to build carriers.[nb 3] Yet whilst the majority of equipment was obsolescent and poor, appropriate steps were being taken whereby quality equipment was being developed. For example, the three series 5 fighters[nb 4] were capable of meeting the best allied fighters on equal terms,[17][nb 5] but only a few hundred of each were produced. The Carro Armato P40 tank,[18] roughly equivalent to the M4 Sherman and Panzer IV, was designed in 1940, but no prototype was produced until 1942 and developers/manufacturers were not able to start production before the Armistice.[nb 6] This was owing, in part, to the lack of sufficiently powerful engines, which were themselves undergoing a development push. Total tank production for the war (~3,500) was less than the number of tanks used by Germany in its invasion of France. The Italians were also reported to be the first to use self-propelled guns,[21][22] both in close support and anti-tank roles. Their, for example, 75/46 fixed AA/AT gun, 75/32) gun, 90/53 AA/AT gun (an equally effective but less famous peer of the German 88/55), 47/32 AT gun, and the 20 mm AA autocannon were not obsolete.[14][23] Also of note were the AB 41 and the Camionetta AS 42 armoured cars, which were regarded as excellent vehicles of their type.[24][25] None of these developments precluded the fact that the bulk of the equipment was obsolete and poor.[26] 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.[27]

On paper, Italy had one of the largest armies,[28] but this was far from reality. According to the estimates of Bierman and Smith, the Italian regular army could field only about 200,000 troops at the start of World War II.[10] Irrespective of the attempts to modernize, the majority of Italian army personnel were lightly armed infantry lacking sufficient motor transport.[nb 7] There was insufficient budget to train the men in the services such that in World War II, the bulk of the personnel received much of their training at the front, when it was too late to be of use.[29] Air units had not been trained to operate with the naval fleet and the majority of ships had been built for fleet actions, not the convoy protection duties which they were mostly employed for during the war.[30] Regardless, a critical lack of fuel kept naval activities to a minimum.[31]

Senior leadership was also a problem. Mussolini personally assumed control of all three individual military service ministries with the intention of influencing detailed planning.[32] 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 these into proper plans and execute.[33] The result was that there was no central direction for operations and the three military services tended to work independently, focusing only on their fields, with little inter-service cooperation.[33][34] Discrepancies in pay existed for personnel of equal rank, but from different units.

Following the German conquest of Poland, Mussolini would change his mind repeatedly as to whether he would enter the war. The British commander in Africa, General Archibald Wavell, correctly predicted that Mussolini's pride would ultimately cause him to enter the war. Wavell would compare Mussolini's situation to that of someone at the top of a diving board: "I think he must do something. 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."[35]

Some historians believe that Mussolini was induced to enter the war against the Allies by secret negotiations with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with whom he had an active mail correspondence between September 1939 and June 1940.[36] The journalist Luciano Garibaldi wrote that "in those letters (which disappeared at Lake Como in 1945) Churchill may have extorted Mussolini to enter the war to mitigate Hitler's demands and dissuade him from continuing hostilities against Great Britain as France was inexorably moving toward defeat. In light of this, Mussolini could urge Hitler turn against the USSR, the common enemy of both Churchill and Mussolini". However, the limited correspondence on which these claims are based has been inspected and rejected as false.[37]

Initially, the entry into the war appeared to be political opportunism (though there was some provocation),[nb 8] which led to a lack of consistency in planning, with principal objectives and enemies being changed with little regard for the consequences.[43] 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. This led to confusion amongst ordinary Italians and soldiers who had little idea of what they were fighting for and, hence, had little conviction and saw little justification for it. As the war progressed and one disaster followed another, Comando Supremo were forced to take more serious steps in their planning.

Italy enters the war: June 1940

On 10 June 1940, as the French government fled to Bordeaux before the German invasion, declaring Paris an open city, Mussolini felt the conflict would soon end and declared war on Britain and France. As he said to the Army's Chief-of-Staff, Marshal Badoglio:

I only need a few thousand dead so that I can sit at the peace conference as a man who has fought.[44]

Mussolini had the immediate war aim of expanding the Italian colonies in North Africa by taking land from the British and French colonies.

Of Italy's declaration of war, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President 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.[45]

After Italy entered the war Jewish refugees living in Italy were interned in the Campagna concentration camp.

Italian forces in France: 1940–1943

In June 1940, after initial success, the Italian offensive into southern France stalled at the fortified Alpine Line. On 24 June 1940, France surrendered to Germany. Italy occupied some areas of French territory along the Franco-Italian border. During this operation, Italian casualties were 1,247 men dead or missing and 2,631 wounded. A further 2,151 Italians were hospitalised due to frostbite.

In November 1942, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) participated in invading south-eastern Vichy France and Corsica as part of what was known as Case Anton. From December 1942, Italian military government of French departments east of the Rhône River was established and continued until September 1943 when Italy quit the war. This had the effect of providing a de facto temporary haven for French Jews fleeing the Holocaust. In January 1943 the Italians refused to cooperate with the Nazis in rounding up the Jews living in the occupied zone of France under their control and in March prevented the Nazis from deporting Jews in their zone. German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop complained to Mussolini that "Italian military circles... lack a proper understanding of the Jewish question."[46]

The Italian Navy established a submarine base at Bordeaux, code named BETASOM and thirty two Italian submarines participated in the Battle of the Atlantic. Plans to attack the harbor 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 armistice put a stop to further planning.

Hostilities commence in North Africa: 1940

Things did not go well for the Italians in North Africa almost from the start. Within a week of Italy's declaration of war on 10 June 1940, the British 11th Hussars had seized Fort Capuzzo in Libya. In an ambush east of Bardia, the British captured the Italian Tenth Army's Engineer-in-Chief, General Lastucci. On 28 June, Marshal Italo Balbo, the Governor-General of Libya was killed by friendly fire while landing in Tobruk.

Mussolini ordered Balbo's replacement, Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, to launch an attack into Egypt immediately. Graziani complained to Mussolini that his forces were not properly equipped for such an operation. Graziani further complained that an attack into Egypt could not possibly succeed. Mussolini ordered Graziani to attack anyway.

On 13 September, elements of the Italian Tenth Army retook Fort Capuzzo, crossed the border between Libya and Egypt, and advanced into Egypt as far as Sidi Barrani. Sidi Barrani was about 100 kilometers inside Egypt from the Libyan border. The Italians then stopped and began to entrench themselves in a series of fortified camps.

