Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
hambubger
Member
Posts: 15
Joined: 27 Jan 2020 01:39
Location: Dallas, TX

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by hambubger » 31 Jul 2020 23:06

Sid Guttridge wrote:
30 Jul 2020 08:08
Hi Hambubger,

You post, "The Italians (as well as Romanians) who fought at Stalingrad were considered to be equally as effective as the Wehrmacht."

I don't think anybody believes that because all the evidence is against it.

The Italians and Romanians have been too easily disparaged by multiple, ill-informed sources, but I have never seen one that claims either were equal to the Wehrmacht.

There is nothing wrong with Italians as soldiers in the right circumstances, but apart from raw numbers in 1940, virtually every other factor was against them. That was why, before the Germans arrived in North Africa, the Italians had lost some fifty dead, wounded, missing and captured to every one British Commonwealth loss. (Yes, really!).

I am all in favour of rehabilitating the Italian Army somewhat, but to pretend that it was equal to the German Army or that it was in no way dependent on the presence of the German Army in theatre is ludicrous.

Cheers,

Sid.
Thanks for your input, Sid. I was specifically referring to the Italians at Stalingrad, not other areas of the war. I've read a lot of articles and listened to some Eastern Front audiobooks recently, in which several academics and former soldiers spoke specifically of the Italians' competence at Stalingrad. Overall, they were not equal to the Wehrmacht as a result of often having inferior equipment, and usually inferior training. However, as soldiers, I do remember hearing the German soldiers at Stalingrad speaking highly of the Italians' combat performance. To your point, North Africa was a disaster for Italy, to put it lightly. Unfortunately, I can't cite sources on Italy's Stalingrad performance off the top of my head at the moment. One specific point I remember is that when Stalingrad started turning in favor of the Soviets, the Germans, Italians, and Romanians were somewhat equalized by their "lack of equipment/supplies," as a result of the Luftwaffe failing to deliver virtually anything. Looking forward to more of your posts. Best, -CJ

User avatar
jwsleser
Member
Posts: 1108
Joined: 13 Jun 2005 14:02
Location: Leavenworth, KS

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 31 Jul 2020 23:21

To be clear, the Italians were not at or near Stalingrad, but north of the soon to be pocket, with a Romanian army between them and the German 6th Army. I understand you didn't mean to state there were Italians at Stalingrad, but Stalingrad has a very specific meaning to most readers.

The Italian 8th Army fought very well, and it took the Soviets three days to break through their lines. If the mobile reserves the German had placed behind the army had not been withdrawn before the attack, the Italian position might have held. Of course, forcing the mobile reserves away to other parts of the front was part of the Soviet plan.

Pista! Jeff
battaglione Alpini sciatori Monte Cervino (Reenacted)
5th Greek Regiment
9th reggimento bersaglieri

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 7411
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 01 Aug 2020 06:19

Hi Guys,

I am not sure I agree that the Italians always fought particularly effectively North-West of Stalingrad.

The Italians have rather "bigged up" a couple of successful minor actions as the First and Second Battles of the Don. By contrast, the Romanians, who successfully fought several rather bigger defensive actions in October 1942, in which they lost over 13,000 casualties, haven't even bothered to name these battles. Perhaps the Romanians need a better historical PR department.

The Romanians had to fight these battles because the over extended Italians had earlier lost the Don river line in a couple of places to Soviet counter-attacks. When the Romanian 3rd Army took over the line they found two Soviet bridgeheads already established and it was these that the Red Army tried to expand against them in October. It was also these bridgeheads that the Soviets were able to exploit for their attacks on 19 November, behind the heaviest artillery barrage the war has yet seen.

It strikes me that the Romanians are due at least as much rehabilitation as the Italians. The book Third Axis, Fourth Ally does this quite well.

