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Dated:  Mar 9, 2007

Italy's War
  This page is under-going construction.  The intent is to cover the history of Italy during WW2.  This may be a duplication of another page that covers the Rise and Fall of the Fascists from 1922-1945.
Click to go to a brief History of King of Italy

For history and organization of armies of other countries, go to:
German Units
British Units
French Units

History of Italy & Fascists Army

Pre-September 1943

The war for Italy began soon after World War 1 ended.  By the time most of Europe ended the war in 1940, Italy had been fighting for 40 years to expand its colonies in North Africa and maintain control of them.
Italy was the last European country to establish colonies with the conquest of Eritrea(in 1896), Libya, Italian Somaliland(1925) and Ethiopia(Abyssinia in 1936). 

Army Strength & Weaknesses

   In June 1940, the Italian Army’s strength was 1,630,000 men in 73 divisions.  The Italian Army looked powerful on paper but it had some limitations.  The army organization and equipment was still based on post-WW1 standards.  It was capable of fighting colonial wars in Africa but had not experienced warfare on the scale that swept Europe in 1940.
Much of the equipment and weapons had not changed since WW1 or soon after.  Most of the artillery pieces were WW1 pieces that were upgraded with new wheels.  The armored force consisted of 700 tanks but most of these consisted of small 2-man tanks that were vulnerable to machine gun fire. The African desert wore done the trucks at a rapid rate that forced the infantry to fight a static defensive war.
    Organization of Italian Army
The typical Italian infantry division consisted of 2 infantry regiment and one artillery regiment.  The typical division of most European armies consisted of 3 infantry regiments and 3 or 4 field artillery battalions.  Thus the Italian division was smaller on paper and many of these were not up to this standard.  When 1940 arrived, the Italian Army was under strength and equipped with out-moded machinery and weapons.  During the talks about forming an Axis alliance, Hitler told Mussolini that he would not start a war for 3 years in order for the Italians to rebuild.  Only a few days after signing the Pact of Steel, Hitler invaded Poland.
   For more on the organization of the Italian Army, see Italy Organization. 

War in Europe

  10 June 1940  Italy declared war against France and Britian by launching an attack along their border with France with 32 divisions of the 1st and 4th Armies. 
   Italy invaded Greece on 28 October 1940 with 7 divisions of the 9th and 11th Armies.  By 22 November, the Italians were pushed back into Albania.  Hitler sent German troops into Greece & Yugoslavia in 6 April 1941, resulting in capitulation of Greece on 21st.  A combined German-Italian force of 50 divisions drove into Yugoslavia from all it surrounding neighbor countries.  Out-numbered 2 to 1, Yugoslavia surrendered on 17 April, 1941.   Occupation forces were sent to maintain control of Yugoslavia, Albania, Herzgovina, Montenegro, Croatia-Slovenia, and Greece.

Soviet Union & Battle of Stalingrad

   Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and Mussolini offered to send a corps of 62,000 men.  By the time of the Battle of Stalingrad in November, 1941, the Italian 8th Army entered the campaign with 229,000 men as part o German Army Group B.  The 8th Army lost 85,000 men killed or missing and 30,000 men wounded.

North Africa Campaign

   While Germany expanded in the northern and eastern Europe, Mussolini regarded the Mediterranean as his responsibility, which he referred as ‘Mare Nostrum’----Our Sea.  Mussolini intended to drive the Royal Navy out with his light, fast attack vessels and land-based torpedo-bombers.  Before he gained control of the sea, he began having difficulties with his hold of his colonies in Africa. 
    Italy’s armies in Africa totaled a force of 256,000 men, of which 182,000 were native troops of moderate fighting capabilities.
   On 4 July 1940, Italy launched an attack from Eritrea into British Sudan.   Then on 4 August, another attack was launched from Ethiopia into British Somaliland.  This campaign was one of the most successful campaigns waged by the Italians in WW2.
   In 19 January 1941, the British countered with two thrusts from Sudan and Kenya.    By 5 April, the capital of Ethiopia was abandoned to the British.  The Italians lost 230,000 as prisoners of war.
    February 1941, Germany General Rommel and the Deutches Afrika Korps and the Luftwaffe Fliegerkorps X arrived in Africa to provide support for the Italian command but soon took charge of the Lybian campaign.  September 2 – battle of El Alimein.  15 December – Allies relieve Tobruk.
   January 1942, the Germans were driven back with losses of 23,000 Italians and 9,000 Germans.
   On 8-10 November, 1942, the United States entered the War in Europe.  100,000 US and British troops land in Algeria and Morroco and begin advancing eastward to catch the Germans in Tunisia.  The un-tested Ameircans soldiers and leaders were placed under the leadership of the British.  However, by 13 May 1943, the Allies had conquered all the Axis forces in North Africa when  250,000 troops surrendered.
    The next step in the Allies advance was an amphibious landing on Sicily on July 1943.  The advance was difficult against strong German defenses.  The Americans under the leadership of General G. Patton proved they could meet and defeat the Germans.

