Was the italien soldiers more worse soldiers then others?

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luigi
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Post by luigi » 23 May 2007 14:32

With all due respect, 3ball44, fighting with the equipment they had required often a lot of motivation.
I don't think motivation was a major factor with respect to other armies. Tactics, equipments, supplies and, above all, of planning and goal-setting have to be questioned. Sure, in 1943 during the political turmoil preceding the armistice there there was maybe a moral crisis but even in these circumstances one can note that Gen. Messe and his Italian troops were the last to surrender in Tunesia after the capitulation of Von Armin and it was the Livorno inf. Division which almost threw back the US landing party at Gela. After that, beside some exception, the Italian Army in Sicily virtually melted away, but by now we are well into july '43, Mussolini is about to be owerthrown, the high brasses of the Italian Army, loyal to the king, are looking for a way out of the conflict, maybe they already know about the internal dissent in the fascist party which will lead to the dismission of Mussolini on July 24th... who knows if there wasn't an "higer will" behind the lack of determination of the Regio Esercito in Sicily? Anyway, the German and Italian troops who manage to pass the Messina strait back in mainland Italy have to thank not only German rearguards, but also Italian ones.
By Montecassino the RSI Army was reforming and/or mainly used in anti-partisan duties (there was understandably not much confiance from the Germans) and the first Italian troops to see combat again were those of the new co-belligerent army who first saw action at Monte Lungo actually AGAINST the Germans.

Regards

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Steen Ammentorp
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Post by Steen Ammentorp » 23 May 2007 15:33

Pleace stick to topic at hand: The Italian soldier, and by that we are refering to those wearing uniforms. So please keep discussions on partisans and atrocities for other threads.

/Steen Ammentorp, Moderator

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Oasis
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Post by Oasis » 23 May 2007 18:47

iterumruditleo wrote:
Oasis wrote:
Sorry I forgot a piece... :D
Poor young boy Palesse, he was recognized as an infiltrate into a partisan formation who indicated to the SS two of his comrades then killed into the Fosse Ardeatine massacre... He was kept behind the allied lines without uniform and died shot fiercely.
I think our nice little conversation ends here. I have no interest in discussing with people showing no respect at all for dead people and making lousy irony on it.
Rgds
You can believe me if I tell you I have not irony at all. I just feel "pietas" for ALL dead people no care from which side. Palesse just died as partisans without uniform did, facing the arms.
Closed for me too.

Oasis

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Christian W.
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Post by Christian W. » 25 May 2007 11:51

I think that one of the main factors for Italy's mixed performance in World War II was that the war started too early. Mussolini's Under-Secretary for War Production, Carlo Favagrossa, had estimated that Italy could not possibly be prepared for a major war until at least October 1942.

luigi
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Post by luigi » 25 May 2007 16:13

Correct, Christian.
By then, however, Italy would have been in the technological prehistory of armaments given the rushing devolpment of materials caused by the war itself. This to say that by oct. 1942 Italy would have just fielded more M13/40 (maybe some more M14/41, if they had recognized the shortcomings of the earlier variant without the hard test of warfare) against shermans, T34 or, who knows, Panthers ;)... just for more fallen soldier and more gallantry medals "ad memoriam".
Without the hard test of the battlefield maybe we had produced forth the CV33, we had had no semovente with 75mm gun, we had masses of outdated C200 airplanes and no C202 and so on and so on. We just had put on field masses of men armed with 7,35mm carcanos instead of 6,5mm on a couple of lorries more and we had had a little less outdated artillery, but that's all.
We still had had the useless Brixia mortar, the useless 47mm AT gun, same few breda 30 per platoon... Maybe by 1942 we hadn't entered the war at all anymore, or we had started against the Germans from begin... who knows

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Christian W.
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Post by Christian W. » 26 May 2007 02:43

I disagree. You seem to assume in your post that other World War II events would have gone as they really went even if if Italy had not joined war untill October 1942, and that Italy's R&D would not do anything during this period, something that I do not agree with.

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 27 May 2007 01:44

The technology would have advanced but probably would have lagged as it did and let us not even get into production. However I think seeing the equipment the Allies and Germans were using would have been enough to keep Italy out of the war. My only thought is that the British might try to force the issue but this is a subject for another thread, no?

luigi
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Post by luigi » 28 May 2007 10:20

