Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

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daveshoup2MD
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Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 01 Feb 2020 19:17

Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status - a question

Here's an potential "road not taken": if the Allies had not invaded Italy in 1943 (HUSKY-BAYTOWN-AVALANCHE etc.) and the Grand Council did not depose Mussolini, would there have been an advantage for the Allies in supporting and the encouraging the anti-fascist emigres (Sforza, Tarchiani, Poggioli, etc.); essentially the plan put forward by the Mazzini Society and the Italian-American Congress in 1942.

Historically, it was still born because of what became the Badoglio government and the co-belligerancy, but absent the Allied invasion, it seems unlikely what occurred historically in 1943 on the peninsula would have occurred. So, in a WW II where the Allies clear North Africa in 1942-43, but decide not to go into Sicily and points north, the option for an Italian National Committee as something akin to a government-in-exile seems a reasonable possibility.

If the politics aligned (and granted, they would have been very involved, both from the Allies and getting the various anti-fascist movements to commit to working together), such a movement would not have had a huge amount of resources or manpower on its own, but presumably the Italian diaspora in the Western Hemisphere could have provided some funding and volunteers.

The other sources, of course, would have been the Italian civilian populations in occupied East Africa and Libya and, of course, the Italian POWs in Allied hands at the time the decision is made. Sources vary, but it appears roughly 300,000 Italians (as opposed to Eritreans, Libyans, etc.) had been captured by the Allies by the end of the Tunisian campaign in 1943.

Obviously, there were (and are) significant legal and operational challenges involved in recruiting former enemy combatants, but they were not unknown during WW 2, even for the Allies - the Polish forces in the west drew heavily on formerly "German" manpower in 1944-45, for example. Politically, does it best fit with the British as sponsors, akin to the Poles or Greeks? Or with the US, akin to the French after ANFA or the Brazilians? Or with the French, perhaps, at one remove from the US?

Any thoughts on the above? And if the pool of available manpower was (roughly) 300,000 (anti-fascists and POWs), how many of those would have been willing to fight for "Free Italy"?

Even 10 percent would have yielded 30,000 men, which would fill out an infantry division's requirements with roughly 100 percent replacements. An extra infantry division in the Allied order of battle in 1943-45 would not have been turned down, and - interestingly enough - there was an anti-fascist Italian officer of the right age and a reasonable level of experience - Randolfo Pacciardi, born in 1899, and who had a distinguished record in WW 1 and had commanded the Italian volunteer battalion and then a brigade in the Spanish Republican Army.

So, could a "Mazzini Brigade" be formed in 1942-43? Can it be expanded into the "Italian 1st Division" in 1944-45? Absent an active campaign on the Italian Peninsula in 1943-45, where could it best be employed? With 6th Army Group in southern France? Attached to the French 1st Army?

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by LColombo » 01 Feb 2020 23:56

Any thoughts on the above? And if the pool of available manpower was (roughly) 300,000 (anti-fascists and POWs), how many of those would have been willing to fight for "Free Italy"?

Even 10 percent would have yielded 30,000 men, which would fill out an infantry division's requirements with roughly 100 percent replacements.
As far as I know, the idea of creating a sort of "Free Italian Army" out of POWs was considered by the British in 1941, but ruled out. I consider it extremely far-fetched and unrealizable: for one, soldiers doing that would have been openly committing treason. I doubt many would have been willing to sign up: true anti-fascists would not have been in the Army at all to begin with, and even for those who had been drafted without believing in the cause, taking arms against their own country would have been on a wholly different level. Poland, Greece, Free France are not a good comparison: these were always Allied countries, Italy was part of the Axis.

I think most anti-fascists who had emigrated from Italy during the interwar period were probably too old for military service, and not many numerically, but I have no data about that, just my impression.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 02 Feb 2020 00:42

Fair points. However, there is the precedent of the German elements of 10 Commando (in terms of emigres fighting against the Axis), and Pacciardi's Garibaldi Battalion in the Spanish Civil War in terms of anti-fascist Italians being willing to take up arms.

There's also the reality that the Italian emigre community in the Americas (North and South) could have provided some resources - some 10,000 anti-fascists attended a conference in 1942 in Montevideo, Uruguay, dedicated to the concept of "Free Italia," for example.

As far as the POWs go, again, the Polish and Czech exile armies recruited heavily among POWs, for obvious reasons (so did the Soviets and Germans, for that matter). A Free Italian government in exile under Sforza, for example, certainly would have provided more of a legal protection than the Germans and Austrians of X Troop ever had...

