Italian military and economic capacity

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
User avatar
Mike K.
Member
Posts: 1086
Joined: 20 Oct 2002 22:33
Location: California

Italian military and economic capacity

Post by Mike K. » 23 Jan 2003 21:20

Was Italy just poorly led or completely incapable of conquering the empire Mussolini envisioned?

JLEES
Member
Posts: 1992
Joined: 26 Apr 2002 04:01
Location: Michigan, USA

Italy's Leadership and Ability to Win

Post by JLEES » 23 Jan 2003 22:55

You’ve asked two very tough questions. Yet, I believe the answer to both of them is yes. Yes, Italy’s military forces were poorly commanded and incapable of achieving the Empire Mussolini wished to establish. If the question entails taking on Great Britain, USSR and the USA simultaneously and winning. At one point in the war, when Italy and Germany were fighting Great Britain alone in 1940, there was a possibility for victory, but Mussolini made some very poor operational decisions and launched an offensive against Egypt and Greece simultaneously with poorly lead and equiped forces. Both offensives failed because Mussolini dissipated his strength instead of focusing what little real power he had on one operational objective at a time and Germany was forced to come to Italy’s aid. Meanwhile, declaring war on Great Britain automatically cut its forces in Ethiopia off from the Homeland and 280,000 men were eventually forced to surrender in May 1940. This was six weeks before the USSR and six months before the USA entered the conflict. So to answer your question, yes their military was unprepared for modern warfare and Mussolini wasn’t the wisest strategist in the conflict.
James

JLEES
Member
Posts: 1992
Joined: 26 Apr 2002 04:01
Location: Michigan, USA

Ethiopia

Post by JLEES » 23 Jan 2003 22:56

Sorry, Ethiopia fell in May 1941.
James

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 15326
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Post by Andy H » 24 Jan 2003 00:53

Italy had the ability to make short term gains but it's military, logistical & economic base was so weak as to make any long terms gains unachievable-IMO

:D Andy from the Shire

gabriel pagliarani
Member
Posts: 1583
Joined: 01 Aug 2002 03:11
Location: ITALY

Hystory repeats..

Post by gabriel pagliarani » 25 Jan 2003 02:40

When Mussolini declared war to France and GB on 10 June 1940 there were in Italy fuel stocks for only 3 months and coal for six months! Fleet in beeing was a necessity due to lack of fuel. As paradox at the end of war in April 1945 there were stocks of coal for the Industries of North Italy lasting 3 months.... in the while Marshall Reconstruction Plan gave to Italy immediately 2 years stock of coal permitting the industrial boom during '50s. The embargo after Conquest of Ethyopia caused all these things. A memento for IRAQ....

User avatar
Leonardo
Member
Posts: 34
Joined: 11 Nov 2002 12:52
Location: Colorado Springs, USA

Italy's war effort

Post by Leonardo » 25 Jan 2003 18:21

I agree with JLEES. Italy might have been a more effective belligerant if her resources were concentrated, instead of spread out all over the place. Sending an air contingiant to the English Channel to fight in the Battle of Britain (the Italians impact on the battle was non-existant), and later dispatching an entire Army Corps to the Soviet Union are examples of Mussolini spreading his megar resources too thin. Italian industry could not hope to compete with British or German production, and what equipment that was produced was obsolete (Fiat was building CR 42 biplanes until 1942). Any modern equipment was produced in too small of numbers, or was too late to have an impact on Italy's war effort (only 1100 C.202 fighters were produced).

On the battlefield, Italian soldiers were lacking in everything except bravery. They were poorly led by their officers, and their equipment was outclassed by the equipment of the enemy. Mussolini's insistance to participate in all theatres of the war made this situation worse. The 200,000 men sent to Russia in 1941 could have made the difference in North Africa and, with the Afrika Korps, driven the British out for good.

JLEES
Member
Posts: 1992
Joined: 26 Apr 2002 04:01
Location: Michigan, USA

Italy and North Africa

Post by JLEES » 25 Jan 2003 19:14

Leonardo,
I've often wondered how Italy would have done in 1940 if she had concentrated her forces on North Africa and Malta, instead of sending them to other theaters of war too. I understand for a while there was very little British defenses established on Malta. In fact, initially the British wrote the island off as lost and it wasn’t until they determined there would be no immediate Italian invasion that the position was reinforced. There might have been an opportunity to capture the Suez in 1940, if they would have concentrated her main forces for a drive with proper air and logistical support. Meanwhile, Mussolini counted on a short war with Britain having very little Italian military action and he would acquire territories at the peace table instead of the battlefield; because there was no Plan B this was a big mistake and having tragic strategic consequences for Fascist-Italy.
James

User avatar
Leonardo
Member
Posts: 34
Joined: 11 Nov 2002 12:52
Location: Colorado Springs, USA

Post by Leonardo » 25 Jan 2003 21:06

I think Italy's spreading her forces too thin was a result of Mussolini being unwilling to admit to himself that Italy was not in the same league as the other European belligerants. He didn't understand that Italy simply could not conduct a war on the same scale as Britain and Germany. By concentrating Italy's resources in one theatre in mid-1940 (and not attacking Greece, or at least plannng the attack a lot better), Duce could have made some serious gains in North Aftica while Britain was fighting for its life.

