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Could Italians have been an effective fighting force ?

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#1 chris1234

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 11:27 AM

I know some may guffaw at the title of this post, but take a moment to consider the Japanese army. Many would say that Japan was primarily a sea power, but its army was formidible as well. They defeated many European powers, notably in the Philippines, HK, Malay and Singapore, despite being what some have termed as a "world war one army".

 

Despite having virtually no armor or heavy weapons, the Japanese managed to come up with a winning model. They had no logisitics, depended on foraging and looting instead, they made many of their kills by sword or bayonet instead of bullets, and managed to route Western armies.

 

Could the Italians then have come up with a military model and doctrine that would make them an effective fighting force?

 

The main element they lacked was not arms or numbers but leadership and a strong underlying vision.

 

I thought it may be an interesting thought-experiment to try and come up with one. Let's deal strictly with the resources they had or could produce since it was beyond their means to mass produce tanks or APCs.

 

When one considers the environment though, it is no easy task; as Lawrence of Arabia noted, the desert is an ocean in whcih one dips no oar; with its vast expanses, foot soldiers were useless. Mobility was key. How then could the Italian army be effective in these conditions? Perhaps if they fielded an army of motorcycle riding infantry? (Yamashita used bicycles in Malaya, but i don't think a bicycle would work in the desert!).

 

You can fire from a motorcycle, so the spectre of 5,000 Italians riding toward you firing machine guns is a daunting image!

 

Or.... how about a different concept. Convince Il Duce to give up on holding far-flung desert territory. The new Roman empire could be symbolic. Italy could play to its strengths by making a Mediterrannean empire centered on islands of the Med and a few port cities in Libya. These could be held by an expeditionary force specialized in urban warfare and supplied/reinforced by the Italian navy.

 

These are just two thoughts.... any others?

 

Or are the two models i proposed highly unfeasible?

thx and the very best


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#2 TTH

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 03:56 PM

Italy would have to have been a different country in order to field an effective army for the Fascist cause in WWII.


First of all, it is not true that Italians could not fight. Some Italian units were good to excellent, particularly the Bersaglieri, Alpini, paratroops, and marines. The artillery (though wretchedly equipped) had a better reputation than the infantry, sometimes fighting their guns until Allied tanks ran over them. The XX Motorized Corps was mostly OK too, despite substandard equipment.

But the Italian Army was crippled by systemic problems. First of all, Italy did not have the industrial resources to sustain a major conflict. The Japs at least had some access to coal and the industry of Korea and Manchuria as well as their own plant, but Italy was destitute of major coal deposits and the industrial plant was inadequate. Italy became dependent on German aid at an early stage, and the Germans (who were overstretched themselves) gave too little and that unwillingly.

Social, human, political, and organizational factors were even more important. Italy was a poor country that lacked the lower-middle class and upper working class needed to provide the intelligent NCOs and technicians required for modern warfare. Relations between the upper classes and the rest were poor, and this was reflected in the behavior of the Italian officer corps. German officers were shocked by the indifference of the Italian officers and the way in which they neglected their men. The example was set at the top by crooks and cheats like Graziani and Badoglio. The Italians did have some good officers and generals (like Messe), but they did not set the tone. On the organizational level, the Italians adopted a delusive order of battle that swelled the number of divisions but left those divisions too weak for sustained combat. (Jap divisions, on the other hand, were quite large as a rule.)

Mussolini tolerated this situation. His regime did little or nothing to remedy the apathy and inefficiency endemic in Italian institutions. He and the Fascists were quite popular at the beginning of the war, but his regime provided only an illusion of dynamism. Moreover, it never had as firm a grip on the country as the Nazis had on Germany or as the Imperial-military alliance had on Japan. Where Hitler Nazified German institutions, Mussolini continued to allow the armed forces, the church, and other bodies considerable freedom--mainly because he had no choice. Even the left wing was never as completely repressed as it was in Germany and Japan, and by 1942-43 strikes in the industrial areas were a real problem. None of this made for national unity behind the war effort, and when Mussolini looked like losing the other corporate bodies in the state turned against him.

Mussolini was pledged to a policy of illusion and spectacle, and that HAD to mean expansion and the retention of useless territories for the sake of bogus glory and prestige. Fascism had grown out of national disappointment at being 'cheated' out of the results of the 1918 victory; Mussolini simply could not turn against such sentiment, which had sustained his whole career.

