Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 26 Jul 2020 05:53

Hi Ружичасти Слон,

Do you think it likely that the Italians could have held on to a foothold in North Africa without German support?

If not, then you are essentially agreeing with me.

If you do think they were likely to hold on in North Africa on their own, why?

They had failed, often for good reason, to be able to use 9 to 1 numerical odds in their favour on the offensive or the defensive. A British force of around two divisions had advanced 500 miles, destroyed 10 Italian divisions, and captured 130,000 prisoners, 380 tanks and 845 guns. In the process, the British had suffered 555 dead and 1,400 wounded. The British weren't stopped by Italian resistance but by the need to divert troops to the Balkans where German intervention was thougjt to be imminent.

Why do you think the Italians were suddenly going to perform significantly better to save their position in North Africa on their own, let alone continue the campaign for another 27 months?

The fact is that it is almost certain that there was only any North African Front at all over February 1941 to May 1943 because of the German presence.

If there was no German presence in North Africa it is highly unlikely there would ever have been an action at Bir El Gobi in the first place.

Everything that the Italians achieved in North Africa thereafter, Bir el Gobi included, was ultimately dependent on a German presence in theatre, though not necessarily on the actual field of battle. This relationship was symbiotic, as the Germans did not commit enough troops to sustain the North African campaign on their own.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Italians as soldiers, but their military culture and materiel position of the time were inadequate. The better resourced and more numerous British were themselves barely adequate to compete with the Germans.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Ружичасти Слон » 26 Jul 2020 14:01

Sid Guttridge wrote:
26 Jul 2020 05:53
Hi Ружичасти Слон,

Do you think it likely that the Italians could have held on to a foothold in North Africa without German support?

If not, then you are essentially agreeing with me.

If you do think they were likely to hold on in North Africa on their own, why?

They had failed, often for good reason, to be able to use 9 to 1 numerical odds in their favour on the offensive or the defensive. A British force of around two divisions had advanced 500 miles, destroyed 10 Italian divisions, and captured 130,000 prisoners, 380 tanks and 845 guns. In the process, the British had suffered 555 dead and 1,400 wounded. The British weren't stopped by Italian resistance but by the need to divert troops to the Balkans where German intervention was thougjt to be imminent.

Why do you think the Italians were suddenly going to perform significantly better to save their position in North Africa on their own, let alone continue the campaign for another 27 months?

The fact is that it is almost certain that there was only any North African Front at all over February 1941 to May 1943 because of the German presence.

If there was no German presence in North Africa it is highly unlikely there would ever have been an action at Bir El Gobi in the first place.

Everything that the Italians achieved in North Africa thereafter, Bir el Gobi included, was ultimately dependent on a German presence in theatre, though not necessarily on the actual field of battle. This relationship was symbiotic, as the Germans did not commit enough troops to sustain the North African campaign on their own.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Italians as soldiers, but their military culture and materiel position of the time were inadequate. The better resourced and more numerous British were themselves barely adequate to compete with the Germans.

Cheers,

Sid.
You was write
Sid Guttridge wrote:
25 Jul 2020 11:58
What I actually wrote was;

"However, I would suggest that all Italian performances benefited from the German arrival, even when they weren't physically present on the field of battle, because thereafter all Italians had some assurance of strong support not available from within their own armed forces."
Have you some historical datas or evidences for to show Italy army performance at Bir el Gubi was be benefit on Germany army on any way ?

You was avoid many times for to answer question.

You not answer question when you was write many words gutteridge opinion and conjecture and on imaginary storys on no Germany army on Afrika.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 26 Jul 2020 20:30

For those wishing to know about the Italian Army's performance in A.S., I would recommend reading Richard Carrier's article Some Reflections on the Fighting Power of the Italian Army in North Africa, 1940-1943 War in History, vol 22(4) 2015. There are some other articles worth reading, but Carrier gets to the heart of the issue presently under discussion.

