101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
carlodinechi
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by carlodinechi » 11 Sep 2014 05:33

Sid Guttridge: Like I said in a previous post. This list is aimed at primarily educating the ill-informed who love to bash the Italian forces on youtube without knowing that Italian forces had aces, sank ships, captured battalions and defeated divisions from El Alamein to the Don River. We all like to point out that the Germans rescued the Italians in the Greek campaign but little do people know that the Trieste Division rescued the entire Afrika Korps from surrender in late May 1942. I'm happy that you agree that the Italians scored a significant victory in British Somaliland. But they also defeated two entire Yugoslav armies without any real German help in 1941, defeated largely on their own British attempts to retake Tobruk in September 1942, captured without any real German help the British garrisons of Mechili, Mersa Matruh and were the main reason why the US forces were defeated at Kasserine. This list is not aimed at guys that make the effort to study history like you or me.

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Urmel
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by Urmel » 11 Sep 2014 07:13

carlodinechi wrote: defeated largely on their own British attempts to retake Tobruk in September 1942,
Operation AGREEMENT was never meant to retake Tobruk. It was meant to be a raid to disrupt Tobruk as a supply centre.
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

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by Sid Guttridge » 11 Sep 2014 14:37

Hi carlodinechi,

You write, "We all like to point out that the Germans rescued the Italians in the Greek campaign.....". I don't, as it is patently untrue. The front in Albania had stabilized well before German intervention and it was the Italians that were the more aggressive after January 1941. The outnumbered and under equipped Greeks were exhausted and likely to be driven from Albania by the Italians in the summer of 1941 by sheer weight of men and materiel and perhaps by landings to their rear.

You also write, "But they also defeated two entire Yugoslav armies without any real German help in 1941.....". This is to put an altogether too favourable gloss on events. Italian mobile forces were able to pentetrate down the Dalmatian coast against little resistance because the Croatian-manned Yugoslav Divisions initially opposite them were not fully mobilized and quickly distintegrated. The Italians deserve some political credit for this, because they had been undermining Croat morale and loyalty to Yugoslavia by backing the activities of Croat nationalists in exile in Italy throughout the 1930s.

Opposite Albania things were rather worse for the Italians. It was the Yugoslavs who took the offensive and pentrated into north-eastern Albania, inflicting some 3,000 casualties on the Italians. (These events are seldom mentioned in any English language histories of the campaign). It was largely the collapse of the Yugoslav rear due to German mechanized penetration into Macedonia from Bulgaria that undermined the Yugoslav offensive on Albania.

Cheers,

Sid.

carlodinechi
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by carlodinechi » 11 Sep 2014 17:02

Sid Guttridge: Thanks for your observations. I didn't know the Greeks were exhausted prior to Operation Marita. I'd like to know if the Italian counteroffensives in Greece robbed any of Wavell's infantry or armoured units. Also is it true that the Italian people (at the height of The Battle of France) wanted Italy to enter WW2 on the side of Hitler? I read Count Ciano's diaries many years ago and that is what I believe what I read with Italian newspaper headlines lambasting Mussolini for not showing backbone in this battle. I'd really like to know how many Yugoslav troops surrendered in the area of the Drin River. The Italians are reported to have launched a determined counterattack on 8 April 1941 that overran a Yugoslav unit or part of (several units?):
"The attacks which the Greek troops began in Albania, facing the Italian Ninth Army from the north and the east. However there was no drive behind the half-hearted Yugoslav movement in the direction of Shkoder, so that a resolute Italian counter-attack gained a considerable number of prisoners." Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, pp. 140-141)
Also, despite initial successes, the participating Greek forces in the Yugoslav-Greek offensive in Albania are reported to have been checked on 8 April:
"True to undertakings given to the Greeks the previous day, despite confusion caused by the planting of a bogus order by Italian military intelligence, and the ongong disintegration of its eastern flank, the Yugoslav 3rd Army continued its offensive into northern Albania throughout 8 April. During the day a Yugoslav cavalry screen successfully crossed the Prokletije Mountains and reached the village of Koljegcava in the Valjbone River Valley. South of them the 31st Kosovka DIvision at last broke through the Italian defences in the Drin River Valley. The Greek WMFAS also resumed its push and re-launched the 9th and 13th Divisions against the Italians. The start of the Greek attack was postponed, however, due to the late arrival of artillery ammunition and bad weather, but elements of the 9th Greek Division, apparently unaware of the delay, advanced anyway. Some Greek units infiltrated Italian lines and took around 250 prisoners before being forced to withdraw with heavy casualties of their own." Swastika over the Acropolis: Re-interpreting the Nazi Invasion of Greece in World War II, Craig Stockings, Eleanor Hancock, pp. 183-184

