Why did the Italians fight so poorly?

Foreign volunteers, collaboration and Axis Allies 1939-1945.

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Florin
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Re: Back to the question which started the topic

Post by Florin » Mon Dec 24, 2007 4:35 pm

Additon to my own previous message:

The leadership of Italy missed the opportunity to carry troops by ships to Ethiopia, while Italy was still neutral between September 1939 and June 1940. As long Italy was a neutral country, the British Navy could not stop such shipments.
The same for Graziani in Lybia: the Italian Navy could carry the supplies and many new troops in the months of neutrality. Which they didn't...

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Post by phylo_roadking » Mon Dec 24, 2007 4:46 pm

The same for Graziani in Lybia: the Italian Navy could carry the supplies and many new troops in the months of neutrality. Which they didn't...
But by this stage were they not preparing for operations in Greece etc. anyway?
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Post by Florin » Mon Dec 24, 2007 8:23 pm

phylo_roadking wrote:
The same for Graziani in Lybia: the Italian Navy could carry the supplies and many new troops in the months of neutrality. Which they didn't...
But by this stage were they not preparing for operations in Greece etc. anyway?
You have a good point here.
But they should not neglect what they already had: Abbysinia and Lybia.
And because you reminded about Greece, it seems that "preparing" was a failure, as well. Much worse, it made the Axis looks weak in the eyes of neighboring Yugoslavia, leading to a coupe d'etait replacing in Belgrad a pro-Axis leadership with a pro-British leadership.

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Post by phylo_roadking » Mon Dec 24, 2007 9:03 pm

Well, if you compare their "preparations" in, say, Tobruk as representative of Libya...then it's very possible that - yes, officers were as well-prepared for in the Balkans as in Libya LOL but it was the PBI who had their uniforms rot off their backs in the winter weather. "stockpiling" seemed to mean something different to Italians as it did to the British, going by the humumgous officers' stores that supported the Commonwealth forces through the subsequent siege.

I can't say they were too wrong giving more emphasis to the Balkans in 1941. Their hold over Trieste doesn't ever seem to have been 100%, and while their few days' "offensive" into France in June 1940 had pushed out their borders there, there was nothing really protecting them eastwards in the Balkans or Adriatic Littoral. It made a sort of Mussolini-overwhelming-ego sense to extending their possessions there - but certainly NOT at the expense of loosing elsewhere,
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Post by statemachine » Tue Dec 25, 2007 7:34 am

George Lepre wrote:
panzermahn wrote:Another reason is that most of the Italian officer corps and Generals were freemasons.
Hi Panzermahn -

I think what derGespenst means here is whether it can actually be proved that Freemasonry somehow sabotaged the Italian war effort. Who were the leaders of Italian Freemasonry? Did they make anti-war utterances and/or encourage Italian masons in the army not to fight? What were their positions on the matter?

Best,

George
I do not know if in fact Gen Pesenti,commander of the Juba sub-sector in Italian Somaliland was a mason,but he was a non-fascist.

After the Allied coalition force made their opening attack against El Waq,the Duke of Aosta learned of the incident on the BBC.He cabled Pesenti,who made the astounding reply that he knew nothing of it,despite apparently observing the attack.

The Duke immediately called for an inquiry,and flew at once with Gen Volpini to Mogadishu.
They assembled at the palace,Pesenti gave his account,and drew from it the conclusion that the struggle was hopeless.He suggested that the Viceroy should ask the British for an immediate armistice,as a prelude to a separate peace between A.O.I and Britain.

The Duke ordered him to be silent,but Pesenti insisted on speaking,pointing out the political and psychological repercussions that such an audacious move would have in Italy.

Mockler lists another memo sent out by Churchill to the Chiefs of Staff a week later.

"At any time we may receive armistice proposals from from the cut-off Italian garrison in Ethiopia"

Mockler feels that someone informed the Brits of the meeting,and exact words between Pesenti and Aosta.

"Pesenti himself recounts that only a month before the declaration of war he had been on a business trip to South Africa"

The Duke at one point remarked that Pesenti should be shot for his comments,but he was merely removed from his command.

Haile Selassie's War Pages 304-306.
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Post by Enrico Cernuschi » Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:22 am

Not only. he was proposed by a Badoglio's feller to the British in Summer 1942 as a possible "Italian De Gaulle"; he had to reach, according a kater plan, French North Africa to rally an Italian corp among the PoWs. The project leaked by April 1943 (presumibly by the British will not to pursue again this program) and the General and a Regia Aeronautica Lt. who had to ferry him in Algeria were arrested by OVRA. The conctact between Badoglio and the British (the director of the book division of the Mondadori, was arrested too).