At this time, the British had only 36,000 troops available (out of about 100,000 under his Middle Eastern command) to defend Egypt against 236,000 Italian troops.[47] However, the Italians were not concentrated in one place. They were divided between the 5th army in the west and the 10th army in the east. Hence, they remained spread out from the Tunisian border in western Libya to Sidi Barrani in Egypt. With reluctance Graziani’s invasion of Egypt commenced on September 13 with four divisions and one (ad hoc)[48] armoured group crossing the border.[49] The advance stopped at Sidi Barrani, where Graziani, not knowing 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.[49] This task was being obstructed by the British Royal Navy forces operating in the Mediterranean by attacking Italian supply-ships. At this stage, Italian losses remained minimal, but the efficiency of the British Royal Navy would improve as the war went on. Mussolini was fiercely disappointed with the sluggishness of Graziani. However, according to Bauer[49] he had only himself to blame as he withheld the trucks, armament and supplies that Graziani had deemed necessary. Wavell was hoping to see the Italians over-extend themselves before his intended counter at Marsa Matruh.[49]

In addition, Graziani and his staff lacked faith in the strength of the Italian military. 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. We take too little account of this in building our stone forts.... We are not fighting the Ethiopians now."[51](This was a reference to the Second Italo-Abyssinian War where Italian forces had fought against a relatively poorly equipped opponent.) Balbo had previously documented: "Our light tanks, already old and armed only with machine guns, are completely out-classed. The machine guns of the British armoured cars pepper them with bullets which easily pierce their armour."[49]

Italian forces around Sidi Barrani had severe weaknesses in their deployment. The five fortifications were placed too far apart to allow mutual support against an attacking force and the areas between were weakly patrolled. The absence of motorised transport did not allow for rapid reorganisation, if needed. 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.[50]

Campaigns in East Africa: 1940–1941

In addition to the well-known campaigns in the western desert during 1940, the Italians opened an additional front in June 1940 from their East African colonies of Ethiopia, Italian Somaliland, and Eritrea.

As in Egypt, the Italian forces with ~70,000 Italian soldiers and ~180,000 native troops outnumbered their British opponents. But Italian East Africa was isolated and far away from the Italian mainland. The Italian forces in East Africa were thus cut off from re-supply. This severely limited the operations that they could seriously undertake.

The initial Italian attacks in East Africa took two different directions, one into the Sudan and the other into Kenya. Then, in August 1940, the Italians advanced into British Somaliland. After suffering and inflicting few casualties, the British and Commonwealth garrison was evacuated from Somaliland by sea to Aden.

The Italian invasion of British Somaliland was one of the only successful Italian campaigns of World War II accomplished without German support. In the Sudan and Kenya, Italy captured small territories around several border villages. After doing so, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) in East Africa adopted a defensive posture against an expected British counter-attack.

The Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) maintained a small squadron in the Italian East Africa area. The Italian "Red Sea Flotilla" was based at the port of Massawa in Eritrea. It consisted of seven destroyers and eight submarines. Despite a severe shortage of fuel, the Red Sea Flotilla posed a threat to British convoys traversing the Red Sea. However, Italian attempts to attack British convoys resulted in the loss of four submarines and one destroyer.

On 19 January 1941, the expected British counter-attack arrived in the shape of the Indian 4th and Indian 5th Infantry Divisions, which made a thrust from the Sudan. A supporting attack was made from Kenya by the South African 1st Division, the 11th African Division, and the 12th African Division. Finally, the British launched an amphibious assault from Aden to re-take British Somaliland.

From February to March, the outcome of Battle of Keren determined the fate of Italian East Africa. In early April, after Keren fell, Asmara and Massawa followed. The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa also fell in April 1941. The Viceroy of Ethiopia, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, surrendered at the stronghold of Amba Alagi in May. He received full military honors. The Italians in East Africa made a final stand around the town of Gondar in November 1941.

When the port of Massawa fell to the British, the remaining destroyers were ordered on a suicide attack in the Red Sea. At the same time, the last four submarines made an epic voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to Bordeaux in France.

Some Italians, after their defeat, waged a guerrilla war mainly in Eritrea and Ethiopia, that lasted until summer 1943.

Italian forces in the Balkans: 1940–1943

In early 1939, while the world was focused on Adolf Hitler's aggression against Czechoslovakia, the Italian dictator set his eyes on Albania, across the Adriatic from Italy. Italian forces invaded Albania on 7 April 1939 and despite some strong resistance, especially at Durrës, swiftly took control of the small country.

Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

On 28 October 1940, Italy started the Greco-Italian War by launching an invasion of the Kingdom of Greece from Albania. In part, the Italians attacked Greece because of the growing influence of Germany in the Balkans. Both Yugoslavia and Greece had governments friendly to Germany. Mussolini launched the invasion of Greece in haste after Romania, a state which he perceived as lying within the Italian sphere of influence, allied itself with Germany. The order to invade Greece was given by Mussolini to Badoglio and Roatta on 15 October with the expectation that the attack would commence with 12 days. Badoglio and Roatta were appalled given that, acting on his orders, they had demobilised 600,000 men three weeks prior.[52] Given the expected requirement of at least 20 divisions to facilitate success, the fact that only eight divisions were currently in Albania, and considering the inadequacies of the Albanian ports and connecting infrastructure, adequate preparation would require at least three months.[52] Nonetheless, D-day was set at dawn on 28 October.

The invasion went badly for the Italians. The initial Italian offensive was quickly contained, and the Greek Commander-in-Chief, Lt Gen Papagos, taking advantage of Bulgaria's neutrality, was able to establish numerical superiority by mid-November,[nb 10] prior to launching a counter-offensive that drove the Italians back into Albania. 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. Only when the Italians were able to establish numerical "parity" was the Greek offensive stopped. By then they had been able to penetrate deep into Albania.

The following passage aptly summarizes the episode from the perspective of both the brilliant Greek defence of their homeland and the ill-prepared Italian debacle:

No one can deny the victor's laurels to the Greek soldier. But under conditions like these one can only say that the Italian soldier had earned the martyr's crown a thousand times over.[55]

An Italian "Spring Offensive" in March, that tried to salvage the situation before the German intervention, amounted to little. The Italian Army was still pinned down in Albania by the Greeks and the Albanian resistance when the Germans invaded Greece. Crucially, the bulk of the Greek Army (fifteen divisions) was left deep in Albania, while the German attack approached.

