Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 10157
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 09 Aug 2020 16:54

Hi ljadw,

The supply route to the Balkans, which accounts for the great majority of sea movements you mention, was never really under threat, because the Adriatic was almost an enclosed sea, the entrance of which could be mined and covered well from both sides by air. It only became exposed after the Italian Armistice.

The British Fleet was not driven out of the Central Mediterranean by the Italian Navy, but by Axis air power. It was this that have the RM room to resupply North Africa fairly successfully.

Cheers,

Sid.

User avatar
jwsleser
Member
Posts: 1354
Joined: 13 Jun 2005 14:02
Location: Leavenworth, KS

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 09 Aug 2020 18:25

Urmel wrote:
06 Aug 2020 10:06
I do however have to take issue with the 'serious researchers know' statement, which seems to imply that only casual researchers are ignorant of the challenges. My friends are serious researchers, not a few of them with multiple publications on Italy and WW2 to their name. They clearly have found a way to navigate this system.
Read your last sentence again. I put it in bold. Leaning how to navigate a system is not the same as performing research in a well organized and cataloged archive. Your friends do not appear casual researchers, but have spent considerable time in the archives.

As I previously stated, hiring someone with experience is usually worth the cost.
Dili wrote:
09 Aug 2020 01:23
I find the official Navy books good up to a point, the Army books specially Montanari Africa Sett. poor, Air Force book limited - there is need for private authors books and articles to complement. In most of them you don't have enough data to recreate the war, but that nevertheless is a mistake of most historical warfare books that favor the narrative.
Urmel wrote:
09 Aug 2020 10:22
I fully agree. The source selection for the army books is especially poor. I read them for the Italian stuff (and even there you have to be careful, eg the tank loss numbers Montanari reports for Ariete in CRUSADER have no relationship to reality) and disregard anything about Germans or Empire.
You are complaining that books written over 40 years ago have some of their numbers wrong. Please point out any other military history that has not seen its numbers challenged.

Now give me an example of what Montanari got wrong on the Italian history of A.S.? Tell me what he left out that is important to our understanding the war in A.S. from the Italian view point. How have changes in the numbers changed how we understand the battles?

Tell me about a work of similar scope that supersedes Montanari?

It is excellent that you are looking at sources like Montanari with a critical eye, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Counting the number of Pz IIs is the 21st Panzer Division is not great history. I submit that the USSME histories are not the place to look if you only want to know how many machine guns are in an infantry battalion, unless the book is specifically addressing the organization of units.

That is not their focus. Your criticism appear to be focused on a very narrow 'thing' that isn't their purpose.

I will comment that is it easy to know whether a ship was sunk or not; knowing the number of operational tanks on a specific day remains a problem for modern armies, let alone the 2GM armies.
Dili wrote:
09 Aug 2020 01:23
but that nevertheless is a mistake of most historical warfare books that favor the narrative.
I don't understand this comment. Taking the raw data/information and turning it into a narrative with analysis is exactly the role of historians. Numbers without context are meaningless.

Okay, the 1978 Yugoslavian volume is pretty poor. The USSME is currently publishing a series of volumes on the Balkans to correct this.

Pista! Jeff
Jeff Leser

Infantrymen of the Air

ljadw
Member
Posts: 15451
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by ljadw » 10 Aug 2020 06:08

Sid Guttridge wrote:
09 Aug 2020 16:54
Hi ljadw,

The supply route to the Balkans, which accounts for the great majority of sea movements you mention, was never really under threat, because the Adriatic was almost an enclosed sea, the entrance of which could be mined and covered well from both sides by air. It only became exposed after the Italian Armistice.

The British Fleet was not driven out of the Central Mediterranean by the Italian Navy, but by Axis air power. It was this that have the RM room to resupply North Africa fairly successfully.