Bye

EC

PS an open message for a member of the forum who helped me very much in the past about some researches and is by now nacht und nebel. Hello, what's the matter? A very puzzled EC
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Re: Why did the Italians fight so poorly?

Post by Alpino » Sun Apr 13, 2008 11:30 am

Many good points here,I am new here so forgive me for seeming out of order.I had many relatives who had fought for Italy in the war,and I think that while the average Italian soldier fought his best it really did have alot to do with officers,supply,training in general.My family served in Alpini and Bersaglieri units mostly.Many were in Yugoslavia,Africa,Russia and so forth.I interviewed many and found that they had a much higher level of training and comraderie in these units and the best officers as well who cared for thier men.I think the breakout on the Don was a classic example where the Alpini did the breaking out and the rear guard to slow the Russians knowing they were all going to die to save others.As one cousin told me when they were assembled before the breakout the officer asked "Who will stay?Only men who are not married as you will never see home".So single men and officers volunteered.What bravery and dedication we can only wonder.But while these units including the cavalry and paratroops were all elite they all had thier own schools for training including officers.The regular army's biggest problem was it's antiquated methods (WW1) of conscripting,training and transporting men.The biggest morale breaker was regular troops never got leave during the war while Officers had scheduled leaves.As a result most Officers in elite units would not take laeve if thier men could not have it,I think you get the idea of how the men felt about thier officers.In elite units officers led thier men in battle while in regular units the officers led from the rear.The regular army under the RSI was probably the best equipped,fed and paid as well as trained by Germany.As a result the M Battaglione were excellent shock troops.Im thrilled to be part of the forum and thank you for allowing me to join in these great topics.

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Re: Why did the Italians fight so poorly?

Post by John W. Howard » Sun Apr 13, 2008 10:04 pm

Hello Alpino:
Excellent post and welcome to the forum :D Best wishes.
John W. Howard

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Re: Why did the Italians fight so poorly?

Post by Tom Houlihan » Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:40 am

Very good post, Alpino! Perhaps you'd be willing to share some stories and information from your family members?

The Italian Army has a bad reputation from the war, but I think you'll see that most of us agree with you. It wasn't the soldier that was the problem. Good information from Italian veterans would help this reputation, Ithink!
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Re: Why did the Italians fight so poorly?

Post by Alessandro » Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:57 pm

I agree with Alpino and with Mr. Cernuschi. Italian soldiers, sailors, aviators fought over and beyond their possibilities, in extreme conditions with bad equipments and bad commanders the major parts of the times. Only recently, the truth is making its way among a curtain of misinformation. The history is always made by winners. And during last war the italians were battered from every side. None of you took in consideration a simple but bitter truth. The italians during world war two were the only that were took prisoners by every part of belligerants, from frenchs, to germans, to americans, to english, japanese, russians, jugoslavians and so on. We suffered a terrific civilian war between 1943-1945. it was a war into the WAR. In Italy too, too many decided to hide the truth and agreed with a suspect easyness to the story of the "soft belly", the lack of training, the shortage of materials. We were considered for years the traitors, the ones who changed side with extreme easyness. But other nations made the same, and at the end of the war sat from the part of the winners at the table of peace treaties. The war is more complex than a simple sequence of battles won or lost. Undoubtly we had a serious gap at the beginning of the war. High commands knew that, Mussolini too. Ciano subscribed an agreement with Germany (in 1938 i think, so correct me if i'm wrong please) in which the parts decide that a war cannot be declared before 1942. Nonetheless, in 39 months of war we almost succeded to deny the Mediterranean Sea to British Navy, and almost succeded to setback Commonwealth troops in the northern Africa. With the help of German troops and equipments of course, but we were involved in too many fronts to supply and too many (and different) enemies to fight.
Recently i read in book a fact that amazed me. If the news are confirmed, over 630000 italians were employed in the balkan front, much more than in the russian and african fronts summed together. In Russia from 1941 to 1943 the italian troops did their best to keep the front, even when the German High Commands for eight times predicted that the Red Army could not have more troops to throw into the battle, especially just before the Saturn operations.
In My Humble Opinion i believe that italian troops did their best in the major part of the battles, but they suffered a bad command and a bad image amplified by propaganda respect to German and Japanese Armies. It's not known to me why we encouraged this "image of loosers" even after the treaties of Peace of 1947, probably the start of cold war encouraged this, to press Italy to move beyond the iron curtain, but is only a personal opinion.
Alessandro

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Re: Why did the Italians fight so poorly?

Post by phylo_roadking » Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:53 pm

To divide it into a number of cases....