After British troops arrived in Greece in March 1941, British bombers operating from Greek bases could reach the Romanian oil fields, vital to the German war effort. Hitler decided that he had to help the Italians and committed German troops to invade Greece via Yugoslavia (where a coup had deposed the German-friendly government).

On 6 April 1941, the Wehrmacht invasions of Yugoslavia (Operation 25) and Greece (Operation Marita) both started. Together with the rapid advance of the German forces the Italians attacked Yugoslavia in Dalmatia and pushed the Greeks finally out of Albania. On 17 April, Yugoslavia surrendered to the Germans and the Italians. On 30 April, Greece too surrendered to the Germans and Italians, and was divided into German, Italian and Bulgarian sectors. The invasions ended with a complete Axis victory in May when Crete fell. On 3 May, during the triumphal parade in Athens to celebrate the Axis victory, Mussolini started to boast of an Italian Mare Nostrum in the Mediterranean sea.

Some 28 Italian divisions participated in the Balkan invasions. The coast of Yugoslavia was occupied by the Italian Army, while the rest of the country was divided between the Axis forces (a German and Italian puppet State of Croatia (NDH) was created, under the nominal sovereign of an Italian Savoia). The Italians assumed control of most of Greece with their 11th Army, while the Bulgarians occupied the northern provinces and the Germans the strategically most important areas. Italian troops would occupy parts of Greece and Yugoslavia until the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943.

In spring 1941, Italy created a Montenegrin client state and annexed most of the Dalmatian coast as the Governorship of Dalmatia (Governatorato di Dalmazia). Yugoslav Partisans fought a guerrilla war against the occupying forces until 1945.

In 1942 the Italian military commander in Croatia refused to hand over Jews in his zone to the Nazis.[46]

The Italian Navy in the Mediterranean: 1940–1943

In 1940, the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) could not match the overall strength of the British Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea. After some initial setbacks, the Italian Navy declined to engage in a confrontation of capital ships. 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. On 11 November, Britain launched the first carrier strike of the war, using a squadron of Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers. This raid at Taranto left three Italian battleships crippled or destroyed for the loss of two British aircraft shot down.

The Italian Navy found other ways to attack the British. The most successful involved the use of frogmen and riding manned torpedoes to attack ships in harbour. The 10th Light Flotilla, also known as Decima Flottiglia MAS or XMAS, which carried out these attacks, sank or damaged 28 ships from September 1940 to the end of 1942. These included the battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and Valiant (damaged in the Harbor of Alexandria on 18 December 1941), and 111,527 long tons (113,317 t) of merchant shipping. The XMAS used a particular kind of torpedo, the SLC (Siluro a Lenta Corsa), which crew was composed by two frog men and a strange motorboat, called MTM (Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato).

Following the attacks on these two battleships, an Italian-dominated Mediterranean Sea appeared much more possible to achieve. However, this was only a brief happy time for Mussolini. 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 Axis forces were ejected from Libya and Tunisia in six months after the Battle of El Alamein, while their supply lines were harassed day after day by the growing and overwhelming aerial and naval supremacy of the Allies in what had just been the Mussolini's Italian Mare Nostrum.

Italy in North Africa: 1940–1943

Semovente 75/18 during the North African campaign.

On 8 December 1940, the British Operation Compass began. Planned as an extended raid, it resulted in a force of British, Indian and Australian troops cutting off the Italian troops. Pressing the British advantage home, General Richard O'Connor pressed the attack forward and succeeded in reaching El Agheila (an advance of 500 mi (800 km)) and capturing tens of thousands of enemies. The Allies nearly destroyed the Italian army in North Africa, and seemed on the point of sweeping the Italians out of Libya. However, Winston Churchill directed the advance be stopped, initially because of supply problems and because of a new determined effort that had gained ground in Albania, and ordered troops dispatched to defend Greece. Weeks later the first troops of the German Afrika Korps started to arrive in North Africa (February 1941) to reinforce the Italians.

German General Erwin Rommel now became the principal Axis field commander in North Africa, although the bulk of his forces consisted of Italian troops. Under Rommel's direction the Axis troops pushed the British and Commonwealth troops back into Egypt but were unable to complete the task because of the exhaustion and their extended supply lines which were under threat from the Allied enclave at Tobruk, which they failed to capture. 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.

In January 1942 the Axis struck back again, advancing to Gazala where the front lines stabilised while both sides raced to build up their strength. At the end of May Rommel launched the Battle of Gazala where the British armoured divisions were soundly defeated. The Axis seemed on the verge of sweeping the British out of Egypt, but at the First Battle of El Alamein (July 1942) General Claude Auchinleck halted Rommel's advance only 90 mi (140 km) from Alexandria. Rommel made a final attempt to break through during the Battle of Alam el Halfa but Eighth Army, by this time commanded by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery, held firm. After a period of reinforcement and training the Allies assumed the offensive at the Second Battle of Alamein (October/November 1942) where they scored a decisive victory and the remains of Rommel's German-Italian Panzer Army were forced to engage in a fighting retreat for 1,600 mi (2,600 km) to the Libyan border with Tunisia.

After the Operation Torch landings in the Vichy French territories of Morocco and Algeria (November 1942) British, American and French forces advanced east to engage the German-Italian forces in the Tunisia Campaign. 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. 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. The Allies completed the defeat of the Axis armies in North Africa in May 1943.

Italian troops on the Eastern Front: 1941–1943

In July 1941, some 62,000 Italian troops of the "Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia" (Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia, or CSIR) left for the Eastern Front to aid in the German invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa).

In July 1942, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) expanded the CSIR to a full army of about 200,000 men known as the "Italian Army in Russia" (Armata Italiana in Russia, or ARMIR). The ARMIR was also known as the "Italian 8th Army."

From August 1942-February 1943, the Italian 8th Army took part in the Battle of Stalingrad. At Stalingrad, the 8th Army suffered heavy 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 German's flanks.

By the summer of 1943, Rome had withdrawn the remnants of these troops to Italy. Many of the Italian POWs captured in the Soviet Union died in captivity due to the harsh conditions in the Soviet prison camps.

