Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

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Komi
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Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 21 Apr 2021 19:55

I'd really like to find a book or two that goes in-depth on Italy's involvement in this theatre of the war. I can only read books in English though. I've seen a few english-language publications focused on the German forces in North-Africa, so I'm hoping there's also something good out there about Italy's participation.

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Pips
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Re: Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by Pips » 22 Apr 2021 02:44

Sadly relatively few Italian authored books have been published in English. They provide a far more balanced/realistic view of Italy's effort in the war in the Mediterranean than many British/German centric books. Especially be aware of those books trumpeting British naval and land dominance. Thankfully most modern historians have avoided falling into that trap.

However there are several good books/papers for you to read. Here are those I have in my book collection. A good library should be able to locate most for you, save you buying them.

Land
a) Fallen Eagles: The Italian 10th Army in the Opening Campaign in the Western Desert, June - December 1940. By Major Howard Christie. A Fort Levenworth Paper 1999.
b) Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts. Mussolini's Armoured Forces In North Africa.
c) Mare Nostrum. The War In The Mediterranean. Primarily focuses on aspects of the Italian Army, Navy and Air Forces with comments on the German and Allied war contribution in the Med.
d) Mussolini's War. Fascist Italy From triumph To Collapse 1935-1943.
e) Mussolini Unleashed. 1939-1941. Politics and Strategy In Fascist Italy.
f) The Last Soldiers Of The King. Life In Wartime Italy, 1943-1945.

Air
a)A History Of The Mediterranean Air War. Volume 1 - North Africa June 1940 To January 1942. By Chris Shores
b) Air War For Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete 1940-1941. By Chris Shores
c) Air War For East Africa 1940-1941.
d) Air War Malta June 1940 to November 1942.
e) Combat Units Of The Regia Aeronautica 1941-1943.
f) Courage Alone. The Italian Air Force 1940-1943.
g) Desert Prelude Vol I. Early Clashes, June To November 1940. By Hakan Gustavsson.
h) Desert Prelude Vol II. Operation Compass, December 1940 To January 1941. By Hakan Gustavsson.
i) The Chianti Raiders: The Extraordinary Story of the Italian Air Force in the Battle of Britain.

Sea
a) Regia Marina, Italian Battleships Of WWII. By Erminio Bagnasco.
b) Sea Devils.Italian Navy Commandos In World War II. By J. Valerio Borghese.
c) Struggle For The Middle Sea. By Vincent O'Hara.
d) The Bitter Sea. The Struggle For Mastery In The Mediterranean 1935-1949. By Simon Ball.
e) The Italian Navy In World War II. By Marc' Antonio Bragadin.
f) The Italian Navy In World War II. By J.J. Sadkovich.
g) The Naval War In The Mediterranean 1940-1943. By Jack Green & Alessandro Massignani.

Komi
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Re: Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 22 Apr 2021 10:18

Thanks Pips, that's way more than I expected. I'll start digging around.

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jwsleser
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Re: Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by jwsleser » 22 Apr 2021 16:46

Komi

Pips has done a good job in listing available titles. The air and sea operations are fairly well covered in English. Land operations in Africa Settentrionale (A.S. North Africa) is stil a big void and you will likely be very disappointed with the titles listed. None of the land titles listed truly go in-depth and none provide even coverage for the entire campaign.

Land
a) Fallen Eagles. Free on the web so worth reading. An okay account, but still missing a lot. Only covers the opening campaign.
b) Iron Hulls. Covers the armor units but is more an overview than any real discussion. The bulk the R.E. is ignored.
c) Mare Nostrum. This is an organization/TO&E book rather than an history.
d) Mussolini's War. An overview of Italy's entire war effort. Covers all theaters, but mainly focus at the strategic level (politics, economy, society, etc.). Good for understanding why things happened during the war, but doesn't going details of the various campaigns.
e) Mussolini Unleashed. Prewar politics and strategy and the opening campaigns. Basically ends at the Greek campaign. Again, no details of operations.
f) The Last Soldiers of the King. I haven't read this book, so can't comment. As it is 1943-45, doesn't really cover events prior to Sept 1943.

The one book missing and the one I strongly recommend is The Three Battles of El Alamein by Mario Montanari. This is a translation of his Le operazioni in Africa Settentrionale tomo III El Alamein, second half (tomo III covers Gazala and El Alamein). The book starts on the day after the surrender of Tobruk (21 June) and ends on 4 Nov. While it only cover the latter half of 1942, Montanari's discussions of strategy and operational/tactical battles gives one a good start in understanding the challenges the R.E. faced during the war. The most detailed, Italian centric account of any part of the war in A.S. in English. The translation doesn't include the documents found in the original (27 documents covering this period).

