Was the italien soldiers more worse soldiers then others?

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 17 Dec 2004 16:55

ok it's the n-th time this topic is treated...we should make it a FAQ.

First of all: the average performance of italian WWII army was low, no doubt about it. The bias is continuing to stress this bad result on shoulders of single soldiers, this (for me) is more a projection of a series of spread bias on italian people than an accurate study of the italian military machine.
Reality is that italian military suffered of a lot of hard misworkings concerning leadership, organization, equipment and logistics.
Unfortunately the 90% of stuff concerning italians in WWII seems related to winter 1940-41 campaign in NA, a really bad performance - but ignores all the rest to have a more complete analysis. Probably quite whichever soldier, when trained, equipped and leaded as an italian, would have done more or less the same than italian did.
Let's give a better look at italian campaigns

-the winter campaign of 1940-41 was lost by italians for the same reasons Frenchmen had lost in spring 1940: Blitzkrieg. A well trained mech force defeated in succession a "wrong" force splitted in many garrisons (the italian force was untrained, unmechanized, bad leaded and so on...). Do you know that stuff about Frenchmen had more tanks than Germans but didn't know how to use them? the same for italians.
-it's usually unsaid that the italian force which attacked greece in October 1940 had more or less the same strength of the opposite greek army …This campaign can’t be studied only on military consideration but it needs to know all the political moves around it. It can be described as a military suicide caused by political stupidity
-italian forces in East Africa suffered for lack of logistic, strategical mistakes, idiot leaders and many troubles about colonial troops. Anyway, the Eritrean and Gondar campaign of 1941 are one of the best performance of Italian army in WWII (and Somalian one of the worst, sigh!)
-in 1941-43 italian forces in NA showed a substiantially better performance than in 1940-41. The close contact with DAK had certainly a good effect on Italian preparation but we should consider that Italian troops and commanders were probably better than precendent ones (I repeat, before war Cyrenaica was the destination for the “trash” in Italian army…). After Alamein, Italian materials were definitely outdate.
-italian force in Russia was probably the best deployed by italy in WWII. It produced the best offensive campaign (the fall 1941 one) and a series of excellent defensive one (Christmas 1941, Serafimovich and Don summer 1942, Kalitwa valley December 1942) breaking only under overwhelming forces and largely without a German “help” (BTW I have not a so great opinion of Mr. Corti work – too much bigot for my tastes, he’s still alive and writes on ultra-catholic conservative magazines – I suggest you to read “The Sargent in the Snow” of M. Rigoni Stern, the best Italian WWII memory book and the only one written by a troop graduate).

Some general consideration: Italy suffered of few resources, so investing in X meaned not investing in Y. Italian army spent the ‘30s in improving infantry weapons but invested on wrong models while artillery had still the start the improvement in 1940. Armor suffered of a complicate military-industrial connection which would have been material for a penal trial.
About leadership and training, I told part of my arguments time ago there:
http://comandosupremo.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1605
and there’s not so much to add.

and we're not speaking about navy and air force...

At your dispo

Lupo

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hauptmannn
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Post by hauptmannn » 18 Dec 2004 07:48

Although this can be considered as a what if. What do you think Italian performance would be if the Italians were allowed and produce german equipment that was not too overwhelming for italian industry e.g (Pz III or IV)

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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 18 Dec 2004 13:57

hauptmannn wrote:Although this can be considered as a what if. What do you think Italian performance would be if the Italians were allowed and produce german equipment that was not too overwhelming for italian industry e.g (Pz III or IV)
mmm...perplexed. The first debate about adopting german armor had been made in fall 1940. Given time to prepare industry, starting production and forming units, first italian panzer units would have been ready around half 1941 so no influence on Compass or balkan campaign.
We should suppose that italian industry would have not produced more tanks than in reality, so we have only a panzer-equipped italian armor in NA in 1941-43 with more or less the same number of tanks than in reality.
I don't believe it would have changed a lot the situation...

RoW
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Post by RoW » 18 Dec 2004 16:53

I have not a so great opinion of Mr. Corti work – too much bigot for my tastes, he’s still alive and writes on ultra-catholic conservative magazines – I suggest you to read “The Sargent in the Snow” of M. Rigoni Stern
Thanks for recomendation... I'll try to find this book, but it will be very hard here in Latvia.

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Post by Panzergenadier » 18 Dec 2004 18:48

Hello!!! I recall a story, something like that: A British soldier was walking across the desert and saw an Italian soldier. The Italian surrendered and before they go an Italian tank appeared. The British soldier could not do anything against the armour and surrendered. Then came another British soldier and the Brits captured the Italians with their tank without a shot. I heard that story about an year ago on Discovery channel. It was told by Italian veteran( the commander of the tank I think) in a series called "War months".

