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Worst Italian General of the War

#1 User is offline   Jim H 

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Posted 07 April 2003 - 01:24 AM

Ma55imo
CS Forum Member
Posts: 4
(11/22/01 8:37:36 pm)
195.92.194.12
| Del which one?
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Lupo,
Which commander in Somalia? Graziani was there himself...

Ennio
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 108
(11/23/01 5:09:52 am)
208.161.248.20
| Del Somalian "warlord"
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Graziani was there in '36. Lupo means the other one (I also forgot the name) who not only managed to loose Somalia to the advancing British under Cunningham almost without a fight, but who also made a certain proposal to the Duke of Aosta that prompted the Duke to threaten him with this phrase " Another word, General, and I'll have court martialled!" (heard by many witnesses). Recently released British documents suggest that the proposal consisted in the replacement by the Aosta branch of the House of Savoy on the throne in Italy, in exchange for the handing over of AOI to Britain, and in particular, for not taking any offensive initiative against Egypt. The Duke refused, but in essence complied with the main request. His very convenient early death as a British POW has certainly deprived historians of interesting details......

halconrojo314
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 32
(11/23/01 6:07:06 am)
193.243.161.92
| Del Hard to pick just one
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Badoglio's overall supervision of the army was surely lacking, but I wonder if anyone would have done any better. I wanted to vote him for the way he managed (or better the way he did not manage) the armistice, but than I decided that was a political matter as well as a military one. In military planning I think the worst performance came from Visconti Prasca because of his planning (which planning?) of the Greek campaign.


halconrojo314
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 33
(11/23/01 6:17:40 am)
193.243.161.92
| Del Poor Graziani
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May I play the part of Graziani's advocate? He obviously did not perform well in the desert, but we should consider the overall situation as well: Ennio correctly pointed out he could have shown more initiative, but he had orders to wait to launch his offensive until Britain was being invaded by the Germans. Than, when Saelion never materialised, he was very reluctanto to attack, but the Italian Intelligence (which overestimated British troops in the area by a ridiculous factor) did not help him at all. Finally his army could do nothing to prevent the loss of Cyrenaica: true, he could have restructured it, but which Italian General, at the time (we are talking about 1940, not 1942) had a correct apreciation of the mobile nature of war in the desert?


Ma55imo
CS Forum Member
Posts: 5
(11/23/01 8:49:47 am)
217.34.252.2
| Del aha
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Ennio, I think I know the one you refer to. I can't remember his name (and my copy of Del Boca is in Addis Ababa) but I think I remember he was only in charge of the Oltregiuba military region, and not of all of Somalia...I'll check.

Ennio
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 109
(11/23/01 9:08:56 am)
195.46.247.95
| Del Re: The worst one....
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No, Halcon. Nobody can blame Graziani for being what he was, even if in some occasions he stood above the average level of his peers. For example, when Governor and CINC on the Somalian Front during the Ethiopian War, he ignored the Comando Supremo and decided to take an offensive attitude, basing his logistics on the US equipment that his civilian role as Governor enabled him to buy ( Caterpillar tractors, Ford trucks, all complete with US fuel), bypassing the sclerotic logistics of the Ministries in Rome and BTW spending a fraction of the money that Italian industry would have asked.
The "black beast" of the story is definitely Badoglio, who was Chief of Staff from 1925 to 1940, an enormous length of time, and who had the final say on the entire structure of the Armed Forces, including doctrine, selection of officers, armaments, for all that time, impregnating the whole military environment with his ambiguous personality and his careerism.
But in addition to Badoglio, his "protectors" are equally to blame. Protectors that ensured that an insignificant Leutenant Colonel in 1915 ended up as Army General in 1918, despite having been heavily involved in the disaster of Caporetto, despite having been declaredly anti-fascist in 1922, protectors that were able to ram him down Mussolini's throat in 1925. Everybody knew that the King was behind him, but nobody has been able to find out WHY.

