The Italians get a great deal of grief over their poor performance in both world wars. But to my knowledge no one has a definitive reason for why they did so badly. What was it about the Italian army in the world wars that caused them to do such a lousy job? There were operations or battles where they fought very well, but these were few and far between.
Check out my thread , Italy at War
Inept officers, a very weak industrial base, and a total lack of long-term logistics planning were the major reasons
I might add, a lack of moral…simply not being willing to die for Mussolini, who was in power since forever, brutalizing all opposition and strategically incompetent.
The Italians did had some success e.g. the man-made torpedo attack in Alexandria, but mostly logistic and outdated equipment was a problem.
Moreover According to Italians I spoke when I worked there most Italians were already fed up at WW2start with Mussolini and his stupid wars since 1922.
Besides the majority understood that the idea of creating Roman Empire no 2 was lunacy and completely incompatible the German National Socialists who never had respect for the Italians anyway.
Not to mention that Italy had horrific experiences in WW1 fighting the Germans who saw them as traitors for not following them into the WW1.
Also, controversial point here: I think there is something to say for the view that in the Italian culture blindly following the leader or rules is just not a thing. Thus they deposed of Mussolini in 1943 an the NS Germans committed a lot of anti-Italian war crimes as revenge.
So in my view giving up was smart and brave. Blindly following leadership or the “our loyalty is our honour” is not brave just plain stupid “don’t think just follow”.
I have a lot more respect for the Italians than the automatonGermans who kept on fighting and committing mass murders all the way into the streets of Berlin. Ending a war takes more courage then starting one or keep it going way beyond reason.
Couldn’t agree with you more, Chewie!
Just one slight correction, if you allow me: during the Great War, Italy mainly fought against Austria-Hungarian troops.
If you like to learn more about that, I can recommend the tv series from Belgium, called: ‘Ten Oorlog’, really a gemstone, not only historical but also very much humane as they talk to locals involved in the story. They walk down the frontline from the Belgian coast to Gallipoli
Thanks for the WW1 link, familiy is partly Belgian and one family member went to the front 8 times + I did the historical advice for a WW1 route guide
That was in 2008 but the book has become a collectors item. https://www.bol.com/nl/p/mijn-autoreis-naar-de-eerste-wereldoorlog-cd-rom/1001004006314985/?bltgh=nL-X7wArQ-eB532Q-RNHRg.2_9.10.ProductTitle
You are quite welcome my friend and I hope you will enjoy Arnout as he is walking his trail (stappen op zijn vlaams) My family fled from the Germans into Belgium during the invasion as they lived in Breda.
There are more series made by these good guys, walking all the way through the eastern front back to Berlin and also from London through the European D-Day route. It truly is much recommended being a very good piece of human interest and history
my opinion… it has nothing to do with ability, and everything to do with motivation and moral standards and culture of the Italian people. Compare the treatment of occupied lands to that of the Germans.
Not a joke, Italians are lovers, not fighters, and I say that as a compliment.
They did hung Mussolini, while the Germans stuck by their Fuhrer to the very end.
Couldn’t agree with you more
At the risk of challenging Chewie, who actually lives in Europe I think in the end the answer for poor Italian fighting is simple: first, it’s a myth in terms of tenacity and skill, and second where it is true, results, it’s entirely and I mean entirely the officer corps.
Now Big M has his problems, being unpopular wasn’t among them. He was past his glory days but there wasn’t a movement against him, he didn’t make the trains run on time but the silent gratitude of strangling the mob is not something people on the streets are gonna tell you, especially after 1943 where they need to make the Americans feel welcome AND the Americans put the mob back in power, bigger than before.
Big M’s problem was he prepped Italy for a war in the very early 30s, it didn’t pan out and there’s very little you can do with the Italian Economy being strangled by nepotism and corruption top to bottom. Italians aren’t cowardly, or lazy; their elites are well-placed, politically astute parasites. Hitler’s charges of Jewish parasitism didn’t come from nowhere they were modeled after the post-feudal order of Italy, the Balkans and most of eastern Europe, local potentates with noble titles but were kakistocracies but for their families’ rule predated modern law. Hitler had to make this parasitism fit within his own racialist views of virtuous ethnocratic solidarity, but the basic exploitation and lawlessness in the law principle was well in place.