Cheers,

Sid.
To go to Greece,the Italians had to leave the Adriatic.
And about the Central Mediterranean : the Italian DOW in June 1940 had as result that the RN and the British merchant fleet no longer used the Mediterranean for shipping to /from the region east of Suez .In June 1940 the LW was not present in the Mediterranean .
And without the protection of the RM,is is very doubtful that it would have been feasible to supply the Axis forces in NA.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 10157
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 10 Aug 2020 06:20

Hi ljadw,

No, to go to Greece, which contained only a minority of Italian forces in the the Balkans, the Italians did not have to go by sea, though the sea was a more practical route and they did use it. However, only in the Aegean did they absolutely have to use the sea.

It was not the Italian Navy that forced the Royal Navy to abandon the use of surface forces in the central Mediterranean. It was the arrival of German air power in 1941.

Cheers,

Sid.

ljadw
Member
Posts: 15451
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by ljadw » 10 Aug 2020 07:08

Sid Guttridge wrote:
09 Aug 2020 16:43
Hi ljadw,

You post of the RM, "Its success is still hidden and even denied by the Anglo-Saxon historiography, who is still blaming the RM for the Axis defeat in NA."

Can you give us some examples of this hiding, denial and blame?

Cheers,

Sid.
Kenneth Macsey(1972) : the British threw out the Italian chicken only to let in the German eagle.
General Sir William Jackson : two races of equal fighting quality : the British and the Germans
Macgregor Knox : Italy's military humiliation during WWII was 'first and foremost a failure of its military culture and military institutions .

ljadw
Member
Posts: 15451
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by ljadw » 10 Aug 2020 10:48

Other examples :
Cutting the Axis supply lines :''it was rarely that an enemy convoy sailed to NA without the knowledge of the Malta authorities.''
Rarely : is unproved
Rarely is not important .
Enemy convoy : was mostly 1 or 2 small merchant vessels . Italian merchant vessels.
North Africa :The war of Logistics:Warfare History Network :
''The only way to solve the problem would have been to rid the Panzerarmee of its hapless Italian ground forces .''
The North African Campaign of WWII.
''Sustained by successes against the Axis supply lines to North Africa,successes...were to have considerate importance for the future course on the fighting on land.It was Ultra who denied all seaborne supplies to Rommel's retreating army,and forced him to withdraw right into Tunisia .''
A lot of nonsense :
Which successes ?
Axis supply lines : were mainly supplies for the Italians .
Rommel had no supplies and had to retreat to Tunisia ?This is nothing less,nothing more than the usual falsification of the war in NA : The Italians supplied the Axis forces in NA til the end .
An other one : John Caviggia: ''British and German Logistics Support during the WWII North African Campaign ''.
''Rommel's downfall was logistics '': this is simple untrue,
In Section I (The Axis Forces ) of Chapter III(Logistics Support in NA ) ,The Italians are almost totally absent: In the 4 pages of this section, the word "Italians'' is mentioned THREE times. although they did the supply business ,not the Germans, and although 85% of what was sent arrived in NA.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 10157
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 10 Aug 2020 11:39

Hi ljadw,

Good work!

Macksey is undoubtedly unnecessarily insulting in his choice of phrase, But isn't it true that there was a large qualitive difference between the Italian and German militaries? In defeating one fairly easily the British brought retribution from the other on themselves..

Jackson seems like an old school racist with an inflated view of British merits, but he doesn't mention the Italians at all in the quote you give.

Isn't Macgregor Knox right that Italy's military humiliation during WWII was 'first and foremost a failure of its military culture and military institutions "? (Though I would suggrst that that is to let off its Fascist institutions too lightly.) There is nothing inherently wrong with Italians as soldiers. The problem was that their military institutions did not bring out the best in them.

While gratuitously insulting, racist and blunt, I don't see any "hiding, denial or blame".

The fact is that Mussolini's Italy had delusions beyond its capacity to sustain them militarily and so generally did not perform very well.

Indeed, the Italian Army's limitations predate Mussolini. I don't know if it is true, but I have seen it said that Italy united itself in the 19th Century without winning a single victory over a foreign foe. The Italian Army's sacrifices in WWI were not commensurately rewarded with victories, either.

Cheers,

Sid.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 10157
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 10 Aug 2020 11:56

Hi ljadw,

The Malta/supply line thing, be it proven or not, shows no evidence of "hiding, denial or blame".