At the technical level motorcycles might give your infantry some mobility, but how are you going to maintain all those bikes in the field if your country (Italy) does not produce enough technicians and mechanics? The desert is very hard on machinery, you know, and what if your weak industry cannot keep up with the demand for spare parts? How are you going to keep your mobile force moving if you do not produce enough POL? Where are you going to get an assured supply of rubber for all those tires? How are you going to supply your force if your desert colonies do not have railways and the few trucks you have are too old and prone to breakdown?

Also, many armies (including the British) fielded numbers of motorcycle troops when the war began, but by 1942 they were on the way out for a variety of reasons. And you cannot shoot from a motorcycle with any accuracy at all.

Mussolini ignored all such considerations when he went to war, and the result was disaster for his country. And by the way, when the Japs fought the Soviets in desert terrain at Nomonhan and in 1945, they suffered complete defeat.


Edited by TTH, 09 January 2014 - 04:00 PM.

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#3 ethan

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 03:57 PM

The Italians had some good attributes and scored some local successes. They made British forces under Slim retreat at Gallabat, they had a couple of notably tenacious defences at Keren and El Alamein (the 'Folgore' division), but:

 

- Politically Mussolini was interested in territorial gain and martial glory without paying much in the way of blood/treasure for it.

- The Japanese were fanatics, the Germans were fanatics, the Italians weren't.

- Most of the decent performances by the Italian forces were by their professional or colonial forces, the conscripted forces were less effective.

- They were very weak industrially and poorly prepared for a long war.

- Their best bet- if they liked Fascism- would have been to keep out of the war like Spain- Franco was a Fascist dictator but he got to grow old.


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#4 Staffsyeoman

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 10:10 PM

Far from a specific expertise of mine (whilst agreeing that they did indeed produce some tenacious units as identified above) but some suggestions put to me in the past in discussions with those more familiar.

 

1. The army was starved of decent equipment as Mussolini wanted a showcase navy with which to rule the Mediterranean - and then promptly did not use fully due to a fear of losing the capital ships which were the showcase of Italian Fascist power, and as we all know, battleships are very cost and resource intensive

 

2. Italian officer ethos was built on a far more developed sense of paternalism than even in other Western armies and arguably could act as a brake on commitment of forces at times.

 

I have no commitment to these contentions - feel free to comment - and raise them solely for discussion as imparted to me.


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#5 chris1234

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 01:14 AM

Italy would have to have been a different country in order to field an effective army for the Fascist cause in WWII.


First of all, it is not true that Italians could not fight. Some Italian units were good to excellent, particularly the Bersaglieri, Alpini, paratroops, and marines. The artillery (though wretchedly equipped) had a better reputation than the infantry, sometimes fighting their guns until Allied tanks ran over them. The XX Motorized Corps was mostly OK too, despite substandard equipment.

But the Italian Army was crippled by systemic problems. First of all, Italy did not have the industrial resources to sustain a major conflict. The Japs at least had some access to coal and the industry of Korea and Manchuria as well as their own plant, but Italy was destitute of major coal deposits and the industrial plant was inadequate. Italy became dependent on German aid at an early stage, and the Germans (who were overstretched themselves) gave too little and that unwillingly.

Social, human, political, and organizational factors were even more important. Italy was a poor country that lacked the lower-middle class and upper working class needed to provide the intelligent NCOs and technicians required for modern warfare. Relations between the upper classes and the rest were poor, and this was reflected in the behavior of the Italian officer corps. German officers were shocked by the indifference of the Italian officers and the way in which they neglected their men. The example was set at the top by crooks and cheats like Graziani and Badoglio. The Italians did have some good officers and generals (like Messe), but they did not set the tone. On the organizational level, the Italians adopted a delusive order of battle that swelled the number of divisions but left those divisions too weak for sustained combat. (Jap divisions, on the other hand, were quite large as a rule.)

Mussolini tolerated this situation. His regime did little or nothing to remedy the apathy and inefficiency endemic in Italian institutions. He and the Fascists were quite popular at the beginning of the war, but his regime provided only an illusion of dynamism. Moreover, it never had as firm a grip on the country as the Nazis had on Germany or as the Imperial-military alliance had on Japan. Where Hitler Nazified German institutions, Mussolini continued to allow the armed forces, the church, and other bodies considerable freedom--mainly because he had no choice. Even the left wing was never as completely repressed as it was in Germany and Japan, and by 1942-43 strikes in the industrial areas were a real problem. None of this made for national unity behind the war effort, and when Mussolini looked like losing the other corporate bodies in the state turned against him.