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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by Sid Guttridge » 12 Sep 2014 10:55

Hi Carlodinechi,

It is not widely known that the Italians attacking Greece from Albania were outnumbered by the Greeks. The Italian assumption was that Greece would collapse due to internal dissension. It didn't and was already partially mobilized. The Greek counter-offensive ran out of steam once the Italians had built up numerical superiority. Given superior Italian weaponry, excellent defensive terrain and air superiority, the Greeks deserve great credit for taking the war into Albania. However, it was costly for them. By the time Marita was launched, the initiatrive was already with the Italians, though they weren't yet having much success. This helps explain the inability to support the Yugoslav advance into north-eastern Albania in early April. This folded due to the advance of German motorized forces from Bulgaria into its rear in Yugoslav Macedonia and the general collapse of Yugoslavia.

It is undoubtedly true that the Italian attack on Greece drew some of the better British Commonwealth formations from North Africa to Greece and this both helped prevent the elimination of the last Italian foothold in Libya and gave Rommel his first opportunity.

I don't know if the Italian people wanted to enter the war on the side of Germany at any stage. I think it unlikely. Mussolini had had to resort to subterfuge to build up the CTV in the Spanish Civil War. Many of its Blackshirt recruits had enlisted and boarded troopships expecting to work on construction projects in Italian East Africa. Juan Peron was in the main square in Rome when Mussolini announced the declaration of war in 1940 to an enthusiastic crowd, but such crowds in totalitarian states such as fascist Italy tended to be the regime's rent-a-mob. (Can you imagine a dissenting voice at a Nuremburg rally or on May Day in Red Square?) Even the German people were widely reluctant. Hitler was reportedly furious at the sullen reaction of Berliners to the news that war had broken out in 1939. He, of course, remembered the gingoistic enthusiam in Munich in 1914, in which he himself had been caught up. I very much doubt if any general population in Europe wanted war. The drive tended to come from the wills of Hitler and Mussolini transmitted downwards through their totalitarian regimes.

Cheers,

Sid.

carlodinechi
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by carlodinechi » 13 Sep 2014 21:59

Sid Guttridge: Thanks for your input. Great to hear the Italian counterattacks against the Greeks weakened Wavell's forces in North Africa. Interesting to hear that the Germans were neutral upon finding out WW2 had broken out. In the meantime, I have found an excellent Italian newsreel showing the Italian Army in action on the Russian Front:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3LjXDrp5to

I didn't know the Italians filmed this good quality stuff. I guess this kept morale going, until the treachery of Marshal Badoglio and the rise of Communist Partisan armies. Badoglio should've know Italy would slip into a civil war and that the Germans would occupy Italy.

And more amazing footage showing Bersaglieri and Guastatori in the capture of Mersa Matruh:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm3lGEZL_NY

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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by durb » 14 Sep 2014 21:30

The Luce films are good quality footage and it is quite easy to find them in Youtube. I find the Luce films interesting (and perhaps underestimated) documents of their time. To look for more Luce films, you can try: http://www.archivioluce.com/archivio/

They have also some interesting films from the Spanish Civil War. There is interesting stuff on Italian air contingent Aviazione Legionaria, which is overshadowed by Legion Condor in literature in English. The Italian air contingent in Spanish Civil War was as important as the German one for the air superiority of Franco´s forces. Good literature on the subject is mainly in Italian or in Spanish - and the best Spanish books which I know are 1970´s publications out of print. When it comes to the Italian participation on Spanish Civil War the mainstream literature in English seems to concentrate mostly in the defeat of Italian CTV troops in the battle of Guadalajara. This undermines the importance of whole Italian support to Spanish Nationalists - it was much more than just one humiliating defeat.

