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Turning a great army into crap

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  • Turning a great army into crap

    OK, bear with me for a sec:

    On that little writing project of mine I've come across a interesting problem: in WWI the 'Italian' army was equal in fighting prowess to the French, but by WWII I need them to suck badly, at least for a couple of years. This is specific counterfactual, but I'm posting here to discuss how an army can degenerate and use those ideas to race the fall of the Italian military and maybe their recovery (maybe). So there are a couple of things I think can make of break a military system:

    1. Public support of the military and war ambitions. Historically Italy has not had a great military history. In our world I believe the Napoleonic Wars destroyed the Italian fighting tradition and it never recovered. In my version, the Italians consider themselves Romans, and entitled to Trajan's empire. This is a subtle factor, and not always reliable methinks.

    2. Logistical support. I've heard a lot of Italian artillerymen died at their guns because while there was plenty of ammunition there were few trucks to supply them to the front line. Everything about Italian logistics seems to have been crap, it's only a question of what was the worst thing.

    3. The Officer Corps. The Officers of the Army were considered bad because military service was not considered glamorous enough to attract real talent and for some reason I may never comprehend, the officers lived apart from their men. I understand fraternization policies but without camaraderie, men will not readily obey their superiors. This is actually the thing that makes my fictional Italian have a shot at becoming respectable fighters by war's end. Their officers are awesome, because they are holdovers from the Great War Army, the one that conquered Turkey and the Balkans. The politics of this are interesting but not for here. Point is, if leadership is the prime mover in making an army great, then my Italians have it in them.

    4. Training. I know Italian training was abysmal, but none of the major belligerents except Germany trained their troops very well, at least at first. I'm given to understand that the aloof and disdainful officer corps of Italy is what made their training especially bad. Perhaps a better officer corps will cause better training for the enlisted men?

    5. Equipment. Italian equipment was bad up and down the line. I've heard it so many way I don't know where to begin. Furthermore Chrysler produced more war equipment than all of Italy combined. So lousy equipment and not enough of it. Bad news.

    6. Colonial police versus traditional army. I have heard at least one documentary (British I believe) that briefly talked of Italian army units in Libya as being more suited for subduing native revolts rather taking on British and/or French military units. For our Italy, this doesn't matter so much because of the other deficiency. Just as a thought exercise, I would think this issue of colonial policing could be the killer of my Italian Army. In the (back)story, Italy gains a HUGE empire through conquest, bribery and offers of citizenship, in the trues of Roman fashions. But it has tremendous problems with Serbs and Turks and occasionally Bulgarians and Arabs. Now these Italians aren't dumb and their methods of pacification are so ruthless the Nazis employ Italians advisers on how best to subdue occupied Russia. Nonetheless, an army that needs to pacify insurgents is an army that can forget how to fight pitched battles, and probably ignore doctrinal advances that they'd otherwise take up on.

    So that's where I stand on my knowledge of how to run your army into the ground. I hope to generate some discussion, and get a little insight on what I should do with the Italians in my story. Thanks for any thoughts.
    How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
    275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

  • #2
    Maybe, the equipment and training was not enough or not available due to funding and suppliers.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by perthy25 View Post
      Maybe, the equipment and training was not enough or not available due to funding and suppliers.
      That's true, and covered under the logistical features. If I recall correctly, Italy had up to three times the industrial capacity of Japan, and though no one will dispute the wretched nature of Japanese logistics, the Italians were badly equipped by European standards, and being in Europe, they should have been better. After all, they bordered Germany (union with Austria was likely after WWI) and France. Plus, their solders fought a jump skip and a hop away from the Italian mainland, certainly compared to the theaters the Japanese fought in.

      The more I look at it, the more I begin to see that while logistics and such are important, the Italians failed because of their crappy officer corps. I say this because had any of the junior officers spoke up and said 'hey, I can't supply my men properly' in say, 1936, in a good corps, the uppers would bring it to Il Duce, and some of the worst problems could be fixed.

      Any one else out there have a thought about all of this?
      How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
      275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

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      • #4
        I figure putting an army into garrison for 3/4 to 1 generation can do it.

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        • #5
          Put the troops in to garrison, and have them focus on the queep, instead of their battle drills. Reward and promote the ass kissers and empire builders, and demoralize the NCO's and junior officers so much that they leave in droves, leaving behind the mediocre and bueruocratic(sp? i hate this word) officers. Combine this with a civilian leadership that isn't at all interested in their military, and you should have a crappy military in less than a generation.

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