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Hitler's Italian Allies, A Book Review

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by belasar, Apr 1, 2011.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Hitler's Italian Allies, Royal Armed Forces, Fascist Regime, and the war of 1940-1943
    By MacGregor Knox
    Cambridge University Press, 2000, 207 pages
    Amazon New, From $20.46, Used, From $9,55

    This slim volume attempts to explain why the Duce's Fascist Italy faired so poorly in WWII, despite the fact that Italy under Mussolini had nearly a generation to prepare for the war it had so eagerly sought. Conventional wisdom has set down that the Italian soldier lacked the training, equipment, and the will to fight. While true why is it so?

    Mussolini came to power in late 1922 much as Hitler did in 1933 in Germany. He was asked to form a government by King Victor Emmanual III to bring political stability to Italy. The Duce, like many leading Italian politician's felt that Italy must become a great power like Britain or France, and the only way to achieve this was through a great war. Italian leadership understood that the limitations on Italy in industry, and power generation as well as the need to import large amounts of coal and oil precluded a long war. They must have a short, victorious war or were doomed to defeat.

    Realizing what they needed was as far as they got. Just about every choice they made to prepare for this war was wrong. The Army thought a large, slow moving mass of Infantry was the key to victory. The Navy built large Battleship's they could not provide enough fuel to operate, the Air Force adheared to the theory of strategic bombing but built bombers unable to preform the task and fighters unable to escort.

    The biggest problem was that Mussolini was no Hitler. Hitler took complete power with the passing of Hindenburg, but Mussolini was always subject to recall by the King. The Military was a Royal one, not one that swore loyalty to the Duce. Industry could and did act to maximise their profits and power at the expence of quality equipment and needs of the state. Mussolini lacked both the power and the will to force these reluctent organs of state and industry to toe the line. These and other factors are explored.

    Italy as a great power was a fantasy, but most problem's were self inflicted and there seems no reason why Italy could not have been a credible 2nd class power, with some influence on their fate.

    This book left me wanting a bit more, not because it was not good, but because it was, and because there is so little in english on wartime Italy available. I consider it a worthy addition to my collection and can reccomend it to anyone wishing to learn more than the popular myths about the Duce's last war.

    BR-VIII
     
    sniper1946 likes this.
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Agreed. Some interesting details and easy to read, but a bit short. Worth buying still. If you can get in your hands F.W Deakin´s " The brutal friendship: Mussolini,Hitler and the fall of Italian fascism" then there´s a whole lot more to read on the subject...
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I will try to get hold of those books, the subject is finally being explored in Italy by historians more intersted in finding what was went wrong than in politics but we are far from having a "defniitive" work. The self-serving nature, and incompetence, of a lot of Mussolini's regime key figures is staggering. One big problem is that a lot of them, especially amongst industrialists and military, retained a lot of power after the war and did their best to put all the blame on the dead.

    BTW I wouldn't call Mussolini being no Hitler a "problem", Mussolini's biggest limitation was not that he lacked power or ruthlessness, what he lacked was the ability to see reality beyond his own propaganda. He did have a lot, if not absolute, power but contrary to Hitler, (and even more Stalin) he didn't get involved in the details, giving a free rein to incompetence and corruption with the result of having an ineffective force despite the large amounts of money spent.
     
  4. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    I agree in general with belasar's review; I believe they are literature on specific topics, say on Mannerheim, Horthy and Antonescu. For Antonescu, how about Hitler's Forgotten Ally: Ion Antonescu and His Regime, Romania 1940–1944 ?

    http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/606
     
  5. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    I am comparing three sources on the performance of Semovente 75/18 self propelled gun that had been used as tank destroyer.

    Information from books:
    Websites
    Information on websites appears to shade more positive views on the performance than that on the book. Is there particular reason for that appearing so?
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I thought assault guns were there to provide direct fire.
     
  7. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Some other books on the similar contents: why and/or how Fascist Italy failed with its objectives.

    Burgwyn, H. James. Mussolini Warlord Failed Dreams of Empire, 1940-1943. Enigma Books, 2012.
    Mussolini Warlord: Failed Dreams of Empire, 1940-1943 by H. James Burgwyn

    Harrison, Mark, and Vera Zamagni (et al.). “Italy: How to Lose the War and Win the Peace.” The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
    The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison by Mark Harrison
     

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