The fight for Italy: 1943–1945

On 10 July 1943, a combined force of American and British Commonwealth troops invaded Sicily. German generals again took the lead in the defense and, although they lost the island after weeks of bitter fights, they succeeded in ferrying large numbers of German and Italian forces safely off Sicily to the Italian mainland. On 19 July, an Allied air raid on Rome destroyed both military and collateral civil installations. With these two events, popular support for the war diminished in Italy.[56]

On 25 July, the Grand Council of Fascism voted to limit the power of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and gave control of the Italian armed forces over to king Victor Emmanuel III. The next day Mussolini met with the king, was dismissed as prime minister and then imprisoned. A new Italian government, led by General Pietro Badoglio and Victor Emmanuel III, took over in Italy. Although they publicly declared that they would keep fighting alongside the Germans, the new Italian government began secret negotiations with the Allies to come over to the Allied side.[57] On 3 September, a secret armistice was signed with the Allies at Fairfield Camp in Sicily. The armistice was publicly announced on 8 September. By then, the Allies were on the Italian mainland.

On 3 September, British troops crossed the short distance from Sicily to the 'toe' of Italy in Operation Baytown. Two more Allied landings took place on 9 September at Salerno (Operation Avalanche) and at Taranto (Operation Slapstick). The Italian surrender meant that the Allied landings at Taranto took place unopposed, with the troops simply disembarking from warships at the docks rather than assaulting the coastline.

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 the first weeks of August they increased the number of divisions in Italy from two to seven and took control of vital infrastructure.[58] Once the signing of the armistice was announced on September 8, German troops quickly disarmed the Italian forces and took over critical defensive positions in Operation Achse. This included Italian-occupied south-eastern France and the Italian-controlled areas in the Balkans. Only in Sardinia, Corse and in part of Apulia and Calabria were Italian troops able to hold their positions until the arrival of allied forces. In the area of Rome only one infantry division, Granatieri di Sardegna, and some small armoured units fought with commitment but by September 11 they were overwhelmed by superior German forces.

On 9 September, two German Fritz X guided bombs sank the Italian battleship Roma off the coast of Sardinia.[59] A Supermarina broadcast led the Italians to initially believe this attack was carried out by the British.[60]

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. The battle raged from 13–22 September, when the Italians were forced to surrender after suffering some 1,300 casualties. The ensuing massacre of several thousand Italian prisoners of war by the Germans stands as one of the worst single war crimes committed by the Wehrmacht.

Italian troops captured by the Germans were given a choice to keep fighting with the Germans. About 94,000 Italians accepted and the remaining 710,000 were designated Italian military internees and were transported as slave labor to Germany. Some Italians troops that had evaded German capture in the Balkans joined the Yugoslav (about 40,000 soldiers) and Greek Resistance (about 20,000).[61] The same thing also happened in Albania.[62]

After the German invasion the deportations of Italian Jews to Nazi death camps began. However, by the time they got to the Campagna concentration camp, all the inmates had already fled to the mountains with the help of the local inhabitants. Rev. Aldo Brunacci of Assisi, under the direction of his bishop, Giuseppe Nicolini, saved all the Jewish who sought refuge in Assisi. In October 1943 Nazis raided the Jewish ghetto in Rome. In November 1943 Jews of Genoa and Florence were deported to Auschwitz. It is estimated that 7,500 Italian Jews became victims of the Holocaust.[46]

About two months after he was stripped of power, Benito Mussolini was rescued by the Germans in Operation Eiche ("Oak"). The Germans re-located Mussolini to northern Italy where he set up a new Fascist state, the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana or RSI). Many Italian personalities joined the RSI, like Marshal Rodolfo Graziani.

The Allied armies continued to advance through Italy despite increasing opposition from the Germans. The Allies soon controlled most of southern Italy, and Naples rose against and ejected the occupying German forces. The Allies organized some Italian troops in the south into what were known as "co-belligerent" or "royalist" forces. In time, there was a co-belligerent army (Italian Co-Belligerent Army), navy (Italian Co-Belligerent Navy), and air force (Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force). These Italian forces fought alongside the Allies for the rest of the war. 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). From this point on, a large Italian resistance movement located in northern Italy fought a guerrilla war against the German and RSI forces.

Winston Churchill had long regarded southern Europe as the military weak spot of the continent (in World War I he had advocated the Dardanelles operation, and during World War II he favored the Balkans as an area of operations, for example in Greece in 1940 and so on).[63][64][65] Calling Italy the "soft underbelly" of the Axis, Churchill had therefore advocated this invasion instead of a cross-channel invasion of occupied France. But Italy itself proved anything but a soft target: The mountainous terrain gave Axis forces excellent defensive positions, and it also partly negated the Allied advantage in motorized and mechanized units. 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 May 8.

Italy's declaration of war on Japan

Although Italy and Japan were part of the Axis Powers, Japan reacted with shock and outrage to the news of the surrender of Italy to the Allied forces in September 1943. Italian citizens residing in Japan and in Manchukuo were swiftly rounded up and summarily asked whether they were loyal to the King of Savoy, who dishonored their country by surrendering to the enemy, or with the Duce and the newly created "Repubblica Sociale Italiana", which vowed to continue fighting alongside the Nazis. Those who sided with the King were interned in concentration camps and detained in dismal conditions until the end of the war, while those who opted for the Fascist dictator were allowed to go on with their lives, although under strict surveillance by the Kempeitai.

The news of Italy's surrender did not reach the crew members of the three Italian submarines Giuliani, Cappellini and Torelli traveling to Singapore, then occupied by Japan, to take a load of rubber, tin and strategic materials bound for Italy and Germany's war industry. All the officers and sailors on board were arrested by the Japanese army, and after a few weeks of detention the vast majority of them chose to side with Japan and Germany. The Kriegsmarine assigned new officers to the three units, who were renamed as U-boat U.IT.23, U.IT.24 and U.IT.25, taking part in German war operations in the Pacific until the Giuliani was sunk by the British submarine Tallyho in February 1944 and the other two vessels were taken over by the Japanese Imperial Navy upon Germany's surrender.

Alberto Tarchiani, an anti-fascist journalist and activist, was appointed as Ambassador to Washington by the cabinet of Badoglio, which acted as provisional head of the Italian government pending the occupation of the country by the Allied forces. On his suggestion, Italy issued a formal declaration of war to Japan on 14 July 1945.[66] The purpose of this act, which brought no military follow-up, was mainly to persuade the Allies that the new government of Italy deserved to be invited to the San Francisco Peace Conference, as a reward for its co-belligerence. 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.