I feel there are some errors in the article. The structure presented for the Italian divisions appears to be the divisione motorizzata tipo A.S. The organization had only been adopted in late 1941 and only «Pavia» and «Bologna» had started the process of reorganization. It wasn't completed before the start of Crusader. The other divisions were still organized as divisione autotrasportabile tipo A.S., which was a different structure. It was the latter organization under which the Italian Army fought the first part of the war in A.S. The d. moto. tipo A.S. actually increased combat power within the division. See my article Divisional Organizations: Tipo Africa Settentrionale at Comando Supremo. Note that the d. moto. tipo A.S. was never fully implemented and was quickly replaced by the d. fanteria tipo A.S. 42. in January 1942.

Equipment was a significant problem, both in terms of quality and quantity. The issue of equipment would continue to limit Italian military performance and its impact would increase as more and better Allied equipment enter the field. Combined with limited production and the needs in other theaters, the Allied impact on the Axis LOC reduced the amount of what available equipment actually reached the Italians units in A.S. This was a problem that the Italians couldn't successfully resolve.

However, as Carrier argues, training was likely more causal to the early defeats than the equipment. The Italian military in A.S. worked hard to improve the training, and the presence and performance of the German forces certainly was a motivator for this effort. It is the improved training regime initiated and structured by the Comando Superiore FF.AA. that drove the improved performance seen in 1941-43.

Briefly touching on where this discussion veered off to....

There is little doubt in my mind that German intervention was critical to the Italians remaining in A.S. until 1943. Without the presence of the DAK in 41, it is unlikely that an Italian offensive would have occurred in April and that it would have garnered the same level of success if it had happened. Look at the contribution of the German reconnaissance units, a unit completely lacking in the Italian inventory. «Ariete» would be advancing at 9 mph using vehicles that experienced numerous mechanical issues (these would be resolved over 1941 and would result in a reliable, if slow, tank).

Remaining on the defense wouldn't be any better. Without pressure, the UK would recover from Greece and rebuilt its strength. Malta wouldn't be isolated or suppressed, allowing a build-up of UK forces near El Agheila. I don't see how the Italians would have won that fight.

I also believe that it was the German performance in A.S. that motivated the Italians to reevaluate their training and establish their centri di istruzioni in A.S. This improvement was a local initiative and didn't extend to the Regio Esercito as a whole (it was limited to A.S.). Basic soldier training it Italy remained unchanged and all the theaters found themselves with poorly trained replacements. Only in A.S. was a systematic program established to correct this problem and only in A.S. did Italian and German units work so closely together. It would be difficult to separate this closeness of operations from the improvement in Italian training. Note that I am not saying that the Germans were responsible for the improved training; that was an Italian success story. It was the competitive aspect and the laying of blame that motivated the changes.

Just some thoughts...

Pista! Jeff
Last edited by jwsleser on 27 Jul 2020 14:41, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 27 Jul 2020 14:04

Hi Ружичасти Слон,

I would recommend that you read the last post by jwsleser. He is better informed on the detail than I am.

Cheers,

SID.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Ружичасти Слон » 28 Jul 2020 12:56

Sid Guttridge wrote:
27 Jul 2020 14:04
Hi Ружичасти Слон,

I would recommend that you read the last post by jwsleser. He is better informed on the detail than I am.

Cheers,

SID.
After much messages you was not write any historical datas or evidences. You was write only Gutteridge opinion.

Opinion in ok for to write.

I have opinion to on peformance and result at Bir el Gubi. Italy army was perform average normal job. Britain army commanders was perform disaster. Result was be Italy army success. Italy army was not need for to have some help or guide or influence from Germany army.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 28 Jul 2020 18:13

Hi Ружичасти Слон,,

Nobody is denying the success of the Italians on the day.

Mine was a wider point that you are not addressing.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Ружичасти Слон » 29 Jul 2020 11:33

Sid Guttridge wrote:
28 Jul 2020 18:13
Hi Ружичасти Слон,,

Nobody is denying the success of the Italians on the day.

Mine was a wider point that you are not addressing.

Cheers,

Sid.
You not address historical datas and evidences on your claim on Italy army performance on Bir el Gubi.

