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Italy in World War II

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  • The Purist
    replied
    It was all an embarrassment for Mussoni

    On news of the French approaching the Nazis for an armistice Count Ciano noted on Jun 17th:

    The Duce is an Extremist. He would like to go so far as the total occupation of French territory and demands the surrender of the French fleet. But he is aware that his opinion has only a consultative value. The war has been won by Hitler without any active military participation on the part of Italy. This, naturally, distrubs and saddens him. His reflections on the Italian people and, above all, our armed forces are extremely bitter this evening."

    Ciano's Diary Pg 266
    Nevertheless en route to Munich to discuss armistice terms Mussolini had the following demands to be put to the French:

    - Occupation of France up to the Rhone
    - France cedes Nece
    - France cedes Corsica
    - France cedes Djibouti
    - France cedes Tunisia
    - The French fleet would come into Italian possession
    - The French air force would come into Italian possession.

    This is detailed in Ian Kershaw's "Fateful Choices"

    Once in Germany Hitler raised no objection to the occupation zone but he wanted to treat France leniently to prevent the fleet going over to Britain and the government moving to Africa and continue the war. Hitler also had hopes that lenient terms would help convince Britain to also make peace.

    As a further humiliation to Mussolini Hitler did not even want the Italians involved in the negotiations and insisted they hold separate talks once German terms had been settled.

    Ciano noted Mussolini was:

    "... very much embarrassed that his role is secondary..."

    Ciano's Diary Pg 267
    At this point Mussolini decided to ask only for the 30 mile border zone with the future hope that he would gain more in the final peace settlement that ended the war. Mussolini could hardly ask for more in the face of German opposition. The Italian army had been embarrassed by comparatively small British forces in Libya that rounded up Italians in some numbers with a few guns supporting a handful of armoured cars and light tanks. In the Alps the Italians offensive had been stopped dead in its tracks with heavy losses (including frostbite cases - in June) adding to the humiliation.

    When the Germans compelled to the French to surrender on the 22nd the Italians were not invited. The armistice signing in Rome took place on June 24th Mussolini ordered no publicity. Ciano notes "almost in secrecy".

    With all this how on earth is a further defeat and more humiliation in front of the Mareth Line going to bolster Mussolini's demands. Its nonsense.

    See -

    Ciano's Diary, ed. Malcolm Muggeridge, 1947
    Ciano's Diplomatic Papers, ed. Malcolm Muggeridge, 1948
    Fateful Choices, Ten Decisions that Changed the World 1940-1941. Ian Kershaw, 2007
    Mussolini Unleashed 1939-1941, Politics and Strategy in Fascist Italy's Last War, MacGregor Knox, 1986
    Last edited by The Purist; 18 Oct 13, 20:16.

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  • Philip F
    replied
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    He had not. Look the books I quoted up for yourself.



    My dear friend, I have already told you that I looked Mack Smith up. We already know who his sources are. I have then looked up Faldella in all his length. There is nothing that has not already been gone over back and forth. I have provided you with everything, and frankly with much more than what you have provided.

    What now remains to be done is to choose what one prefers to believe. You evidently have already chosen, good for you, it's nice to have certainties.
    It is not a question of what one wants to believe but what actually happens.
    We already know Mussolini had withdrew his claims.
    Now give me the book and page number and ill read it and see this mythical conversation were Hitler turns down Mussolini's demands.
    Or that Mussolini makes anyone in the first place.
    Denis Mack Smiths Mussolini and Ciano's diaries are saying he withdrew his demands and are saying he did not. Some one is wrong here.

    Leave a comment:


  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by Philip F View Post
    So you have ignored the fact that Mussolini had already withdrew his demands before he met Hitler.
    He had not. Look the books I quoted up for yourself.

    Also lets see the evidence of their conversation because it goes against what Ciano recorded and what Mack Smith wrote.
    My dear friend, I have already told you that I looked Mack Smith up. We already know who his sources are. I have then looked up Faldella in all his length. There is nothing that has not already been gone over back and forth. I have provided you with everything, and frankly with much more than what you have provided.