The Greek-Italian airwar 1940-1941 has also some interest. Although much emphasis has been put in Greek/British success, also Regia Aerounautica was able to inflict some considerable losses to enemy. Maybe bad weather conditions were after all the worst enemy for Italian air units?
Italian point of view: http://www.stormomagazine.com/Articles/Greece_1a.htm
Greek point of view: http://imansolas.freeservers.com/Aces/T ... hters.html

carlodinechi
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by carlodinechi » 15 Sep 2014 06:04

durb: Thanks very much, for me it's like coming across a treasure chest in the sand. These newsreels should also be uploaded in English to let people know the Italians were just as good as the Germans when it came to combat and also when it came to WW2 footage. Also I was thinking, had the Italians not sent forces to fight against the Soviets, the Ukrainian civilians would've suffered terribly at the hands of the Germans. tens of thousands would've died of hunger or illness had it not been for Messe's army who built medical centres and shared their food with the Ukrainian women, children and the elderly. Even back in the Roman days the Italian people showed to generally respect life and family. Saw a documentary about a British chieftain being paraded in Rome and Emperor Claudius deciding to spare the life of this Briton warlord and his family upon letting him explain himself.
With regards to the Spanish Civil War, I don't know much but the little I do know is negative about the Italian forces, but I'm pretty sure a lot of it is BS like what was written in the Commonwealth war diaries. I guess Mussolini saved Spain from Communism. I guess if the Reds would have taken over, Spain would still be under a Communist dictatorship

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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by Sid Guttridge » 15 Sep 2014 14:49

Hi carlodinechi,

You write, "These newsreels should also be uploaded in English to let people know the Italians were just as good as the Germans when it came to combat and also when it came to WW2 footage." While I am willing to concede that Italians might have made as good war film footage as the Germans, there is absolutely no evidence that generally "...the Italians were just as good as the Germans when it came to combat". There were good reasons for Italian combat limitations in WWII, but pretending there were no such limitations is to ignore the reality.

Nope. In Roman days the Romans, like their contemporaries, did not generally respect life and family. For example, aborted or unwanted babies were dumped on the municipal rubbish heaps. The ancient Romans were people of their times, not modern humanitarian liberals.

The Italians did much better in the Spanish Civil War than is generally credited. With the exception of its repulse at Guadalajara, the CTV was otherwise always successful in its actions and was near the heart of almost every key Nationalist advance - and this despite the questionable quality and motivation of much of its original manpower.

If you feel "...but I'm pretty sure a lot of it is BS like what was written in the Commonwealth war diaries." you should specify what you mean. Which Commonwealth war diaries have you read and with what in them specifically do you disagree?

I think the reputation of the Italian armed forces in WWII is overdue a reapraisal, but I don't think romanticizing their efforts beyond the facts helps this.

Finally, one anecdote told me by my former boss who was a tank driver in WWII. He reported driving over an Italian tank officer who stood up and emptied his pistol at the tank. This illustrates Italy's wider problem - courage without the means to inflict damage on one's foe is futile.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Urmel
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by Urmel » 15 Sep 2014 15:09

carlodinechi wrote: I'm pretty sure a lot of it is BS like what was written in the Commonwealth war diaries.
It is statements like this that make it clear that you a) have no clue what you are talking about, and b) that any sensible discussion with the aim of educating you is going to be a pointless waste of time.

Which is why I am out of this thread.

The courteous thing would be to say 'good luck with your project', but the honest thing to say is that I hope your project fails, since if it succeeds it will just be another trove of disinformation on the internet.

I know this is harsh, but it is also true. You have experienced posters such as Sid, accomplished researchers and authors like Vince, tell you that you are wrong in your approach, but remain unwilling to listen. You are not the first and not the last one going completely overboard in re-assessing Italy's performance, and in the process damaging it further.

No history is preferable to bad history, and two wrongs don't make one right.
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

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Ironmachine
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by Ironmachine » 15 Sep 2014 17:43

Sid Guttridge wrote:The Italians did much better in the Spanish Civil War than is generally credited. With the exception of its repulse at Guadalajara, the CTV was otherwise always successful in its actions and was near the heart of almost every key Nationalist advance - and this despite the questionable quality and motivation of much of its original manpower.
And even their repulse at Guadalajara can hardly be defined as a defeat. But then, the quality and motivation of its manpower was not worse than that of most of the Spanish troops, and they had a most generous allotment of weaponry and material compared with Spanish units. And yes, they were near the heart of almost every key Nationalist advance, but simply because their level of motorization was beyond comparison with Spanish units (and probably also because, from the Spanish POW, it didn't hurt if Italians and not Spaniards were killed). So yes, the Italians did much better in the SCW than is generally credited, but they probably could not have made worse even if they wanted to.

carlodinechi
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by carlodinechi » 15 Sep 2014 22:41