I not have interest on your opinions and waves on hand on topic wider point. I not have interest on deny success. I not have interest on Gutteridge trys to misdirect and to divert.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Urmel » 29 Jul 2020 14:06

jwsleser wrote:
26 Jul 2020 20:30
I feel there are some errors in the article.
Not sure if this refers to the article in the OP or that by Carrier. The structure presented in the OP article is from German records drawn up in February 1942 and referring to around September/October 1941.
jwsleser wrote:
26 Jul 2020 20:30
There is little doubt in my mind that German intervention was critical to the Italians remaining in A.S. until 1943.
Sure, but I don't think anyone is questioning that. The point made was rather that Italian forces relied on the support or potential support from German units throughout. I think it is clear that in the case of Bir el Gobi that is completely incorrect and just further confuses the matter of strategic/operational/tactical performance.
jwsleser wrote:
26 Jul 2020 20:30
I also believe that it was the German performance in A.S. that motivated the Italians to reevaluate their training and establish their centri di istruzioni in A.S. This improvement was a local initiative and didn't extend to the Regio Esercito as a whole (it was limited to A.S.). Basic soldier training it Italy remained unchanged and all the theaters found themselves with poorly trained replacements. Only in A.S. was a systematic program established to correct this problem and only in A.S. did Italian and German units work so closely together. It would be difficult to separate this closeness of operations from the improvement in Italian training. Note that I am not saying that the Germans were responsible for the improved training; that was an Italian success story. It was the competitive aspect and the laying of blame that motivated the changes.
That's helpful, thank you.
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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Urmel » 29 Jul 2020 14:06

Ружичасти Слон wrote:
29 Jul 2020 11:33
Sid Guttridge wrote:
28 Jul 2020 18:13
Hi Ружичасти Слон,,

Nobody is denying the success of the Italians on the day.

Mine was a wider point that you are not addressing.

Cheers,

Sid.
You not address historical datas and evidences on your claim on Italy army performance on Bir el Gubi.

I not have interest on your opinions and waves on hand on topic wider point. I not have interest on deny success. I not have interest on Gutteridge trys to misdirect and to divert.
I've just stopped reading his posts. Waste of time.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by jwsleser » 29 Jul 2020 18:41

Urmel wrote:
29 Jul 2020 14:06
Not sure if this refers to the article in the OP or that by Carrier. The structure presented in the OP article is from German records drawn up in February 1942 and referring to around September/October 1941.
My apologies. The article in the OP.

Yes the article is using German sources. The point I was trying to make is the «Pavia» was an exception to the organization of the Italian infantry units during that time period, not a representative example of the same. The article is highlighting issues with the organization of Italian infantry, yet using a structure that barely saw the light of day.

Many of the shortages listed in the article were due to losses of the past year which the Italians were trying to replace. The article doesn't make that clear, but implies that the units were incomplete when sent to A.S.
Finally, at the start of CRUSADER, many Italian infantry divisions were missing crucial elements of their combat forces, which were stuck in Italy or had been lost on the way to North Africa due to the interdiction campaign waged by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force against the North Africa transports.
In fact, one of the driving forces behind the d. moto. tipo A.S. was the inability to fully motorize Italian units in A.S. Reducing the infantry component while increasing the number of heavy weapons made it easier to equip the new division structure while increasing combat power. The main problem remained training and dated weapons.

No disagreement that the Italian infantry divisions were smaller than their Axis or Allied counterparts, and the Italians understood that. Better is to look at the ratio of supporting arms to the size of the infantry component. Here the Italian divisions look similar to those foreign units. The doctrine was that the corps was the primary tactical formation, not the division. It is too easy to get lost in counting divisions. The Italians counted battalions and artillery batteries, not divisions, when calculating combat ratios.

Overall, I found the article in the OP a challenging read. It jumps around picking bits and pieces of facts without establishing a clear thread of logic. The opening stated that the middle ground was where the discussion would go, but I never read the pros and cons and how they affected performance. The introduction of mass surrender towards the end of article and the Tobruk fortifications caused me to wonder what timeframe the article is addressing: was just the time of Crusader or an overarching discussion of the general performance of the Italians in A.S.?
Urmel wrote:
29 Jul 2020 14:06
Sure, but I don't think anyone is questioning that. The point made was rather that Italian forces relied on the support or potential support from German units throughout. I think it is clear that in the case of Bir el Gobi that is completely incorrect and just further confuses the matter of strategic/operational/tactical performance.
I believe that Sid is correct, the discussion got messy with too many different issues being discussed in the same thread. I read three different discussions.

