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.
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DrG
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Post by DrG » 20 Dec 2004 21:24

I have avoided this thread untill now, since I'm pretty bored of these kind of non-senses (and it's not the first, as rightly remembered by Lupo Solitario). Just a fiew random points, briefly:
- I generally agree with Lupo and Jeffery.
- Romans didn't drink in lead cups (the tubes of the water, only in cities, were often made of lead, and of course not only in Italy).
- the conquer of Ethiopia had a huge strategic importance (I've talked about this extremely quicklyhere), and it was hardly a forgotten aim before the arrival of Mussolini.
- Ethiopia, with one of the best weathers of Africa (comparable with the Cape Colony in S. Africa) and with an abundance of water was the best palce for Italian colonists, just like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and S. Africa had been for UK or Algeria for France.
- In Ethiopia there are also some natural resources, included gold and platinum.
- The Navy of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies had good officers (I would say excellent if their technic culture had been better, but they weren't allowed to go abroad and to read most of the up-to-date books in the XIX century because of the fear of "revolutionary ideals") and great sailors, but by 1860 had only obsolete ships.

And now I'll restart to ignore this thread.

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Kenshiro
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Post by Kenshiro » 21 Dec 2004 07:51

sadly I do not agree so much with you...
And as for the two sicily's ship's, they was not the must modern in the world but they werent obsolete. In many way's they was even more modern than the Sardinian fleet.
And now I'll restart to ignore this thread.
bye

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BoroXXX
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Post by BoroXXX » 21 Dec 2004 12:24

There's only one word I can say about Italian navy - Matapan!

luigi
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Post by luigi » 22 Dec 2004 18:07

There's only one word I can say about Italian navy - Matapan!
There's only one word to say about British navy, err, no, two: radar and carriers.

This, howewer, has less to do with the performance of the actual soldier.

If we speak about the supposed tendency of the Italian soldier to run in the wrong way during an attack, I would say that this is a myth which is insulting also for the opponents who died in front of our soldiers.

I don't know if a Comonwealth veteran of El-Alamein or a Russian veteran of Little Uranus-operation would dismiss the performance of the common Italian soldier like seen in some posts here.

The quality of the upper leadership, both political, industrial and military should be questioned here.
The equipment of the soldier were more or less up to the standard of the time: the Carcano, as bad reputed as the soldiers who carried it, is in reality a thorougly designed weapon. The Breda heavy machine gun uses one of the best rounds in its cathegory and its odd looking feeding system allowed the spent cartridges to be recuperated and be reloaded and the strips where attachable one to the other (The French had a similar design, IIRC), The breda light MG, howewer, is another story and deserves seemingly its bad reputation; the 81mm mortars were among the best weapons in the category... The problem in the weaponry was rather the fact that less weapons of that kind were issued to the units in comparaison to other armys, meaning that you had less squad and support weapon weapon "density" among a given number of soldiers.
Lack of mobility, lack of modern heavy weapons, lack of interarm coordination: these were the tactical issues in my opinion.
Lack of planning (the more aknowledged here could give some good information on how the Greek campaign was an interely non planned operation: in fact there were no plan made in the years before the war on how to run possible operations).
At the end, to make a comparaison more understandable to Anglo-saxons, it is like you'd go to war in the same manner you managed the expedition in Norway: now I ask you, were those british and french soldiers sent in Norway simply weak and coward, or were they thrown in something they and their leader weren't able to manage?


Kindest regards

GiordanoWC
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Re: correction

Post by GiordanoWC » 23 Dec 2004 03:44

BoroXXX wrote:The exact figure of lost officers in my previous post is 52.


Obsolete weapons
Italian fleet wasn't obsolete, but that made no difference, bcs what can you do with modern weapons if they are given to incompetent hands(?)!

Italian ground forces were other story.
Their rifles were worse than kar98 or LeeEnfield (and those were quite bad, if compared to M-1 or Russian semiautomatic rifles), their submachines were OK, but they were too complicated for effective mass-production, and their machine guns were BAAAAAAAAD! For example see Breda MG. Too complicated, too unreliable, badly fed. It was machine gun with only 20 rds per belt, and belts weren't the soft ones (like on MG34/42), but solid ones, therefore much more exposed to dirt and weather. More than that, complicated bolt-action often jammed, and so on...

Compared with German basic infantry unit (with an MG as a central weapon and all others as support for it-today a concept integrated in NATO infantry doctrine) Italians were unable to mount effective modern tactics bcs their weapons didn't allow it!