Sorry guys, I think I got carried away with my comments. I meant Commonwealth Official Histories not diaries. I know claims of success made in the Italian official histories also have to put under the microscope. I got this impression after reading some criticism in a forum about the Italian air force official historian making some wild claims about a large aerial dogfight. Also when saying the Romans were merciful I should have pointed out they were "comparatively merciful" I was referring to the British chieftan Caratacus of the Catuvellauni clan, who was spared along with his family after being paraded in Rome. Also, Boudicca queen of the British Iceni clan razed a number of Roman towns and massacred the women and children including those taking refuge in a temple, but when the Romans exacted retribution, the Roman emperor realized at one point that the Roman legions under Gaius Suetonius Paulinus were going too far in punishing the Iceni and their allies,and had Suetonius Paulinis recalled. My hats off to the Celtic peoples, the ancient Britons indeed were a proud warrior race even meeting the original Roman invasion at the beaches, according to a documentary I watched last night and will watch again to make sure I didn't misinterpret anything. Also when I wrote that the Italians were just as good as the Germans in combat, I should've pointed out that at batallion level they were just as good and maybe at brigade and divisional level, but certainly not at corps level or higher. Obviously the Germans proved far superior in overcoming Italian military units after the Italian Armistice. I didn't mean to offend anyone, I should've double checked what I had written.

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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by Sid Guttridge » 17 Sep 2014 11:23

Hi Ironmachine,

Guadalajara was undoubtedly a defeat, as your use of the word "repulse" implies.

It was the Italian offensive mounted most independently of major Spanish Nationalist support and with the CTV at it greatest strength. It was intended to unhinge the Republican defence of Madrid from the north and rear, hopefuly swing the entire war the Nationalist way and redound largely to the credit of Italian arms. It failed, even in the modest objective of advancing the front, largely because it drew on itself the best formations in the Republican Army. Furthermore, it led to a propaganda defeat that far outweighed the military setback.

Thereafter, the CTV was integrated into wider, successful Spanish Nationalist offensive plans and was consistently at the core of them. As a result it repeatedly drew on itself and clashed with the best Republican units.

Yes, the CTV was better equipped than almost all Nationalist units (for whom Italy was the main ground arms supplier) and so should have got results better than most. But this it did.

You say of the CTV that "they probably could not have made worse even if they wanted to." I beg to differ. All its other offensive successes could have been failures: it could have failed to reach Malaga, not driven to the Atlantic in the Basque country, been repulsed from the Mediterranean coast, or lagged behind in the drive through Catalonia. Instead, it was at the forefront of all these Nationalist successes. Indeed, it had to be called off prematurely from the last offensive lest it appeared on the French border, to the political embarrassment of the Nationalists.

Nobody would claim the CTV were elite troops (their Blackshirt units were anything but), but, Guadalajara aside, they were a major asset to the Nationalists. Yes, their opposition was sometimes weak, but at other times they drew on themselves the best the Republicans had available.

The problem is that the CTV's more numerous successes are overshadowed by the great propaganda triumph manufactured by the Republicans after its one defeat at Guadalajara.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Ironmachine
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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by Ironmachine » 17 Sep 2014 17:50

