Italian Army in Russia


Italian Army in Russia

The Italian Army in Russia ("Armata Italiana in Russia", or ARMIR) was a unit of the Italian Royal Army ("Regio Esercito Italia") which fought on the Eastern Front during World War II. The ARMIR was also known as the 8th Italian Army.

In July 1942, the ARMIR was created when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini decided to scale up the Italian effort in the Soviet Union. The existing Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia ("Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia", or CSIR) was expanded to become the ARMIR. Unlike the "mobile" CSIR which it replaced, the ARMIR was primarily an infantry army. A good portion of the ARMIR was made up of mountain troops ("Alpini"). While in many ways the mountain troops added greatly to the capabilities of the ARMIR, in other ways these elite mountain fighters were ill-suited to the vast, flat expanses of southern Russia.

Like the CSIR, the ARMIR included an Aviation Command ("Commando Aviazione") with a limited number of fighters, bombers, and transport aircraft. This command was part of the Royal Air Force ("Regia Aeronautica") and was also known as the "Italian Air Force Expeditionary Corps in Russia" ("Corpo Aereo Spedizione Italiana in Russia").

The ARMIR was subordinated to German Army Group B ("Heeresgruppen B") commanded by General Maximilian von Weichs. In February 1943, after its near destruction during the Battle of Stalingrad, Mussolini disbanded what was left of the Italian 8th Army and the surviving Italian troops were unceremoniously brought home from Russia.

Commander

Italian General Italo Gariboldi took command of the newly formed ARMIR from General Giovanni Messe. As commander of the CSIR, Messe had opposed an enlargement of the Italian contingent in Russia until it could be properly equipped. As a result, he was dismissed by Mussolini and the CSIR was expanded without his further input. Just prior to commanding the ARMIR, Gariboldi was the Governor-General of Italian Libya. He was criticized after the war for being too submissive to the Germans in North Africa.

Composition

Mussolini sent a seven new divisions to Russia for a total of ten divisions. Four new infantry divisions were sent: the Sforzesca 2nd Infantry Division, the Ravenna 3rd Infantry Division, the Cosseria 5th Infantry Division, and the Vicenza 156th Infantry Division. In addition to the infantry divisions, three new mountain (or Alpini) divisions were sent: the Tridentina 2nd Mountain Division, the Julia 3rd Mountain Division, and the Cuneense 4th Mountain Division. These new divisions were added to the Torino, Pasubio, and Prince Amedeo Duke of Aosta divisions which were already in Russia as part of the CSIR.

The 8th Italian Army was organized into three corps. The XXXV Army Corps included the Torino, Pasubio, and Prince Amedeo Duke of Aosta divisions. The II Army Corps included the Sforzesca , Ravenna, Cosseria, and Vicenza divisions. And the Mountain Corps included the Tridentina, the Julia, and Cuneense divisions. The Vicenza Division was under direct command of the army and was primarily utilized behind the front on "lines of communications" duties, security and anti-partisan.

In addition to the Italian divisions, the 8th Italian Army included the 298th and 62nd German divisions (the latter being sent to Stalingrad), a Fascist Croatian volunteer Legion, and three Legions of Italian Blackshirt Fascist volunteers ("Camicie Nere", or CCNN).

By November 1942, the 8th Italian Army had a total of 235,000 men in twelve divisions and four legions. It was equipped with 988 guns, 420 mortars, 25,000 horses, and 17,000 vehicles. While the Italians did receive 12 German Mk. IV tanks and had captured several Soviet tanks, there were still very few modern tanks and anti-tank guns available to the ARMIR. The few tanks that were available still tended to be obsolete Italian models. Both the L6/40 light tanks (armed with a turret-mounted 20 mm Breda Model 35 gun) and the 47 mm anti-tank guns ("Cannone da 47/32 M35") were out of date when Italy declared war on 10 June 1940. Compared to what the Soviets had available to them in late 1942 and early 1943, Italian tanks and anti-tank guns could be considered more dangerous to the crews than to the enemy. Moreover, as was the complaint of General Messe with the CSIR, the ARMIR was seriously short of adequate winter equipment.

The Aviation Command of the ARMIR had a total of roughly 64 aircraft. The ARMIR had the following aircraft available to it: Macchi C.200 “Thunder" ("Saetta") fighter, Macchi C.202 “Lightning" ("Folgore") fighter, Caproni Ca.311 light reconnaissance-bomber, and Fiat Br.20 “Stork" ("Cicogna") twin-engined bomber.

Operations

For operational history of the ARMIR, see "Italian war in Soviet Union, 1941-1943."

References

* Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer. "Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945". Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas, 2000. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.

ee also

* Italian Royal Army ("Regio Esercito")
* Italian war prisoners in Soviet Union 1942-1954
* Military equipment of Axis Power forces in Balkans and Russian FrontArmies with the Italian 8th Army and Army Group B at Stalingrad:
* German 2nd Army
* German 6th Army
* German 4th Tank Army
* Hungarian 2nd Army
* Romanian 3rd Army
* Romanian 4th Army


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