Lupo Solitario
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 144
(11/23/01 4:24:04 pm)
151.26.147.127
| Del Re: The worst one....
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Hi all...wow, it seems that a joke is becoming a really interesting debate....I'm pleased
I launched it in two minutes affording only on memory, now I can be more precise.
Logically, the number of candidates to the title of "worst general of WWII" was larger, I've chosen men in command of the four bigger italian defeats, i.e.
- the attack to greece in october 1940
- the loss of cyrenaica in december 1940-january 1941
- the fall of somalian front in february-march 1941 (which leaded to the loss of entire AOI)
- the distruction of ARMIR in winter 1942-43
plus the responsible of italian preparation before war. If someone wants to indicate other alternatives, feel free to do

told this, I want to tell:

the commander of Somalian front was general De Simone, the formal name of his command was effectively Juba Sector but I think that if we talk of somalian or kenian front we all know what we're talking about i.e. of how this front fall in few days opening way to the interior of AOI. Ennio has done a bit of confusion: the general who proposed surrender to the Duke was gen. Pesenti who at the moment (end of December 1940) was in command of Juba Sector. After it, he was dimissioned by the duke and sent immediately in Italy; his place was taken by named De Simone.
Redhawk is right: the question was about behavoir as general and Badoglio in September 8th opearated as politician. But he had great responasbilities in years preceeding war. Not only he had seated on the supreme military leadership seat for over 15 years (find me another military having done the same) doing nothing but promoting his ring of friends but his ideas had a real negative impact. For example, he was shocked by the the complexity and number of resources needed to conquer ethiopia in 1936. As a reaction, he launched an obsessive pressure on "lightness" of forces and centralized control of resources creating a so effectiveless logistic system that italian troops were constntly unsupplied for entire war.
Badoglio is an interesting subject and his capabilty to survive quakes has always wondered also me.
Graziani had effectively few choices but employed bad what he had
Gariboldi is a blank good only as yesman of germans...the action of 8th army command in russia shines for his absence

to the next

bye

Lupo

Carrista
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 79
(11/24/01 12:18:00 am)
141.153.184.4
| Del Re: The worst one....
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I have to go with Badoglio. The others on the list may have been incompetent but his handling of the surrender was criminal as well as cowardly. He, with the king, should have anticipated the German reaction and had planned accordingly. There should have been some attempt to secure the frontier and start a organized withdrawal from the Balkans.

Ennio
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 112
(11/25/01 5:45:15 am)
195.46.246.34
| Del Re: The worst one....
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I wouldn't single out Badoglio for his handling of the Armistice. After all, there he behaved just like he did at Caporetto, but loosing a Nation instead of just an Army.
What makes him (and his unknown protectors) an unprecedented disaster was his grab and hold of power over the Forces, transforming an Army which had come out with a measure of credit and with self-confidence from WW I into a bureaucratic Organization where assumption of responsibilities, initiative, drive, energy, where frustrated as much as possible. My feeling has always been that promotion by merit was feared like the plague because it would have brought to the top Officers who could not be controlled by the occult "protectors" and did not owe everything to Badoglio and Partners. Even Officers that did not belong to his clique were placed in position of command only if they could be blackmailed for their shady relationships with industry ( Cavallero, for example) or because they were such insignificant characters as to be considered "safe" (Gariboldi comes to mind) in the political game, the only one that mattered, and in which the Monarchy played the role of a Party, rather than that of a focus of loyalty, a referee that was also a player (we've seen that again later with the Scalfaro presedency). The result is that he lost not only the war (it happens even in the best families...) but he sunk the Monarchy, and with it the Italian Armed forces, for at least some generations, and perhaps forever.

Carrista
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 81
(11/26/01 1:09:50 am)
141.153.183.108
| Del Re: The worst one....
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If we were to look at responsibility for a specific action, then it would have to be the disaster of the surrender, and here I would point the finger at Badoglio. But if we are to take a longer view on the formation (or lack thereof) of the army after WW I, then I think we should take a closer look at the role of the king. Even under Mussolini, the king had the ultimate responsibility for the army. The army continued to be a royalist institution throughout the Fascist period. Either out of hisown incompitence or because political considerations were more important than building a first-class army, it was ultimately the king who put Badoglio et al. in charge.