Regards and my best wishes,
Panzergrenadier

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Kenshiro
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Post by Kenshiro » 18 Dec 2004 19:19

yes I saw that to, and the history was...a british tank platoon (or was that a carrier group?) captured some italian soldiers, and they handled them over to some british soldiers...soon as the brish tanks dissaperes, a italian tank group came, and the btitish soldiers surrendered to the italians. Then as soon the italian tanks (L3 or maybe M11) dissapered a british tank came, and the italians turned again prisoners.

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BoroXXX
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Post by BoroXXX » 18 Dec 2004 20:47

He he he he.

I remember an event I have read about. It was between 1st and 2nd Alamein battles. NZ infantry attacked the Ruweisat ridge and captured some 10.000 Italians and nearly complete ridge during that night-attack..

Next morning 8th Panzer-regimente counterattacked, set those Italians free and captured 1200 NZ soldiers.

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Alter Mann
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Italian Troops In WWII

Post by Alter Mann » 19 Dec 2004 12:41

This is a subject that I could go on and on and on about. I think I've done that in other threads, and am sure that no one wants me to do it again.

That said, 2000 years ago, Rome was a great power in the world. The Roman Legions were very successful at expndng the empire and keeping it under control. Trade flourished, and along with it, science, engineering, etc.

However, Rome fell at last. Some say it can be ascribed to the fact that many Roman nobles drank wine out of lead cups, The cups were made of lead because lead is easy to form into decorative shapes. At the time, lead poisoning was not even considered a threat.

Others say that Rome just became to corrupt to support itself, especially with forces like the Goths and Visigoths arrayed against it.

Let's look at it anoher way. Suppose you send your best warriors off to fight in foreign lands, and expand the empire, for several hundred years. Many of those people die in the foreign lands, from one cause or another, and only some of the remainder return to Italy, with little enthusiasm for any more war. I am sure that a significant number of the returnees did raise their children with the concept of service to the empire foremost, but I think that there were a significant number who didn't.

Italy became a great power again, centuries later, and the result was more war. More loss of the best and the brightest. (Talking about the Rennaisance here.)

I think that Italy stayed in the war business due more to tradition than desire. How many generations of Italians were destroyed during the never-ending wars? It would seem to me that, after many generations of experience, the typical Italian would avoid military service. No matter.

By the beginning of WWII, the Italian military was largely structured as a defensive force, designed to defend the borders of Italy. Yes, there were problems with things like poor equipment, and the separation between officers and enlisted men that never existed in any successful Italian army, but the bottom line is that Mussolini inherited an army that was not designed for conquest. Within a short period of time, he wanted to create a new military that would be as successful as the Roman Legions had been. But, he didn't address the issues with leadership and equipment that existed when he took charge. I am not sure why, but the Italians were sent off to war like lambs to the slaughter.

Who was at fault? I don't know.

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Kenshiro
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Post by Kenshiro » 20 Dec 2004 08:56

sorry AlteMann, but I do not belive there is something against military in the Italians DNA.
But back to topik; IMO the only reason was lack of planning and organitation....and nothing more.
The low morale came after all the defeats and the incompetence showed by the officers. The obsolecence of the weaponry could have been a issue but other army's did fight with worser weapons and they won (greeks).
The industrial production was incredible low, but it would not have been a issue in the months after the declaration of war (italy had a large reserve of trucks, cars, motorcycles ect.).

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Alter Mann
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Italian Soldiers in WWII

Post by Alter Mann » 20 Dec 2004 09:10

Kenshiro says:
sorry AlteMann, but I do not belive there is something against military in the Italians DNA.
I realize now that I suggested that, and I have thought about it, but you are right. If not DNA, though, was it possible that there was a connection between the defeats of the past and the design of the pre-WWII Italian military for a largely defensive role? Look at their equipment. Tanks and AFVs designed for Italian roads, not North Africa. Either I don't see it, or Mussolini didn't see it. Or maybe both. :(

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Kenshiro
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Post by Kenshiro » 20 Dec 2004 09:58

Mussolini was a true incompetent, he in the twenty years of his ditktatorship had more than one occasion to modernized the army (not only with weapons, but with doctrines, new ideas ect) and the industry.
But he did nothing than waste time and resources in useless and harmfull military operations like Etipoia or Albania (not Spain).
About Italys military history, well Italy did always dream about to be a large power, but it always lacked the industrial background.
About the defensive role, the Italian army was born by the unification of the southern army (Two sicily's kingdom) and the northen army (Sardinia's kingdom) and both was builted to defend and not attack.
There was lot of problems to find good officers (some of the best was from the south) because of the different military ideas and traditions.
And there was not few trouble with that.

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Alter Mann
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Italian Soldier of WWII

Post by Alter Mann » 20 Dec 2004 10:12

Kenshiro, this is becoming very interesting, and I have to admit that I haven't spent much time on Italian history.

What was Italy's goal in Ethiopia? I know that they wanted to re-establish themselves as a colonial power (by this, I mean a national power that was capable of maintaining colonies). What did Ethiopia have that the Italians needed?