Well Christian,
Germany hadn't invaded GB anyway, Germany hadn't had the need to intervene in the Balkans and in North Africa freing some more division for Barbarossa, but it hadn't really made the difference, i think. Japan had attacked Pearl Harbour anyway and with the full weight of the invulnerable american Industry the outcome hadn't changed.
Actually I think a possibility is that the german ressources involved in the Balkans had been used to guard the frontier to the unreliable ally of the south who already in the first world war ceded to the proposal of the perfid Albion, so they had been kept tied ;).
In fact the war Italy fought really was a "parallel war", separated from the aims of the bigger ally. But indeed, this is for another thread. What is somewhat in topic here, is what jeffrey says. An industrial system who is not capable of innovating products under the pressure of war needs, is even less capable to do so when he doesn't feel the pressure of the need.
Maybe we had come to having some more M14/41, but I don't even know if we had developed the semovente da 75 for example... With no licence build DB605, we had fought in late '42 on masses of 840hp G50 and C200 and even more CR42... as we actually did, but entering war we were at least pushed to develop and produce that handful of c202/205 to try to put up a less ridicolous fight... isn't it?

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3ball44
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Post by 3ball44 » 29 May 2007 22:41

You have a point when you mention the Italian weapons, it would take some courage to fight with that junk.
Leadership was also a problem.
Why I say motivation for the Italian solider is because, for example, the Germans fought the allies strongly with the outdated mauser. I'm not saying the Italians even had a rifle this good, I'm saying an underequiped soldier with motivation and determination can be quite a force to reckon with

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 30 May 2007 02:12

Infantry arms were actually fairly sturdy. Just look here for construction http://personal.stevens.edu/~gliberat/carcano/

No sten made out of stamped steal. The problem is that smg was not prevelant at squad level to supplement fire support. Given that well trained units seemed to manage to keep up fairly good volume of fire I wonder if some of the reliability issues are like what we here with the m-16 not an issue as long as regular maintenance was able to be maintained.

-------------

Now about Italy staying out of the war I am not 100% that Britain would allow this to happen.

Instigate something via Yugoslavia. Especially as time went on and the gap between Italian technology and the other forces grew. If Britain started meddling in an Italian sphere of interest would Mussolini have been unable to stay in the sidelines and entered the war.

Attempted to manipulate politics in Italy. Blockade Italy until stopping trade with Germany? Use this as an excuse for an invasion of Italian interests or Italy proper to get at Germany?

luigi
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Post by luigi » 30 May 2007 12:40

3ball44, I'm with jeffrey here. Individual weapons of the common infantryman were more or less up to the standard of the time, the major drawback being the somewhat anemic 6,5mm cartridge, which, I've been told, was more or less comparable to the winchester carabine (I mean the M1, not the lever-action from western movies! ;) ). The problem was more in the squad- and support weapons up to the heavy weaponry. I read somewhere (maybe here in an older topic) that an Italian Company could muster a volume of fire about 1/3 of that of a comparable German unit in size. Too few automatic weapons, and those few less reliable under field conditions that those of the opponents, few mortars kept at corps level, outdated field guns and tanks which were laughable at.
WWII wasn't fought anymore relying on the rifle of the infantrist: our infantry divisions were cut to pieces at El Alamein and at the Don river because our soldiers were made litterally to mincemeat under the tracks of heavy tanks they had no means to stop.
Brescia, Trieste, Pavia divisions were by no standards elite but their soldiers assaulted tanks with anti tank mines in their hands, 47 mm AT crews let themselves overrun by heavy tanks just to have a little chance to stop them with a short range shot at the tracks: so, I beg you not to take it personal, but please don't tell me about motivation and please everybody pardon me if I'll jump up of my chair every time someone comes up with the same old jokes and allegations: look how long it took for the british to take Keren, or to go through at Alamein, which were the numbers and equipments involved, then we speak again.
There are plenty of stories both of bravery and cowardice in every army of the world, so why should the Italian soldier be seen as "more worse then others" I really cannot understand (revising the spelling of the title of the thread wouldn't be bad b.t.w. ;) ).

The Italian Military machine as a whole, well that is another story, for sure, but the distinction to be made is quite important for all the men who died to complish with their duty and for those who survived having fought honourably often against impossible odds.

Regards

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 30 May 2007 12:57

Even then that is a bit harsh Luigi.

I believe there is a recent post here that shows the Alpini corps resisted the Soviets on the steppes for the better part of a month before the final collapse on the Don.

