Italy's Best Generals in WW2

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Alpini Arditi
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Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Alpini Arditi » 06 Feb 2022 20:52

Be interesting to consider who were Italy's best high-level commander's in the Second World War. I've always thought that the Italians had their most effective troops in East Africa, and indeed, gave the British forces opposing them a lot of trouble. They won their only campaign victory, without German help, in that theatre and generally put up a fierce defence of the territory in 1941. Likewise, they surely had their most successful generals in the AOI, especially Guglielmo Nasi, who led the conquest of British Somaliland, and General Nicolangelo Carnimeo, who defended Keren inflicting heavy casualties on the British attacking troops before the stronghold's surrender. Luigi Frusci also performed well in the defence of the colony.
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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 07 Feb 2022 02:05

Alpini Arditi wrote:
06 Feb 2022 20:52
Be interesting to consider who were Italy's best high-level commander's in the Second World War. I've always thought that the Italians had their most effective troops in East Africa, and indeed, gave the British forces opposing them a lot of trouble. They won their only campaign victory, without German help, in that theatre and generally put up a fierce defence of the territory in 1941. Likewise, they surely had their most successful generals in the AOI, especially Guglielmo Nasi, who led the conquest of British Somaliland, and General Nicolangelo Carnimeo, who defended Keren inflicting heavy casualties on the British attacking troops before the stronghold's surrender. Luigi Frusci also performed well in the defence of the colony.
Nasi_Guglielmo.jpg
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Interesting question, but you have to define "best" and at what assignments and what level of command. Also, only ground forces, or air forces as well, or both?

Some possibilities in terms of specifics:

Administration and training/mobilization:?
Intelligence?
Planning and operations - i.e., combat command?
Logistics?

And at what level - high command, per se? theater? field army/air force? corps? divisional? Brigade?

And - mobile warfare, on the offensive? Defensive? Rough terrain? Winter? Desert? etc.

First response - Vincenzo Cesare Dapino seems to have been quite capable at the brigade/divisional level; Umberto Utili at the divisional and corps level; and, presumably Giovanni Messe at the corps/army level.

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Alpini Arditi » 07 Feb 2022 03:05

Yes Dave, it does all depend on the specifics of the level and function of the office. I was thinking of Army from brigade level upward, in operational combat command, and those that particularly distinguished themselves. Good choices you've made, with Messe especially ranked high amongst historians. Incidentally, it'd be interesting to have a book in English (I think there's one in Italian) detailing the careers of some of Mussolini's generals. The best one can do at the moment is 'Rommel's Italian Generals in North Africa 1941-1943'. As the title implies, it contains brief biographical information of the Italian generals who fought in North Africa, and how the authors identified a few whose identities were mistaken in photographs by authors in previous works. I've got a copy, and reading through it, several generals, who may not be widely known, appear to have been very capable commanders, such as Enea Navarini, a shrewd tactician and highly regarded by Rommel. While the book does have it's faults, particularly on details, I found it to be a good reference guide. There is a critical review of the book on Comando Supremo:
https://comandosupremo.com/forums/index ... -1943.917/
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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 07 Feb 2022 08:19

Alpini Arditi wrote:
07 Feb 2022 03:05
Yes Dave, it does all depend on the specifics of the level and function of the office. I was thinking of Army from brigade level upward, in operational combat command, and those that particularly distinguished themselves. Good choices you've made, with Messe especially ranked high amongst historians. Incidentally, it'd be interesting to have a book in English (I think there's one in Italian) detailing the careers of some of Mussolini's generals. The best one can do at the moment is 'Rommel's Italian Generals in North Africa 1941-1943'. As the title implies, it contains brief biographical information of the Italian generals who fought in North Africa, and how the authors identified a few whose identities were mistaken in photographs by authors in previous works. I've got a copy, and reading through it, several generals, who may not be widely known, appear to have been very capable commanders, such as Enea Navarini, a shrewd tactician and highly regarded by Rommel. While the book does have it's faults, particularly on details, I found it to be a good reference guide. There is a critical review of the book on Comando Supremo:
https://comandosupremo.com/forums/index ... -1943.917/
51a4T8LPbSL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Navarini? Ferrante Vincenzo Gonzaga, Giuseppe Amico, Ernesto Chiminello, Antonio Gandin, Adolfo Infante, Angelico Carta, and Arnaldo Azzi all did better, generally.

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Frollo » 07 Feb 2022 11:07

I agree with Nasi and especially Carnimeo being among the best. Messe is also widely considered one of the best, due to his successes with the CSIR on the Eastern Front and skilled defense in Tunisia. I think that Alfredo Guzzoni was also considered a capable general (and recognized as such by the Germans), and his plan for the defense of Sicily as sound, he just had insufficient troops for his task in both quantity and especially quality.