Italian aviators were as skilled and fine wartime pilots as those of any nation. In the first couple of years of the the war however, while they had the major advantage of numbers' and technology over the very limited british and Dominion air assets in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa - once the numbers were equalised - the true state of affairs was revealed; the aircraft Italy started the war with let their pilots down by being about 18 months behind everyone else's. The Italians DID then start a programme of rapid development, and produced some excellent designs - but sadly too late and reached the front in too few numbers to make a difference. The Battle of Britain showed them in 1940 just how useless their pre-war designs were in a "modern" air warfare environment unless - as in the Desert - they (for a time) enjoyed other advantages over their opponents to swing the balance in their favour. Once it swung back...

At sea the Italian Navy was equally as brave - and this time had a much more modern navy in comparison to others' than their start-of-the-war airforce was. And true, they did nearly close the Mediterranean to the Royal Navy. BUT Taranto immediately began attriting them, followed up by the later losses at Matapan - and with the disadvantage it THEN found itself in, coupled with the fuel situation, you can't fault the Italian Navy for holding back from further major operations agains the RN. Fleets are designed and built to be used as fleets when fighting ANOTHER fleet; throwing a weak force against a stronger one in open water is a recipe for disaster unless the opposition are hopeless - which the RN was anything but; and it's just as big a disaster frittering your fleet away ship-by-ship. Look for example at the ultimate fate of the Yamato, that the Allies quaked in fear of for YEARS....

BUT on land the picture is not so clear-cut. Yes, many Italian units fought excellent actions - but there were ALSO a sizeable number of major defeats...and these didn't - in the desert at least - always result in a falling-back to a next line of defence, but in the italians regarding themselves as beaten and acting "appropriately". It's not just anecdotal evidence, nor can the massed surrenders ALL be regarded as figments of propaganda. They were also let down by the quality of everything from their weapons to their armour...to even their uniforms; look at the reports of the way these rotted on their backs in the winter of 1940/41 in the mountains of Greece. But in particular they were let down by their senior officers; no matter how fine a unit, it can't swing a battle if they're only one of a dozen that's been marched into the middle of a desert and plonked down to be attacked :( The Italian Army's level of training, equipment, morale and leadership was fine for the colonial police force it was BEFORE the war, and the several campaigns it fought against markedly inferior forces....but when it encountered modern warfare against a capable enemy - well-equiped and at times very well-led...well, it would be fair to say the good units in the Italian Army looked very VERY good - because the rest were most definitely not. Yes they got a bad press - but it can't have been ALL undeserved, too many British and Commonwealth veterans came home after the war with TOO many tales of fighting against the Italians. They fought as well as they could, for as long as they could - but this was VERY often for a shorter time than, and not as well as, their opponents...and when they did break they broke bad. But noone would say they didn't at least START to fight in the first place...
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Re:

Post by Feldjäger » Sat May 17, 2008 3:09 am

Enrico Cernuschi wrote: Hitler only seemed able to avoid such an evolution, in spite of the endeavours made by the generals, the SS and the establishment in 1943 to persuade him to sign an armistice with USSR and to win, this way, the war in a single gulp.
Now the problem is: why?
Probably because, in my opinion, despite all his failures as a strategist, despite the predictable outcome of the War, despite the hopeless situation in the East and despite the massive bombings of the German cities, Hitler in 1943 still had a lot of prestige amongst both the people and the military.
A prestige Mussolini had lost after the Graziani disaster, the humiliation in Greece, the losses in Russia, and the failure in Sicily. Italians were not stupid: the Fascist regime with his idiot politics had caused the humiliation of the Army and the invasion of the Peninsula itself; a defeat without honour, an honour which the Germans people at least could still claim for themselves despite the disastrous defeat. And the Italians rightly trashed Mussolini away.

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Re: Why did the Italians fight so poorly?

Post by Alpino » Sun Jun 01, 2008 10:03 am

My family always served in the Alpini whether before during and after ww1 or ww2.There is an inbred pride in being part of the Alpini or being realted to one.These men typically were from Mountain regions and very strong willed,physically fit including skiing and mountain climbing not to mention many were hunters from a young age.The old Alpini motto is "Non qui si passa" no one will pass through!My family fought on the Russian front with distinction and honor.When many other formations including some German also the Alpini formed the rearguarg and breakouts.It is an interesting fact that when the rearguard was formed to hold the Russians the Ofdficers asked for unmarried volunteers as no one would likely survive.These young men stepped foward knowing they would die many growing up in the same mountain villages along with Uncles,cousins,best friends and school mates.Let me end by saying there were too many volunteers and the Officers had a time of it weeding them out so only the required amount were left behind.It is with great pride I remember thier sacrifices.

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