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 03 Feb 2020 01:07

OTL the Italian 'Allied' army, formed in 1944-45 was not much to look at. A small field corps for fighting the Germans, & some other regiments used for internal security. Part because of slow US & British support and part from the demoralized Nature of the Italian population from 1943 & later.

I suspect that had the Allies prepared a embryonic Free Italia army before the capitulation of September 1943 you would have seen the same tensions and struggle as with the French November 1942-April 1943. Multiple factions fighting for legitimacy & the support of the Allied governments.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by SloveneLiberal » 03 Feb 2020 23:36

Concerning Slovenes and Croats mobilized in Italian army which were captured by allies, the British allowed them already in 1941 to join the ranks of Yugoslav royal army in Egypt. Their battalion was considered as part of British army in middle east. Some of them also joined British commandos and were then fighting in Montecassino, Anzio etc.

If you will use google translate:

https://www.delo.si/zgodbe/sobotnaprilo ... stavo.html

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 Feb 2020 06:09

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
03 Feb 2020 01:07
OTL the Italian 'Allied' army, formed in 1944-45 was not much to look at. A small field corps for fighting the Germans, & some other regiments used for internal security. Part because of slow US & British support and part from the demoralized Nature of the Italian population from 1943 & later.

I suspect that had the Allies prepared a embryonic Free Italia army before the capitulation of September 1943 you would have seen the same tensions and struggle as with the French November 1942-April 1943. Multiple factions fighting for legitimacy & the support of the Allied governments.
I don't know - six light divisions, each with two brigades; the equivalent of four standard triangular Allied divisions, is more than any of the western Allies in the ETO but the Americans, British, French, and Canadians - the Poles, even after the 3rd and 5th divisions expanded from two to three brigades each, had a grand total of 10 maneuver brigades, including the Parachute Brigade.

Include the rear area, service, and support troops on the Peninsula, Sicily, and Sardinia, and the co-belligerent air force and navy, and Italy in 1943-45 probably contributed more to the Allied war effort in the ETO/MTO than any of the powers other than the US, UK, and French.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 04 Feb 2020 06:14

SloveneLiberal wrote:
03 Feb 2020 23:36
Concerning Slovenes and Croats mobilized in Italian army which were captured by allies, the British allowed them already in 1941 to join the ranks of Yugoslav royal army in Egypt. Their battalion was considered as part of British army in middle east. Some of them also joined British commandos and were then fighting in Montecassino, Anzio etc.

If you will use google translate:

https://www.delo.si/zgodbe/sobotnaprilo ... stavo.html
Thanks for the link. Does suggest that POWs could have provided a manpower pool for the Allies.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 04 Feb 2020 06:46

daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:09
...

I don't know - six light divisions, each with two brigades; the equivalent of four standard triangular Allied divisions, is more than any of the western Allies in the ETO ...
Their combat history looks rather 'thin'. Maybe I'm missing something? As far as I know one division was in the battle line in 1944. Another was in combat in the spring of 1945? Theres assorted claims the officers and ranks were wholly uninterested in fighting the Germans, & the officers were chosen for political reliability, that is they'd not support a Communist revolt against the government.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Berto » 04 Feb 2020 14:28

daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:14
SloveneLiberal wrote:
03 Feb 2020 23:36
Concerning Slovenes and Croats mobilized in Italian army which were captured by allies, the British allowed them already in 1941 to join the ranks of Yugoslav royal army in Egypt. Their battalion was considered as part of British army in middle east. Some of them also joined British commandos and were then fighting in Montecassino, Anzio etc.

If you will use google translate:

https://www.delo.si/zgodbe/sobotnaprilo ... stavo.html
Thanks for the link. Does suggest that POWs could have provided a manpower pool for the Allies.
Not Italians, though. These were ethnic Slovenes and Croats who lived in regions annexated by Italy after WWI, and who were drafted into the Italian Army as they had become Italian citizens.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by Berto » 04 Feb 2020 15:06

daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:09

I don't know - six light divisions, each with two brigades; the equivalent of four standard triangular Allied divisions, is more than any of the western Allies in the ETO but the Americans, British, French, and Canadians - the Poles, even after the 3rd and 5th divisions expanded from two to three brigades each, had a grand total of 10 maneuver brigades, including the Parachute Brigade.
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:46

Their combat history looks rather 'thin'. Maybe I'm missing something? As far as I know one division was in the battle line in 1944. Another was in combat in the spring of 1945?
One of you is overestimating the size of the Italian co-belligerent force, the other is underestimating it. The so-called "combat groups" were indeed six - "Cremona", "Friuli", "Folgore", "Legnano", "Mantova" and "Piceno"; however only four saw action, as "Piceno" was used exclusively as a training unit, and "Mantova" did not finish training before the end of the war.