Mussolini was pledged to a policy of illusion and spectacle, and that HAD to mean expansion and the retention of useless territories for the sake of bogus glory and prestige. Fascism had grown out of national disappointment at being 'cheated' out of the results of the 1918 victory; Mussolini simply could not turn against such sentiment, which had sustained his whole career.

At the technical level motorcycles might give your infantry some mobility, but how are you going to maintain all those bikes in the field if your country (Italy) does not produce enough technicians and mechanics? The desert is very hard on machinery, you know, and what if your weak industry cannot keep up with the demand for spare parts? How are you going to keep your mobile force moving if you do not produce enough POL? Where are you going to get an assured supply of rubber for all those tires? How are you going to supply your force if your desert colonies do not have railways and the few trucks you have are too old and prone to breakdown?

Also, many armies (including the British) fielded numbers of motorcycle troops when the war began, but by 1942 they were on the way out for a variety of reasons. And you cannot shoot from a motorcycle with any accuracy at all.

Mussolini ignored all such considerations when he went to war, and the result was disaster for his country. And by the way, when the Japs fought the Soviets in desert terrain at Nomonhan and in 1945, they suffered complete defeat.

First of all, thanks to all who replied. I am verfy impressed by the level of discussion on this forum.

 

Your points on the poor state of teh Italian economy are well taken; i remember reading somewhere that while Germany in 1940 has 4.5 million cars on the road, France and Britain together about the same number, Italy had a total of ..... 40,000! An incredible statistic... As you point out, Italy was more on par with Albania than a Western European country.

 

"Mussolini tolerated this situation. His regime did little or nothing to remedy the apathy and inefficiency endemic in Italian institutions. He and the Fascists were quite popular at the beginning of the war, but his regime provided only an illusion of dynamism. Moreover, it never had as firm a grip on the country as the Nazis had on Germany or as the Imperial-military alliance had on Japan. Where Hitler Nazified German institutions, Mussolini continued to allow the armed forces, the church, and other bodies considerable freedom--mainly because he had no choice. Even the left wing was never as completely repressed as it was in Germany and Japan, and by 1942-43 strikes in the industrial areas were a real problem. None of this made for national unity behind the war effort, and when Mussolini looked like losing the other corporate bodies in the state turned against him."

 

This is your strongest argument, i believe. Although Mussolini, it could be said, was one of the creators of the fascist state, his fascist Italy seemd more like a failed prototype than anything else.

 

 

However, i must take issue with you on your comments on industrialisation. While Italy did not have coal resources or heavy industrialization like Japan did, the Japanese army seemd to function perfectly well without them. The state of Japanese infantry weapon production was appalling. Ammunition was always scarce. Soldiers were encourage to use the blade rather than the gun.

 

So in spite of the poor resources at hand, the Japanese were able to field a very effective army.

 

It was something abstract and immaterial that was lacking for the Italians: leadership, unity of purpose, training and a vision of their armed forces.

 

I concede to you on the point of motorcyles: you are quite right in all your points. Perhaps the 'island model' i proposed would be more feasible.

 

But for this they would be up against the RN: no small obstacle!


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#6 chris1234

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 01:20 AM

The Italians had some good attributes and scored some local successes. They made British forces under Slim retreat at Gallabat, they had a couple of notably tenacious defences at Keren and El Alamein (the 'Folgore' division), but:

 

- Politically Mussolini was interested in territorial gain and martial glory without paying much in the way of blood/treasure for it.

- The Japanese were fanatics, the Germans were fanatics, the Italians weren't.

- Most of the decent performances by the Italian forces were by their professional or colonial forces, the conscripted forces were less effective.

- They were very weak industrially and poorly prepared for a long war.

- Their best bet- if they liked Fascism- would have been to keep out of the war like Spain- Franco was a Fascist dictator but he got to grow old.

Your points are all well taken; of course, it would have been better for them to stay out of the war, but let's assume they have to fight. and i think, if you consider it, this is the real killing point for fascism as a viable system: it is based on looting and so peace is really not an option.

