Was the italien soldiers more worse soldiers then others?

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 01 Apr 2007 11:04

With all respect, Truthseeker, I think you should be very cautious with basing any historic conclusions on any perceived 'national character'. You are probably right that, in a historical light, Germany was no natural ally of Italy, but that is as far as you can take it.

There is no historical necessity connected to a nation's character as you see it - the sack of Rome, for example, was orchestrated by Karl V, who, apart from being king (but not yet emperor!) of Germany, was also king of Spain, Naples and Sicily. His army included soldiers from most of Europe. Should that have lead to some mystical, ever-lasting enmity between Spain, Naples, Sicily, France etc. and Italy, which was not united at the time anyway?

Incidentally, the 'black economy' which you allude to was also running rampant in Nazi Germany, where bribery, blackmail and the like were institutionalized right up to the highest levels of German society - a Germany which was probably less religious than Italy, but by no means all protestant.

Likewise, I would not draw any conclusions about national character on statements from politicians - whether it's a Lega Nord local politician comparing Germans to blonde besties, or if it's Berlusconi comparing a German politician to a KZ camp guard. Such statements might tell us something about the character of the politician making them but they do not tell us anything about Italian 'national character'.

It is usually wrong to make sweeping generalisations about national character. In a historical discourse you can't use them to prove anything.

Edited for embarrassing typos.
Last edited by Jon G. on 01 Apr 2007 18:24, edited 1 time in total.

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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 01 Apr 2007 18:15

Thanks Jon

It seems some people doesn't realize that an internet forum can be read by people from all over the world - including italians (as, modestly, myself). I'd like to find ONE italian who hates germans for the 1527 Sack...usually people doesnt' know that there had been a 1527 Sack. Curiously, lacks references to our indipendence wars of XIX century or, why not, to Barbarossa and Legnano battle...

Again, Italians have no trouble with protestants...90% of italians have never seen one :wink: As correctly stated we had the largest part of our troubles with Austrians (who are catholics)

Hope we can turn back to serious history studies

Bye

pitman
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Post by pitman » 01 Apr 2007 23:24

I wonder if we could throw some more stereotypes into that post. Geez.

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Lornito Uriarte Mahinay Jr.
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Post by Lornito Uriarte Mahinay Jr. » 02 Apr 2007 12:44

Partially yes, the Italian soldiers performed worse than the other soldiers in the war.The men of Mussolini is not anymore the soldiers of the Roman Legion. But you can count the bravery of the Alpini troops in Russia which was credited by the Soviets and other such actions in the war. (the Battle of Keren is an Italian victory.)

In China during the 1937-1938 period, the few Americans attached to the Chinese Air Force described the training given by the Italian Mission as death traps. They said that the Italians were giving the very worse training for the Chinese aircrew.But

luigi
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Post by luigi » 02 Apr 2007 12:48

It seems Thruthseeker still has a very long way to go before he finds what he is seeking: maybe if he would turn 180° degrees he would more likely find a nice and easy shortcut to his destination...

But anyway, to be honest, everyone knows that Italians and Germans can't go along well, the second being tall, blond and with blue eyes and the first short, darkhaired and greasy. In addition the patatoes-based diet of the Germans makes that their smell sense react far more negatively to the strong garlic scent of Italians than other populations... and, last but not least, an Italian soldier obeys anyway to his mother first than to his superior: everyone knows it!

Have I forgotten something Lupo? :lol: :lol:

And you see, there is no respect left in today's youth... when we were young! those were times! and half seasons are no more, today is deep winter, tomorrow we are already middle in summer... but again today is cold, tomorrow you die from heat, and past tomorrow it rains again... you don't know how to wear... isn't it? :roll: :wink:

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Matt Walker
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Post by Matt Walker » 03 Apr 2007 22:19

I haven't read many of the other posts so sorry if I'm repeating stuff.

There are many examples of Italian soldiers performing bravely, just look at the Bersaglieri in North Africa. The Italians may have aquired a reputation for cowardice but surely that has something to do with a) the lack of motivation and b) the complete incompetence of the administration to prepare for war.

When you look at it, just about every country apart from Italy had strong motivation to fight; the Soviet Union for survival and against German barbarity, Britain and the USA for freedom and democracy - the belief that they were doing the 'right' thing, Japan the cult of the emporor and general militarism, Germany belief in the cause they were fighting for and, towards the end of the war, fear of 'bolshevism'.

And then there's Italy, with a population quite rightly wondering what the hell they were doing fighting in a world war.