As for their use, in 1944 the Corpo Italiano di Liberazione had the size of two divisions - one was the former paratrooper division "Nembo" and the other was formed by a mix of troops from the dissolved infantry division "Legnano", bersaglieri, alpini and naval infantry. It participated in the fighting in cental Italy from June 1944, alongside the II Polish Corps, participating among other things in the battle for Ancona.

As for the combat groups that were created in late 1944 after the dissolution of the CIL, the four that saw action went into line on the Apennines in early 1945 - "Cremona" in January, "Friuli" in February, "Folgore" and "Legnano" in March - and participated in the last months of fighting on the Gothic Line and in the final Spring Offensive of 1945.
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:46
Theres assorted claims the officers and ranks were wholly uninterested in fighting the Germans
Claims by who?

There were problems with conscription in southern Italy, especially in Sicily, where draft riots broke out; but at the same time there was a considerable influx of volunteers from the liberated regions in central Italy. For instance, 2,000 volunteers came from Abruzzo in 1944, and 1,000 former partisans form Tuscany and southern Emilia joined in early 1945. As far as I know, the CIL and the combat groups acquitted themselves reasonably well in combat.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 05 Feb 2020 05:53

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:46
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:09
...

I don't know - six light divisions, each with two brigades; the equivalent of four standard triangular Allied divisions, is more than any of the western Allies in the ETO ...
Their combat history looks rather 'thin'. Maybe I'm missing something? As far as I know one division was in the battle line in 1944. Another was in combat in the spring of 1945? Theres assorted claims the officers and ranks were wholly uninterested in fighting the Germans, & the officers were chosen for political reliability, that is they'd not support a Communist revolt against the government.
I think it was one "light" division equivalent in 1943, two in 1944, and a total of four in 1945, with two more training. The combat history compares pretty well with the French divisions organized/requipped after ANFA in 1943 - roughly two in 1943, four in 1944, and eight total in 1944-45; the LMP replacements to the ANFA divisions, and the divisions that were raised using LMP in 1944-45, were in the line in 1944-45, so that compares reasonably well.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 05 Feb 2020 05:57

Berto wrote:
04 Feb 2020 14:28
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:14
SloveneLiberal wrote:
03 Feb 2020 23:36
Concerning Slovenes and Croats mobilized in Italian army which were captured by allies, the British allowed them already in 1941 to join the ranks of Yugoslav royal army in Egypt. Their battalion was considered as part of British army in middle east. Some of them also joined British commandos and were then fighting in Montecassino, Anzio etc.

If you will use google translate:

https://www.delo.si/zgodbe/sobotnaprilo ... stavo.html
Thanks for the link. Does suggest that POWs could have provided a manpower pool for the Allies.
Not Italians, though. These were ethnic Slovenes and Croats who lived in regions annexated by Italy after WWI, and who were drafted into the Italian Army as they had become Italian citizens.
Understood, but it speaks to the reality that former POWs, especially if they were from the Central and Southern European "borderlands" where nationality was somewhat fungible in the middle of the conflict found their way into the Allied order of battle, even if they were captured wearing Axis uniforms - and although those recruits were, essentially, volunteers, presumably there was an element of duress for at least some of them ... enlist with the Allied "exile" army of one's choice and fight, or rot in a POW camp.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 05 Feb 2020 06:35

Berto wrote:
04 Feb 2020 15:06
daveshoup2MD wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:09

I don't know - six light divisions, each with two brigades; the equivalent of four standard triangular Allied divisions, is more than any of the western Allies in the ETO but the Americans, British, French, and Canadians - the Poles, even after the 3rd and 5th divisions expanded from two to three brigades each, had a grand total of 10 maneuver brigades, including the Parachute Brigade.
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:46

Their combat history looks rather 'thin'. Maybe I'm missing something? As far as I know one division was in the battle line in 1944. Another was in combat in the spring of 1945?
One of you is overestimating the size of the Italian co-belligerent force, the other is underestimating it. The so-called "combat groups" were indeed six - "Cremona", "Friuli", "Folgore", "Legnano", "Mantova" and "Piceno"; however only four saw action, as "Piceno" was used exclusively as a training unit, and "Mantova" did not finish training before the end of the war.

As for their use, in 1944 the Corpo Italiano di Liberazione had the size of two divisions - one was the former paratrooper division "Nembo" and the other was formed by a mix of troops from the dissolved infantry division "Legnano", bersaglieri, alpini and naval infantry. It participated in the fighting in cental Italy from June 1944, alongside the II Polish Corps, participating among other things in the battle for Ancona.