 

Hitler's economics and militarism were unsustainable; he needed war and more and more wars to keep the system going. The same goes for Japan. And if you enact such a policy, one of two things will happen: (1) you will run up against a country you can't beat, or (2) you will have so many enemies that they will gang up and crush you. (Both ended up happening to Germany and Japan in fact....)

 

If Mussolini had kept Italy out of the war, Italy would continue to flounder and drift and he would be forced to admit the failure of fascism and begin large scale domestic repression... or go to war.

 

Your point about Germany and Japan being fanatics is spot on. It explains a lot. Otherwise Italy may have been a force to reckon with, if the men were so indoctrinated that they eagerly gave up their lives. I guess this is another proof of the failure of Italian fascism.


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#7 chris1234

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 01:23 AM

Far from a specific expertise of mine (whilst agreeing that they did indeed produce some tenacious units as identified above) but some suggestions put to me in the past in discussions with those more familiar.

 

1. The army was starved of decent equipment as Mussolini wanted a showcase navy with which to rule the Mediterranean - and then promptly did not use fully due to a fear of losing the capital ships which were the showcase of Italian Fascist power, and as we all know, battleships are very cost and resource intensive

 

2. Italian officer ethos was built on a far more developed sense of paternalism than even in other Western armies and arguably could act as a brake on commitment of forces at times.

 

I have no commitment to these contentions - feel free to comment - and raise them solely for discussion as imparted to me.

Thank you for your very astute comments. I agree with all of them... but does it mean that fielding any sort of effective force would be impossible?

 

Take the British in 1940. They had been bested on land in the Battle of France and Norway; it seemed that Germany was unbeatable on land, but they didn't give up. Instead, until the Americans joined the fray, they came up with a new model, the Commando model. Raids were carried out in Norway, coast of France, notably Saint Nazaire. One might see D-Day as a huge commando op in a way, or as the commando ops being rehearsals for D-Day, and so they created a fighting doctrine that would work against the Germans. I believe any country can do this... so why not the Italians?


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#8 chris1234

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 02:15 AM

On a general note, although we all seem to agree that Italy was a "tomato can" (as they say in boxing) as far as war went, imagine how WW2 would have been different without the Italians: there would have been no balkans adventure, war in Greece and the debacle in Crete, there may have been no desert war and thus no desert Fox: Rommel wuold have been relegated to being just another general on the Eastern Front (and probably not a very good one at that).

 

I still think Italy could have been a useful fighting force because of (1) its geography, (2) its large population (3) its system of fascism which would allow it to take large losses and mobilize the entire country's wealth and resources for war (4) its large navy.

 

I think TTH has punched some holes in the 'motorcycle concept', so i think i will fall back on the 'island concept': in this model, italy, having no large modern army or mechanized forces, would occupy heavily fortified positions that cannot be bypassed or outflanked. This would mean (1) islands in the Med and (2) port cities in Africa.

 

The troops holding this positions would be special forces, and they would be reinforced by air and sea. Italy would thus avoid desert warfare, mobile warfare and any engagements in which mobility or armor was involved.

 

This doctrine would really have given the UK a headache as the Italians would focus on targets such as Malta, Tripoli and Misrata, leaving Brit forces to dig them out of entrenched positions and unable to outflank them. Airpower would be Italy's achilles heel, and they would have to rely on the Luftwaffe though for support. Their navy showed itself especially vulnerable in this respect.

 

Another doctrine would be to embrace an alpine army concept. Here the lack of modern weapons and an industrial base would not be an issue. The problem is though that there are few mountainous regions outside the alps for the Italians to conquer!

 


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#9 markdeml

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 04:48 AM

I’ve heard the Japanese army summed up before as “first rate soldiers in a third rate army”. I’m not sure the same can be said of the Italian army. Many simply had a very low opinion of Italian troops a perception which still persists to this day

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#10 TTH

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 03:06 AM

The Italian Army might have been made more effective, but only through drastic reforms. Mussolini might have imposed them himself if he had had the guts and the political strength to do so--two very, very big ifs. It is easier to imagine a situation where the Germans forced him to reform his army, rather as Roosevelt and Stilwell forced Chiang Kai Shek to reform a portion of the Chinese Nationalist Army.