Now because this is kind of a serious charge, in the Italian case Luigi Zingales goes into this a fair bit from his own experience in Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists
Or that book’s followup: A Capitalism for the People. I read both half a decade ago but his description of Italian red tape, obstructive law, corruption and nepotism still anger me to this day.
And this nepotism is WORSE in the Italian Officer Crops, which is one of the worst among the big players. It’s a country club for the well-heeled, they don’t live with their men, or eat with their men and do much of anything to get their respect, and in this way they are just as awful as the French Officer Crops from the disconnect but they also don’t promote on merit. These are guys in both World Wars who mostly wanted to play soldier or kiss ass for cushy promotions. There were exceptions.
Italian soldiers themselves fought very well but were very badly led which was worse than being underequipped. Now, this did NOT need to be the big problem it was IF they were inventive.
This is a video that hints at the possibilities:
So I personally would say the problem was a shitty officer corps. Now that’s not to say that Wehrmacht Officers would have done dramatically better, but let these guys be led by unconventional/spec force inclined guys and And the Italians could have made some real gravy with what little they had.
But poor morale IMO was poor leadership first of the officers but more generally of society in general that had NOTHING to do with the Fascists, because the pre-existing problems were so great the Fascists weren’t making them worse for most working people. Intellectuals and artists? Yes, but not working people, not small business owners.
But this is an unpopular thing to say. It’s also an unpopular thing to say that many working people were loyal to Hitler because until mid-1944 they ate better than they did ten years before and tens years after. This is a testament to the fact that liberal democracy is only as good as it provides good government to the people. Free speech and free press are worthless without an actual free market (which includes regulation without elite capture, job security, and limits on wealthy influence).
Welcome to TG Lefteris and great post. Kicking our the Mussmomaniacal Governmeb andndeed killing isleader took a lot more guts than slavishly licking their boots and following the lunatics all the way into the Reichstag.
Well thanks for the reply but I just might disagree.
Yes Mussolini did fight the Mafia which is one of the few and before Italy was getting into wars e.g. the Italian - Ottoman wars 1911 or sothrough which they gain Libya and another overseas Colony. Italians were unhappy with these forever wars and there always were ant facist forces Italy - The partisans and the Resistance | Britannica.
Some writer might say that Musso was popular but did he offer/data opinion polls.
As fo the officers, Musso had 18 years to change that an yes there was nepotism (where not) but without decent weaponry and logistics transport etc the could not effectively use their huge forces.
The fascists did create huge issues, especially when they decided to Ally themselves with the National Socialists which didn’t include Italians in the Master race. That would be Dutch/German/Scandinavian people with the right color, an not ticking the wrong boxes, disability, wrong genes, opinions.
The Italians knew that the Germans looked down on them and pointing out that Xanten was a big Roman city 1000+ years before Siegfried an the Nibelungen had serious consequences.
This might be in a book you read but it is unpopular because it is one of the on time train myths.
“The working people ate better in mid 1944 than + / - 10 years? “
First Hitler through the hunger policy made sure the Germans who were loyal were bought off at the cost of staving to death Of other humans. The hunger plan. Oh and if those hard working German people had a disability happen to be Jewish, or Social Democrat they were also killed to save food.
Yes some Germans were happy with that eg the teacher who instructed their pupils to throw empty cans at starving Russians. The horrible state of those people reinforced that they were inferior and the thrower had to be tough as the “master race”.
TG somewhere has a vid on the Vampire economy, Tooze wrote about the hunger plan an Mark Felton has a video on the after WW2 food situation.
Oh and my grand parents were Flemish / Dutch workers with the right color and religion and they went hungry before 1944 but had a bit more food allotment than the Russians. And actually they did hide a Russian female doctor in the bomb shelter and gave her some food Their first decent meal came from Patton’s 3rd Army.