Ennio
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 113
(11/26/01 4:38:55 am)
208.161.248.20
| Del Mistery
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No doubt about the role of the King in the whole story, but the real historical question is why did the King pick an insignificant individual as Badoglio , a mere LTC at the start of WW I - (the mobilized Army had thousands of them) of obscure middle class origins, with no distinctions that could have attracted the attention of Court circles, nothing. Or at least nothing known. But there must have been, otherwise........

lele
CS Forum Member
Posts: 1
(12/11/01 1:09:36 am)
198.141.197.3
| Del Re: Mistery
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Ennio, If we dig in the dirt, the answer that pops up
should be linked to "Massoneria"...

What do you think?
Ciao

Ennio
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 115
(12/11/01 4:21:06 pm)
195.46.246.3
| Del Re: Mistery
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Yes, that was repeatedly said. But at the beginning of WW I how many thousand LTC were Free Masons? I think a lot, if not most of them. (It was fashionable, at the time)

Giovanni Emmanuelle
CS Forum Member
Posts: 11
(12/15/01 10:16:21 pm)
200.59.81.8
| Del Re: Mistery
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Could any other Free Mason ultimately behave differently from Badoglio?

Carrista
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 83
(12/17/01 10:36:09 am)
141.153.180.39
| Del Re: Mistery
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In citing a possible Masonic connection, are you stating that Masons were rather stupid as a whole, or are you implying something more nefarious?

Giovanni Emmanuelle
CS Forum Member
Posts: 12
(12/18/01 11:04:52 pm)
200.59.81.4
| Del Re: Mistery
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Masons sure are not stupid as a whole, so it might be something more nefarious. The goal of Freemasonry obviously was not the well-doing of Italy, at least at that point. So, any Freemason would have been different in the means but not in the goal. Neater and tidier, perhaps, but not ultimately different on the end.
Anyway, based on the knowledge I possess (or lack) I couldn't actually be sure Badoglio was a Mason. Perhaps he was just a plain moron... who gave Freemasonry's quite a help without even knowing.

G.E.

halconrojo314
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 34
(12/19/01 6:45:18 am)
161.114.126.52
| Del Something about Badoglio
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As far as I know Badoglio came in the spotlight for the first time in 1911 during the Italo Turkish war for an intelligence mission he accomplkished brilliantly. The battle which followed his reconeissance was not fortunate for the Italians and the commanding officer was removed, but Badoglio himself was promoted to the rank of captain. This was the first time the... gossip? truth? whatever... about a powerful masonic lodge protecting him came out. The story came out again after the disaster at Caporetto.
As for his responsibilities for Italian misfortune in WWII I think he was surely inadequate, outdated and superficial, but on the other hand was there anyone any better? After a careful consideration I think he was not the worst of the lot.


Ennio
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 125
(12/19/01 5:17:22 pm)
195.46.247.183
| Del Re: Something about Badoglio
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As usual, Halcon, I don't agree. Badoglio was a disaster before the war, when he molded the Army to his own likeliness. Messe was by far a better General, but.......Messe was a former sergeant! And a former Storm Tooper Commander in WW I. Not a "fine thinking head" of the Staff. And from Puglia (scum, these southerners!) and not a Free Mason.

halconrojo314
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 36
(12/20/01 4:39:34 am)
161.114.126.52
| Del Re: Something about Badoglio
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I am not denying Badoglio's responsibilities, but I think Messe was not a possible candidate to lead the Italian army in the 30's. Let's play alternative history and say Badoglio died of an heart attack in 1932, who could have taken his place?
Apart from this curiosity I think you underlined a very important point in a previous posting: the 30's were an era of technical and tactical experiments in Germany, USSR and Italy, but in Italy, for a number of causes, the more conservative approach prevailed. The king, Mussolini, Badoglio down to the last corporal, everybody thought WWII was going to resemble very closely WWI.