For starters, the Italian Army (like the Chinese) was too big for the country's resources. The many small conscript infantry divisions were a weakness rather than an asset, soaking up scarce equipment, technical personnel, and staffs for inadequate battlefield return. For starters, the Italians (like the Chinese) needed to reorganize their army into fewer but larger divisions. This would have enabled them to concentrate their best equipment and best officers to get maximum use out of both. As in China, this would have to have been accompanied by a severe purge of the Italian officer corps, which was full of incompetents. All this would have been very difficult and risky for Mussolini to do, but with enough German backing he might just have pulled it off.  

Italy also needed to face some hard strategic facts. Unless Gibraltar and Egypt fell early, the Italian fleet would be unable to break out of the Med. That meant that the East African colonies were isolated, and any men and equipment sent there were doomed to be lost. East Africa had to be written off at the start and every spare man brought back. Second, the Russian expedition was a flagrant waste of Italian manpower and equipment and should never have been mounted. If these two disastrous sideshows had been eliminated, the Italians might have been able to concentrate their effort where it was really needed and served Italy's interests best, namely in Libya and Egypt. For that matter, Mussolini should also have avoided Balkan entanglements. If he first got the Suez Canal and drove Britain out of the Middle East, then he could get all the Balkan bits he wanted at the peace conference.

All this is highly "iffy," though. As I pointed out in my first post, Mussolini's and Italy's choices were in fact highly constrained by a host of political, social, economic, and personal factors--so much so that the likelihood of the Italian Army pulling its weight in a global war was never great. It is for these sorts of reasons that we avoid "ifs,'" "buts," counter-factuals, and alternative history on this site. However, it is true that in 1943-45 a small but better-led and better-equipped Italian Army--the Co-Belligerent Force--fought with courage and efficiency on the Allied side.


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#11 chris1234

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 10:41 AM

Thank you for your reply; you are indeed very knowledgeable on this subject; your view is spot on: the best way to defeat the UK is in fact not through an operation Sealion but by defeating the UK in the Med. Taking Suez and Egypt was the key to knocking Britain out of the war. The Germans never fully grasped this strategic fact, and Italy was not up to the task.

 

Abandoning East Africa was a necessity, as logistically it was not feasible to support it, i quite agree. However, for political reasons, Mussolini felt himself unable to do so.

 

I can only echo your points, as they are a hundred percent correct. Social, political and economic factors precluded any effective Italian strategy, but with a real leader with a strong vision, these could have been overcome, I believe. Nevertheless, as you state, that would be counterfactual speculation, and thus outside the realm of serious history.


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#12 ethan

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 04:47 PM

For what it's worth, 'Amedeo' by Sebastian Kelly is a decent book which gives some examples of localized Italian successes/ good  battle performances. It also deals with Italian use of poison gas, massacres, Fascism, support of Franco et cetera. Worth a read.


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#13 chris1234

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Posted 15 January 2014 - 01:17 AM

Sounds interesting! will check it out!

thx Ethan.


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#14 Avigliana

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 10:42 AM

The people who laugh at Italians should look at this.

 

http://www.history.c...ge-70-years-ago

 

Below is a reconstruction on what happened that day by the river Don, see below.

 

The white horse who led the attack

More celebrated still was the charge of the immortal Savoia at Izbushensky near the Don, 24th August 1942. Here 700 Italian cavalry took on and drove back over 2000 Siberian infantry who were attempting to encircle them  in the sunflower-growing plains near the river. A much loved and much honoured survivor of the carica was Albino the white Italian horse, who was blinded in the battle, he lived until 1960. And one of Italy’s proudest boasts concerning the Second World War is that they led the last victorious cavalry charge in history

 


Edited by Avigliana, 24 April 2014 - 07:12 AM.

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#15 Avigliana

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 10:53 AM

More Information from "The Italian side"

 

http://www.comandosu...rmy-of-cowards/


Edited by Avigliana, 22 April 2014 - 10:58 AM.

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#16 Avigliana

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 02:59 PM

My personal opinion about the Italian failure of their Miltary. I have lived in Italy since Oct 2001.

 

1. The lack of a substantial Industrial base.

2. Which caused poor supply of acceptable equipment on a regular basis,

3. Poor leadership, which couldn't choose objectives that were definable/ attainable.

4. Their lack of Liasion with The German Army.

5. Divisions in its country, which are is still apparent today, 67or 68 governments since the end of WW2.

 

This is my humble opinion, I have usually delt with the fighting aspect of a war and have never been involved in the political cauldron of lies and deceit.