    What now remains to be done is to choose what one prefers to believe. You evidently have already chosen, good for you, it's nice to have certainties.

    Leave a comment:


  • Philip F
    replied
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    Fest makes the most detailed list, including all the territorial claims, and he concludes by stating (my translation into English) "In any case, what is certain is that he [Hitler] succeeded in dissuading Mussolini from his greedy fantasies, and finally in convincing him that it was of paramount importance to persuade the French government to sign the armistice". The others provide shorter lists.

    I half-remembered where the version you believe in was originated, but I had never known, or I had forgotten, that Mack Smith gave credit to it.
    I have now checked that up, and he helpfully provides notes that while quoting three authors, point at one man, the same I half-remembered: Roatta.
    Ciano has, as they say at wiki, "multiple issues", and anyway the main point in his remarks is the extraordinary generosity - towards the French - displayed by Hitler.
    The other two sources of Mack Smith are actually one: Roatta and Faldella. That's because Faldella's revisionist book, which goes on at great length on this topic, is based on Roatta himself (and on unnamed "staff officers" who were present at the meeting, i.e. men who had accompanied Roatta).

    So the situation was the following.
    The Regio Esercito had had a dismal performance during the brief days of the Italo-French war. Given the short time, and the extremely difficult terrain, it is no surprise they had achieved very little; but even making allowances for that, the facts remain uncomfortable. They had had months to prepare for this, and they went off half-cocked. They were fighting exactly where an Italian army could be expected to fight, and they were so ill prepared that they suffered an embarrassing number of frostbite casualties - in June. They had not even dented the French MRL in the high Alps, and they had just taken the puny seaside resort of Menton right there on the border.
    Had the French continued to fight, even with the curtailed "armistice army" that the Germans would leave them... they could stalemate the Italian forces for a long, long time.

    In other words, the Regio Esercito had not achieved a situation in which the demands Mussolini fancied could realistically be successful. The situation it had achieved was a situation in which Hitler could reasonably tell Mussolini to forget about those demands - which is what indeed happened on June 18.

    Naturally, if instead those demands had been possible, and they had not come to be satisfied simply because of a mistake by Mussolini - then the Regio Esercito's performance couldn't be faulted for not making those demands possible.

    The reason why Roatta could provide his version, and the grain of truth that is present in it, is probably that Hitler, wisely, did not just rudely tell Mussolini to go get stuffed on that day. He wouldn't want Mussolini to lose face so massively. He did, however, plant the seed of the doubt in him. So that the Italian demands were, for form's sake, still on the table when Mussolini came back; only waiting for Mussolini to withdraw them formally. But in practice, they had already been shot down, which is what most historians are telling you.

    Faldella says that Mussolini feared the possibility that the French would sign an armistice with the Germans, and shun him and his demands. That would have been an extremely embarrassing situation. The French, as mentioned above, would fight on in the Alps. Hitler would not let that be, of course, not because he loved Italy but because it was against his own interests; so, one way or another, Germany would come to the rescue of Italy, as it indeed happened in real history the following year, both in Greece and North Africa.
    But such a rescue would have been a deadly wound to Mussolini's pride. Especially since he believed that Britain would shortly ask for terms; i.e., the war would end with Hitler rescuing Mussolini.

    Now, all of that is credible, given what we know of Mussolini's psychology, so there is no reason not to believe Faldella on this.
    But why did Mussolini come to worry about such an eventuality? Who warned him about such a possibility? We don't know, but we do know when this happened: after he had talked with Hitler.

    So, I can agree with you that Hitler in all likelihood did not flatly tell Mussolini: "Forget about that, you aren't getting anything of that, and now scoot off". He very probably didn't.
    I disagree with you, however, that the gist of what transpired at that meeting wasn't exactly this, even if couched in more diplomatic and subtler words.

    I hope you appreciate my generosity.
    So you have ignored the fact that Mussolini had already withdrew his demands before he met Hitler.
    Also lets see the evidence of their conversation because it goes against what Ciano recorded and what Mack Smith wrote.
    Mack Smith and Ciano even noted the Germans were quite disappointed with the Italians for not asking for more in particular Tunisia as it would hinder their campaign against the British in N Africa.