Although Italy and Japan negotiated the resumption of their respective diplomatic ties after 1951, and later signed several bilateral agreements and treaties, a formal peace treaty between the two nations was never sealed.


Nearly four million Italians served in the Italian Army during the Second World War and nearly half a million Italians (including civilians) died between June 1940 and May 1945.

The Regio Esercito suffered 161,729 casualties between 10 June 1940 and 8 September 1943 in the war against the Allies, and 18,655 casualties in Italy plus 54,622 casualties in the rest of Europe in September/October 1943 against the German Army after the Italian Armistice.

There were even 12,000 casualties in the northern Italian guerrilla war (Guerra di Liberazione) and in the "Army of Badoglio" on the side of the Allies. In the fascist army of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana, or RSI) there were 45,424 casualties.

After the armistice with the Allies 650,000 members of the Italian armed forces who refused to side with the occupying Germans were interned in concentration and labour camps. Of these, around 50,000 lost their lives while imprisoned or while under transportation.[67] A further 29,000 died in armed struggles against the Germans while resisting capture immediately following the armistice.[67]

Reputation of Italian fighting efficiency during World War II

Allied press reports of Italian military prowess in the Second World War were almost always dismissive. This is primarily the result of British wartime propaganda produced when the Italian 10th Army was destroyed by significantly smaller British forces during the early phase of the North African Campaign.[68][69] The propaganda from this single event, which was designed to boost British morale during a bleak period of the war,[70] has left a lasting impression. It is also a consequence of propaganda pertaining to the later exploits of Rommel and German accounts of events, which tended to disparage their wartime allies and ignore their contributions yet have been uncritically repeated almost verbatim in Anglo-American historiography.[71] Compounded by the racist attitudes of the period that have been perpetuated in the historiography,[nb 11] the actions of the Italians have been largely ignored or distorted[nb 12] as a result.[80] Prior to this period, due largely to their exploits in World War I and prior, Italian soldiers were generally considered to be brave fighters,[81] and their feats exceptional.[82][83]

Like any other army, the Italians suffered their fair share of reversals,[7] but it should be remembered that their equipment was not up to the standard of either the Allied or the German armies.[10] More crucially, they lacked suitable quantities of equipment of all kinds and their high command did not take necessary steps to plan for most eventualities.[84] However, the circumstances which lead to Italy's plight and distorted historiographical perception are far more convoluted than these universally acknowledged factors suggest. For example, lack of planning stems partly from the nation facing a wide range of continually changing strategic threats on every front since through the 1920s and 1930s, such as France and Yugoslavia, Bolshevism, Greece, Britain via the Middle East, and even Germany, which Italy stood against alone in 1934. Each of these threats required completely different contingencies, resources, and a degree of time commitment to planning that the circumstances did not permit. This was compounded by Mussolini assigning unqualified political favourites to key positions.[citation needed]

The reality was Italian military performance in the face of these disadvantages was not the one sided affair historiography portrays, nor was 'cowardice' prevalent.[citation needed] Moreover, Italy's war effort was often damaged by her German allies. Questionable German advice, broken promises, and security lapses had direct consequences at Matapan, in the convoy war and North Africa.[85] Rommel often retreated leaving immobile infantry units exposed, withdrew German units to rest even though the Italians had also been in combat,[86] would deprive the Italian's of their share of captured goods, ignore Italian intelligence, seldom acknowledge Italian successes and often resist formulation of joint strategy.[87]

Below are a series of passages and quotations providing examples of actions involving Italian forces that contrast with the legacy of stereotyped cowardice and incompetence in historiography.

Italian forces displayed stubborn resistance at the Battle of Keren in East Africa,[88][89][90] for which the participating Italian Savoia battalions, Alpini, Bersaglieri and Grenadiers were acknowledged as being equal to the best opposition the British and Indians had faced during the war with the possible exception of the German parachute division in Italy and the Japanese in Burma.[91] In the account of the battle by Compton Mackenzie in Eastern Epic, an officially sponsored history of the British Indian army in World War II, Mackenzie wrote:

Keren was as hard a soldiers' battle as was ever fought, and let it be said that nowhere in the war did the Germans fight more stubbornly than those [Italian] Savoia battalions, Alpini, Bersaglieri and Grenadiers. In the [first] five days' fight the Italians suffered nearly 5,000 casualties — 1,135 of them killed. Lorenzini, the gallant young Italian general, had his head blown off by one of the British guns. He had been a great leader of Eritrean troops.[92] The unfortunate licence of wartime propaganda allowed the British Press to represent the Italians almost as comic warriors; but except for the German parachute division in Italy and the Japanese in Burma no enemy with whom the British and Indian troops were matched put up a finer fight than those Savoia battalions at Keren. Moreover, the Colonial troops, until they cracked at the very end, fought with valour and resolution, and their staunchness was a testimony to the excellence of the Italian administration and military training in Eritrea.[91]

Italian soldiers also fought with determination at the battle of Mersa Matruh, in which the Littorio, Brescia and Trento Divisions, and 7th Bersaglieri Regiment played an important part [93] and at El Alamein in the North African Campaign. Bierman and Smith[94] indicated that Italian artillery gunners of the North African campaign tended to serve their guns until they were overrun, an observation similarly made by others.[95]

Rommel was later to write about the fighting at Alamein in July:

the Italians were willing, unselfish and good comrades in the frontline. There can be no disputing that the achievement of all the Italian units, especially the motorised elements, far outstripped any action of the Italian Army for 100 years. Many Italian generals and officers earned our respect as men as well as soldiers.[96]

The Italian soldiers were unlucky to have been left stranded without water or transport, deep in the southern sector at the Second Battle of El Alamein. The 7th Bersaglieri Regiment, in particular, exhibited a strong regimental spirit which impressed Rommel as he observed the battle for Hill 28 at El Alamein.[97] "The German soldier has impressed the world", Rommel wrote in a plaque dedicated to the Bersaglieri that fought at Mersa Matruh and Alamein. "However the Italian Bersaglieri has impressed the German soldier."'[98]

The Italian Royal Army fought this battle in a way that can be summarized by the sacrifice of the Folgore Division: the historian Renzo De Felice wrote that "...of the 5.000 "Folgore" paratroopers sent to Africa 4 months before, the survived were only 32 officers and 262 soldiers, most of them wounded. Before the surrender, they shot until the last ammo and the last hand-grenade...."[99]

The Folgore paratroopers used in this battle everything at their disposal, including Molotov cocktails — from small hidden holes where they buried themselves in the ground — to knock out the advancing tanks after they passed over them.[100]

At the end of the Second Battle of El Alamein on 4 November 1942, the Ariete division was able to fight a dramatic day-long rear-guard action to prevent the Allies from encircling the bulk of the retreating Axis armoured formations.[101]

Whilst both German and Allied records leave the impression that the Ariete voluntarily immolated itself, Walker,[102] points out that remnants were successfully able to disengage, as they later, with elements of the Centauro division on 12 December, successfully fended off further Allied armoured attacks to the rear of the Axis forces.