Cheers,

Sid.

ljadw
Member
Posts: 10263
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by ljadw » 01 Aug 2020 10:56

About the British stopping the British advance : if the Italians had collapsed, a few British batallions only would have been needed to capture Tripoli. They did not do it,because the Italians did not collapse.

ljadw
Member
Posts: 10263
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by ljadw » 01 Aug 2020 11:01

Those who say that the Italians were depending on the presence of the Germans,must also admit that the opposite is also true :without the presence of the Italian army and air force in NA and the intervention of the Regia Marina and the Italian merchant fleet,Rommel would not have lasted a week in NA.

User avatar
jwsleser
Member
Posts: 1108
Joined: 13 Jun 2005 14:02
Location: Leavenworth, KS

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 01 Aug 2020 15:31

Sid Guttridge wrote:
01 Aug 2020 06:19
Hi Guys,

I am not sure I agree that the Italians always fought particularly effectively North-West of Stalingrad.

Cheers,

Sid.
If you wish to discuss the performance of the Italians in Russia, I am more than happy to do so in the proper forum.

If you wish to be the man in the lead for rehabilitating the historical record of the Romanian Army during the war, by all means do so. I will enjoy reading your posts.

If you wish to argue whether the Romanians were somehow screwed over by the Italians, no thank you.
ljadw wrote:
01 Aug 2020 10:56
About the British stopping the British advance : if the Italians had collapsed, a few British batallions only would have been needed to capture Tripoli. They did not do it,because the Italians did not collapse.
I will not try to discuss this with you.
ljadw wrote:
01 Aug 2020 11:01
Those who say that the Italians were depending on the presence of the Germans,must also admit that the opposite is also true :without the presence of the Italian army and air force in NA and the intervention of the Regia Marina and the Italian merchant fleet,Rommel would not have lasted a week in NA.
I believe everyone would agree with this.

Pista! Jeff
Last edited by jwsleser on 01 Aug 2020 15:48, edited 2 times in total.
battaglione Alpini sciatori Monte Cervino (Reenacted)
5th Greek Regiment
9th reggimento bersaglieri

User avatar
jwsleser
Member
Posts: 1108
Joined: 13 Jun 2005 14:02
Location: Leavenworth, KS

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 01 Aug 2020 15:46

To return to the topic at hand.

Carrier offers these comments in his article.
The German influence manifested itself in a more practice way. By the spring and summer of 1941, the Germans already began to share information with their ally. Cappellano and Pignato affirm that this corporation took different, valuable forms for the Italian, especially for training.[173] They now had access to to German after-action reports, analysis on enemy weapons and tactics, British field manuals and the other documents, and prisoner interrogations. For instance, we find in the Italian Army archives a British document (captured by the Germans ands translated into Italian) on the actions and tactics of the 22nd armored brigade, which was involved in Operations Crusader, or one of the XIII Corps on night-time operations that was intended for the 1st armored division and the 4th Indian division. This information proved to be invaluable to the Italians for adopting new training drills and tactics, especially for anti-tank combat. As a result, Italian units had more confidence in their weapons. The surprise and panic created by the Matilda did not survive long.
Footnote 173 hit a main point under discussion.
There is no evidence, in the Italian army archives, that German troops or instructors ever took part in the training of the Italian units.
Pista! Jeff
battaglione Alpini sciatori Monte Cervino (Reenacted)
5th Greek Regiment
9th reggimento bersaglieri

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4215
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Urmel » 01 Aug 2020 16:08

jwsleser wrote:
01 Aug 2020 15:46
Footnote 173 hit a main point under discussion.
There is no evidence, in the Italian army archives, that German troops or instructors ever took part in the training of the Italian units.
Pista! Jeff
It's interesting to compare this to the Kriegsmarine/Regia Marina relationship, where Italian crews and officers were directly trained by the Germans at their ASW school in the baltics, and also received first-line equiment such as ASDIC and German depth charges.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 7411
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 01 Aug 2020 16:59

Hi jwsleser,

You post, "If you wish to argue whether the Romanians were somehow screwed over by the Italians, no thank you."