Weren't the Italians "hapless"? They strike me as unfortunate or unlucky in a number of ways.

All that stuff about Rommel's supplies may or may not be wrong but, again, where is the "hiding, denial or blame"?

Cheers,

Sid.

ljadw
Member
Posts: 15451
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by ljadw » 10 Aug 2020 13:06

An other one Martin van Crefeld : the Italians were only useless ballast . There is also Liddell Hart,but from him we can't expect nothing else .The fact that an acclaimed historian as Van Crefeld said that the Italians were only useless ballast,is very striking .
To answer your question :
If one is saying that Ultra denied Rommel his supplies and forced him to retreat, while the truth is that Ultra did not deny Rommel
his supplies ( 85 % arrived ),one is hiding the fact that the Italians were transporting everything Rommel needed and one is blaming the Italians for the Axis defeat .
And there is also the Malta discussion : German and Anglo-Saxon historians have during 75 years claimed that Rommel's supply problems would be solved if Malta was captured ( which is a lie,as less than 10 % shipping casualties were caused by Malta ) but that Hitler refused (haha ) and besides that there would be a problem with the coward Italians .
About Jackson : he said that the war in NA was a war between British and Germans ( a lie ),thus he ignored, he even denied the role of the Italians in NA.
About the hapless Italians : they constituted the majority of the Panzerarmee, not only men, but also tanks .

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 10157
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 10 Aug 2020 14:40

Hi ljadw,

Can we have the Liddell Hart and van Crefeld sources please, and direct quotes. (By the way, van Crefeld is not "Anglo-Saxon". He is Israeli).

How can your source be blaming the Italians for Rommel's supply situation when it apparently doesn't even mention them? This is your chosen interpretation.

85% of supplies may have got through over several years, but in some months the loss rate was far higher.

From what you are saying, ("the Italians were transporting everything Rommel needed") I deduce that you believe that Rommel had no supply crisis. Is this so?

The Italians may well have provided half the troops and tanks. However, what counts is how good both were. Are you claiming the Italians were as good as the Germans?

From February 1941, the war in North Africa essentially was between the Germans and the British Commonwealth. The Italians had proved incapable of sustaining the campaign on their own and were auxiliary to the Germans thereafter.

I agree that the audible sneer in some British accounts is unworthy and unjustified, but they tend to reflect underlying truths. The Italian Army, for good reasons and bad, just wasn't very good.

Cheers,

Sid.

ljadw
Member
Posts: 15451
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by ljadw » 10 Aug 2020 15:58

Rommel's supply problems ( the importance of which was very exaggerated, for obvious reasons ) were not caused by the losses during the passage to NA,but by
-availability of supplies in Germany/Italy
- the problems to transport the supplies to the Italian ports
-problems to have the needed merchant ships and escorts
-unloading and stockage problems in the NA ports
-problems to move the supplies to the front .
It was the same for the Battle of the Atlantic .
We don't know how many supplies Rommel needed. we only know how many supplies he claimed . And we can assume that his claims were very exaggerated . For obvious reasons .There is also the fact that more supplies would not help Rommel .
The RN/RAF had no influence on what arrived at the Italian harbors and only an subordinate one on what arrived in NA.
ONE example:
in November 1941 only 29819 GRT arrived in NA,something the Ultra/RN/RAF lobbies used to prove the importance of Ultra/RN/RAF,but they hide wisely the fact that only 79208 tons were shipped and that if there were no losses only 79208 tons would arrive .
Other example :
In the first half of 1941 530000 GRT was sent and 497000 arrived ;6.2 % was lost
In the second half 486000 GRT was sent and 356000 arrived; 26.8 % was lost .
But if only 6.2 % was lost, the number of GRT that arrived would still be lower than in the first half.
In the first half of 1942 5.8% was lost,less than in the first half of 1941, but still less arrived in NA,because less was transported.
And, the RN/RAF/Ultra had no influence on what was going from the NA ports to the front,as the LW/KM/B Dienst had no influence on the amount of supplies that left Liverpool to other regions in the UK.