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EStrongblade
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Post by EStrongblade » 12 Apr 2007 04:18

Hahahaha! Matt, this is TOO funny and at the same time, TOO true:
And then there's Italy, with a population quite rightly wondering what the hell they were doing fighting in a world war.
I read a story once written by an Italian soldier as a part of an anthology. He wondered just as you say, but moved forward into Russia with the determination to back up the guys in his company, right or wrong. They marched all the way to the German front lines, evidently independently of any other command. When they got there, they reported to the local German command, who were absolutely astounded to see them. The Commanding Officer of the Germans told them that they could spare few supplies and no weaponry, and made it clear that they could not replace the ammunition that the Italians were using. They told him to command them, so the German sent them to a small village that was having problems with the local Communist resistance. The Italians went to this village and made contact with the locals, whom they quickly befriended.

For the next 18 months to two years, the Italians spent most of their time retrieving stolen cattle from the Communists!. To make matters even more funny, they eventually made peace with the communists and stopped the incursions on the town through diplomacy! Here is the REAL kicker - when it was obvious that the Germans were being pushed back and the Red Army was on it's way to the village, the leader of the COMMUNISTS gave the Italians a free pass to let them leave the country unharmed! They packed up their stuff and marched back to Italy. Their entire journey was somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 miles - all on foot!!

It was one of the funniest stories of WW 2 told by a veteran of the war that I have ever encountered. The sad part is that they lost two guys on this trek into greater Russia. The good part is that those who survived made it back to their homeland with one hell of a story to tell.

That's all I've got, and I wish that I could give you the title of the book. Unfortunately, I read it over 12 years ago and there are too many books read by me since then for me to even begin to remember it. There were 4 stories in the book - two Allied air stories (American and British), a German tanker's story (very grim) and this one told by an Italian Infantryman. I do not know how to find it again, but if I could, I would quickly re-add it to my collection. It is a paperback book, BTW. That's it. Cya! :D

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 12 Apr 2007 09:33

That's quite an amusing anecdote EStrongblade, also if we allow for generous artistic license. Truth is stranger than fiction - I just wonder how many Italians (or otherwise) had such an idyllic experience on the eastern front?
Matt Walker wrote:...There are many examples of Italian soldiers performing bravely, just look at the Bersaglieri in North Africa. The Italians may have aquired a reputation for cowardice but surely that has something to do with a) the lack of motivation and b) the complete incompetence of the administration to prepare for war...
I think that part reason for the Italian reputation for cowardice comes from the fact that it has been perpetrated by both Western Allied propaganda (I'm less certain about Soviet propaganda), and also by German observers. See f.e. Kesselring's comments upthread. Some of that propaganda has never been mopped up. In fairness it is quite possible to find examples of Italian army units which did not fight well, which has amplified some specific examples into a general judgement about the Italian conduct of war.

One thing to consider is the standard of education among Italian soldiers. Jack Greene and Alessandro Massignani, in their book about the North African campaign, comment that some Italian soldiers - country boys from Southern Italy - literally did not know left from right. Part of their basic military training had to be spent teaching them how to make that distinction. I haven't been able to find any numbers on period literacy rates, but I'm fairly certain that Italy fell far behind Germany and Britain for basic literacy rates - again I'm less certain about how Italy would compare to the Soviet Union. Obviously soldiers who can't read and write are at a disadvantage in a modern war. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that Italian sailors had problems operating advanced equipment like sonars because the German equipment they were issued presupposed operators capable of reading, writing, and finding their way around three-dimensional coordinates.

Also, Italy was a far more agrarian, and far less industrialized economy than Britain, Germany and also France. That in part explains the poorer educational standard; it also explains why Italian spending on the armed forces happened on a more modest scale than German, British and French rearmament - and the Italian commitment in the Spanish Civil War (which was much larger than the German contribution) represented a recent, and heavy drain on Italy's armed forces - just like Italy's colonial empire represented a big deficit on the budget and no imports of note, which made Italy very dependent on foreign imports, and a resultant foreign currency deficit. After war broke out, most things that the Italians needed had to be wrangled from the Germans, themselves short of critical raw materials such as oil and rubber.

Anyhow, I don't want to post an apologia for Italy's armed forces - just state that Italy was not capable of waging the same sort of war as her opponents due to her economic, industrial and educational shortcomings.

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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 12 Apr 2007 11:41

very good points Jon

I dont' remember the ratios about analphabetism and low scholarization in pre-WWII Italy but they were higher than in other european countries. An interesting example: I read a memory of the commander of a motorized artillery battery in NA. He complained that, notwithstanding his unit was a quite chosen one with a educational ratio higher than the average and notwithstanding his men came from the more developed North of the country, a good half of his personnel didn't know how to drive a car. Imagine how could be situation in an average infantry unit.