Unfortunately fascism is alive and well and is still represented in Italian politics, if I am correct I think Mussolini's grand daughter was elected to the the Italian parliament under the fascist banner a few years ago.


Edited by Avigliana, 22 April 2014 - 06:58 PM.

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#17 Steve Mac

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 04:13 PM

The Italians spent less than 11 months on the losing side, does that not make them the most successful army in WWII? :rolleyes:


Edited by Steve Mac, 22 April 2014 - 04:14 PM.

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#18 Avigliana

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 04:38 PM

Mac, for your benefit yes!!!!!!!!!! I love a wind up

 

 

The Price of failure! Unfortunately its very graphic, so if you are of a sensitive nature dont watch it.


Edited by Avigliana, 22 April 2014 - 09:20 PM.

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#19 TiredOldSoldier

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 08:17 AM

One interesting statistic is comparing Italian WW1 production with WW2 production, Italy produced a significantly higher number of weapons in WW1 than in WW2, this seems to point in the direction of lack of raw materials or simply "commitment" rather than industrial capacity.

Mussolini's regime was riddled with corruption, and the military purchasing area was no exception, a lot of Italian weapons were  obsolescent or suffered from design flaws that could have been easily corrected or avoided by better leadership. The norm was corruption, incompetence and conservatism backed by a regime composed of amateurs with no real understanding of a lot of issue's. Badoglio's rejection slip of the intelligence's service analysis of German mechanized doctrine after end of the French campaign with the comment "I have no time for this now,  will look at it after the war" is a good example of the how bad the military leadership was, possibly an even greater indication of the military protecting it's own is his career after the Caporetto debacle, in which other army does the man responsible for it's greatest defeat become commander in chief ?


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#20 Avigliana

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 09:10 AM

TiredOldSoldier

 

You have made a number of valid points, which are still applicable today.

 

Winston Churchill was responsible for the fiasco at Gallipoli, but he was allowed to lead Great Britain during WW2, I suppose this is a fair comparison to Mussolini.

 

Operation Market Garden. Could the intelligence report about German armour/ SS divisions in the area of were the battle was going to take place be compared to Badoglio mistake of not following up.


Edited by Avigliana, 23 April 2014 - 03:56 PM.

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#21 Bernard85

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 03:07 AM

good day avigliana,m.22 april.2014.1042 am..#14.re:could the italians have been an affective fighting force?(started by chris 1234.9/4) i have watched your video of the charge re-enactment.they were very brave.its very much like the charge of the light brigade in the crimea war,as for the italians being an affective fighting force,i dont know.i was always led to believe the italians did not want to go to war.if you find some video's of the desert war.ww2,you will see italian troops surendering by the thousand.they just were not interested in hitlers war,a very interesting post.regards bernard85.


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#22 TiredOldSoldier

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 05:53 AM

Gallipoli was a failed gamble, but if succesfull would have been a major victory, leadership did matter but as far as I know the failure was basically due to mistaken expectations that the Turks would break. Caporetto was basically a failure of command, Badoglio's orders to withhold fire "to conserve ammo" and the command and communications breakdown, which as corps commander he was responsible for, led to the disintegration of his corps that in turn forced a global retreat of the whole front.
At Caporetto the same troops that had bravely assaulted strong Austrians mountain positions for years proved unable to react effectively in a more fluid environment, this was to happen time and again in WW2. IMHO the key weakness was in command, as long as they held the initiative the badly led Italian soldiers were reasonably effective, though likely to suffer heavy losses due to unimaginative planning, the results of the CSIR in the USSR in 1941 are comparable to similar German units, but in defensive battles the lack of effective leadership made the forces extremely brittle. Some units made of high quality troops made up for this lack by low level initiative, but the bulk of the conscript units were likely to shatter in a confused situation.
Also significant is that the Italian line soldier fought at a firepower advantage against most of his opponents due to poor choices in infantry weapons, only the medium mortars were on a par with foreign equipment, the rifles, grenades, machine guns, light mortars, and anti tank guns were all poor designs, and the Beretta SMG was much to expensive to produce for widespread distribution, which wasn't likely to contribute to morale. The low firepower practically prevented effective infiltration tactics as the squads lacked the firepower to operate unsupported practically forcing the use of more costly linear attacks.

