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Subject: 1939 the Allies Attack, Knocking Italy out of the War
Godofgamblers    5/15/2007 1:05:38 AM
1939, Hitler's forces ravage Poland while the West looks on... but could it have gone differently? What if the French attacked Italy in the South, pushing through Torino, Milano, Verona and Venice? Italy would have been cut in two, and let's face it, Mussolini would have fallen, maybe even at the hands of his own people. Faced with this sudden aggressive action by the Allies, Hitler may have thought twice about attacking. With his Southern flank exposed in Austria, most of his armor destroyed in Poland and his forces deployed in the East, he may have given up his plans of war against the West. The West would be forced to accept the fait accompli on the Eastern Front, and Hitler would not be confident enough to attack the Allies in the west. Logically, he would turn his attentions to the East, namely to the USSR. The West would be happy since they would have averted total war with Germany and they would witness Fascism in a life and death struggle with Communism. They might even have resorted to supplying Germany to tip the balance even more in Germany's favor. All sides would be happy: Germany would have their Gotterdammerung, the West its security and USSR its confrontation with Fascism.... the only loser would be Italy, the sacrificial lamb. Your thoughts, Gentlemen?
 
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Godofgamblers    open question   5/16/2007 5:08:57 AM
   Tell me then, if the Italians were low on morale, dispirited, supplied with substandard equipment and poorly led by their officers, why is it that they were an extremely effective fighting force under Rommel?
 
A good percentage of Rommel's troops at any given time were Italian and in his letters he had only glowing comments about them. How is it they performed so well under Rommel and yet completely bungled their own operations, i.e. Albania, Greece, Ethiopia?
 
Perhaps Rommel was a case much like Napoleon: under Napoleon even raw conscripts, Poles, managed to beat the best trained and led soldiers in Europe time and time again....Inspired leadership? Or was it something else?
 
You seem to know a great deal about the Italians, Herald. I suspect you have a strong opinion on this matter.
 
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paul1970       5/16/2007 8:17:48 AM

   Tell me then, if the Italians were low on morale, dispirited, supplied with substandard equipment and poorly led by their officers, why is it that they were an extremely effective fighting force under Rommel?

 

A good percentage of Rommel's troops at any given time were Italian and in his letters he had only glowing comments about them. How is it they performed so well under Rommel and yet completely bungled their own operations, i.e. Albania, Greece, Ethiopia?

 

Perhaps Rommel was a case much like Napoleon: under Napoleon even raw conscripts, Poles, managed to beat the best trained and led soldiers in Europe time and time again....Inspired leadership? Or was it something else?

 

You seem to know a great deal about the Italians, Herald. I suspect you have a strong opinion on this matter.


I tend to go with the Italians were better than their oft mentioned early performances showed....  early opperations were pretty bad but then so were early allied opperations...   there is less focus on the later Italian actions (possibly because they were under German command and and in less interesting areas for the average allied military observer).
the attack on France and Africa were carried out with ill equiped and not well trained/motivated forces.... 
as has been pointed out.... Rommel got the Italians to work well even with equipment not up to the allied equivalent. but the Italians also performed better in the Russian campaigns so it was not just Rommel's influence (although Rommel was great)
Rommel also benefitted from the better trained Italian formations (Brescia and Ariete, amongst others, come to mind) coming over and those having a higher proportion of artillery support (vital).
 
 
so I would say that an attack on Italy in Africa would have been a quick victory but an allied attempt to attack Italy mainland would have been an utter disaster which could have led to a worse situation for the allies than actually was in June 40......
 
 
 
Paul
 
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Herald1234       5/16/2007 11:09:35 AM

   Tell me then, if the Italians were low on morale, dispirited, supplied with substandard equipment and poorly led by their officers, why is it that they were an extremely effective fighting force under Rommel?

 

A good percentage of Rommel's troops at any given time were Italian and in his letters he had only glowing comments about them. How is it they performed so well under Rommel and yet completely bungled their own operations, i.e. Albania, Greece, Ethiopia?