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  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by Philip F View Post
    Ok from these books Quote me what requests Hitler turned down that Mussolini made.
    Fest makes the most detailed list, including all the territorial claims, and he concludes by stating (my translation into English) "In any case, what is certain is that he [Hitler] succeeded in dissuading Mussolini from his greedy fantasies, and finally in convincing him that it was of paramount importance to persuade the French government to sign the armistice". The others provide shorter lists.

    I half-remembered where the version you believe in was originated, but I had never known, or I had forgotten, that Mack Smith gave credit to it.
    I have now checked that up, and he helpfully provides notes that while quoting three authors, point at one man, the same I half-remembered: Roatta.
    Ciano has, as they say at wiki, "multiple issues", and anyway the main point in his remarks is the extraordinary generosity - towards the French - displayed by Hitler.
    The other two sources of Mack Smith are actually one: Roatta and Faldella. That's because Faldella's revisionist book, which goes on at great length on this topic, is based on Roatta himself (and on unnamed "staff officers" who were present at the meeting, i.e. men who had accompanied Roatta).

    So the situation was the following.
    The Regio Esercito had had a dismal performance during the brief days of the Italo-French war. Given the short time, and the extremely difficult terrain, it is no surprise they had achieved very little; but even making allowances for that, the facts remain uncomfortable. They had had months to prepare for this, and they went off half-cocked. They were fighting exactly where an Italian army could be expected to fight, and they were so ill prepared that they suffered an embarrassing number of frostbite casualties - in June. They had not even dented the French MRL in the high Alps, and they had just taken the puny seaside resort of Menton right there on the border.
    Had the French continued to fight, even with the curtailed "armistice army" that the Germans would leave them... they could stalemate the Italian forces for a long, long time.

    In other words, the Regio Esercito had not achieved a situation in which the demands Mussolini fancied could realistically be successful. The situation it had achieved was a situation in which Hitler could reasonably tell Mussolini to forget about those demands - which is what indeed happened on June 18.

    Naturally, if instead those demands had been possible, and they had not come to be satisfied simply because of a mistake by Mussolini - then the Regio Esercito's performance couldn't be faulted for not making those demands possible.

    The reason why Roatta could provide his version, and the grain of truth that is present in it, is probably that Hitler, wisely, did not just rudely tell Mussolini to go get stuffed on that day. He wouldn't want Mussolini to lose face so massively. He did, however, plant the seed of the doubt in him. So that the Italian demands were, for form's sake, still on the table when Mussolini came back; only waiting for Mussolini to withdraw them formally. But in practice, they had already been shot down, which is what most historians are telling you.

    Faldella says that Mussolini feared the possibility that the French would sign an armistice with the Germans, and shun him and his demands. That would have been an extremely embarrassing situation. The French, as mentioned above, would fight on in the Alps. Hitler would not let that be, of course, not because he loved Italy but because it was against his own interests; so, one way or another, Germany would come to the rescue of Italy, as it indeed happened in real history the following year, both in Greece and North Africa.
    But such a rescue would have been a deadly wound to Mussolini's pride. Especially since he believed that Britain would shortly ask for terms; i.e., the war would end with Hitler rescuing Mussolini.

    Now, all of that is credible, given what we know of Mussolini's psychology, so there is no reason not to believe Faldella on this.
    But why did Mussolini come to worry about such an eventuality? Who warned him about such a possibility? We don't know, but we do know when this happened: after he had talked with Hitler.

    So, I can agree with you that Hitler in all likelihood did not flatly tell Mussolini: "Forget about that, you aren't getting anything of that, and now scoot off". He very probably didn't.
    I disagree with you, however, that the gist of what transpired at that meeting wasn't exactly this, even if couched in more diplomatic and subtler words.

    I hope you appreciate my generosity.

    Leave a comment:


  • BF69
    replied
    Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
    Italy's best course for the war would be to stay nuetral and sell to both sides.