As to the two armies forming one. What kind of problems occurred? I'm sure that there were differences caused by regional differences, but, are you suggesting that the North and South had different training, strategies, goals, etc.?

Yes, I think that Mussolini could have done a lot better with the military, but wouldn't the entrenchment of WWI era general officers have been a problem if he had decided to modernize?

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Kenshiro
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Post by Kenshiro » 20 Dec 2004 10:58

There was nothing of interest in Ethipia, just the desire of "glory" that's all.
In the first invasion after the defeat (general Barattieri) Italy halted all the operation in the african country. The main reason was not because of the defeat but Italy was at war with the Austrian empire, and the resources had to be used to more important operation.
After the war with Austria, Italy went to war against the Ottoman empire, because France occupied Tunisi, then Italy was afraid to be lock down in the mediterran sea...and the only option was to conquer some earth on the other side of the mediterran (more earth is always better than nothing). After the war with Turkey italy (1911 1912) Italy joined the allied in the first world war (1915-1918) Then everybody forgot about Ethiopia (abissinia) except some people on the Italian right wing, and of course Mussolini.


As to the two armies forming one. What kind of problems occurred? I'm sure that there were differences caused by regional differences, but, are you suggesting that the North and South had different training, strategies, goals, etc.?
Yes basically. The southern army was totally defensive....the two sicily kingdom never invaded another country (with one or two exception) but the northen army was always at war (almust) against the Austrian empire.
When Italy was unified, the main problem wasnt good soldiers or sailors (the southern navy was larger and in many ways more modern than the northen) but officers. Italy was divided for centuries in many small indipendent states with own governement and army.
And of course all those small armys didnt have the same standart.
The papal army (the pope army in Rome) was almust nonexsistent and the officers in that smal army was the equivalent of a underofficer.
Worser was the situation of the garibaldinian army, the Italian king promised Garibaldi to inglobate the red shirt (garibaldinian volunteers) in the regular army. But the problem was many of gribaldis officers wasnt even soldiers!!!!
Better was the situation of some northern regions where they could hire some volunters who served in the Austrian empire, and the central Italy's state (tuscania) who had a moder small army. The south insted was between the best, because a solid military infrastructure and lot of good military schools still to day in use (la Nunziatella) and many officers of the old Borbonian army became part of the newborn Italian army.
But there was still lot of differences, in procedures, burocraty, doctrines ,specialityes and so on. The post unification army, was a big mess...many of the soldiers and officers didnt even speak the same language....but around the year '19.10 all the problems was solved (almust) and in 19.12 italy succesfully defeated Turkey and took Libia and some of the island sourronding Turkey (the dodecannesian island and Rodi).
Italyan navy was the first who violated with a raid the dardanellian fortificated harbor causing lot of destruction. And dont forget italy was the first nation who used airplanes in war.

Italy then joined the first world war, and managed to defeat a large empire (even if Austria was already weak it was stronger than Italy) even with trouble..and a smal helping hand from our allies.
On the other hand Italy managed to help France with a ekspedition force and lot of workers to their industries, and another expedition force in Macedonia flanking our allied.
Italy did well (almust) in the first world war, but bad amministration and a to conservative view of the war doomed us to a monumental humiliating defeat in the WWII.

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Panzergenadier
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Post by Panzergenadier » 20 Dec 2004 13:15

Hello!!! Kenshiro, thanks for reminding me that story. Well talking about the Italian army I will tell you this. My grandgrandfather was ocupator in Yugoslavia. Well there he established links with the Communist party but that's another thing. So there he saw an italian platoon and his platoon mock on the "froggies" as called the fascist soldiers, because they were not able to form a row. They formed something like checkmate position- one back. one forward... But if speak about the Italian resistance well this is another story. They were highly effective and if I recall well they were the biggest resistance in Europe 1 000 000 men.
Last edited by Panzergenadier on 25 Dec 2004 19:02, edited 1 time in total.

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 20 Dec 2004 18:42

AOI and Libyan colonies existed in part as a place to send Italians to while metropolitan Italy was being modernized and machines would otherwise take away their jobs. This was a time when the US was putting quotas on immigrants if memory serves. One of Mussolini's speaches copied in "My Rise" talks about this once again I'm going off memory and may be incorrect. In addition this allowed for some access to natural resources otherwise not available. If memory serves Ennio over on the CS forums talked about some parts for Italian radars were built with metals mined in the AOI. AGIP had some inkling of knowledge of oil deposits in Libya, etc. Of course it probably would have all been lost in bloody colonial independance movements in the 60s but oh well. If, if, if, eh?

I have some trouble with the reputation the Carcano gets. In my very, very limited experience with bullet wounds(not me thank God) fired by weapons less powerful than the Carcano a person doesn't act like they are in a Brit comedy skit and go

"By jove I do believe I have been shot."

"Oh really does it hurt?"

"Like the dickens old chap! But it is time for our evening constitutional. We'll rush over to the hospital after that and a nice cup of tea."

"Right-o old boy!"

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