Sid Guttridge wrote:Guadalajara was undoubtedly a defeat, as your use of the word "repulse" implies.
It was the Italian offensive mounted most independently of major Spanish Nationalist support and with the CTV at it greatest strength. It was intended to unhinge the Republican defence of Madrid from the north and rear, hopefuly swing the entire war the Nationalist way and redound largely to the credit of Italian arms. It failed, even in the modest objective of advancing the front, largely because it drew on itself the best formations in the Republican Army. Furthermore, it led to a propaganda defeat that far outweighed the military setback.
Guadalajara being a defeat depends on what you call a defeat. Yes, the main objectives were not fulfilled, and in that sense it was a defeat, but when the fight ended the CTV's front had advanced about 15 kilometers, and although there are no exact numbers for the Republican losses, it is generally accepted that they were higher that Italian losses. In that sense it was not a defeat.
The propaganda "defeat" is just another thing. There was nothing the CTV could do about that, because everybody believes what they want to believe. But after all, the propaganda victory for the republicans was finally completely useless.
Sid Guttridge wrote:Thereafter, the CTV was integrated into wider, successful Spanish Nationalist offensive plans and was consistently at the core of them. As a result it repeatedly drew on itself and clashed with the best Republican units.
Yes, and other Spanish units did just the same. That is, the CTV was just one among many, nothing special there.
Sid Guttridge wrote:You say of the CTV that "they probably could not have made worse even if they wanted to." I beg to differ. All its other offensive successes could have been failures: it could have failed to reach Malaga, not driven to the Atlantic in the Basque country, been repulsed from the Mediterranean coast, or lagged behind in the drive through Catalonia. Instead, it was at the forefront of all these Nationalist successes. Indeed, it had to be called off prematurely from the last offensive lest it appeared on the French border, to the political embarrassment of the Nationalists.
Let's go one by one:
1) There was virtually no opposition in the Malaga offensive, the republican militias in the área almost defeated themselves.
2) There were no Italian land units fighting in the Basque country, only the Flechas Negras Brigade that was not really an Italian unit. In the North, the CTV only took part (and not alone) in the attack against Santander, that was really the easiest part of the campaign.
3) Yes, it could have been repulsed from the Mediterranean coast. This was probably their best performance. But after all the CTV was not the first unit to reach the Mediterranean.
4) Given their level of motorization, there was no reason for them to lag being in the drive through Catalonia, as once the front was breached resistance collapsed.
But if that makes you happier, I can change my previous statement. They probably could have made worse, but only if they wanted to.
Sid Guttridge wrote:Nobody would claim the CTV were elite troops (their Blackshirt units were anything but), but, Guadalajara aside, they were a major asset to the Nationalists. Yes, their opposition was sometimes weak, but at other times they drew on themselves the best the Republicans had available.
Well, actually, the "Littorio" División could be considered an elite unit given the qualitative level of both the National and Republican Armies.
The opposition was sometimes weak and sometimes strong, exactly what happened to other Spanish corps. Nothing special here, that is, the Republicans did not specifically opposed the CTV with their best tropos.
And yes, the CTV was a major asset to the Nationals. But not for itself, but for their weaponry and equipment. As was repeatedly stated by the Spanish High Command, the Italians could return to their country when they wanted, if they left their weaponry in Spain.
Sid Guttridge wrote:The problem is that the CTV's more numerous successes are overshadowed by the great propaganda triumph manufactured by the Republicans after its one defeat at Guadalajara
The problema is, IMHO, that their numerous successes were obtained when cooperating with Spanish units, and their one "defeat" happened when they operated independently. Even worse, the small Spanish unit that fought paralelly at the Guadalajara battle outperformed the Italians (though it must be said that they faced weaker opposition). So when one looks beyond the republican propaganda, one can see that the CTV was not as bad as presented by the enemy, but nothing outstanding either.

Regards.

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Re: 101 Italian WW2 victories & counting

Post by durb » 17 Sep 2014 18:50

One thing that needs evaluation is the performance of Aviazione Legionaria and Italian planes in Spanish Civil War/WW2.

The Osprey book of the Fiat CR 32 of Spanish Civil war puts it: "The CR.32 Falco was a handsome and highly manoeuvrable biplane fighter. During General Franco’s fight with the Republicans for the control of Spain from 1936 – 39, no fewer than 477 CR.32s were involved, with an astounding 709 confirmed aerial victories, and an additional 320 kills claimed, for just 62 losses. As these statistics reveal, the CR.32 was the unrivalled master of the skies over Spain."

Well, first I would like to point out the great number of Fiat CR 32 - by the sheer numbers of 477 they had great impact on the air war over Spain. I believe that Italian pilots were not worse than the Spanish Republicans, maybe the average skill of Italian pilots was even better. However I´m a bit doubtful about the claims (709 conf. + 320 probab.) and the claimed kill/loss -ratio. One of interesting claims is that Fiat CR 32 was actually "too successfull" (maybe too many "confirmed" claims?). This led Regia Aeronautica to think that the biplane design was still competitive in 1939 - this launched the Fiat CR 42 project, which was already outdated when it began.

One thing to be added was the conservativism of Italian flying officers and pilots - they wanted to remain in open cockpit planes with high manouverability and thus sacrificed the necessary improvements in speed and armament. These same problems can be seen in projects like Macchi 200 and Fiat G 50 - they were the most modern fighters that Italy had in 1940 and simply they were not good enough (well, maybe Macchi 200 could cope with Hurricane). One thing was also neglecting the need of reliable radio equipment - maybe the open cockpit was considered necessary for the visible hand-signal communication between pilots.

It would be also interesting to know how much Italians improved fighter tactics. Did they copy Rotten and Schwarmen from Germans or did they develop the three plane formation more flexible like Japanese "loose V"?

On the positive side it must be noted that the SM 79 airframe surely benefitted from the experiences in Spain and it was a good modern bomber when Italy joined to WW2 in 1940. And let´s compare SM 81 with Ju 52 - I would say that the Italian plane was clearly better transport plane. Italians knew how to build good three-motor planes.

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