Ружичасти Слон
Member
Posts: 488
Joined: 24 Jan 2020 16:31
Location: Изгубљени

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Ружичасти Слон » 10 Aug 2020 16:13

Sid Guttridge wrote:
09 Aug 2020 16:43

Ljadw post of the RM, "Its success is still hidden and even denied by the Anglo-Saxon historiography, who is still blaming the RM for the Axis defeat in NA."

Can you give us some examples of this hiding, denial and blame?
Yes
Sid Guttridge wrote:
10 Aug 2020 14:40

From February 1941, the war in North Africa essentially was between the Germans and the British Commonwealth.

Dili
Member
Posts: 2201
Joined: 24 Jun 2007 22:54
Location: Lusitania

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Dili » 10 Aug 2020 17:50

Dili wrote:
09 Aug 2020 01:23
I find the official Navy books good up to a point, the Army books specially Montanari Africa Sett. poor, Air Force book limited - there is need for private authors books and articles to complement. In most of them you don't have enough data to recreate the war, but that nevertheless is a mistake of most historical warfare books that favor the narrative.
Urmel wrote:
09 Aug 2020 10:22
I fully agree. The source selection for the army books is especially poor. I read them for the Italian stuff (and even there you have to be careful, eg the tank loss numbers Montanari reports for Ariete in CRUSADER have no relationship to reality) and disregard anything about Germans or Empire.
You are complaining that books written over 40 years ago have some of their numbers wrong. Please point out any other military history that has not seen its numbers challenged.

Now give me an example of what Montanari got wrong on the Italian history of A.S.? Tell me what he left out that is important to our understanding the war in A.S. from the Italian view point. How have changes in the numbers changed how we understand the battles?

Tell me about a work of similar scope that supersedes Montanari?

It is excellent that you are looking at sources like Montanari with a critical eye, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Counting the number of Pz IIs is the 21st Panzer Division is not great history. I submit that the USSME histories are not the place to look if you only want to know how many machine guns are in an infantry battalion, unless the book is specifically addressing the organization of units.

That is not their focus. Your criticism appear to be focused on a very narrow 'thing' that isn't their purpose.

I will comment that is it easy to know whether a ship was sunk or not; knowing the number of operational tanks on a specific day remains a problem for modern armies, let alone the 2GM armies.
Dili wrote:
09 Aug 2020 01:23
but that nevertheless is a mistake of most historical warfare books that favor the narrative.
I don't understand this comment. Taking the raw data/information and turning it into a narrative with analysis is exactly the role of historians. Numbers without context are meaningless.

Okay, the 1978 Yugoslavian volume is pretty poor. The USSME is currently publishing a series of volumes on the Balkans to correct this.

Pista! Jeff
[/quote]

That is not how i see history.
Raw data is necessary - for example what was supplied up to Compass and losses - . We got nothing on complete failure of anti tank in Compass compared to success afterwards.

You say there is nothing better. I agree.

I have not read the Yugoslav books so my comment does not apply to them.
Last edited by Dili on 10 Aug 2020 18:03, edited 1 time in total.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 10157
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 10 Aug 2020 17:55

Hi ljadw,

All that may be true, but who, exactly, is blaming the Italian Navy? You don't explain.

You seem to be reading something into it that is simply not there. To make a case, you need to tell us who is blaming the Italian Navy and why?

Cheers,

Sid.

ljadw
Member
Posts: 15451
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 17:50

Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by ljadw » 10 Aug 2020 18:25

About Liddell Hat : he edited and published the Rommel Papers and he decided what would be or not in the book .
Everyone knows that the Rommel Papers,which was the start of the Rommel myth,was swarming with anti Italian statements ( for obvious reasons ) ,statements of which we don't know who was the author: Rommel, Speidel,Hart himself .
We also know that Hart has been unmasked as a liar and cheater .
Thus ...
About Van Creveld : his statement that the Italians were useless ballast can be found in Supplying War, but I don't know the page .

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”