Italian tanks were, generally speaking, BAD, with an exception of Semovente assault gun, which was later produced by (and for) Germans.

our fleet was substandard, to say the least. we made ships that looked nice, but did not perform to the same standards as the british, americans, or canadians for that matter. the navy isn't what is being questioned here (frogmen were a MASSIVE cause as to the italian naval victories against brit ships in the mediterranean)

as to the mannlicher-carcano fucile mod.91 (italian standard infantry rifle through the first two world wars) it is a basic bolt action rifle, accurate within battlefield conditions and reliable, especially in high altitude environments. It is a well made weapon. in regard to our other infantry small arms, our submachine guns were very well manufactured and not made of cheap pressed steel like the M3 Grease Gun, PPSh, PPS, or Sten. The Beretta mod.38 is a very reliable weapon and favored over the MP41 and MP40-II, their german counterparts. Our heavy machineguns, IE the breda (you refer to the Breda 30, the 20 round "pan" that was used, POS) Mod.37 mounted HMG was an exceptional piece that could stand up to the German MG34.

Italian battlefield doctrine, circa 1940, relied heavily on numbers and forced attacks, my grandfather told me stories from ethiopia (abyssyinia) about how Italian officers (thanx to mussolini) were under orders to stand behind platoons, pistols drawn, forcing the regiments to move forward, or face immediate execution. The machinegun was thought to be a fortified position accessory and not as a main offensive weapon, sadly, we learned from our mistakes and made up for them in the offensives of '43. The weapons were not problematic, the orders were. (as well, the germans learned their reliance on the MG from their experiences in WW1. Italy was fortunate enough to be reduced to alpine combat with bolt rifles and artillery, fighting from peak to peak... needless to say, our experiences hadn't tought us very much in the infantry fighting respect)

as for Italian tanks, well, you've got me on that one, i know NOTHING about armour. so i'll just leave that to the rest of the forum to figure out.

:) Gio. :D

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Lt.-Colonel
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1pic=1000words

Post by Lt.-Colonel » 30 Dec 2004 00:41

Image

Italian pioneers breaching Gazala line

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JeffreyF
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Post by JeffreyF » 30 Dec 2004 06:26

Nice! What book is that from if I may ask?

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Lt.-Colonel
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Post by Lt.-Colonel » 30 Dec 2004 18:18

Image

Image

NOVH Partisans with the captured Italian equipment

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Lt.-Colonel
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Post by Lt.-Colonel » 30 Dec 2004 18:20

Image

the Italian mountain infantry in fierce combat in the streets of Menton 22 June 1940

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Victor
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Post by Victor » 30 Dec 2004 19:09

Lt.-Colonel please mention the sources for the photos.

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Lt.-Colonel
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Post by Lt.-Colonel » 31 Dec 2004 00:38

The photos with mechanisation captured by the NOVH Partisans are taken from Bataljon feniks by Mladen Paver, and the other two pics I scanned from my friend's book some time ago so I forgot the exact title, but I think it was Second WW written by the group of authors. I'll have to check out the title and confirm.

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waldorf
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Post by waldorf » 10 Jan 2005 04:30

Anyone interested in learning more about the Italian Armed Forces and shattering some of the long-held myths regarding Italian soldiers, I urge to go to the following web site: http://www.comandosupremo.com/

Commando supremo is a forum set up very similar to the Axis History Forum except their primary focus is on Italy. The pictures, downloadable items, and discussion area are very informative. Visiting this web site might give people more respect for the Italian soldier, seamen, and aviators.

W.

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Bad officers?

Post by italian_lieutenant » 26 Feb 2005 18:35

I've been reading many different reasons explaining why Italian soldiers are known to be bad soldiers and among these reasons there is a lack in officers' professionalism.
I partially disagree on this point and I would like to give a couple of examples.
Italy entered WW II because of a political decision while it was known to our political men that the country would have been ready for a war around the mid of 40s. It well known that Mussolini's frenzy to throw the country in that risky gamble was due to his need of seating to the "armistice table" and the only way to do that was to be among the winners.

War against Ethiopia reached brilliant results mainly because logistics and organization capabilities; but to reach such astounding goal Italian Army focused the best and the most they had in that theater. No way to repeat the exploit in different operational conditions and in different theaters at same time.