1) the individual performance of Italian units during Crusader.

2) the effect on Italian unit performance by the presence of German units.

3) the ability (or lack of) of Italy to retain A.S. without the Germans.

Pista! Jeff
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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Ружичасти Слон » 29 Jul 2020 21:39

Urmel wrote:
29 Jul 2020 14:06
Ружичасти Слон wrote:
29 Jul 2020 11:33
Sid Guttridge wrote:
28 Jul 2020 18:13
Hi Ружичасти Слон,,

Nobody is denying the success of the Italians on the day.

Mine was a wider point that you are not addressing.

Cheers,

Sid.
You not address historical datas and evidences on your claim on Italy army performance on Bir el Gubi.

I not have interest on your opinions and waves on hand on topic wider point. I not have interest on deny success. I not have interest on Gutteridge trys to misdirect and to divert.
I've just stopped reading his posts. Waste of time.
I have interest on battle on Bir el Gubi.

Gutteridge was make claim Italy army performance was be affect by Germany army.

I have interest on historical datas and evidences on what Gutteridge was claim for to understand better battle. How was affect Italy army performance ? How much affect Italian army performance ?

But he was not give any historical datas or evidences. Nothing. He was write only more Gutteridge opinion on other topics.

It seems to me he was have crazy idea that gutteridge opinion on wider point can to be historical datas and evidences on gutteridge opinion on narrow point.

Then he complain i was not address gutteridge opinion on wider point. Why for to address gutteridge opinion on wider point ? I have interest on Bir el Gubi battle not gutteridge opinions on different topics.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 29 Jul 2020 23:10

Hi Urmel and Ружичасти Слон,

So, it would appear to be your positions that everything was going just fine for the Italians in North Africa before the German intervention, that the Germans added nothing to the already superb performance of the Italian Army and their help was not needed?

No? Well it certainly sounds like it!

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by hambubger » 30 Jul 2020 04:11

The Italians (as well as Romanians) who fought at Stalingrad were considered to be equally as effective as the Wehrmacht. Stalingrad actually had a high proportion of non-German nations serving. Italy, Romania, and Hungary made up almost 50% of the Axis soldiers. Germany looked down on the Italian military post-North-Africa, but it was more due to criticism of planning and logistics by their leadership. The Italian fighters themselves were still highly-regarded by the Germans as individual soldiers.
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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Sid Guttridge » 30 Jul 2020 08:08

Hi Hambubger,

You post, "The Italians (as well as Romanians) who fought at Stalingrad were considered to be equally as effective as the Wehrmacht."

I don't think anybody believes that because all the evidence is against it.

The Italians and Romanians have been too easily disparaged by multiple, ill-informed sources, but I have never seen one that claims either were equal to the Wehrmacht.

There is nothing wrong with Italians as soldiers in the right circumstances, but apart from raw numbers in 1940, virtually every other factor was against them. That was why, before the Germans arrived in North Africa, the Italians had lost some fifty dead, wounded, missing and captured to every one British Commonwealth loss. (Yes, really!).

I am all in favour of rehabilitating the Italian Army somewhat, but to pretend that it was equal to the German Army or that it was in no way dependent on the presence of the German Army in theatre is ludicrous.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Some thoughts on the Italian Army's performance

Post by Urmel » 30 Jul 2020 09:51

jwsleser wrote:
29 Jul 2020 18:41
Urmel wrote:
29 Jul 2020 14:06
Not sure if this refers to the article in the OP or that by Carrier. The structure presented in the OP article is from German records drawn up in February 1942 and referring to around September/October 1941.
My apologies. The article in the OP.