In the Tunisian Campaign, at Kasserine Pass, Mareth, Akarit and Enfidaville, as the North African campaign drew to its close, Italians fought with courage and determination. In fact, it was observed by General Alexander that:

...the Italians fought particularly well, outdoing the Germans in line with them.[103]

The Italian's German allies often blamed them for any Axis failure but they nevertheless widely praised their bravery.[7] Ripley has asserted:

The Italians supplied the bulk of the Axis troops fighting in North Africa, and too often the German Army unfairly ridiculed Italian military effectiveness either due to its own arrogance or to conceal its own mistakes and failures. In reality, a significant number of Italian units fought skillfully in North Africa, and many "German" victories were the result of Italian skill-at-arms and a combined Axis effort.[104]

Steinberg wrote that:

With almost no exception, however, those Germans closest to the Italian troops in the field, the liaison units and attached officers, or at higher level the generals attached to the Italian Supreme Command respected and admired their Italian counterparts.[105]

Interestingly, the special study (German Experiences in Desert Warfare During World War II) from Generalmajor Alfred Toppe of the Wehrmacht, written with the assistance of nine middle-rank officers who served in the Afrika Korps is very positive in regard to Italian fighting abilities.[106]

The following passage from Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts praises the courage of Italian tank crews at El Alamein: 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; 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. It would seem clear that, in terms of their motto Ferrea Mole, Ferreo Cuore, the Italian carristi really had "iron hearts", even though as the war went on their "iron hulls" increasingly let them down.[7]

But by the end of February 1941, although the Commonwealth forces had achieved comprehensive success against inconsistent opposition, they had met during Operation Compass some determined fighting. As Sadkovich observes:

The Italians had actually cost the British dear during the two-month battle, in which isolated Italian outposts were softened up by air, land, and naval bombardment, then assaulted by fresh troops with the practically invulnerable Matilda leading the way. Still, in 1940 the Maletti Group had used their 37 and 47/32 mm guns to destroy thirty-five of fifty-seven Matildas, and the Tummar posts had added another fourteen. Bardia and Tobruk later accounted for the rest. By mid-February, the British had taken about 115,000 POWs (not the 200,000 sometimes claimed), as well as 1,290 guns and 140 tanks, and destroyed about 200 of the 564 aircraft lost by the Italian air force. At the same time, the British had lost four-fifths of their vehicles and all of their 'I' [heavy] tanks, as well as most of their light and cruiser tanks: not all of these losses could be attributed to 'wear and tear'. Finally, they had suffered 2,000 casualties, about 1 in 25 troops engaged.[107]

Between 10 and 27 July 1942, the Italians were in the thick of the fighting around Tel El Eisa, Ruweisat Ridge, and Miteiriya Ridge with the Sabratha's 1st Battalion 85th Regiment overruning the Australians in the form of 2/48 Battalion on Tel el Eisa [108] and the Trento's 3rd Battalion 62nd Regiment overruning the Australians in the form of 2/32 Battalion on Ruin Ridge.[95] The action of the Italian divisions during the First Battle of El Alamein has been commented upon by Sadkovich:

The more mobile German units naturally plugged the holes punched in the Axis line by the British, who overran the 382nd German Regiment, as well as parts of Trieste and Sabratha on 11 July. But the Italians also sealed their own breaches and, in the south, Trieste and Littorio gave as good an account for themselves as the German units. On 22 July, Trento, Pavia, Brescia, and Ariete accounted for a good part of the 1,400 POWs and 146 tanks lost in an abortive British attack.[109]

As Paolo Caccia Dominioni de Sillavengo notes, the Trento's 3rd Battalion 61st Regiment mauled the Australians on 27 July,[110] and according to the Italian veteran, the Reconnaissance Group of the Trieste destroyed thirty British armoured fighting vehicles and accounted for the vast majority of the 1,000 POWs taken on 27 July.[111]

Later when Bersaglieri units fought their former allies in an attempt to defend Rome from German occupation, historian Irving Werstein wrote: The Bersaglieri fought for two days and surrendered only after assurances that there would be no reprisals; a guarantee the Germans kept, so impressed were they by the fighting spirit of these troops.[112]