As for the combat groups that were created in late 1944 after the dissolution of the CIL, the four that saw action went into line on the Apennines in early 1945 - "Cremona" in January, "Friuli" in February, "Folgore" and "Legnano" in March - and participated in the last months of fighting on the Gothic Line and in the final Spring Offensive of 1945.
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
04 Feb 2020 06:46
Theres assorted claims the officers and ranks were wholly uninterested in fighting the Germans
Claims by who?

There were problems with conscription in southern Italy, especially in Sicily, where draft riots broke out; but at the same time there was a considerable influx of volunteers from the liberated regions in central Italy. For instance, 2,000 volunteers came from Abruzzo in 1944, and 1,000 former partisans form Tuscany and southern Emilia joined in early 1945. As far as I know, the CIL and the combat groups acquitted themselves reasonably well in combat.
Thanks for the detail; co-belligerent Italy managed a pretty respectable mobilization in 1943-45, all things being equal - which was my point.

It's also worth making the point that in 1944-45, after three US and four French divisions were withdrawn from 15th Army Group for DRAGOON, two Canadian and one British divisions were withdrawn for GOLDFLAKE, and two British and one Indian division were withdrawn for Greece, the four (or six) Italian divisions filled a substantial hole in the Allied order of battle in Italy.

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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by jwsleser » 08 Feb 2020 00:21

One point not mentioned is that the Allies had a greater need for LOC and security troops. After the surrender, the Allies were wary of using Italian forces in combat. It took a lot of convincing before the Allies allowed the formation of the 1º raggruppamento motorizzata. It was the success of this unit in combat that led to the expansion of the Italian ground forces.

However they had a great need for support troops. The unità auxiliarie numbered 55,966 by October 1943 and reach 177,374 by May 1945. These units operated ports, truck and mule units, repairs shops, security, etc. They took a major burden off Allied forces during the campaign.

A last point was equipment. The 1º ragg. moto. and the CIL were formed from existing Italian units and their equipment. Everyone agreed that this was less than desirable. While the preferred option was to have the Italian combat troops equipped by the US, that country decided it didn't have the stocks necessary to do so. It wasn't until summer of 1944 that the UK agree to uniform and equip the Italian forces. The CIL (the 1º ragg.moto. had by then been merged into the CIL) was pulled out of action to both reorganized/expanded into the gruppi di combattimento and to rearm/reequip with UK weapons/gear. This took time. Again remember that this was set against the background that Allies weren't necessarily pressing for more combat units.

The gruppi di combattimento did participate in some serious fighting in the last months of the war.

Pista!
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Re: Italian "Allied" forces absent the 1943 invasion and co-belligerent status

Post by daveshoup2MD » 08 Feb 2020 06:05

jwsleser wrote:
08 Feb 2020 00:21
One point not mentioned is that the Allies had a greater need for LOC and security troops. After the surrender, the Allies were wary of using Italian forces in combat. It took a lot of convincing before the Allies allowed the formation of the 1º raggruppamento motorizzata. It was the success of this unit in combat that led to the expansion of the Italian ground forces.

However they had a great need for support troops. The unità auxiliarie numbered 55,966 by October 1943 and reach 177,374 by May 1945. These units operated ports, truck and mule units, repairs shops, security, etc. They took a major burden off Allied forces during the campaign.

A last point was equipment. The 1º ragg. moto. and the CIL were formed from existing Italian units and their equipment. Everyone agreed that this was less than desirable. While the preferred option was to have the Italian combat troops equipped by the US, that country decided it didn't have the stocks necessary to do so. It wasn't until summer of 1944 that the UK agree to uniform and equip the Italian forces. The CIL (the 1º ragg.moto. had by then been into the CIL) was pulled out of action to both reorganized/expanded into the gruppi di combattimento and to rearm/reequip with UK weapons/gear. This took time. Again remember that this was set against the background that Allies weren't necessarily pressing for more combat units.

The gruppi di combattimento did participate in some serious fighting in the last months of the war.

Pista!
Fair points. Given that the (Western) Allied plan until 1943 was logistics and rear-area troops for one active theater, and they had to find them for two once the decision was made to prolong the Mediterranean Campaign through the end of the war, absent the Italian service and support units, that would have been very challenging. Even then, the Italian campaign required a lot; along with supporting 15th Army Group and most of the US 12th and 15th air forces and the RAF's Desert and Balkan air forces, the Allies also had to sustain much of the Italian civilian population in Sardinia, Sicily, and liberated Italy.

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