Also remember the British had finally built up an enormous advantage at El Alamein in men and material and afaik Brescia was subject to the first meaningful attempt at a new artillery doctrine by the British and Commonwealth forces in a truly massive time on target barrage. The likes of which the German paratroopers would later be held to such high standards for living through. Even after the British tried to ram through the weaker Italian sectors they still went north for the final push away from Folgore.

luigi
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Post by luigi » 30 May 2007 16:52

Jeffrey, it must be told that the Alpini were actually ordered to withdraw, otherwise they had stayed and died on the spot. In fact they were left in place to cover the retreat of other troops.
It has been told elsewere but is worth remembering again.
After the collapse of Italian, Romanian, and yes, even some German troops after bloody fightings lasting from Dec. 17 1942 till the first days of 1943 to the right of the positions held by the Alpini divisions, Tridentina division took the place of Julia division in the entrenchment on the Don river and Julia Div. was sent in the open steppe facing south to try to avoid flanking maneuvers subsequent to the collapse of the sector to the right of the position held by the alpine divisions: Julia div. fought from around Christmas '42 until Jan. 17 '43 (IIRC) lying in the open by temperatures often below -20C° with no repair worth speaking of. After receiving order to retreat following the collapse of the Hungarian sector to the left of the Alpini they fought their way out of the poket until almost complete annihilation: only a few managed to rejoin the main column led by the Tridentina who was still in good combat order having sustained fightings from Jan. 14th. onwards repelling repeated assaults from good dug-in positions. On the collapse of the front around the positions held by the Alpini, it is worth nothing that there was no run-away: the troops holding to the left and to the right of the Alpini simply melted down under the tracks of masses of T34 soldiers had to fight almost barehand against (and I mean not only Italian, but also Romanian and Hungarian troops).
Anyway one just has to divide the kilometers of front to be hold per the amount of troops spread over there to realize how thin the line was. A further look on availability of worthy AT-devices should then be enough to dispell long living myths.
Alone the fact that the Alpini managed to pull so many people out of the pocket is astonishing by itself, given conditions and equipment... and you tell about fighting spirit?

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 30 May 2007 19:42

Julia had the worst luck. My Godmother gave me a book about them a couple of years ago I was surprised to hear that she had read it as a child. Iirc the main column of the Julia division returning to the Axis lines was relying on a German radio for communications with the other columns. At some point the Germans in charge panicked and destroyed the radio and they never received the orders to change direction and were bagged by the Soviets. Or is my memory failing me again? :oops:

Anyone who can wait until a T-34 is literally a few meters away before firing with a 100/17 is more brave in their foot than I will ever be in my entire life.

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Post by FB » 31 May 2007 08:46

JeffreyF wrote:Julia had the worst luck. My Godmother gave me a book about them a couple of years ago I was surprised to hear that she had read it as a child. Iirc the main column of the Julia division returning to the Axis lines was relying on a German radio for communications with the other columns. At some point the Germans in charge panicked and destroyed the radio and they never received the orders to change direction and were bagged by the Soviets. Or is my memory failing me again? :oops:

Anyone who can wait until a T-34 is literally a few meters away before firing with a 100/17 is more brave in their foot than I will ever be in my entire life.
You recall perfectly :D

It was the German Lt, acting as Liaison Officer between Julia Div and the German higher comands (each Italian Div had one, and so was for the Army Coprs and ARMIR itself), whose name escapes me right now, that, during a Russian attack, decided completely on his own to destroy his equipment, the only one left capable of linking Julia with the Alpini Army Coprs Command (Gen. Nasci).

That's why the bigger part of Julia, Cuneense and Vicenza Divisions continued to follow the way that was originally established for the retreat. The four coloumns (being the fourth the one composed by The Alpini Army Corps Command, with Tridentina Div, the German Command (held by Gen Eibl untill his debated death), some German and Hungarian units, with small contingent from Julia, Vicenza and Cuneense Divs picked up along the way) infact originally were to converge and rejoin at Waluiky. But this place was later on acknowledged throgh German air recon to be strongly held by Russian forces. So the higher command outside the pocket warned the retreating forces command (held by Gen. Nasci) to change route to the North (Nikitowka-Nikolajewka) and to try to exit the pocket there.

Since no radio communication from Nasci to Julia, Cuneenese and Vicenza Divisions could be established, Gen. Martinat (CoS of the Alpini Army Corps) was sent to try to find the other coloums. He traveled for several days in order to find the other Divisions Commands, without any luck. When he arrived at Nikolajewka, on Jan 26 1943, he was just returning from this unluky mission, and he got there just minutes before the famous "Tridentina, Avanti!" order that Gen. Reverberi, Tridentina Commander, gave from the roof of a German Stug (without ammo), from which he ordered the final attack. Martinat found remnants of his old Edolo Battalion and with tehm went on to attack, during which he died ("with Edolo I begun, with Edolo I'll end" he said).

About Vicenza Division: it was a second rate Infantry Division, sent in Russia for rear front garrison duties. For this reason it left its Arty Regiment in Italy. Nonetheless, when Julia was sent south towards the Kalitwa River area in order to try and stop the Russians, Vicenza was sent to the first line to replace Julia. It was in ths moment that Vicenza Div entered the Alpini Army Corps.

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