See also



  1. ^ The decision to continue with a front-line biplane fighter, due to the success of the highly manoeuvrable Fiat CR.32 during the Spanish Civil war was probably one of the most glaring strategic oversights. Another was the mistaken belief that fast bombers need no fighter escort, particularly modern aircraft with radar support.[11]
  2. ^ Italian doctrine envisaged a blitzkrieg style approach as early as 1936-8, considerably beyond what most theorists discerned at the time. This stressed massed armour, massed and mobile artillery, action against enemy flanks, deep penetration and exploitation, and the ‘indirect’ approach. Their manuals envisioned M tanks as the core, P tanks as the mobile artillery and reserves for the ‘Ms’ and L tanks. These were to be combined with fast (celere) infantry divisions and forward anti-tank weapons. The Italians were never able to build the armoured divisions described in their manuals – although they often attempted to mass what they had to make up for the poor performance of some pieces.[12]
  3. ^ This was being expedited through the conversion of two passenger liners and the scavenging of parts from other vessels. The SS Roma, converted into the Aquila, received 4-shaft turbine engines scavenged form the unfinished light cruisers Cornelio Silla and Paolo Emilio. She was to have a maximum complement of 51 Reggiane Re.2001 fighters. The decision to build carriers came late. The Aquila was virtually ready by the time of armistice with the Allies in 1943. She was captured by the Germans, who scuttled her in 1945.[16]
  4. ^ Fiat G.55, Macchi C.205, & Reggiane Re.2005; Italian fighters build around the Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine.[16]
  5. ^ For example: the Fiat G55 Centauro received much German interest and was defined by Oberst Petersen, advisor to Goering, as the “best Axis fighter” and the Macchi C.205 "Veltro" fighter has been argued by many to be the best Italian fighter (and one of the best overall) of the war.
  6. ^ The M13/40s and M14/41s were not (initially) obsolete when they entered service in late 1940/1941. Their operators (in the form of the Ariete and Littoro divisions) met with much unaccredited success. Yet they became obsolete as the war progressed. It was necessary to maintain production and they suffered unduly as a result of the Italian's inability to produce a suitable successor in time and in numbers.[19][20][21]
  7. ^ 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 proposal was rejected by Mussolini (and senior figures) who wanted large numbers of divisions to intimidate opponents.[29] To maintain the number of divisions, each became binary, consisting of only two regiments, and therefore equating to a British brigade in size. Even then, they would often be thrown into battle with an under strength complement.
  8. ^ The French and British, for their part had caused Italy a long list of grievances since during WWI through the extraction of political economic concessions and the blockading of imports.[38][39] Aware of Italy’s material and planning deficiencies leading up to WWII, and believing that Italy’s entry into the war on the side of Germany was inevitable, the English blockaded German coal imports from 1 March 1940 in an attempt to bring Italian industry to a standstill.[24][40] The British and the French then began amassing their naval fleets (to a twelve-to-two superiority in capital ships over the Regina Marina) both in preparation and provocation.[41] The thinking was that Italy could be knocked out early. Prior to this, from 10 September 1939, the Italian’s made several attempts to intermediate peace. While Hitler was open to it, the French were not responsive, while the British invited the Italian’s to change sides.[42] For Mussolini, the risks of staying out of the war were becoming greater than those for entering.[40]
  9. ^ Graziani believed the British were over 200,000 strong.[50]
  10. ^ Walker states[53] that the Greeks had assembled 250,000 men against 150,000 Italians; Bauer [54] states that by November 12, General Papagos had at the front over 100 infantry battalions fighting in terrain to which they were accustomed, compared with less than 50 Italian battalions.
  11. ^ Examples of racist / dismissive authorship: Macksey (1972) - "the British threw out the Italian Chicken only to let in the German Eagle";[72] 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";[73]
  12. ^ Examples of distortions: Irving (1971) - "History will not forget that for two years [Rommel] withstood the weight of the entire British Empire.....with only two panzer divisions and a handful of ill-armed and under-nourished forces under his command";[74] With the arrival of the main Italian Battle fleet at Malta after armistice was not an act surrender (portrayed as such due to Cunningham's oft-quoted signal to the Admiralty, "Be pleased to inform their Lordships that the Italian Battle fleet now lays at anchor under the guns of the fortress of Malta"), but an operation ordered by the Italian high command in response to German threats and, importantly, the British exercised no physical control over it;[75] Sadkovich (1991) discusses the myth of Rommel and Italian cowardice and ineptitude in depth, providing numerous examples where successful Italian actions and strategies were either ignored or attributed to the Germans - examples include the four day hold up of the 11th Indian Brigade and destruction of dozens of tanks (causing the backing up of a British army corps) by a battalion of Giovani Fascisti at Bir El Gobi that is seldom acknowledged,[76] the false claims that the Ariete were forced back at Bir El Gobi when they in fact severely mauled their opposition, accounting for around 200 tanks (with assistance from other Italian units, all acting independently of Rommel),[77] refusal (by Rommel) to acknowledge the success of Bersaglieri units at Halfaya Pass in blunting British attacks (historiography often notes the presence of four German 88s but completely ignores the twelve Italian 100/17s also present),[78] the impact of the Ariete and Trieste during Crusader who overran the British to break Rommel out of an encirclement that was causing him to consider surrender (the Africa Corps had performed poorly compared to Italian units in this action, with the 90th Light division in retreat, yet Rommel only noted in his diary 'nothing happened...except a few attacks from Ariete');[79]