What is amazing in Badoglio's note of July 1940 is:
- 1) He was convinced that understanding the capabilities of mechanized forces was not a priority.
- 2) He truly believed the war would be over in a few weeks.

Edited by TiredOldSoldier, 24 April 2014 - 05:55 AM.

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#23 Avigliana

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 07:46 AM

TiredOldSoldier/Bernard85

 

Thanks very much for your constructive reply. In one of my earlier posts 22/04-16.49.  I put a number of bullet points together.

Numbers 1, 2, 3. I am in total agreement about poor or non existant leadership, poor supply of adequate weapons.

At the same time they were practically fighting a civil war at home, and perhaps a large number of the Italian soldiers did not want to die for a cause

in which they did not believe in. Having said that, they suffered heavy casulties in the campaign  in Russia. They were a tough nut to crack on The Mareth Line.

Number 5. Italy has always been divided, the rich Industrial North carrying their poor relations from the South.

 

So at the end I must agree with most of your comments.

 

Avigliana


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#24 Combover

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 10:04 AM

The Italian Navy was remarkably effective despite their leaders' desire not to sacrifice the larger ships. One only has to look at the actions of the smaller ships to see how much they managed to keep the Royal Navy in check in numerous actions in the Med. 

 

Reference the successes achieved by the Spica Class Torpedo Boats for an idea of just how well the Italian Navy could fight. 


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F.I.R.E 1944 Re-Enactment Group

Remebering PLY/X 1453 Marine H. Roberts, Missing Presumed Killed, 8th June 1940. :poppy:

#25 arnhem44

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 10:54 AM

...,

I know some may guffaw at the title of this post, but take a moment to consider the Japanese army. Many would say that Japan was primarily a sea power, but its army was formidible as well.

> yes in numbers...and beyond a certain ratio , numbers are decisive.no matter what high tech rifles you place against .... 10 men with M16 can stop 50 men with bolt action rifles...but not 1000.

 

They defeated many European powers, notably in the Philippines, HK, Malay and Singapore, despite being what some have termed as a "world war one army".

> again..numbers, numbers...wave after wave.(and the "small" army of Yamashita has proved to be a myth..)...and AIR DOMINANCE (!).

 

Despite having virtually no armor or heavy weapons,

> oh, but they had light armor..that functioned decisively..when there is no anti tank opposition at all...

> heavy artillery was at hand..old school models. but the 1908 model artillery functioned extremely well. The dutch army pounded the german paras to smithers in 1940 Den Haag area too..

>Nothing wrong with old model artillery.

> and you miss again..AIR DOMINANCE...

 

the Japanese managed to come up with a winning model. They had no logisitics,

>huh ? no ? logistics ?

depended on foraging and looting instead,

>no, not particularly, the jap soldier lives on rice.. that was cheap and at hand everywhere.

 

they made many of their kills by sword or bayonet

>nonsense..the "many" bajonet, sword  kills were the POW or just taken in surrenderers...that doesnot account as a classic banzai attack which you may unintentionally hint with.

 

instead of bullets, and managed to route Western armies.

> again..smaller units, less equipment, little support, no manouvering capability, strained wareconomies, sometimes hostile locals...and air planes..many air planes..

 

Could the Italians then have come up with a military model and doctrine that would make them an effective fighting force?

> yes..they did the same in Eritrea...OVERWHELM a demoralised small ineffective obsolete "army".

 

The main element they lacked was not arms or numbers but leadership and a strong underlying vision.

> oh, there was leadership, and vision..but unlike the japs vs the brits, the Italians did not "hate" the brits, and they only despised the locals.

and the greeks HATED the Italians even more (and defended mountain areas).

 

I thought it may be an interesting thought-experiment to try and come up with one. Let's deal strictly with the resources they had or could produce since it was beyond their means to mass produce tanks or APCs.

hen one considers the environment though, it is no easy task; as Lawrence of Arabia noted, the desert is an ocean in whcih one dips no oar; with its vast expanses, foot soldiers were useless. Mobility was key.

> or numbers and planes in a zero infrastructure environment.

.

How then could the Italian army be effective in these conditions? Perhaps if they fielded an army of motorcycle riding infantry? (Yamashita used bicycles in Malaya, but i don't think a bicycle would work in the desert!).