Among lower-level generals (division/brigade) I would say Orlando Lorenzini (another "East African" general) and Fedele De Giorgis, among others. Nicola Bellomo stood out after the armistice for being one of the few to have the nerve to take action and do what had to be done, and successfully, rather than waiting and let the Germans take over the country. Same for Azzi and Infante, as well as Giovanni Battista Oxilia, who in the Balkans chose the hard path for themselves and managed to preserve their troops, successfully fighting a guerrilla campaign.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
07 Feb 2022 08:19
Navarini? Ferrante Vincenzo Gonzaga, Giuseppe Amico, Ernesto Chiminello, Antonio Gandin, Adolfo Infante, Angelico Carta, and Arnaldo Azzi all did better, generally.
I agree for Azzi and Infante, but how did the others you mentioned do better? Gonzaga died heroically, but other than that, he did not do much of note, and his (second-tier) division does not seem to have been much of a problem for the Germans in Salerno. Same for Amico, Chiminello, and Gandin. Gandin I'd say was way worse than the others mentioned, as he was very indecisive and pretty much had to be pushed into action by his subordinates. Before taking action he allowed the Germans to seize key positions, which ultimately contributed to his own demise. Carta does not strike me out as a particulary remarkable general either, he effectively abandoned his men on Crete to go to Egypt.

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Frollo » 07 Feb 2022 11:09

Alpini Arditi wrote:
07 Feb 2022 03:05
Yes Dave, it does all depend on the specifics of the level and function of the office. I was thinking of Army from brigade level upward, in operational combat command, and those that particularly distinguished themselves. Good choices you've made, with Messe especially ranked high amongst historians. Incidentally, it'd be interesting to have a book in English (I think there's one in Italian) detailing the careers of some of Mussolini's generals.
In Italian there's a very good one by Giovanni Cecini, I generali di Mussolini.

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 07 Feb 2022 18:43

I'd heard of Fedele De Giorgis leading the Italian/German garrison at Halfaya Pass during Operation Crusader, and Rommel's recognition of his achievement, and looked him up. On the web site Generals Of World War II, https://www.generals.dk/general/De_Gior ... Italy.html, he's down as a Brig Gen while commanding the 3rd Alpine Division "Julia", only being promoted in the last few months of command to Maj Gen. After a year in various roles, he's given command of the 55th Infantry Division "Savona". So a couple of thoughts, one, why wasn't he promoted earlier to Maj Gen, and two, if I'm right in thinking of the "Julia" division being an elite one, then is it not a bit of a demotion to take "Savona", so did he make a bad impression with the "Julia" in Albania fighting the Greeks?
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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Alpini Arditi » 07 Feb 2022 21:47

so did he make a bad impression with the "Julia" in Albania fighting the Greeks?
De Giorgis was transferred from the Julia Division in September 1940, before the attack on Greece. Just a guess, but perhaps he was promoted to Major General to take up his next appointment at the Ministry of War, before taking over the Savona Division.

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 07 Feb 2022 22:38

Frollo wrote:
07 Feb 2022 11:07
I agree with Nasi and especially Carnimeo being among the best. Messe is also widely considered one of the best, due to his successes with the CSIR on the Eastern Front and skilled defense in Tunisia. I think that Alfredo Guzzoni was also considered a capable general (and recognized as such by the Germans), and his plan for the defense of Sicily as sound, he just had insufficient troops for his task in both quantity and especially quality.

Among lower-level generals (division/brigade) I would say Orlando Lorenzini (another "East African" general) and Fedele De Giorgis, among others. Nicola Bellomo stood out after the armistice for being one of the few to have the nerve to take action and do what had to be done, and successfully, rather than waiting and let the Germans take over the country. Same for Azzi and Infante, as well as Giovanni Battista Oxilia, who in the Balkans chose the hard path for themselves and managed to preserve their troops, successfully fighting a guerrilla campaign.
daveshoup2MD wrote:
07 Feb 2022 08:19
Navarini? Ferrante Vincenzo Gonzaga, Giuseppe Amico, Ernesto Chiminello, Antonio Gandin, Adolfo Infante, Angelico Carta, and Arnaldo Azzi all did better, generally.
I agree for Azzi and Infante, but how did the others you mentioned do better? Gonzaga died heroically, but other than that, he did not do much of note, and his (second-tier) division does not seem to have been much of a problem for the Germans in Salerno. Same for Amico, Chiminello, and Gandin. Gandin I'd say was way worse than the others mentioned, as he was very indecisive and pretty much had to be pushed into action by his subordinates. Before taking action he allowed the Germans to seize key positions, which ultimately contributed to his own demise. Carta does not strike me out as a particulary remarkable general either, he effectively abandoned his men on Crete to go to Egypt.
Fair point on Giovanni Battista Oxilia and (by extension, presumably) Lorenzo Vivalda; not enough evidence easily available on Bellomo, but the postwar Italian government appears to have felt he was rail-roaded, so I'll give you that one...