    Its colonial holding were too scattered for its Navy to protect. Its army was designed for keeping order in its colonies. Its industrial base was too small, and its equipment was poorly designed for modern warfare.

    It could provide Germany with enough resources and was strong enough to deter a German invasion.

    Best to sit the entire business out.
    One point of disagreement. Italy could have made potential gains by jumping in on the Allied side late in the war. Once Germany's fighting power was sufficiently reduced Italy could offer its territory to the Allies as a base for air or even land operations with minimal risk. Send a 'volunteer' force to fight on the Allied side in the last 12-18 months. Lots of goodwill to be bought & maybe even a few bits of territory from someone like Croatia.

    Even without Mussolini I suspect that Italy doesn't want to be Switzerland. My bet is that it has ambitions to be a regional power or at least important. Being on the Allied side may buy you a seat at the table when it comes to shaping postwar Europe & make it easier to retain the territory you already have, even if the natives aren't keen.

    Leave a comment:


  • The Purist
    replied
    The French would not have agreed to giving up Tunisia and held the Italian military in barely disguised contempt. The Germans wanted the French out of the war and the west quiet or at least neutralised so the move east could go ahead as decided in late July. Had the French been forced to give up Tunisia you have a less pliant Vichy regime, more cooperation with the allies and a good chance the French warships end up in British ports rather than returning to French bases.

    When Hitler made his rounds of the Mediterranean powers in October he knew he could give the Italians what they wanted because the French and Spanish would object. He could not give Spain the territories they wanted because it would have meant pushing the Vichy regime into the allied camp and it would have angered Mussolini. The French were the easiest to keep happy because thy simply wanted to be left out of the fighting after the collapse in June. Even so, they were not going to give away the African empire without reacting.

    That is why Hitler left the discussions empty handed and why Italian options are few and none.

    Leave a comment:


  • Philip F
    replied
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    I see. Thanks. For your information, I have now checked Beevor and De Felice, and they both disagree with Mack Smith.
    Ok from these books Quote me what requests Hitler turned down that Mussolini made.

    Leave a comment:


  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by Philip F View Post
    You are the one saying Italy had run out of money by 1939 so provide me with a source that states that.

    Mussolini had withdrew his claims by June 18th.
    Ciano's diaries and Denis Mack Smith Mussolini state the exact same thing I have stated.
    I see. Thanks. For your information, I have now checked Beevor and De Felice, and they both disagree with Mack Smith.

    Leave a comment:


  • Philip F
    replied
    Amounting to the three years of budget that the war in Ethiopia had cost? I don't think so. What's your source?
    You are the one saying Italy had run out of money by 1939 so provide me with a source that states that.


    I have dusted out Fest's and Montanelli's account of the meeting between Mussolini and Hitler in Munich on June 18. They disagree with your assessment about the willingness of Hitler to give Mussolini everything he wanted, and agree with my account. Fest goes as far as saying that the purpose of the meeting was to disabuse Mussolini of his delusions.
    Again, what is your source?
    Mussolini had withdrew his claims by June 18th.
    Ciano's diaries and Denis Mack Smith Mussolini state the exact same thing I have stated.

    Leave a comment:


  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by Philip F View Post
    The money had not run out by 1939. Italy had big spending planes for the next few years.
    Amounting to the three years of budget that the war in Ethiopia had cost? I don't think so. What's your source?

    Ethiopia would not have fallen by the time of the invasion of sudan.
    Well, no, if that had become part of the Italian empire. My doubt was about that and the spending largesse you claim above.

    The Germans expected the Italians to claim what I mentioned and were prepared to give them it. However mussolini withdrew the request for these territories because he did not want to be seen as getting scraps from the German table.
    I have dusted out Fest's and Montanelli's account of the meeting between Mussolini and Hitler in Munich on June 18. They disagree with your assessment about the willingness of Hitler to give Mussolini everything he wanted, and agree with my account. Fest goes as far as saying that the purpose of the meeting was to disabuse Mussolini of his delusions.
    Again, what is your source?