Dont worry, I don't because they weren't.

I was just pointing out that the Italians were not always effective in Russia. I used an example of the two Soviet bridgeheads inherited from the Italians by the Romanians because their existence had major consequences later. It is not too surprising that the Italians conceded these bridgeheads, because they were, as I said, over extended. Perhaps more culpable are the Germans, who refused Romanian requests to be allowed to mount an attack to eliminate them because they were themselves totally focused on Stalingrad.

Don't worry, I do put my oar in regularly on the subject of the Romanians. I very much recommend to you Third Axis, Fourth Ally. I consider it quite possibly one of the ten most essential books on the Eastern Front. I would like something similar on all the minor Axis allies and Italy.

One interesting point the book raises was that in late 1942 Romania had more men and divisions on a main battlefront than Italy. For many reasons Italy seems to have found it extraordinarily difficult to project more than a minority of its army onto active main battlefronts.

It seems to be very hard to find some subjects on the Italian armed forces published in English. For example, I have only found one comprehensive book on Italian aircraft, and this was published some fifty years ago. This is strange, as the Regia Aeronautica was mostly dedicated to fighting the British.

Cheers,

Sid.

User avatar
jwsleser
Member
Posts: 1108
Joined: 13 Jun 2005 14:02
Location: Leavenworth, KS

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 01 Aug 2020 19:21

Good day Sid
Sid Guttridge wrote:
01 Aug 2020 16:59
Hi jwsleser,

You post, "If you wish to argue whether the Romanians were somehow screwed over by the Italians, no thank you."

Dont worry, I don't because they weren't.
Understand.
Sid Guttridge wrote:
01 Aug 2020 16:59
I was just pointing out that the Italians were not always effective in Russia.
I believe that is true of all the countries that fought in Russia, including the Germans and the Russians. :wink:
Sid Guttridge wrote:
01 Aug 2020 16:59
I used an example of the two Soviet bridgeheads inherited from the Italians by the Romanians because their existence had major consequences later. It is not too surprising that the Italians conceded these bridgeheads, because they were, as I said, over extended. Perhaps more culpable are the Germans, who refused Romanian requests to be allowed to mount an attack to eliminate them because they were themselves totally focused on Stalingrad.
The Italians didn't concede these bridgeheads. Like the Romanian's in their sector, they asked for authorization to eliminate them. The German higher command said no. The Germans didn't want to expend combat power in areas other than Stalingrad.

So it wasn't a case of they couldn't. It was a case of they weren't allowed to.
Sid Guttridge wrote:
01 Aug 2020 16:59
One interesting point the book raises was that in late 1942 Romania had more men and divisions on a main battlefront than Italy. For many reasons Italy seems to have found it extraordinarily difficult to project more than a minority of its army onto active main battlefronts.
I find this an odd comment. Unlike Romania, Italy was fighting/holding three other fronts: The Balkans, France, and A.S. They also had to protect the Madrepatria because unlike Romania, it could be attacked from the sea by the UK. So Italy had armies on five fronts if you include Russia.

In terms of which front was the 'main' front for Italy, I would say A.S. The type of units needed for A.S. were armored/motorized forces, a type both Italy and Romania had difficulty fielding. As there were significant logistical challenges in operating large armies in A.S., there would be a limit on how many divisions could be stationed there. Why send more infantry divisions to a front where they had only marginal utility? If those 7-8000 trucks had been sent to A.S. instead of Russia, well I believe there could have been more Italian divisions in A.S.

Italy had a different strategic situation than Romania, Hungary, and all those other lesser Axis partners. Different situation implies different decisions.

How many fronts did Romania have armies?