Yes the article is using German sources. The point I was trying to make is the «Pavia» was an exception to the organization of the Italian infantry units during that time period, not a representative example of the same. The article is highlighting issues with the organization of Italian infantry, yet using a structure that barely saw the light of day.
Urmel wrote:
29 Jul 2020 14:06
Many of the shortages listed in the article were due to losses of the past year which the Italians were trying to replace. The article doesn't make that clear, but implies that the units were incomplete when sent to A.S.
Finally, at the start of CRUSADER, many Italian infantry divisions were missing crucial elements of their combat forces, which were stuck in Italy or had been lost on the way to North Africa due to the interdiction campaign waged by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force against the North Africa transports.

Contrary to what you perceive, as your quote shows the article makes it very clear what the reasons for incomplete formations were. Units in A.S. were missing whole force elements, for reasons of transport. Units were not sent to A.S. incomplete, but they did spend a lot of time there being incomplete, because either i) there was a delay in transporting elements, or ii) elements were sunk on transport and had to be replaced. This affected both German and Italian forces. The specific structure is to some extent irrelevant in this regard .
jwsleser wrote:
29 Jul 2020 18:41
In fact, one of the driving forces behind the d. moto. tipo A.S. was the inability to fully motorize Italian units in A.S. Reducing the infantry component while increasing the number of heavy weapons made it easier to equip the new division structure while increasing combat power. The main problem remained training and dated weapons.

No disagreement that the Italian infantry divisions were smaller than their Axis or Allied counterparts, and the Italians understood that. Better is to look at the ratio of supporting arms to the size of the infantry component. Here the Italian divisions look similar to those foreign units. The doctrine was that the corps was the primary tactical formation, not the division. It is too easy to get lost in counting divisions. The Italians counted battalions and artillery batteries, not divisions, when calculating combat ratios.
Sure, but that isn't particularly relevant when your division is missing half of its artillery component.
jwsleser wrote:
29 Jul 2020 18:41
Overall, I found the article in the OP a challenging read. It jumps around picking bits and pieces of facts without establishing a clear thread of logic. The opening stated that the middle ground was where the discussion would go, but I never read the pros and cons and how they affected performance. The introduction of mass surrender towards the end of article and the Tobruk fortifications caused me to wonder what timeframe the article is addressing: was just the time of Crusader or an overarching discussion of the general performance of the Italians in A.S.?
Thanks for the feedback, I will have a look at rewriting with that in mind. It's attempting to make a general point that there were structural and specific shortcomings in the Italian army that negatively affected the ability to perform in combat. Rather than the often repeated claim that there were shortcomings in the Italian character that made them crap soldiers who preferred to surrender rather than fight.
jwsleser wrote:
29 Jul 2020 18:41
Urmel wrote:
29 Jul 2020 14:06
Sure, but I don't think anyone is questioning that. The point made was rather that Italian forces relied on the support or potential support from German units throughout. I think it is clear that in the case of Bir el Gobi that is completely incorrect and just further confuses the matter of strategic/operational/tactical performance.
I believe that Sid is correct, the discussion got messy with too many different issues being discussed in the same thread. I read three different discussions.

1) the individual performance of Italian units during Crusader.

2) the effect on Italian unit performance by the presence of German units.

3) the ability (or lack of) of Italy to retain A.S. without the Germans.

Pista! Jeff
Well I can't help Sid, who seems to want to continue to claim some nonsense on this matter.

3) Is neither here nor there when discussing tactical performance, and it is hand-waving introduced by Sid, so it's a bit strange to consider that he is right about things becoming messy. It's exogenous to the discussion as it is a given. Without the German intervention the Italians may or may not hold on to A.S. but they certainly won't engage in wide-ranging offensives such as the one in April 1941. But, so what? It doesn't tell us anything.

2) Is another claim Sid made for which has has ponied up exactly zero (0) evidence. Once he is making even a token effort in this direction, I am willing to entertain it. Until then it's just another claim about how the Italian army was a bit shit with nothing to back it up. Instead of backing this up, he came up with 3) above.

1) Is the key issue from my perspective. If the Italian units were able by themselves to put in quite inspired performances such as Bir el Gobi, then in my view the claim that they were as a whole a bunch of quitters begins to look like the wartime propaganda that it was. That's the core of the argument. It is what Sid is unwilling to engage with by first coming up with 2), and when called on it with 3). it's really the only thing I am interested in, which is why I stopped responding to him or even reading his posts.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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