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Italian armed forces performance in WW2


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#1 Warlord

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 11:30 PM

Why was it that, in general, the Italians performed so poorly during WW2?

They had very tough and professional fighters, like those of the X MAS in the special forces branch, and the Bersaglieri units in the Regio Essercito, and there were instances were Mussolini´s forces fought like the best, the battle of Keren, in East Africa, for example, but tales of battlefield routs are a lot easier to find than those of victories against a worthy opponent.
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#2 freebird

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 04:59 AM

Good question. It was the same with the Italian navy too. It seems that the Italians lost faith in Musso's leadership. And perhaps they were unprepared for desert warfare.
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#3 kfz

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 10:10 AM

Basically I think FB is right, i dont think there heart was really in it. I think its slightly more than that , moralle seems to vary wildly between units. Training and quality of leaderships never seems to be constant. Equipment was often poor or more accuratley the good equipment was in short supply.

Its interesting subject, not so clear cut as been made out in victors history.

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#4 sapper

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 12:17 PM

The italians heart is never in any warfare, EVER, You can capture them not in hundreds, but thousands. Sensible folk!
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#5 Gerard

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 12:25 PM

The Italians never suffered from a lack of bravery but a lack of equipment and leadership. Without that the morale suffered and as a consequence they were never considered good fighters in general.
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#6 kfz

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 01:30 PM

The Italians never suffered from a lack of bravery but a lack of equipment and leadership. Without that the morale suffered and as a consequence they were never considered good fighters in general.



But then some Italian equipment was pretty good, The Beratta SMG and handguns, fiat aircraft, esp the SM-79 where all decent kit by any standards.

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#7 Warlord

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 04:05 PM

Makes one wonder why, if the leadership thing was about politicians intervining in the way of efficient warmaking, Jerry didn´t have the same problem. In both cases you could find lots of party members, not exactly sound tacticians or strategists, disguised as soldiers.

Now, talking about courage, the examples I mentioned in the first place show that Italians had the guts to slug it out with the best, but as Sapper mentions, they always made up the big numbers in the POW cages; why?

Equipment was a mixed lot, from awful hardware like the Ansaldo tankettes (tanks???!) and Breda "attack" planes, to excellent gear like their fast light cruisers and Macchi fighters.
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#8 Gerard

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 04:58 PM

Here is a link to an article on the Italian Army in WWII that may be informative to the discussion here:

1.JmA - Weapons & Hardware links page
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#9 Gibbo

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 05:30 PM

Possible factors that I've heard quoted are:

1. Lack of motivation. Many Italians would have rather been fighting the Germans.

2. Poor leadership. The gap between officers & men was very great in ordinary units of the Italian Army & Italy seems to have had a bad set of senior officers.

3. Out of date equipment. Italy rearmed early so had obsolete equipment in 1940.

4. In the desert lack of motor transport meant that Italians had the choice of fighting to the last man or surrendering when the British & Germans also had the alternative of withdrawal.
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#10 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 06:18 PM

Somewhat more humorously, Italian performance was tied to their numbers. The Italians were effective inversely to their numbers.

Give four Italian frogmen two human torpedoes and down go two battleships....(Queen Elizabeth and Malaya in Alexandria harbor).

Give a half dozen torpedo bombers to air crews and they sink half the shipping in Gibralter harbor.

A weak cavalry regiment of less than 1000 men and what happens? They rout a Soviet rifle division!

A single Italian destroyer facing an entire Royal Navy squadron? It fights with incredible skill and bravery for an hour before being sunk.

On the other end:

Put 100,000 Italian troops in the desert with the best equipment Italy has to offer and what happens? They end up PoWs.

Italian battleships? They practically sink themselves in harbor.

An Italian naval squadron in Massawa faced with a couple of British infantry battalions and a handful of tanks? The ships are scuttled enmass in the harbor without firing a shot!

See, inversely proportional to their numbers!
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#11 Warlord

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 07:01 PM

T.A. gives some sort of a hint when he mentions several situations where Italians were outnumbered, alone and somewhat desperate, faced with the utmost danger; just the kind of scenario in which you act rather than think (or consult), specially if "thinking" means getting in touch with higher authorities.