In the end, all I can point out is 'saying that Italy had fewer divisions on a main front' is pretty meaningless.
Sid Guttridge wrote:
01 Aug 2020 16:59
It seems to be very hard to find some subjects on the Italian armed forces published in English. For example, I have only found one comprehensive book on Italian aircraft, and this was published some fifty years ago. This is strange, as the Regia Aeronautica was mostly dedicated to fighting the British.
I can't answer directly on how many books are available in English on Italian aircraft. I have always had the impression that there were quite a few. There are many books in English on the campaigns in which both the R.A. and the R.M. served. These books are very detailed and are very valuable for research. I wish there was similar coverage of the R.E.

Pista! Jeff
battaglione Alpini sciatori Monte Cervino (Reenacted)
5th Greek Regiment
9th reggimento bersaglieri

yantaylor
Member
Posts: 800
Joined: 20 Mar 2011 14:53
Location: Cheshire

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by yantaylor » 01 Aug 2020 19:56

I am sure I saw a book back in the late 1990s called "The Italian Army Handbook" unless I was dreaming of course and it that was the title, it must have been in English!
Have you tried these? https://bookauthority.org/books/best-italian-wars-books
Ian

User avatar
Ironmachine
Member
Posts: 5443
Joined: 07 Jul 2005 10:50
Location: Spain

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Ironmachine » 01 Aug 2020 20:27

yantaylor wrote:I am sure I saw a book back in the late 1990s called "The Italian Army Handbook" unless I was dreaming of course and it that was the title, it must have been in English!
There was a book with the title Italian Army Handbook, 1940-1943 published in 1984 by the Game Publishing Company, but it was a reprint of most of the Handbook on the Italian military forces published by the U.S. Army during WW2.

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4215
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Urmel » 01 Aug 2020 21:45

The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
jwsleser
Member
Posts: 1108
Joined: 13 Jun 2005 14:02
Location: Leavenworth, KS

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 01 Aug 2020 23:49

W. Victor Madeji was the editor of the Games Publishing Company edition (1984). It was partially a mess as some chapters were mis-ordered, some material was mislabeled, some material was intentional left out (like the index), and other material had been accidentally left out left out and had to added to the back of the book. The binding hasn't held up well as the book was a main reference until I replaced it with Italian language material and the Battery reprint.
Italian ArmyHandbook1.JPG
They also published the Italian Army Order of Battle 1939-1943. This book was published before the handbook (1981). This has been a handy book, as it provides a quick reference to unit assignments and has a comprehensive list of units by type, echelon, and identification. It is a work of the Intelligence Branch, so not 100% accurate but it is at least 80-85% accurate and provides a starting point for further research.

I was able to snag an inexpensive hardback copy of the handbook reprinted by The Battery Press. If you want a copy of this manual as a reference book, this is the one to find. It doesn't have the problems of the Games edition (it is a complete reprint) and is a well made hardback, so can handle frequent use.
ItalianArmyHandbook2JPG.JPG
Pista! Jeff
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Last edited by jwsleser on 02 Aug 2020 00:05, edited 3 times in total.
battaglione Alpini sciatori Monte Cervino (Reenacted)
5th Greek Regiment
9th reggimento bersaglieri

User avatar
jwsleser
Member
Posts: 1108
Joined: 13 Jun 2005 14:02
Location: Leavenworth, KS

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 01 Aug 2020 23:59

Urmel wrote:
01 Aug 2020 16:08

It's interesting to compare this to the Kriegsmarine/Regia Marina relationship, where Italian crews and officers were directly trained by the Germans at their ASW school in the baltics, and also received first-line equiment such as ASDIC and German depth charges.
Andreas

I haven't researched the R.M. as in-depth as I have the R.E., so can't offer more than an educated opinion. I too had notice that same difference between the two Italian services.

The navies are very technical services, making it easier for them to work together. If the other navy has a better gadget, there isn't much one can do unless they get their own better gadget. If the R.M. is going to use German technology, then the Germans need to provide the training.

Better ways to lead a platoon? Not so easy to say one method is better than another.

Pista! Jeff
battaglione Alpini sciatori Monte Cervino (Reenacted)
5th Greek Regiment
9th reggimento bersaglieri

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”