 

Perhaps Rommel was a case much like Napoleon: under Napoleon even raw conscripts, Poles, managed to beat the best trained and led soldiers in Europe time and time again....Inspired leadership? Or was it something else?

 

You seem to know a great deal about the Italians, Herald. I suspect you have a strong opinion on this matter.


Paul has covered a lot of the basics GoG.
I would recommend this site for a background on the Italian War in WW II. It naturally emphasizes the North African Campaign, as that is the one the West is familiar with, but the site is still useful for exploring the state of Italian military technology.
 
 
In summary you will find that the Italian military was in the process of re-equipping in a cycle they expected to complete by 1943.
 
 
That is a Wiki article about the best of the Italian Generals-Giovani Messe. he had to be a good one given the handicaps that Mussollini with which Mussolini saddled him.
 
My own opinion is that the Italian Esercito as well as the Regis Marina were badly POLITICALLY misled and INDUSTRIALLY supported by the corrupt fascists. The professional Italian military for the most part fought extremely well with what they had. The Semovente improvisation that the Italians invented using HESH armed self propelled artillery tro make up for their lack of a true medium tank was brilliant. Italian torpedoes were the best in Europe.
 
Italian antishipping operations conducted by their special naval forces were little short of amazing. Italian air operations in the Mediterranean are underreported for their effectiveness aginst Allied shipping.
 
The myth that the Italians would drop their rifles and run, is based on the same crap stereotype that afflicts the French. The military can only be as good as its training, logistics, doictrine, and ultimately political leadership.
 
Given half a chance at all, the Italian soldier served with distinction, bravery and skill. General Messe gave the Esercito half a chance in Russia and later in North Africa. Those soldiers under his command fought hard and well. So it wasn't the failure of the soldiers or even the generally inferior equipment in the line that ruined Italy. It was as you always find it in these ciercumstances, failure at the TOP. Even Germans [and Americans] lose when you are led by political and military  IDIOTs..  
Herald
 
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Godofgamblers       5/16/2007 7:00:36 PM




   Tell me then, if the Italians were low on morale, dispirited, supplied with substandard equipment and poorly led by their officers, why is it that they were an extremely effective fighting force under Rommel?



 



A good percentage of Rommel's troops at any given time were Italian and in his letters he had only glowing comments about them. How is it they performed so well under Rommel and yet completely bungled their own operations, i.e. Albania, Greece, Ethiopia?



 



Perhaps Rommel was a case much like Napoleon: under Napoleon even raw conscripts, Poles, managed to beat the best trained and led soldiers in Europe time and time again....Inspired leadership? Or was it something else?



 



You seem to know a great deal about the Italians, Herald. I suspect you have a strong opinion on this matter.




I tend to go with the Italians were better than their oft mentioned early performances showed....  early opperations were pretty bad but then so were early allied opperations...   there is less focus on the later Italian actions (possibly because they were under German command and and in less interesting areas for the average allied military observer).

the attack on France and Africa were carried out with ill equiped and not well trained/motivated forces.... 

as has been pointed out.... Rommel got the Italians to work well even with equipment not up to the allied equivalent. but the Italians also performed better in the Russian campaigns so it was not just Rommel's influence (although Rommel was great)

Rommel also benefitted from the better trained Italian formations (Brescia and Ariete, amongst others, come to mind) coming over and those having a higher proportion of artillery support (vital).

 

 

so I would say that an attack on Italy in Africa would have been a quick victory but an allied attempt to attack Italy mainland would have been an utter disaster which could have led to a worse situation for the allies than actually was in June 40......

 

 

 

Paul



Your most probably right on all counts...thanks paul.
 
 
 
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Godofgamblers       5/16/2007 7:05:01 PM
Am checking out those links now, H. Thanks!
 
