You are on page 1of 14

The sociological climate of Italy

-during World War II-

It almost seems that the Italian military was doomed to failure from the start and was thrown into a war that they were not equipped for, nor willing to fight for Mussolini's cronies. The very fact that Italy became an aggressor during the war was solely to appease the arrogance of Mussolini, without a thought to the preparation of the country. The military lacked leadership and modern weapons yet were still thrust into battle. When his ill-equipped forces of disheartened men were defeated, he could not see his own mistakes and simply labeled his men as cowards. However, it has been shown that while under command of competent German leadership, Italian troops fought very well contributing to the final defeat of Greece and acts of great bravery on the Russian front.

Poor Weaponry
When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Italy was in no way ready for an offensive war. However Mussolini desperately wanted to participate in the redrawing of the map of Europe and so overlooked the state of Italy's military-industrial complex in order to feed his ego. Italian industrial power was a mere fraction of that of Britain, France or Germany and was not ready to produce the guns, ammunition, artillery, tanks, and trucks on the scale that was needed. At the beginning of the Italian entry into the war, its forces were equipped more in line with the First World War rather than the Second.

Cassino after bombing

Poor Leadership
Of all the major military forces involved at the start of World War II, Italy had the by far the least competent high command. Mussolini filled the officer positions with men whose only "qualification" was loyalty to Il Duce. Before the start of hostilities Italy did have some capable generals - especially those who experienced the mistakes made during the First World War. However things would change once Mussolini attempted to militarize Italy as he would purge the country of anyone whose allegiance was questioned. The Italian navy, with a limited number of fighting ships was handcuffed by extremely conservative approach by its admiralty. Conversely, men like Rodolfo Graziani, the "Butcher of Ethiopia" were loyal to Mussolini even till the end and would throw his men into fights he knew that they could not win. It would not take long to prove how poorly the high command would lead Italy's troops, and unfairly put into question their bravery.

Poor Willingness to Fight


The country of Italy seemed uninterested in war from the start. The announcement of Italy's entrance into what would be World War II was not met with enthusiasm but despair. It seemed that only Mussolini and his fascist cronies were the ones interested in war and so in 1940 Italy started out on the attempt to conquer the Mediterranean with troops that had no faith in their commanders or a desire to fight. The botched attempt to take over Greece was met with a fierce resistance from men fighting for their lives and homeland, which had only decades before been ruled by the Ottoman Turks for centuries. The Greek forces were ready to die for their freedom; the Italian forces had no such passion driving them to fight their best.

Allied invasion of Italy


After the defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa, the stage is set for the Allies to re-enter the occupied European mainland. American and British forces agree that an invasion should take place in Italy, hoping that a defeat would lead to the fall of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Forces of the British Army landed in the 'toe' of Italy on 3 September 1943 in Operation Baytown, the day the Italian government agreed to an armistice with the Allies. Although the German forces prepared to defend without Italian assistance, only two of their divisions opposite the Army and one at Salerno were not tied up disarming the Italian Army.

Hitler and Mussolini

On 9 September, forces of the US Army, expecting little resistance, landed against heavy German resistance at Salerno in Operation Avalanche; in addition, British forces landed at Taranto in Operation Slapstick, which was almost unopposed. There had been a hope that, with the surrender of the Italian government, the Germans would withdraw to the north, since at the time Adolf Hitler had been persuaded that Southern Italy was strategically unimportant. However, this was not to be; although, for a while, the Army was able to make relatively easy progress up the eastern coast. The main Allied effort in the west initially centered on the port of Naples: that city was selected because it was the northernmost port that could receive Allied air support by fighter aircraft operating from Sicily. As the Allies advanced, they encountered increasingly difficult terrain: the Apennine Mountains form a spine along the Italian peninsula offset somewhat to the east. In the most mountainous areas of Abruzzo are relatively easy to defend; and the spurs and re-entrants to the spine confronted the Allies with a succession of ridges and rivers across their line of advance. The rivers were subject to sudden and unexpected flooding, which constantly thwarted the Allied commanders' plans.

Mussolini addressing to Avant-Gardists

At the conclusion of the war, communism gains in popularity, as Italy's experience with democracy/capitalism in postWWI years was unpleasant. The U.S. conducts a massive PR campaign to prevent the communist party from taking power in Italy, helping to tilt Italy toward the democratic side. Consequently, a democratic republic is established in 1948 after a popular election, bringing Italy under influence of the West rather than the USSR.