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  • Italy reforms their military in the late 30's

    Would the Italians have been more effective if they had reformed their military in the late 30's. These reforms would include:

    Reducing the number of infantry divisions by a third to half and rebuilding the remaining ones as triangular divisions with reasonable levels of equipment.

    Reorganizing their infantry battalions and such down, on lines similar to those of the Germans. That is, squads with an automatic weapon, platoons with some heavy mg and light mortars, then a heavy weapons company at battalion with infantry and antitank guns.

    Armored formations are rebuilt to look more like panzer divisions. This is done by combining an existing armored division with a motorized infantry division into a single formation.

    More emphasis on communications adding radios and such.

    Eliminating cavalry except in leg infantry divisions where it is used as mobile infantry fighting dismounted.

    Building a stronger corps slice with artillery, engineers, and other support troops for the new formations.

    Would this have made any significant difference?

  • #2
    Hi TAG

    One of the most needed reforms would be in their Officer Corps and how it related to the average NCO and below.

    Regards
    "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

    "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Andy H View Post
      Hi TAG

      One of the most needed reforms would be in their Officer Corps and how it related to the average NCO and below.

      Regards
      Better staff work is also a must, imo.
      Diadochi Rising Wargame:
      King Pairisades I of the Bosporan Kingdom

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Andy H View Post
        Hi TAG

        One of the most needed reforms would be in their Officer Corps and how it related to the average NCO and below.

        Regards
        That might have been doable, certainly more doable, than historically possible. Having only 20 to 30 divisions in the field versus close to 100 would have allowed many of the poorer performing officers to be retired or dismissed from service.
        At a minimum the new divisions could have gotten the best officers while second and third string formations got the rest.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Andy H View Post
          Hi TAG

          One of the most needed reforms would be in their Officer Corps and how it related to the average NCO and below.

          Regards
          Good point!
          Spain should have been a valuable training ground, and instead was rather wasted.

          http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk...36_to_1940.htm

          Plus, Franco never paid the Musso. No iron ore, no copper, no tungsten, no coal...
          The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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          • #6
            Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
            That might have been doable, certainly more doable, than historically possible. Having only 20 to 30 divisions in the field versus close to 100 would have allowed many of the poorer performing officers to be retired or dismissed from service.
            At a minimum the new divisions could have gotten the best officers while second and third string formations got the rest.
            I wonder how much of those 20-30 divisions could have been modernized with Italys industrial capacity? Would it take five years, eight, ten?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
              I wonder how much of those 20-30 divisions could have been modernized with Italys industrial capacity? Would it take five years, eight, ten?
              It would have been doable with the original capacity. For example, 30 divisions would require about 2000 modern artillery pieces. For example, the Italians have enough 100mm and 105mm to ensure every division has a battalion of each in addition to 3 of 75mm guns just on what they have in stock. That gives their "new" division firepower equal to a French division and at least in 1940 a close equivalent to a British one.

              Dole out all the CV 3/33 to the infantry and reserve the M11/39 and M13/40 for armored formations. Take the M11/39 in hand and convert them to the M13/40 standard as well (the hulls are interchangeable.).

              On the whole it would have given the Italians, at least on paper, 30 divisions that were actually worth something.

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              • #8
                You don't even have to go that far, knocking it down to 40 would have been fine.

                100 Divisions, you say?
                I thought it was 80... but okay, Going back to a 3-regiment Division would get you down to 65 Divisions in itself. Trim the worst 1/3rd and you are down to 42.

                You have to allocate what you have in East Africa before the war starts, because you sure can't get more in past the Brits after you open up on them.
                So, ten down there, which drops you by half from what they had there, but your supply situation in what was a strategic siege is looking much better.

                A Division in Rhodes & the rest of the ex-turkish isles you have.
                One for Sardinia, 3 for Sicily, 3 more for the basic garrison in Libya.

                Italy has a long and vulnerable coast, its always been a big worry for them. So, figure 13 divisions for homeland garrisons.

                That leaves you with a grand total of 12 Divisions as a mobile reserve and for territorial expansion.
                But, they will be good ones, half of them can be mechanized, too.

                So, Italy will be restricted to one offensive direction at a time.
                In a way that's good, it's all they should have done anyway.
                But, if something unexpected happens, you get into hot water very quickly.