The thousands of Italian troops who were compelled to surrender in 1940-1941 might not have had to if they had the logistical support that was squadered elsewhere. Italy had precious few resources, but those resources that she had could have been effective if concentrated. Rommel freqently expressed frustration about the supply situation in North Africa, which was primarily the responsibility of Italy. On more than one occasion, he had to halt an offensive with his enemy on the run because he ran out of gas.

Of course, one of the main reasons for all those surrendered soldliers was the terrible leadership at the general staff level. Graziani's unwillingness to exploit gains and maintain the initiative gave the British just the breathing room they needed to regroup and hold on until they could counterattack.

JLEES
Member
Posts: 1992
Joined: 26 Apr 2002 04:01
Location: Michigan, USA

Italy's Strategic Possibilities

Post by JLEES » 28 Jan 2003 15:41

Leonardo,
It has always amazed me how Italy failed to exploit some of their great strategic options at the beginning of the conflict. Although the long run result would have been the same, Fascist-Italy's defeat, they did have some great possibilities at the beginning of the conflict. If a proper offensive could have been launched into Egypt, there might have been success at capturing the Suez and this could have prolonged the conflict in Africa. Early success at the Suez might have resulted in Ethiopia holding out longer and Arab insurrection on the Axis side. Malta too was vulnerable at the very beginning, but Mussolini failed to exploit that option. Instead he conducted his military in such a fashion to grab headlines in the media, instead of attempting to win good operational and strategic victories. The possibilities would have been almost endless, but it was squandered for headlines in the newspapers and his “few thousand dead” needed to sit at a victory table.
James

User avatar
Lupo Solitario
Member
Posts: 1123
Joined: 21 Mar 2002 18:39
Location: Italy, country of sun, wine and morons

Post by Lupo Solitario » 28 Jan 2003 19:12

James, in my opinion, there's a thing that is rarely told, i.e. that italian strategy in 1940 was largely europe-oriented and anti-german...Reading italian documents of 1940 it's evident:

a) the costant interest to european equilibria overall to balkan ones
b) the costant fear to not mix italian and german forces
c) the costant interest to not let german take position without a corrispondent italian move
d) the costant fear to spare italian forces by consumption hoping germans consumed theirs

In a word, without a France and with a UK expelled by continent, italy was alone against germany...Two example?
1) in the projected german invasion of switzerland (august 1940) the main italian worry was to occupy Ticino...to not having germans at 60 kms from Milan
2) the german veto to italian invasion of Yugoslavia (september 1940) irritated deeply Mussolini. When German occupied Romania, Italy decided to invade Greece...(consequences are known)
and the list could go on...

User avatar
Leonardo
Member
Posts: 34
Joined: 11 Nov 2002 12:52
Location: Colorado Springs, USA

Post by Leonardo » 29 Jan 2003 11:35

Italy's foreign policy had been oriented towards Britain and away from Germay all through the early 1930s. Mussolini was even prepared to go to war with Germay over Austria. Chancellor Dollfus' family were guests of Mussolini and he had to break the news to them when Austrian Nazis assasinated him. Italy was even providing Germany's enemies with weapons until the war intervened. The RAF was supposed to get about 300 Re. 2000s, but the contract was cancelled when Italy went to war with Britain.

Only after the invasion of Ethiopia, and Italy's subsequent isolaton from the West did Mussolini turn towards Germany. Many Italians, including members of the PNF did not like the alliance with Germany. Only after the military disasters that were inflicted on the Italian armed forces, did Mussolini relent to more German troops in Italy.

User avatar
Napoli
Member
Posts: 224
Joined: 02 Oct 2002 13:23
Location: Adelaide, Australia

Post by Napoli » 30 Jan 2003 01:33

Leonardo wrote:Italy's foreign policy had been oriented towards Britain and away from Germay all through the early 1930s. Mussolini was even prepared to go to war with Germay over Austria. Chancellor Dollfus' family were guests of Mussolini and he had to break the news to them when Austrian Nazis assasinated him. Italy was even providing Germany's enemies with weapons until the war intervened. The RAF was supposed to get about 300 Re. 2000s, but the contract was cancelled when Italy went to war with Britain.

Only after the invasion of Ethiopia, and Italy's subsequent isolaton from the West did Mussolini turn towards Germany. Many Italians, including members of the PNF did not like the alliance with Germany. Only after the military disasters that were inflicted on the Italian armed forces, did Mussolini relent to more German troops in Italy.
This has to be one of the best posts on the Italian subject which is overlooked by people wondering what went wrong with moral at times. It is exactly what my father said of those times. As far as cultural differences went, their was a massive split between Germans and Italians as I have mentioned somewhere else compared to ongoing ties between England and Italy. Churchill even highlighted Mussolini's leadership as a good thing for the direction of the nation even though the head of a facist goverment.

gabriel pagliarani
Member
Posts: 1583
Joined: 01 Aug 2002 03:11
Location: ITALY

Post by gabriel pagliarani » 30 Jan 2003 11:40

For this reason Churchill provided to hide his posts to Mussolini twice:
1-in 1945 when Mussolini's bag containing those posts were "lost" in Dongo.
2-in 1946 in Wien when Otto Skorzeny sold to MI-5 the copies of the same documents he did just after the blitz of Gran Sasso. Freedom versus documents.

Return to “Italy under Fascism 1922-1945”