Interesting the anectode reported in the book told by EStrongblade, but it's interesting also the choice made by antology's editor...while for UK, USA and Germany had chosen a strong (perhaps heroic) war tale, for Italy had chosen a bloodless one. Casual? May I suggest that if he would have chosen a chapter from "The Sargent in the Snow" (just to tell the most beautiful Italian memory book traslated in English), effect had been different?

bye

Lupo

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 12 Apr 2007 16:23

It's noteworthy that the comment came from an artillery commander since artillery units traditionally are held to attract high-caliber recruits. I wonder how many enlisted men in a motorized infantry unit could drive...? The widespread ability to drive and repair a vehicle has sometimes been stated as an advantage which American soldiers held over their Japanese adversaries in the Pacific. It's easy to overstate the 'mechanical' factor, but as a symptom of poor education I think it holds true.

You're right that EStrongblade's story reflects an interesting choice by the anthology's editor. Perhaps it reinforces a related myth? Still, it sounds like a very good story, whether it's fictional or not.

luigi
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Post by luigi » 13 Apr 2007 11:40

Lupo Solitario wrote:very good points Jon

Interesting the anectode reported in the book told by EStrongblade, but it's interesting also the choice made by antology's editor...while for UK, USA and Germany had chosen a strong (perhaps heroic) war tale, for Italy had chosen a bloodless one. Casual? May I suggest that if he would have chosen a chapter from "The Sargent in the Snow" (just to tell the most beautiful Italian memory book traslated in English), effect had been different?

bye

Lupo
Too bad that "I lunghi fucili" by Moscioni Negri hasn't been translated!

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Post by Gothard » 22 Apr 2007 21:52

The Officer Corps Was a Royalist throwback and the Industrial Barons controlled military procurement. Literacy was very low and the fascists didnt manage to sell their nationalist message to the masses. Put it all together and youve got poorly led troops fighting an unpopular war with antiquated equipment. Italy had some bad luck going into the war - One problem was that they had just changed the calibre on their main rifles and that threw ammunition production and supply into turmoil and used up precious industrial resources. Another was their use of diesel fuel in their vehicles - Diesel is oily and can't be manufactured efficiently using coal hydrogenation due to high fatty content. That led to supply crisis. Add to that a poor and bickering high command leadership Cough .. Cavallero .. cough. And you see the problem. Italy had excellent human material and some excellent leaders, messe, guzzoni etc.. they were brave and effective in combat when properly fed and led, nembo and the motorised units as well as the russian army showed that. Italian industry turned out some excellent aircraft, guns and fighting vehicles in adequate numbers, but they were held back politically from ceasing production of the poor weapons. Greece and Britain both had focus on small unit leadership itally simply had no leadership at all at the tactical level.

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RB
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Post by RB » 22 Apr 2007 22:25

My grandfather was a representative of the Hungarian export-import state company in the GDR. He had a lot of WWII-veteran friends. A guy, who were formarly a leutant of the Wehrmacht int the Eastern front told him a story about Italians.
The Italians were not really happy to fight against the boshevism. Once when they saw that the Red Army is coming, they sold most of their equipment to the communist partisans and simply went home leting the Germans down! The german guy was quite angry when he was telling this story - which is not hard to undrestand...

I think this might be the same story what EStrongblade wrote few lines above (on Apr 12). It must have been true, because I learnt this story from another independent source.

RB

FB
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Post by FB » 23 Apr 2007 07:26

RB wrote:My grandfather was a representative of the Hungarian export-import state company in the GDR. He had a lot of WWII-veteran friends. A guy, who were formarly a leutant of the Wehrmacht int the Eastern front told him a story about Italians.
The Italians were not really happy to fight against the boshevism. Once when they saw that the Red Army is coming, they sold most of their equipment to the communist partisans and simply went home leting the Germans down! The german guy was quite angry when he was telling this story - which is not hard to undrestand...

I think this might be the same story what EStrongblade wrote few lines above (on Apr 12). It must have been true, because I learnt this story from another independent source.

RB
Yes, true.

Regio Esercito had infact a dedicated office to deal with such business. To manage it was especially drafted personell who in its civilian life used to do business with east european countries. The were organized in Nuclei and Sezioni Vendite (Sales Teams and Sections. Those in 3rd PADA Celere Div were even motorized).

:roll:

Best regards

luigi
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Post by luigi » 23 Apr 2007 12:59

FB wrote:
Yes, true.

Regio Esercito had infact a dedicated office to deal with such business. To manage it was especially drafted personell who in its civilian life used to do business with east european countries. The were organized in Nuclei and Sezioni Vendite (Sales Teams and Sections. Those in 3rd PADA Celere Div were even motorized).

:roll:

Best regards
OTOH, you know, since the Legue of Nation's embargo it was really hard to come to foreign hard currency! :D

I assume they sold their equipment in exchange for a Star Trek beamer since "went home letting the Germans down" didn't exactly mean turning around the corner and ringing at the door bell home.

I suggest you read carefully the previous 9 pages of discussion... then we can speak more seriously :wink:

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