                Tempting to raise a whole lot of Blackshirt brigades now, isn't it?

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                • #9
                  So basically streamline everything. From airplanes to tanks, artillery and ships.

                  On anti air, Italians need serious help. 20mm Scotti and Breda where average light AAA, but Breda hmg used in fighters wasn't good ad German, British or American equivalent. 90mm AA gun was excellent, probably better than Flak 36, but wielded in too small numbers. Imo Italian AAA needs following changes
                  -New powerful HMG
                  -Choose between simpler/Cheaper Scotti or more complex/better Breda
                  -new mid caliber AA gun, possibly the 65mm gun intended on naval ships (possibly a new AT gun in land use?)
                  -More 90mm guns or Czech 75mm.

                  Indigenous or German made radar is must on land and on ships.
                  From Devastation - Knights Twilight Warhammer 40,000 Quest
                  Rear Admiral Sander Van der Zee, Commander of Dutch Far East Theatre
                  "There is never enough firepower!"

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                  • #10
                    I count 116 infantry, 2parachute, 6 mountain 20 coast defense divisions, and 6 cavalry.

                    Of the infantry 3 are listed as "Assault" divisions, 9 as "Semi-motorized" and 3 motorized.

                    If you cut the number of infantry to 30 fifteen of those can be built off the core of better equipped divisions while the other 15 get enough equipment from the disbanded ones to make all 30 "semi-motorized" at a minimum.

                    The coast defense divisions get strengthened from the disbanded ones to form stronger static divisions for home defense.
                    The cavalry are broken up and form individual regiments as corps troops and mobile infantry.

                    The Alpine divisions get cut to three larger ones.

                    Add a parachute division and 3 armored divisions with two regiments of 3 battalions each of motorized infantry along the lines of panzer divisions.

                    Add in some "Blackshirt" units and colonial ones for garrison duties and you have a halfway decent military. All it needs is decent training and leadership and the Italians would be a reasonably effective force.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                      I wonder how much of those 20-30 divisions could have been modernized with Italys industrial capacity? Would it take five years, eight, ten?
                      Good point. If there ever was a country that had more to gain from peace and less to gain form War, it was Italy in 1940!

                      However, there are some thing they could have done:
                      1. Do a Stalin, and demand payment up front for the arms and men poured into Spain. Or at least , iron clad repayment agreements.


                      Using Spanish tungsten, develop a small caliber high velocity armour piercing round.

                      Develop your Hydro electric power to the fullest to smelt aluminum. any moves by Italian troops would have to be highly fuel efficient, including the navy.

                      4. Hope Musso kicks the bucket and either Ciano or Balbo take over. Assist in the process if possible...
                      The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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                      • #12
                        I wouldn't count the total of the italian divisions that ever existed during the war as a meaningful starting point. By doing so, one is assuming that at some point all of these did exist simultaneously - which is false. In no year of the war the Regio Esercito had more than 91 divisions - and that is at a time when lots were coastal ones.

                        The real starting point could be the 73 that actually existed in 1940. This does not count the numerous colonial brigades in East Africa. Of these, however, 20 were unusable, lacking some 50% of the transports, lots of men, and many weapons. Another 31 were understrength.

                        The case against binary divisions can be made, but it is complicated by the presence of the Blackshirt regiment that should have been added to those. Some were, some were not; those divisions that did receive these units ended up with having 8 battalions, not 6, which is only 1 battalion less than a 3-regiment division; yet the Blackshirt battalions had significant shortcomings, not just in training but more importantly in equipment; and if you decide to have 9-battalion divisions but solely relying on Regio Esercito manpower, what will you do with the Blackshirts? Etc. etc.

                        Without going into any of the interesting and indeed quite feasible improvements that have been suggested upthread, however, the answer is simple: no, nothing of this would have served a lot if not coupled with a brand new strategic thinking. Yes, had Graziani had what he could realistically have had instead of what he actually had, probably his army would not have collapsed so spectacularly in the first British offensive in the desert. But while this would have changed the history of the war, it would have provided little benefit to Italy, unless entirely by happenstance, in the long term, if the strategic thinking had remained the same.

