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What if Italy stayed neutral in World War 2

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by British-Empire, Mar 15, 2008.

  1. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    So in addition to staying neutral, how could Italy benefit from the collapse of France and concentrate its effort in North Africa only? In other words, did staying neutral mean Italy only fighting the UK in North Africa, making the combats a major conflict between two nations than a global war.
    More human and material resources that were present in Ukraine could be diverted accordingly to train, improve, improvise the technological, training, resources and other Italian disadvantages in North Africa. Italy sending technicians to Finland, Hungary and Romania would relieve the local people to fight for their respective local military. In Romania, Italian and Romanian technicians could join forces in developing products such as lubricants and self-propelled gun/tank destroyer hybrid. Those and Italian made two-way radios would be field tested in Finland and the Baltic areas where the Army Group North dragged on with the war with the Red Army. Finnish forces, armed with better minute equipments in combat could better their chances in pushing tactically further to potentially reach Kandalaksha during Operation Arctic Fox, even though Mannerheim declined Dietl's offer to push onto Belomorsk on the White Sea coast. Finnish Air Force near the beginning of Barbarossa were crowded with many foreign machines. Presence of Italian aircraft technicians could help maximizing their capability in maintenance by leaving Italian, German, American and captured Soviet aircraft in service and delivering some American and of the other nations to Italy. In other words, in North Africa, Italian aircrew in addition to Italian aircraft would operate American, British and French models. Analogously, armored vehicle maintenance crew would deliver a few model of captured British, French and Soviet models for investigation, research and refitting for service. As the Italian troops were fighting British (and American, eventually) anyway, any captured British equipment, ordnance could better be fitted with British models in service with the Italians, not to mention how Vichy French naval and land troops could act, locally to Italian interference.

    In a nutshell, the co-belligerent efforts would have better been coordinated to optimize their effects to each benefits: Italy holding on their own in North Africa, Romania taking Moldova, and Finland cutting the Murmansk Railway. However, somehow the would-be neutrality of Italy did not comprehensively achieve that goal.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    By staying neutral they might have been able to get some of what they wanted without fighting. Britain at one point was considering giving up Malta for instance. If doing so would have assured Italian neutrality they might have been willing to trade. Likewise some accommodations could have been possible in Africa. If Italy attacks British territory anywhere though they are no longer neutral. Fighting in the Balkans or elsewhere in Africa though would have been possible.
     
  3. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Does Germany need to do anything if Italy stays neutral? With no hot war in the Med the oil suppy from Romania would be less vulnerable I guess.


    It would help the UK a lot. The detrour around Africa reduced the amount of imports to the UK very badly.



    When was that? As you say attacking someone in the Med/Balkans is likely to get Italy into the Anglo-German war. The war Mussolini decided to stay out of.
     
  4. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The threat to the fields I was thinking of was from the East, not the South. Hitler will react to the USSR going into Moldovia and Bessarabia by sending troops to Rumania as he historically did, and Mussolini will not be happy about that.

    Ciano's diary entries for April and May 1940 mention a possible attack on Yugoslavia,
     
  5. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    An opportunistic idea to exploit the fact that the France and the UK can't intervene? I still think if the Italians had decided to stay out of this war they would most likely not have done something that could have dragged them into it.

    Trade with both sides, make a ton of money in the process, enjoy the good PR that comes from it and complete the modernisation of the Italian military. When was that supposed to be finished? 1942?
     
  6. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Staying neutral was apparently beneficial to the idea that the buying time meant improving Italian governance. Italy was in conflict with France and the UK in grabbing colonies and resources. Egypt and Sudan were the lands in-between Italian colonies. How would staying neutral help Italy achieve its goals?
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2017
  7. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Ok, how does Italy grab Egypt and Sudan?


    Not at all by the time France is falling IMO. Yes, it would have been the opportunity of a lifetime if the Italians had been prepared for it. But they weren't. The troops they had in Libya were 2nd rate even by Italian standards. Lots of light infantry and mostly static units too. Hardly the kind of troops one deploys to attack a well equipped enemy. But just what you need to deter or defeat an insurgency. The last one only ended in the early 1930s, so I guess that's what the Italians had planned. Keep the peace in Libya, not attack Egypt.

    Let's assume the Italians had realized they could not exploit the opportunity. The right troops are in the wrong place and by the time they are redeployed the war is over anyway. Much to the surprise of many the war didn't end soon after the Fall of France. Is that an opportunity for Italy?