Surrender of Italy in 1943

   As the Allies got closer to mainland Italy, the tide of public opinion changed.  The people were tired of endless fighting and suffering.  The cousel met and voted Benito Mussolini out of office.  He was taken prisoner and the King took control of the country. 
   Italy tried to negotiate a surrender to the Allies on resonable terms and secretly in order not reap the rath of Hitler.  The Allies did not want any surrender but unconditional.  Their reasoning is that they could not trust the Italians as their Fascists ideology was so closely tied to the Nazi.   Of course, most Italians had their full with the Fascists. 
   As the negotiations were underway, so also was the invasion force.  In somewhat a premature move, the Allied high command announced the unconditional surrender on 8 September 1943, the day before the landing at Salerno.

   Ironically, the surrender did not end the suffering for Italy.  The Germans under the defense philosophy of General Albert Kesselring, decided to make Italy the battle ground for southern Europe.  For Italy, the war would drag on until May 1945 that resulted in factions and partisans figthing each other.


"Italy at War" - by Henry Adams.  Time-Life WW2 Series, Time-Life Pub., 1982.
"The Italian Campaign" - by Robert Wallace.  Time-Life WW2 Series, Time-Life Pub., 1978..
"Mussolini's Soldiers" - by Rex Trye, Motor Books Intl, 1987.  ISBN 0-7603-0022-4.
"Haile Selassie's War" - by Anthony Mockler.  Random House Pub., 1984.
"The Italian Army - 1940-1945 (1)" - Osprey's Men-At-Arms series by Philip S. Jowett.  Osprey Pub Co., 2000.


The King of Italy and the end of the House of Savoy

The House of Savoy is a dynasty of nobles who held their reign in the Kingdom of Sardinia.  The lineage dates back to Thomas Francis(1656), with Victor Amedeus II reigning as the first King of Sardinia in 1720.  The first King of Italy was Victor Emmanuel II who was crowned when the states were merged into one kingdom.   Victor Emmanuel III was born in Naples, Italy, in 1869, the son of King Umberto I, Italy's second reigning monarch.  Victor Emmanuel III came to the throne when his father was assassinated at Monza in 1900. He was so small that he was nicknamed the 'dwarf' by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Victor Emmanuel III agreed with his government that Italy should remain neutral. However, at a secret meeting held in England on 26th April 1915, representatives of the Italian government agreed to enter the war in return for financial help and the granting of land currently under the control of Austria-Hungary.

After a series of riots in 1922, the king appointed Benito Mussolini as prime minister in an attempt to prevent a communist revolution in Italy. Mussolini headed a coalition of fascists and nationalists and parliamentary government continued until the murder of the socialist leader, Giacomo Matteotti in 1924.  Critics view King Emmanuel as a puppet ruler of the Fascists.  His early actions indicated he was pro-democracy but he allowed Mussolini and the Fascists to take over the country.   In 1920s, the monarchy, the church, the political elite and the voters, for different reasons, felt Mussolini and his regime would provide a political and financial stability that was needed for their country.

During Mussolini's period in power and conquests in North Africa, Victor Emmanuel was created Emperor of Ethiopia (1936) and King of Albania (1939). In July 1943, faced with an Allied invasion, the king forced Benito Mussolini to resign.   This action increased the King's popularity within the country and around the world, but two other bad decisions had tarnished his character.   In 1938, when Fascism issued its racial laws, the King remained silent.  Then in 1943, he decided to flee Rome when the German moved to occupy the city.

Umberto de Salvoia was born the Prince of Piedmont and was educated to a military career.  He was commander of Army Group West that fought in French Riveria and in time became the commander in chief of the Northern Armies.  He married Crown Princess Maria José, the daughter of King Albert I of Belgium.  Following the overthrow of Benito Mussolini in July 1943, King Victor Emmanuel handed over his constitutional functions to Umberto II, who was made Lieutenant General of the Realm, and left Italy for safety in Egypt.  During the next 3 years, he earned widespread praise.

Had Victor Emmanuel III handed over the throne at this time, then it is likely that the monarchy would have won the 1946 referendum on its survival. Victor Emmanuel's failure proved to be one of his many major misjudgments. The crown could have survived with a popular Crown Prince and Princess much less tainted by fascism than the monarch. Victor Emmanuel III withdrew from private life and died in exile in Egypt in 1947.

A referendum was held in 1946 only weeks after Umberto had become king.  The ballot was somewhat questionable but the final outcome was in favor of a Republic.  The monarchy formally ended on June 12, 1946--- Umberto II was king for only 33 days.  King Umberto lived for 35 years in exile and eventually seperated from his wife.  He died in March 18, 1983, and was buried in Savoy. The 999-year reign of the Savoyards in the various duchies and kingdoms had come to an end.

Above was compiled from various on-line Dicitionaries.

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