As far as Gonzaga et al, as compared to Navarini, none of the later five made a point of actively going north to serve alongside Nazi Germany after the Armistice, which was the point.

And a fair point on Carta, but it's worth noting an Australian divisional commander did the same thing in 1942 and they gave him a third star for it! ;)

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Alpini Arditi » 08 Feb 2022 03:27

Nicola Bellomo stood out after the armistice for being one of the few to have the nerve to take action and do what had to be done, and successfully, rather than waiting and let the Germans take over the country.
The mention of General Bellomo actually brings up scope for another discussion, off topic to this thread though it is: the Allies' and Italian governments half-hearted, if at all, attempts to prosecute war criminals like Roatta (conveniently escaping from a hospital during his trial), Robotti, Pirzio Biroli and Graziani (political though the decisions undoubtedly were), while Bellomo got the firing squad.

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 08 Feb 2022 05:12

Alpini Arditi wrote:
08 Feb 2022 03:27
Nicola Bellomo stood out after the armistice for being one of the few to have the nerve to take action and do what had to be done, and successfully, rather than waiting and let the Germans take over the country.
The mention of General Bellomo actually brings up scope for another discussion, off topic to this thread though it is: the Allies' and Italian governments half-hearted, if at all, attempts to prosecute war criminals like Roatta (conveniently escaping from a hospital during his trial), Robotti, Pirzio Biroli and Graziani (political though the decisions undoubtedly were), while Bellomo got the firing squad.
Quite the contrast with those charged in connection with Malmedy, isn't it?

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Alpini Arditi » 08 Feb 2022 18:30

Very much so, Dave. If there had been an Italian 'Nuremberg', I wonder who would have been in the dock alongside Roatta, Robotti, Pirzio Biroli and Graziani? There were a few trials held by the Italians, but the defendants, like Francesco Jacomoni, only received token sentences, and most of the RSI fascists were lynched. There doesn't seem to have been any reckoning on the conscious of the Italian state, like there was in Germany, and that's why today you can get Mussolini and Fascist memorabilia quite openly in Italy.
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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Frollo » 08 Feb 2022 22:21

Alpini Arditi wrote:
08 Feb 2022 18:30
Very much so, Dave. If there had been an Italian 'Nuremberg', I wonder who would have been in the dock alongside Roatta, Robotti, Pirzio Biroli and Graziani?
A start can be the CROWCASS lists of suspected war criminals wanted by Allied countries: excluding officers of ranks lower than general, these include:

ESPOSITO Giovanni - 190952 - General, Royal Italian Army, "Pusteria"-Div., Montenegro, Savnik (Yugoslavia) 1941 - Murder - Yugoslavia
CIROTTI Mario; 190934; Lieutenant General, Royal Italian Army, "Alpi Graie"-Div., Savnik Montenegro (Yugoslavia), 5., 6., 9.42; Torture; Yugoslavia
BERARDI Paolo - 149616 - General, Commander, "Sassari"-Div. (Yugoslavia) 1943 - Murder - Yugoslavia
GIANOPECO Francesco - 147278 - General, Royal Italian Army "Sassari"-Div. (Yugoslavia) 43 - Murder - Yugoslavia
GLORIA - 147272 - General, Royal Italian Army, "Lombardia" Rgt., "Sassari"-Div. (Yugoslavia) 43 - Murder - Yugoslavia
PELLIGRA (alias: PELIGRA) - 148979 - General, "Re"-Div., Gornji-Kozar, Kotar-Caber (Yugoslavia) 43 - Murder - Yugoslavia
CORONATI Emilio - 145690 - General, Inf. Div., Isonzo - part of XI Corpo d'Armata, Novo Mesto (Yugoslavia) 1942 - Murder - Yugoslavia
GRIMALDI Paolo – 190980 – Lieutenant General, Royal Italian Army Div. "Bergamo", Sibenik (Yugoslavia) 41–43 – Murder – Yugoslavia;
PIAZZONI – 149085 – Lieutenant General, Royal Italian Army, "Bergamo" Div., Bickovo (Yugoslavia) 42 – Torture – Yugoslavia
AMATO Attilio - 195528 - General, Royal Italian Army, Div. Messina, Korcula (Yugoslavia) 15.1.43 - Murder - Yugoslavia
TUCCI Carlo - 193558 - Lieutenant General, G.Commanding Officer "Messina" Div., Montenegro (Yugoslavia) 7.41 - Murder - Yugoslavia
BONINI Silvio - 189907 - Generale-Commandant, Div. Venezia, Berane, Montenegro 41-43 - Suspect - Yugoslavia
ORLANDO Taddeo - 148664 - General, "Granatieri di Sardegna" Div., XI Army Corps (Yugoslavia) 43 - Murder - Yugoslavia
PIVANO - 191068 - General, Royal Italian Army commander of "Cacciatori delle Alpi", Dubide Niksic (Yugoslavia) 10.8.41 - Torture - Yugoslavia;
RUGGERO Vittorio - 148635 - General - "Cacciatori delle Alpi" Div., Ljubljana (Yugoslavia) 43 - Murder - Yugoslavia
FRANCESCHINI Mario - 190963 - General, Royal Italian Army, Div. Ferrara, Savnik Montenegro (Yugoslavia) 5.-6.42 - Murder - Yugoslavia
INFANTE Adolfo - 305195 - Lieutenant General, Commander, "Pinerolo"-Div., Almiros, Thessaly (Greece) 15.8.-18.8.43 - Misc. Crimes - Greece
LUSANO Alexandro - 190994 - Lt., General, Royal Italian Army, 55 Rgt. "Marche" Div., Trebinje (Yugoslavia) 41-43 - Murder - Yugoslavia
PEDRAZOLI - 149077 - General, Royal Italian Army, Tarro-Div., Montenegro (Yugoslavia) - Murder - Yugoslavia;
PITAU - 149087 - Lieutenant General, Royal Italian Army, "Lombardia"-Div. (Yugoslavia) 43 - Murder - Yugoslavia
ZATTI (or ZATI) - 144988 - Lieutenant General, Royal Italian Army, Lomardia-Div., Fuzine (Yugoslavia) 1943 - Murder - Yugoslavia
VIALE Carlo - 191138 - General, Royal Italian Army, Com. of "Zara"-Div., Sibenik (Yugoslavia) 41-43 - Murder - Yugoslavia

Many names misspelled or incomplete, but it is quite easy to identify them. None of them was ever brought to trial. A mixed bag, as you see; there's event Infante, who after the armistice joined the Greek partisans who did not execute him, despite having the occasion. His "Pinerolo" Division was responsible for the Domenikon massacre, but that happened months before he took command. They would have had a hard time prosecuting Pelligra, he was dead, himself victim of a war crime at the hands of the Germans after the Armistice. Some men in the list, like Berardi and Orlando, held important posts in the Badoglio government. Others, like Esposito and Tucci, joined the Italian Social Republic. Others still, like Ruggero and Gloria, were imprisoned by the Germans after the Armistice.

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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by Alpini Arditi » 09 Feb 2022 01:16

Thanks for that list, Frollo, really interesting. Do you know who were the relatively few defendants brought to trial by the post-Armistice Italian governments? I did see some information about these trials on an Italian language site, but have forgotten the details. I do remember that the Rome police chief, Pietro Caruso, was sentenced to death in 1944 for his part in the Fosse Ardeatine Massacre, with his deputy Roberto Occhietto receiving 30 years imprisonment.
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Re: Italy's Best Generals in WW2

Post by daveshoup2MD » 09 Feb 2022 03:56

Alpini Arditi wrote:
08 Feb 2022 18:30
Very much so, Dave. If there had been an Italian 'Nuremberg', I wonder who would have been in the dock alongside Roatta, Robotti, Pirzio Biroli and Graziani? There were a few trials held by the Italians, but the defendants, like Francesco Jacomoni, only received token sentences, and most of the RSI fascists were lynched. There doesn't seem to have been any reckoning on the conscious of the Italian state, like there was in Germany, and that's why today you can get Mussolini and Fascist memorabilia quite openly in Italy.
30161-375x211-c-default.jpg
Which seems ... weird? (the memorabilia stuff, that is...)

Cavour, Garibaldi, Mazzini, etc. all built a nation; Mussolini et al led the country to ruin, and made Italy a battlefield that left civilians dead from Sicily to the Alps. To be blunt about it, the Fascists certainly inflicted plenty of death, pain, and misery on their fellow Italians (much less the Yugoslavs, Greeks, Albanians, Ethiopians, etc.); why would they be of any interest today?

And in regards to war criminals, the victims of Italy's aggression were not, in the postwar era, in any position to do much about it, while for the Allies, the Italian exit from the Axis and entry into co-belligerency, and the costs of almost two years of war fighting alongside the Allies, presumably led to a significant level of acceptance of past sins.

None of it was ideal, but statecraft rarely is..

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