March – Mussolini meets Hitler near the Brenner Pass. Hitler used this meeting to strike at Mussolini’s ego and convince him to join the war. He motioned to Mussolini that if he wanted Italy to be a second
rate power in the Mediterranean, then forget about going to war. But if he wants to bring his nation to glory, then join Germany in the defeat of France and England. This was too much for Mussolini to hear. He accepts Hitler’s offer to join the war only if Germany’s attack on France was successful. He again motioned to Hitler that Italy was still not prepared to join a war that could last 3 to 4 years. Hitler accepts Mussolini’s offer, knowing that at least the burden of fighting another front was gone.
April 9 – Mussolini received word from the German ambassador that Germany had invaded Norway and Denmark. Although Mussolini welcomes the news, he was resentful that he was kept in the dark.
Nevertheless, he gives a speech applauding the German triumphs.
May 10 – German troops conquer Belgium and Holland en route to France. Mussolini realizes that the time was coming for him to act as he promised in support of Germany and the Pact of Steel.
June 10 – Italy declares war on France and England. Mussolini saw France’s imminent surrender and decided to reap some of the spoils of France. In order to do this, he needed to absorb as much French land as possible. Mussolini had interest in obtaining Nice, Corsica, French Somaliland and Tunisia. Italy masses 32 divisions on the French border and commences an attack. These divisions were severely under equipped whose artillery was outdated and did not even possess enough pots and pans to feed their troops. The Italians launched their initial attack through the Little Saint Bernard Pass in the Alps, but had to stop due to a massive snow storm. Another assault continued through the French Riviera towards Nice, but that too was stopped in Menton, only 5 miles inside France. By this time France was ready for an armistice with Germany.
June 12 – Italian Submarine Bagnolini sinks British Light Cruiser Calypso in the Mediterranean.
June 13 – Italian destroyer Strale sinks British submarine HMS Odin off Taranto.
June 14 – French naval forces bombard Genoa and Vado.
June 16 – British submarine HMS Grampus is sunk by Italian destroyers.
June 23 – British destroyer HMS Khartoum is sunk off Eritrea by Italian smg. (submarine) Torricelli.
June 24 – France falls to Germany. Mussolini insisted that a surrender be given to Italy as well or the fighting will continue. Hitler and France oblige. This was a fruitless victory, and the only thing Mussolini truly received was the knowledge that Germany can win wars without Italy’s assistance. Although the Italian Esercito made little progress in the 2 week war with France, the Regia Aeronautica was very productive. In 14 days, The Regia Aeronautica conducted 715 bomber sorties and dropped 276 tons of bombs, 1,337 fighter sorties were also carried out. See Italian Wings.
June 28 – Italian destroyer Espero is sunk off Bengasi by Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney.
July 4 – The start of a series of first moves by Italy that led to humiliating defeats of the British. Lt. Gen Guglielmo Nasi struck westward from Ethiopia into Sudan. They capture several border towns and arrive within 300 miles of Khartoum. Within 6 weeks, Nasi conquered British Somaliland, causing the British to evacuate from the Sea at Berbera.