First example: General Martinat, was a WW I and Ethiopia War veteran. At the time he died he was serving with the Staff of Corpo d’Armata Alpino in Russia. On December 17 Alpini Units at last received the order to fall back. Divisione Tridentina was among the retreating units, a huge and chaotic mass formed by more than 40.000 men of all nationalities. During 10 days the column opened its way by breaking various attempts performed by regular Russian forces and partisans to seal the enemy in a pocket. We have to remember that among the 40.000 only few Units could be considered operational being that the great majority consisted in disbanded soldiers and wounded combatants. Few German armored vehicles were available and virtually no truck. Italian mountain artillery surviving units where pulling their 75/13 loaded on sledges but soon they had to get rid of them to give room to frost-bite soldiers. The 40.000 marched and fought during ten days having neither food supply nor medical facilities.
As an attempt to set a pocket was occurring, the column stopped and Alpinis were forwarded to break it; once the job done the column was moving on again.
I had the chance to interview some veterans of that ordeal and believe me it’s like reviving a horrendous nightmare.
On January 26 the column reaches Nikolajewka where Russina forces had the time to establish a remarkable block. Italian and German senior officers decide to give a desperate try to break the pocket.
While leaving the meeting Gen. Martinat notices that groups of Alpinis are moving forward to take position for the imminent attack; among the many are the ones wearing Edolo badges, former Martinat’s Battalion.
Martinat sentenced: “I started with Edolo and I’ll end with Edolo”. He grabs a ’91 rifle and moves forward among his soldiers.
Alpinis, supported by a few surviving German tanks, move down the hill; reach the flat ground before the town and charge. Immediately Russian artillery starts counter artillery fire by aiming German tanks; at same time Alpinis go under artillery and machine guns fire. The railroad embankment is the first target to reach, the most difficult one.
Gen, Martinat falls while at the head of his Alpini; shortly before being shot he is heard shouting:” Move on Alpini.... Italy is on the other side, move on!”.
At a very moment everything seems lost; Russian resistance is too tough to break. Alpinis are now stuck behind railroad embankment. Suddenly the mass of unarmed and disbanded soldiers, waiting on the top of the hill, begins rolling down hill side like a roaring ragged avalanche.
The miracle happens: Russians slowly fall back and at last Alpinis are inside the town. The way was open. In these hours more than 3000 Alpini were KIA.

Martinat wasn’t the exception and there is a pretty long list of officers KIA while at the head of their soldiers.

The other case I wanted to mention is related to Italian East Africa but I will post it another day....

Have the best

Max

luigi
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Post by luigi » 28 Feb 2005 17:23

I would like to add a comment on the supposed distance between officers (also lower grades) and troop.
It has been often indicated that officers had better food and also "sottotenenti" had a soldier at their personal service (so called "ordinanza" IIRC).
While it is true that this behaviour remarked the distance between officers and troop, this is not only to be read in a negative sense. The military structure is per se far from being democratic and underlying the status of an officer also by allowing him to have an "ordinanza" or to eat in a separate canteen might have served the scope of underlying the status (and also the level of responsibility) in a society which was very well used to social class searation as was the Italian society before (and for long years after) WWII.
As Italian_lieutenant already pointed out, if need be, the Italian Officers were well capable to share their fate with their own soldiers and, especially among the lower ranks, the status distinction possible under garrison life were annulated by teh life in the trenches.
A last fact: the "ordinanza" was very far from being a slave of the officer, it was a very ambitioned post which gave the "ordinanza" a higer status among the comrades even if this meant heavier work and didn't normally protect the "ordinanza" from the risks of the front line more than his comrades.

I read the letter the ordinanza of the brother of my grandmather wrote when this brother fell on the Col Bricon in WWI: it is very touching and moving albeit being written by a semi analphabet under indication of the ordinanza itself, who was totally analphabet. I know that my family and the family of this ordinanza stayed in touch long after end of WWI despite the fact that he lived in Neaples and my family near Orvieto, so more or less 500km away from eachother. This to say that "class separation" didn't automatically mean lack of comradship or of mutual respect: it had more to do with aknowledgment of roles.

Regards

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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 28 Feb 2005 21:09

Some word on this "vexata questio": separation between officers and troops was ordered by army rules, it seems that was considered essential to make soldiers respect officers. Sincerly it doesn't seem so strange to anyone having an idea of at-time italian society. It's true that every officer had a personal batman but it was a desiderated role, usually reserved to older soldiers.

Italian officers were often of low quality (I'd just debated it); separation didn't help but was not the trouble. In how many armies there was a community between officers and soldiers? AFAIK only in US Marine Corps.
Good italian officers complained often about this situation (I remember the fun story of a tank commander in the desert who had always to eat alone cause he couldn't share his spare time with his crew...same food but he couldn't STAY with them)

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