After the war theMarshall plan allotted billions of dollars and lots into the German economy. I would say that the German ate better after the war thanks also to massive Allied efforts. Maybe you should double-check sources.
The general problem with the Italians is they were not prepared for war, Badoglio (in 1940 was a Maresciallo in the Italian armed forces) was invited along with the general staff in Palazzo Venezia and was told of the decision that Italy would side with Germany in the war. He told Mussolini that the army was not ready for such a conflict. Moreover after the debacle assault against France and Greece he was forced to resign as general on the 26th of November 1940, he as superseded by Ugo Cavallero on the 4th of December 1940.
I have been to the Mausoleum of El Alamein, I still remember a quote from Rommel " Il soldato tedesco ha stupito il mondo, il bersagliere italiano ha stupito il soldato tedesco", roughly translated to “The German soldier surprised the world, The Italian Bersagliere (soldier) surprised the German soldier.”. Moreover at the second battle of El Alamein the “folgore” division was offered the surrender with the honor of the weapons.
In essence the bravery of Italians is often vilified and ridiculed. They had very bad officers and even worst leaders. I still remember my great grandpa telling me that noone elected that buffoon of Mussolini. Although I admit the majority of the Italian standard troops were not keen of the idea of going to war (probably due to the fact that the majority of Italians were not fascists), the general Italian contribution to the wars is often ridiculed.
On a sidenote my Grandad was enlisted when he was 21 and was a captain of a transport ship ferrying people to Albania from Brindisi (Apuglia). I often asked him about the war and what struck me his openness to avow they were not ready, he recalled the day of the armistice the joy him and his crew felt and decided to drive his ship to surrender to the British, often saying “if he was going to be a POW, it is better the British than the Americans, as from England he could walk back to his family in Italy, from America it would have been more difficult”. That for me in a nutshell is the essence of Italian contribution to the 2nd World War. We had excellences like “XX Mass, Folgore, Ariete, Admiral Francesco Mimbelli, i Bersagleri and the MIR expeditionary forces etc etc” willing to go the extra mile for the war, the general soldiers like my grandad were counting the hours till it was over so they could get on with their lives.
Many thanks for your very interesting post and a hearty welcome to the forum.
Welcome to our great Timeghost Army, Giovanni!, great first contribution, much appreciated.
As I stated earlier, the Italian contribution to Fall Blau and subsequent defensive actions are underestimated by many and, imho, should be weighed in for their effort to do almost the impossible, considering the opposing forces of the Red Army.
Thank you all for the warm welcome, I did not expect it at all :). My godfather’s father was in the ARMIR (Armata Italiana in Russia meaning Italian Army in Russia). He came back unlike many others and lost 2 fingers and had several health issues throughout his life (lived up to age of 82). He used to tell us the stories of their actions in Russia ( I was too small to care/understand I guess shame on me!). What always struck me is how his eyes used to light up and somehow got 20 years younger as he was telling the stories. He was also after the war a convinced fascist, certainly he is turning in his grave should he have heard half of the stories I hear about Italian soldiers…
Then again there are people like my grandad who were happy the war was over and happily surrendered as POWs. It re-enforce the idea that there were really 2 realities, it depends how you choose to look it at it. I maybe biased as I am Italian, however for a country that was not ready for war and had little support for it, we did and offered what we could, I am though happily satisfied we lost.
You are very much welcome, Giovanni!
This community is very much about mutual respect and remembrance, since we all have families that experienced the war and suffered.
Our, and foremost the Timeghost team’s effort to honour their suffering, indifferent which side they fought on, is of importance to keep their legacy alive!
Very true, a lot of “Nazi Allies” had citizens with a different opinion who got stuck on the front. (They couldn’t just resign.
We should also not forget the brave Italian partisans and the mass sufferering because of the Nazi German reaction. Not supporting the Nazis takes far more guts than murdering a 20 day old baby like the “self proclaimed elite” 16th SS did. Those were the real cowardly Nazi boot lickers. I have massive respect for anyone who didn’t go the no think but follow fuhrer route.
Here is an example