    Generally speaking yes, but attacking Egypt at this point is again a bad idea IMO. The British victory in the BoB shows two things: one they have plenty of fight left in them and two the Germans can’t defeat them quickly. Furthermore the British garrison in Egypt is stronger and keeps getting reinforced. I don’t think the Italians could have rushed troops to eastern Libya fast enough to beat the defensive build-up of the British. And even if, how do you supply a large motorized/armoured force operating near the Egyptian border? As history showed that was very difficult given the Libyan infrastructure.


    IMO best thing to do would have been to follow the example of the USA in WW1: sit tight and wait until the British are hanging in the ropes and then attack but with a properly modernized Italian military.
     
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  8. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Thank you for these assessments.

    Meanwhile in modernizing their military, would they send machinery, technicians and special forces to nations in need? Say sending Italians aircraft and some their maintenance crews to Finland in exchange for British and French aircraft. Finnish airforce would be operating with aircraft from a lesser mix of nations of origins: the USA, the USSR (captured), Italy and Germany, which lessen the strain on maintenance with machinery parts. Italian military manufacturers would be familiar with British and French designs to develop machinery superior to both. The Italian maintenance crews in Finland would work with Italian and German designs; Finnish on US, Soviet. As Finland received help from British and US anyway, their crews familiarity with these designs definitely help.

    Similarly, Italian crews on their own design and German would fast track recovery of airplanes and their realization of the better liquid cooled DB engines. If the Italian leadership would also act accordingly -- doubtful according to other posters' ideas -- the Italian airforce in Italy would quickly switch to German engines. Then tactically, the Italian air support on the ground in North Africa would be better.

    Please note, these tidbits of improvements would NOT change the big picture enough to reverse the flood of Allied machines because numbers mattered very very much. However, given Italian neutrality, the boosted Italian machinery and leadership would allow greater freedom for Italy to play both sides to its own benefit. In other words, Italians industry would receive foreign technology from the nations in combat.

    However, did being neutral also mean not engaging in fight just one nation -- the Britain? The idea would still be the push from Libya to clear Egypt and Sudan for Italy.

    Sorry for typos
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
  9. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    Trade with Finnland looks very much possible. It can be done via Germany who was first not opposed to Finnland and than an ally. Plane-wise the early Italian fighters(CR42, G50, C200) were not that good but the global demand for fighters exceeded the supply. Meaning 2nd rate is still way better than nothing and its not like the mighty Finns needed 1st rate fighters anyway. ;)

    But how does Italy get British aircraft? Part of a trinagle trade? Italy delivers the planes and the UK pays? Britain was ok with arming Finnland before the Continuation War but I don't know if that meant selling or giving away for free. Anyway until after the BoB the Brits didn't have many planes to spare and even afterwards I'm not sure they'd give the Italians Spitfires.

    Not that the Italians needed them. They had good designs but not the right engines until they produced the DB 605.
     
  10. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    Sorry if I keep pushing my ideas. Say so if you readers do not want so.
     
  11. knightdepaix

    knightdepaix Member

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    The Italians had DB601 and DB605 engines under licences. For this what-if thread, could Italy had developed machinery -- engines for example -- given the neutrality?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_Air_Force#Continuation_War_1941.E2.80.9344
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morane-Saulnier_M.S.406#Finnish_variants

    About aircraft, Germany donated Finland few Curtiss Hawk 75s that had been captured in Norway and France. Finland bought from Germany tens of French Morane-Saulnier 406s and 411s. For the what-if scenario, Italy being neutral allow Finland to exchange Finnish older Bristol Blenheim and Curtiss Hawks for Italian own second rate aircraft. Without taking the Hurricanes that the Finns directly got from the British, Italy did not severe the advantage of neutrality. Or did it?

    Along the same reasoning, could Italy buy a captured KV1 and T28 tanks for research or reverse engineering from Finland without severing the neutrality?

    I think Italy concentrating their fight in North Africa and Mediterranean would be better off than diverting some military might to fight in the SU. If the Italian military and industrial leadership had realized weaknesses, the men that fought in Russia would have filled the ranks of combat, communication, manufacturing and maintenance for the North African and Mediterranean theater. Could the concentration of effort and modernization of the industry help?
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2017

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