  1. ^ Walker (2003), p.19
  2. ^ Steinberg (1990), pp.189,191
  3. ^ Walker (2003) p.12
  4. ^ Bauer (2000), p.231
  5. ^ Walker (2003), p.26
  6. ^ Beevor (2006) pp.45,47,88-89,148,152,167,222-4,247,322-6,360,405-6,415
  7. ^ a b c d e Walker (2003), p.17
  8. ^ Bonner and Wiggin (2006), p84
  9. ^ Eden & Moeng (Eds.) (2002), pp.680-681
  10. ^ a b c Bierman & Smith (2002), pp.13-14
  11. ^ Walker (2003) p.22
  12. ^ Sadkovich (1991) p.290-91; and references therein
  13. ^ Walker (2003) p.30-53
  14. ^ a b Sadkovich (1991) pp.287-291
  15. ^ Steinberg (1990), pp.189
  16. ^ a b Bauer (2000), p.146
  17. ^ Eden & Moeng (Eds.) (2002), pp.684-685,930,1061
  18. ^ Bishop (1998) p.18
  19. ^ Bishop (1998) pp.17-18
  20. ^ Walker (2003) p.48
  21. ^ a b Sadkovich (1991) p.290
  22. ^ Walker (2003) p.109
  23. ^ Bishop (1998) pp.149,164
  24. ^ a b Joseph (2010) p.49
  25. ^ Henderson, Jim. "Autoblinda". Commando Supremo: Italy at War website. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  26. ^ Joseph (2010) pp.46-50
  27. ^ Walker (2003) p.112-13
  28. ^ Mussolini, Peter Neville, pg 140, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0-415-24989-9
  29. ^ a b Walker (2003) p.23
  30. ^ Walker (2003) p.21
  31. ^ Bauer (2000), p.96,493
  32. ^ Walker (2003) p.11
  33. ^ a b Walker (2003) p.20
  34. ^ Bauer (2000), pp.90-95
  35. ^ Quoted in Axelrod, Alan 2008, The Real History of World War II, p. 180, Sterling Publishing Co. ISBN 978-1-4027-4090-9
  36. ^ Garibaldi (2001), p.142
  37. ^ [1]
  38. ^ O’Hara (2009) p.9
  39. ^ Nelson Page (1920) chapt. XXIII
  40. ^ a b O’Hara (2009) p.3
  41. ^ O’Hara (2009) p.12
  42. ^ Joseph (2010) pp.45-47
  43. ^ Walker (2003) p.25
  44. ^ Badoglio, Pietro. L’Italia nella seconda guerra mondiale, Milano: Mondadori, 1946, p. 37
  45. ^ "Voices of World War II, 1937-1945". Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  46. ^ a b c Italy and the Jews - Timeline by Elizabeth D. Malissa
  47. ^ Bauer (2000), p.93
  48. ^ Walker (2003) p.62
  49. ^ a b c d e Bauer (2000), p.95
  50. ^ a b Bauer (2000), p.113
  51. ^ Jowett, Philip S., The Italian Army 1940-1945 (2): Africa 1940-43, page 11, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 1-85532-865-8, url:[2]
  52. ^ a b Bauer (2000) p. 99
  53. ^ Walker (2003), p.28
  54. ^ Bauer (2000), p.105
  55. ^ Bauer (2000), p.106
  56. ^ Quartermaine, Luisa, Mussolini's last republic: propaganda and politics in the Italian Social Republic (R.S.I.) 1943-45, Elm Bank modern language studies, Publisher: Intellect Books, Year: 2000, ISBN 1902454081, p. 9
  57. ^ Quartermaine, Luisa, Mussolini's last republic: propaganda and politics in the Italian Social Republic (R.S.I.) 1943-45, Elm Bank modern language studies, Publisher: Intellect Books, Year: 2000, ISBN 1902454081, p. 11
  58. ^ Quartermaine, Luisa, Mussolini's last republic: propaganda and politics in the Italian Social Republic (R.S.I.) 1943-45, Elm Bank modern language studies, Publisher: Intellect Books, Year: 2000, ISBN 1902454081, p. 11-12
  59. ^ O'Hara and Cernuschi (2009), p. 46
  60. ^ O'Hara and Cernuschi (2009), p.47
  61. ^ O'Reilly, Charles T., Forgotten battles: Italy's war of liberation, 1943-1945. Illustrated ed., Publisher: Lexington Books, Year: 2001, ISBN 0739101951, p. 14
  62. ^ O'Reilly, Charles T., Forgotten battles: Italy's war of liberation, 1943-1945. Illustrated ed., Publisher: Lexington Books, Year: 2001, ISBN 0739101951, p. 96
  63. ^ "Channel 4 - History - Warlords: Churchill". Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  64. ^ "Battle At Gallipoli, 1915". EyeWitness to History, Ibis Communications, Inc.. 2001. 
  65. ^ "Sicily July 10 - August 17, 1943 - World War II Multimedia Database". Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  66. ^ Doody, Richard. "Chronology of World War II Diplomacy 1939 - 1945". The World at War Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  67. ^ a b Palmieri, Marco; Avagliano. "Breve storia dell’internamento militare italiano in Germania Dati, fatti e considerazioni". Associazione Nazionale Reduci dalla Prigionia, dall'Internamento, dalla Guerra di Liberazione e loro Familiari (A.N.R.P.). p. 39. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  68. ^ Walker (2003), pp.6-8
  69. ^ Sadkovich (1991), pp.291-293
  70. ^ Walker (2003), pp.60-61
  71. ^ Sadkovich (1991), pp.284-301 & 310-312
  72. ^ Macksey (1972), p.163
  73. ^ Bishop and Warner (2001), p.72
  74. ^ Irving (1977), p.538
  75. ^ O'Hara & Cernuschi (2009), pp.52-55
  76. ^ Sadkovich (1991), p299
  77. ^ Sadkovich (1991), p298-299
  78. ^ Sadkovich (1991), p297
  79. ^ Sadkovich (1991), pp.302-303
  80. ^ Sadkovich (1991), p310
  81. ^ Rothenberg (1981), p. 160
  82. ^ Weinberg (1995), pp.256-257
  83. ^ Dalton, Hugh (2004) With British Guns in Italy: A Tribute to Italian Achievement .Kessinger Publishing, 2004, pp. 16-17
  84. ^ Walker (2003), pp.11-29
  85. ^ O'Hara (2009), pp.XV,91-98,136-137
  86. ^ Sadkovich (1991), p.296
  87. ^ Sadkovich (1991), pp.296-301
  88. ^ Mackenzie (1951), pp.52-64.
  89. ^ Spagnoletti, Gian. "The Rise and Fall of Italian East Africa and the Battle of Keren". Commando Supremo: Italy at War website. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  90. ^ Brett-James, Antony (1951). Ball of fire - The Fifth Indian Division in the Second World War. Gale & Polden.  Chapter V
  91. ^ a b Mackenzie, (1951), p. 64.
  92. ^ Mackenzie (1951), p. 60
  93. ^ Zabecki (1999), p. 1578
  94. ^ Bierman & Smith (2002), p.14
  95. ^ a b Johnston (2000), p. 13
  96. ^ Rommel & Pimlott (1994), p. 128
  97. ^ Jon E. Lewis (1999), The Mammoth Book of True War Stories‎, p. 318
  98. ^ "El Alamein 2" (in in Italian). Ardito2000 website. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  99. ^ De Felice, p.115
  100. ^ On November 11, 1942 "London Radio" transmitted this official announcement: The remnants of the Folgore division put up a resistance beyond every limit of human possibility
  101. ^ Walker (2003), p.174
  102. ^ Walker (2003), p.174,179
  103. ^ Bauer (2000), p. 428
  104. ^ Ripley (2003), p.136
  105. ^ Steinberg (1990), p.208
  106. ^ Toppe (1947)
  107. ^ Sadkovich (1991), p293
  108. ^ Paolo Caccia Dominioni de Sillavengo, Alamein 1933-1962: An Italian Story - Page 78, Allen & Unwin, 1966
  109. ^ Sadkovich, p. 306
  110. ^ Paolo Caccia Dominioni de Sillavengo, Alamein 1933-1962: An Italian Story - Pages 86 and 87, Allen & Unwin, 1966
  111. ^ Paolo Caccia Dominioni de Sillavengo, Alamein 1933-1962: An Italian Story - Page 79, Allen & Unwin, 1966
  112. ^ Werstein, Irving (1966) The Battle of Salerno. Crowell, 1966, p. 53


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