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french stratege       5/16/2007 9:24:07 PM
GOG
France hesitated to attack Italy in 1938 and 39.Objective was to invade Po area and north Africa.North Africa was quite easy but mainland Italy needed a bigger margin of air power and was finally abandonned.
Italian navy was not considered as a problem with help of UK
 
 
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french stratege       5/16/2007 9:38:16 PM
GOG : here the link
h*tp://www.stratisc.org/strat_050_PEDRONCINI.html
 
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Herald1234    Ignoring Chamberlain and common sense.   5/17/2007 3:52:52 PM
The theory is that the French of 1939 were militarily incompetent.
 
Not so. The French debated among themselves from 1935 onward what they COULD do. It was obvious that the French could either fort up on land and wait for Allied reinforcements, AS THEY SAW IT, or they could fort up on the right and try a mobile defense on their left with a counterattack option that would clockwise wheel off a fortified base along the German French border and catch the Germans in a huge encirclement in Belgium..
 
The French KNEW they would need British air/sea power to carry out the left wheel as well as well as to logistically sustain the armies of the north.
 
An attack on Italy to knock the Italians preemptively out was contentiously argued among the French but the French Navy torpedoed the idea. Say what you want about the scum, Darlan, he was perhaps besides Weygand the only true military realist in France at the time. Indications are that he estimated that perfidious Albion would bolt the alliance if France tried a pre-emptive Italian War. That plus the demand from Paris that the French North African Army win in less than 35 days so that it could be transferred to meet the expected German attack which the French officers in the field told Paris they could not do made an Italian pre-emptive war a ridiculous option.
 
Based on the performance of Italian infantry along the Mareth Line and again on the Tunisian mountains as General Messe fought 8th Army, I wouldn't be to sanguine about any French offemsive into the Po.
 
Nor would I be too sanguine about the French Navy's chances against the Regia Marina without MASSIVE RN help.
 
France and Italy were just strong enough against each other to make stalemate a grim certainty.
 
Both had obsolescentr air forces.
 
Both had armies that were infantry oriented, though France hasd the seeds of an  armored corps and a formidable artillery base.
 
Italy's industrial base was tiny and with a few notable exceptions remarkably corrupt under the fascist regime.
 
France had one of the most inefficient industrial bases ever seen and it too was remarkably corrupt.
 
Italian technology in aviation and in maritime affairs lagged in production efficiency but not in prototype product. Remember this was the only Axis power to produce a 4 engine bomber comparable to American or British product.
 
Given a little political leadership, one nation or the other could have considerably improved its military start condition
 
In the Italian would have meant that Benito Mussolini and the industrialist cabal that supported him had to go. Then the Italians would have to speed up their re-equipment cycle and build an entire logistics base for their two key critical areas, Libya and along the Italian/French border. Infantry in the Alps supplied with modern artillery and armor in North Africa, Use the Carro Spaviera M1939/25 armed withn the 6.5cmL44 antiaircraft gun as the standard Italian tank instead of the L13's and all the tankettes that Mussolini favored. Pour concrete and fort up inn the Alps. Drive on Tripoli and clear the French out of Tunis in North Africa. That what was Italo Balbo suggested. 
 
In the case of France, it would have been much simpler. Spend more francs, pour more concrete, build more chars[Somuas] nationalize the aircraft industry and buy fighters and medium bombers from anybody who sells themuntil French industry could desiogn a decent fighter and a decent bomber of its own. And train, train, train.
 
The means were there, the knowledge of what was needed was there, the political will on both sides was not. The side that figured it out first would have won in an isolated Franco/Italian war. The side that moved first would have been in my estimation the side that HADN'T figured it out.
 
Herald     
 
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Godofgamblers       5/17/2007 7:50:34 PM

GOG : here the link

h*tp://www.stratisc.org/strat_050_PEDRONCINI.html



Terima kasih (merci).
 
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eldnah       5/17/2007 8:23:02 PM
How would the French get to the Po Vallley and with what mobile forces. Via Startrek teleporting?  Perhaps the French could have pushed through the mountains against the Italian Alpini but more likely not in 1939. The more modern Allied Army trying to fight up the Italian penisula four years latter illustrates the difficulty ( Yes, I know the opposition was mostlly German but terrain is terrain) unless you believe the Italians were so, so ...so inept, which in some circles passes for wisdom.   
 
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