                        Figures quoted above are from the relevant publications by the historical offce of the Italian Army's staff.
                        Michele

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Michele View Post
                          The real starting point could be the 73 that actually existed in 1940. This does not count the numerous colonial brigades in East Africa. Of these, however, 20 were unusable, lacking some 50% of the transports, lots of men, and many weapons. Another 31 were understrength.
                          Okay, so my numbers look a lot better now, but I think that the basic thing is that Italy can effectively project only about a dozen Divisions outside its borders, half of those being effectively in the "mechanized" category.

                          My call would have been to make a feint into the mountains of France, and instead go for Malta, Cyprus and Egypt with an eye to linking up with Ethiopia.
                          Organization should follow along those lines.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                            Okay, so my numbers look a lot better now, but I think that the basic thing is that Italy can effectively project only about a dozen Divisions outside its borders, half of those being effectively in the "mechanized" category.

                            My call would have been to make a feint into the mountains of France, and instead go for Malta, Cyprus and Egypt with an eye to linking up with Ethiopia.
                            Organization should follow along those lines.
                            You are now providing the better strategic thinking I said above would be mandatory.

                            Naturally, equipping in a decent way a half dozen divisions for desert operations means that at least a couple are armored and the rest are fully motorized. Equipping them initially will only be a small part of the trick. Then you have to keep them in supply, plus the gigantic truck fleet needed to cover the distance between Tripoli and the border. Fuel, fuel, fuel, and more trucks, and spare parts.
                            So you are back to the small Italian industrial base.

                            Malta or Cyprus would require, probably, a paratrooper division, a naval infantry division, plus more light infantry (any of Bersaglieri, Alpini, and mountain infantry would work here) - and most tellingly landing crafts. Nothing of that is available in 1940. On the plus side, nothing of that is really unfeasible by 1940, if you had the right strategy and will for it by 1936.

                            Cyprus really seems a bad bad idea to me, though, sort of an Italian Sealion. The British Army wasn't ready to defend the Egyptian border and Malta in 1940. But what about the Royal Navy? Wouldn't it be ready to patrol Alexandria's front garden? I say yes.
                            Michele

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Michele View Post
                              Naturally, equipping in a decent way a half dozen divisions for desert operations means that at least a couple are armored and the rest are fully motorized. Equipping them initially will only be a small part of the trick. Then you have to keep them in supply, plus the gigantic truck fleet needed to cover the distance between Tripoli and the border. Fuel, fuel, fuel, and more trucks, and spare parts.
                              So you are back to the small Italian industrial base.
                              We can see the forces could be managed. The next thing the Italians do is improve the infrastructure in Libya. They did build the coast road (Bilbo Highway if I recall). Here, they build a rail line to supplement it. Even a single track one would be worthwhile.
                              Second, they start to improve Tobruk and Benghazi as ports. This would ease the supply situation to some degree over what was historically possible.
                              Now, the rail system would have required diesel locomotives which Italy could have gotten from Germany.
                              Maybe go in with the Germans on synthetic fuel plants too.

                              Malta or Cyprus would require, probably, a paratrooper division, a naval infantry division, plus more light infantry (any of Bersaglieri, Alpini, and mountain infantry would work here) - and most tellingly landing crafts. Nothing of that is available in 1940. On the plus side, nothing of that is really unfeasible by 1940, if you had the right strategy and will for it by 1936.
                              Well, the paratroops might be available if the Italians pushed it. The assault and alpine troops were for sure. Landing craft? Not likely and the assault shipping equally unlikely.

                              Cyprus really seems a bad bad idea to me, though, sort of an Italian Sealion. The British Army wasn't ready to defend the Egyptian border and Malta in 1940. But what about the Royal Navy? Wouldn't it be ready to patrol Alexandria's front garden? I say yes.
                              I would think a better strategy would be an immediate push into Egypt with improved motorized / mechanized forces on the outbreak of war before Britain could do much to reinforce their forces there. Even if the whole country is not overrun, the Italians with some degree of energy backed by better ports and a rail line from Tripoli to the Egyptian border would have been able to manage that against the hodgepodge of marginal equipment and units the British have as a colonial garrison in Egypt at the time.
                              Last edited by T. A. Gardner; 02 Sep 14, 16:35.

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