    Leave a comment:


  • johnbryan
    replied
    Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
    Italy's best course for the war would be to stay nuetral and sell to both sides.

    Its colonial holding were too scattered for its Navy to protect. Its army was designed for keeping order in its colonies. Its industrial base was too small, and its equipment was poorly designed for modern warfare.

    It could provide Germany with enough resources and was strong enough to deter a German invasion.

    Best to sit the entire business out.
    Agreed on all points!. Italy had nothing to gain by entering WWII and lost all as a result.

    Leave a comment:


  • Arnold J Rimmer
    replied
    Italy's best course for the war would be to stay nuetral and sell to both sides.

    Its colonial holding were too scattered for its Navy to protect. Its army was designed for keeping order in its colonies. Its industrial base was too small, and its equipment was poorly designed for modern warfare.

    It could provide Germany with enough resources and was strong enough to deter a German invasion.

    Best to sit the entire business out.

    Leave a comment:


  • Philip F
    replied
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    Unfortunately they had already spent it, by 1939. So you would need to clarify when the point of departure is. Even if you do, in your timeline you propose linking with forces in East Africa from the North (through Sudan!), which would mean that Ethiopia has fallen.

    Not invading Ethiopia at all in 1935-36 would spare some 3 years of budget of the time, so the rail line in Libya would be a possibility; but in that case, there are only the Somalian and Erithrean colonies down there.



    Well, yes. The problem, the way I see it, is that a frozen snowball in hell lasts only a few seconds longer than an ordinary snowball in hell. Hitler was not thinking of the past (the actual Italian contribution in the defeat of France) when he decided about what to do with Corsica or Tunisia. He was thinking about the future (the usefulness of Vichy France). Even if you make the Italian contribution slightly more effective, that's yesterday news. Making Tunisia a gift to Italy for no good reason but just because the Italians have lost a few thousand men on the Mareth for nothing might be exactly what peeves French officers, who then decide to bring their warships in British ports.

    The only real variable would be the famous 9/10 of ownership, i.e. actual possession. If there were Italian boots on the ground in Tunis, then things would be different. But there aren't.

    Generally speaking, your timeline can be summed up as "whenever Mussolini throws the dice, he wins". Bit too long for a winning streak, I'm afraid.
    The money had not run out by 1939. Italy had big spending planes for the next few years.
    Ethiopia would not have fallen by the time of the invasion of sudan.
    The Germans expected the Italians to claim what I mentioned and were prepared to give them it. However mussolini withdrew the request for these territories because he did not want to be seen as getting scraps from the German table.

    Leave a comment:


  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by Philip F View Post
    Of course they had the money. Just look what they were spending in east Africa alone.
    Unfortunately they had already spent it, by 1939. So you would need to clarify when the point of departure is. Even if you do, in your timeline you propose linking with forces in East Africa from the North (through Sudan!), which would mean that Ethiopia has fallen.

    Not invading Ethiopia at all in 1935-36 would spare some 3 years of budget of the time, so the rail line in Libya would be a possibility; but in that case, there are only the Somalian and Erithrean colonies down there.

    I also said I did not expect the attack in Tunisia to be a success but it would enhance Italy's territory claims once France surrender.
    Well, yes. The problem, the way I see it, is that a frozen snowball in hell lasts only a few seconds longer than an ordinary snowball in hell. Hitler was not thinking of the past (the actual Italian contribution in the defeat of France) when he decided about what to do with Corsica or Tunisia. He was thinking about the future (the usefulness of Vichy France). Even if you make the Italian contribution slightly more effective, that's yesterday news. Making Tunisia a gift to Italy for no good reason but just because the Italians have lost a few thousand men on the Mareth for nothing might be exactly what peeves French officers, who then decide to bring their warships in British ports.

    The only real variable would be the famous 9/10 of ownership, i.e. actual possession. If there were Italian boots on the ground in Tunis, then things would be different. But there aren't.

    Generally speaking, your timeline can be summed up as "whenever Mussolini throws the dice, he wins". Bit too long for a winning streak, I'm afraid.

    Leave a comment:

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