There is also Rommel's North Africa Campaign by Greene and Massignani. This is a lightweight book that provides coverage of the war in A.S. from Sep 1940 to Nov 1942. A good starter book, it provides an even treatment of the sides. It teases about the Italian side of the story, but lacks details. It uses side bar topics, many which are interesting. Bottom-line, this book will have you looking for more (IBWs, it creates the itch more than scratches it). At 272 pages, it is shorter than Jackson's The Battle for North Africa at 393 (but Jackson does cover Tunisia).

There is a new series on Italy in the 2GM being written by a Polish author, Marek Sobski. His first title is East Africa 1940-1941 (land campaign). My review of it can be read HERE. His next title will be on the CSIR. I don't know when he will write on A.S.

Finally there is a new book that was to come out in Feb, but has been delayed: The Italian Army in North Africa, 1940-43: Luck Was Lacking, But Valor Was Not by Ralph Riccio and Massimiliano Afiero. Currently scheduled for June-July. You can read some brief discussion HERE

I hope this helps.

Pista! Jeff
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Komi
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Re: Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 22 Apr 2021 16:52

jwsleser wrote:
22 Apr 2021 16:46
Komi

Pips has done a good job in listing available titles. The air and sea operations are fairly well covered in English. Land operations in Africa Settentrionale (A.S. North Africa) is stil a big void and you will likely be very disappointed with the titles listed. None of the land titles listed truly go in-depth and none provide even coverage for the entire campaign.

Land
a) Fallen Eagles. Free on the web so worth reading. An okay account, but still missing a lot. Only covers the opening campaign.
b) Iron Hulls. Covers the armor units but is more an overview than any real discussion. The bulk the R.E. is ignored.
c) Mare Nostrum. This is an organization/TO&E book rather than an history.
d) Mussolini's War. An overview of Italy's entire war effort. Covers all theaters, but mainly focus at the strategic level (politics, economy, society, etc.). Good for understanding why things happened during the war, but doesn't going details of the various campaigns.
e) Mussolini Unleashed. Prewar politics and strategy and the opening campaigns. Basically ends at the Greek campaign. Again, no details of operations.
f) The Last Soldiers of the King. I haven't read this book, so can't comment. As it is 1943-45, doesn't really cover events prior to Sept 1943.

The one book missing and the one I strongly recommend is The Three Battles of El Alamein by Mario Montanari. This is a translation of his Le operazioni in Africa Settentrionale tomo III El Alamein, second half (tomo III covers Gazala and El Alamein). The book starts on the day after the surrender of Tobruk (21 June) and ends on 4 Nov. While it only cover the latter half of 1942, Montanari's discussions of strategy and operational/tactical battles gives one a good start in understanding the challenges the R.E. faced during the war. The most detailed, Italian centric account of any part of the war in A.S. in English. The translation doesn't include the documents found in the original (27 documents covering this period).

There is also Rommel's North Africa Campaign by Greene and Massignani. This is a lightweight book that provides coverage of the war in A.S. from Sep 1940 to Nov 1942. A good starter book, it provides an even treatment of the sides. It teases about the Italian side of the story, but lacks details. It uses side bar topics, which are interesting. Bottom-line, this book will have you looking for more (IBWs, it creates the itch more than scratches it). At 272 pages, it is shorter than Jackson's The Battle for North Africa at 393 (but Jackson does cover Tunisia).

There is a new series on Italy in the 2GM being written by a Polish author, Marek Sobski. His first title is East Africa 1940-1941 (land campaign). My review of it can be read HERE. His next title will be on the CSIR. I don't know when he will write on A.S.

Finally there is a new book that was to come out in Feb, but has been delayed: The Italian Army in North Africa, 1940-43: Luck Was Lacking, But Valor Was Not by Ralph Riccio and Massimiliano Afiero. Currently scheduled for June-July. You can read some brief discussion HERE

I hope this helps.

Pista! Jeff
Thanks Jeff. Appreciate the suggestions.

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Re: Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by jwsleser » 22 Apr 2021 17:01

Komi

Your are welcome!
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Re: Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by jwsleser » 23 Apr 2021 18:04

An English translation of Montanari's four volume work on A.S. in available online. See my thread HERE

A translation of the complete set of the USMM histories is also available at that location.

Pista! Jeff
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Re: Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by Komi » 23 Apr 2021 20:12

Thanks again Jeff.

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Jack Nisley
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Re: Recommended reading on Italy's involvement in North Africa?

Post by Jack Nisley » 05 Sep 2021 19:34

I recommend Mussolini's Navy: A Reference Guide to the Regia Marina 1930-1945 by Maurizio Brescia, ISBN 978-1-59114-544-8, US Naval Institute Press

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