This sort of points out again to defficient leadership high up the command ladder, but doesn´t answer the big ?: Why didn´t the Boche go through the same, if Nazi intervention in the German Army was equal to that of the Blackshirts in the Italian armed forces?
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#12 raf

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 08:32 PM

The italians heart is never in any warfare, EVER, You can capture them not in hundreds, but thousands. Sensible folk!
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werent the romans from italy ??????
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#13 freebird

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 09:41 PM

The italians heart is never in any warfare, EVER, You can capture them not in hundreds, but thousands. Sensible folk!
Sapper.

werent the romans from italy ??????


Yes they were and the {Napoleon's} Imperial Guard were supposedly the bravest troops too, how did France fare in WWII?

Another thing I have heard mentioned is that some of the best Italian troops (Alpini) spent the war fighting in the Balkans, some Italians fought well in Africa (Ariete etc.) other reserve troops were not as formidable.
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#14 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 11:02 PM

On a more serious note, the Italians did poorly for several reasons:

The first has to do with the socialization and structure of their military. The Italian military was mostly made up of well educated officers who hailed from the northern urban part of the country while the rank and file were generally drawn from poorer rural south. This created a fairly wide culturial divide right off.
Added to this was a vast gulf in privilage and status between officers and enlisted. Officers tended to live and travel well. Fine foods, wine, and comfortable quarters were the norm. The enlisted on the other hand were often treated rather poorly getting inferior uniforms, equipment, and provisions.
The lack of education among most of the enlisted also did not help. This made filling the more technical service occupations difficult and the Italian army generally suffered a shortage of skilled technical enlisted men.

On top of these failings, the Italian army had the great misfortune to organize itself poorly as well. The standard infantry division was a two regiment binary formation with each regiment having three battalions. There were a handful of triangular divisions in existance but these were the exception.
The binary formation left the Italian infantry division in a poor organizational fix. It was difficult to form reserves beyond the sometimes present Bersagalleri battalion without a third regiment. The artillery regiment was also weak adding to the problems of the division. Its main armament was 75mm guns or howitzers with just a few 105mm howitzers for stiffening.
The Italian infantry company orgainzation was also weak. Companies were formed into three line and a machinegun platoon. The line platoons were binary formations with a large squad of riflemen and another large support squad with 45mm mortars and a few machineguns. This left the platoon inflexible, difficult to command and manage in the field and often poorly supported.
Tank formations were armor heavy with little infantry available.
The few "motorized" and "semi-motorized" divisions were really not either. These formations had somewhat more mobility but their vehicle component really only gave them better capacity to supply themselves rather than sufficent lift to move their infantry by truck.
Radio and telephone equipment was also in short supply within the Italian Army. This lack of modern communications made efficent handling of formations in the field difficult. Coupled with an officer corps that was more about social standing than competency and poorly educated and motivated enlisted ranks which showed little initative most Italian formations fought disorganized battles with little hope of coordinated action.
The few available cavalry units were relatively small and weak formations. They did however have some very good troops assigned as the units tended to be ones seen as privilaged. There were also some decent troops in most divisions. The Alpine (Mountian) units were generally very good. Bersagalleri units also generally performed well usually being comprised of picked troops.
On the whole, the combination of poor equipment, poor manpower, and a social gulf that made leadership difficult was what led to the poor performance of the Italian military.
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#15 spidge

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 11:51 PM

A snippet from:

Eunomia · You Need To Have Something Worth Fighting For

"Why was Mario from Naples going to die for some idiotic northern Italian warmonger who wanted to conquer Greece? Who wanted to die for fascism?"

And from this site, why did they even bother???????

Comando Supremo: The Italian Army
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#16 Owen

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 11:59 PM

Italians didn't do too badly in WW1 against the Austro-Hungarians.
Apart from Caporetto, of course.
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#17 freebird

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 04:25 AM

A snippet from:

Eunomia · You Need To Have Something Worth Fighting For

"Why was Mario from Naples going to die for some idiotic northern Italian warmonger who wanted to conquer Greece? Who wanted to die for fascism?"

And from this site, why did they even bother???????

Comando Supremo: The Italian Army


Yes thats a good site, spidge. Shortage of fuel was a huge problem for the Italians, air & naval both
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