>The japs on bikes worked to move armee over distances when there is no opposition. And bikes and rice were cheaper and lighter than trucks and petrol..and the roads were fine.

But where the jap bikers faced an ambush..they were mowed down faster than a marching troop. No question.

 

You can fire from a motorcycle, so the spectre of 5,000 Italians riding toward you firing machine guns is a daunting image!

>the MG on german sidecar motors were not and never used as "minitanks"...

 

Or.... how about a different concept. Convince Il Duce to give up on holding far-flung desert territory. The new Roman empire could be symbolic. Italy could play to its strengths by making a Mediterrannean empire centered on islands of the Med and a few port cities in Libya. These could be held by an expeditionary force specialized in urban warfare and supplied/reinforced by the Italian navy.

> for what gain ?

 

 

...


Edited by arnhem44, 24 April 2014 - 10:55 AM.

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Soldatenmoed is de grootste verbloeming van dwaasheid
ordre – contr’ordre – desordre:poppy:

#26 arnhem44

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 11:08 AM

However, i must take issue with you on your comments on industrialisation. While Italy did not have coal resources or heavy industrialization like Japan did, the Japanese army seemd to function perfectly well without them. The state of Japanese infantry weapon production was appalling. Ammunition was always scarce. Soldiers were encourage to use the blade rather than the gun.

>> nonsense..Japan had enough ammo.  don't  create myths of the japs.


But for this they would be up against the RN: no small obstacle!

>> If normal seawarfare would have taken place..than the Italian navy would not face the entire RN ..and with closer proximity to italian strongpoints and airfields..the RN deployed in the meditarenean would have a hard beating (inside >>the ship..there is no gungho fanatic attitude that counts..only precision in gunnery...).

>>The attack on ships in harbours is a cheap nasty stroke. All navies agree on that.


Edited by arnhem44, 24 April 2014 - 11:23 AM.

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Soldatenmoed is de grootste verbloeming van dwaasheid
ordre – contr’ordre – desordre:poppy:

#27 arnhem44

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 11:18 AM

The Italians spent less than 11 months on the losing side, does that not make them the most successful army in WWII? :rolleyes:

And from what I remember in statistics they have suffered the LEAST mortal casualties (soldiers and civilians) of any other WW2 conflict country *. Both in totals per day, as in percentage of population !

 

* but really a country in the thick of it with fighting taking place on its own land.

So USA , Brasil and Luxemburg don't count...


Edited by arnhem44, 24 April 2014 - 11:19 AM.

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Soldatenmoed is de grootste verbloeming van dwaasheid
ordre – contr’ordre – desordre:poppy:

#28 TiredOldSoldier

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 06:52 PM

Nor do Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, Norway, Thailand, etc. etc. etc.

Getting an exact figure of Italian war losses is hard as the deaths in the internal fighting are badly documented and MIA in the USSR still  a matter of debate.


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#29 Avigliana

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 09:26 PM

All

National Holiday in Italy- Liberation Day 25/04/1945

 

I have transferred this story to

Liberation day in Italy 25th Of April?


Edited by Avigliana, 25 April 2014 - 07:55 AM.

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#30 Slipdigit

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 10:56 PM

the Japanese managed to come up with a winning model. They had no logisitics,

>huh ? no ? logistics ?

depended on foraging and looting instead,

>no, not particularly, the jap soldier lives on rice.. that was cheap and at hand everywhere.

I firmly disagree with this assumption.

 

Rice may have plentiful in China and SE Asia but it did not grow on the islands of the Pacific.  It had to be brought in by ships.  The IJN's inability to find the necessary 300,000 tons of shipping to service the Solomons Campaign forced the decision by the Japanese to evacuate Guadalcanal.  General Miyazaki gave testimony postwar that only about 20% if the supplies dispatched from Rabaul to Guadalcanal ever reached the latter and about 10,000 men starved to death. 

 

Guadalcanal was early in the war.  The situation got worse as the Pacific war wore on and starvation was a very real threat to the effectiveness of the Japanese Army whose logisitics planning for the early campaigns included assumptions that their combatants were to forage for food where none ultimately existed.


Edited by Slipdigit, 26 April 2014 - 02:57 AM.

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Warmest Regards,
Jeff






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