Ennio
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 126
(12/20/01 8:32:14 am)
208.161.248.20
| Del Experience
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Well, the "experimenting" did not take place at all in another Army, the one that Italy choose as model, i.e. the French, fresh from the glory of Verdun (and from having saved the Brits from a Caporetto of their own at Arras). Only a very acute observer would have noticed that the French themselves had failed to draw the real lesson of Verdun, i.e. that on the brink of disaster Staff Officers with no experience of real combat had to give way to somebody like Petain who had commanded in action a Regiment and a Brigade, seeing the spilled blood and guts, and feeling on his own nerve the effect of massed artillery. After WW I, the "chapelle" of the Staff had won again, bringing to the top people of the caliber of Gamelin and Weygand. In Italy, even somebody with a modern outlook like Italo Balbo considered Weygand a great General. Anyway, when the test came, Italy survived 3 years. France 30 days. The pupil was more resilient than the teacher?

halconrojo314
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 37
(12/20/01 9:34:41 am)
161.114.126.52
| Del Re: Experience
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I must say I know little about military history, but my impression is that Italy in the inerwar period was far more interested in new theories than France (or England). I could be totally wrong, but I believe italy was one of the first countries in the world to create airmobile units, to create a theory for a strategic approach to air war, to appreciate the benefits of a highly mechanised army etc. Than all this creativity was put aside...
But this time I will not allow myself to wonder and lose sight of the original point: who but Badoglio? Had he been sacked in the 30's, do you think one of his eligible colleagues (Bastico or Cavallero, maybe Graziani, everybody else was unaccebtably junior, De Bono was too old) would have done much better?

Ennio
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 128
(12/20/01 11:24:10 am)
208.161.248.20
| Del Good ones
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There was an attempt to reform the Army (Air Force and Navy went their own way....) by a brilliant Chief of Staff (Pariani or Baistrocchi? I haven't got my references at hand), who was said to have "a vivid, but stormy intelligence...." - That "stormy" is self-explanatory: he wanted to shake the tree, breaking the tranquil routine of the Staff. As he was an outsider of the Badoglio clique, he was forked out. Mussolini (who had appointed him trying to get something done) put up with it....

The war in Spain suggested that something like tank warfare may exist, but the "infantryman and the mule" remained the basic dictum of all planning. The first Airborne unit was a creature of Balbo (with Lybian soldiers) and was created ignoring the Army Staff.
In the old Folgore Division, it was rumoured that the Commander, Gen. Farina, was the Commander because he was the only Italian General that had accepted a job that included jumping out of airplanes......

halconrojo314
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 41
(1/14/02 6:57:12 am)
161.114.126.52
| Del Balbo?
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I read in the early 30's Balbo dreamed of becoming Chief of Staff. I wonder how he would have performed in that role: he was surely more energetic than Badoglio, do you think he would have made a difference? And did he have any experience commanding big military units?
The gossip says Mussolini sent him to Libya instead because feared (disliked?) Balbo's popularity, but I think it is reasonable to assume the king and the military were not going to accept Balbo as a Chief of Staff (he would have been a political and not a technical appointment).
One final question: I read that Balbo had prepared the draft of a plan to invade Egypt in 1936 (in case Britain decided to wage war on Italy to defend Ethiopia). Has anyone ever seen that plan? Was it something like Graziani's offensive?

Eddy
CS Forum Veteran
Posts: 198
(1/14/02 10:38:29 pm)
206.47.15.2
| Del Re: Balbo?
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More like resentful of him. Balbo was more traveled than Mussolini. He was against the war from the start and advised against it. This was another reason for his “exile” to Libya. He also strongly opined that should Italy enter the war it should be on the side of the Americans. The site of their modern assembly lines and powerful industry along with his dislike or distrust of the Germans pushed him in this direction. I believe it was he who said that if Italy went to war with the Germans there wouldn’t be enough lamp post’s in Rome to hang them (fascists) all. I am unaware of any plan he had made for an invasion. To the contrary he tried to impress upon Mussolini how ill equiped the Italians were at the time. Infact I think he went as far as to describe the Italian army as barly being capable of defensive operations let alone offensive ones.

Eddy

Robert Jack
CS Forum Member
Posts: 11
(1/16/02 10:54:01 pm)
130.194.13.164
| Del Balbo
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They case of Balbo is very interesting-he was certainly the most talented of the leading fascists. He did propose to Mussolini in 1933 a plan to take over the running of all three armed services. His plan was to greatly reduce the size of the army down to around 20 divisions-thereby making it a small, well equipped and agile force that Italy could easily sustain. He then planned to greatly expand the naval and airforce, at the same time uniting all three services under the one ministery with himself as its head.

Not surprisingly, Mussolini refused his request and sent him packing to Libya. The offensive plans you mention were drawn up by Chief of Army Staff, but as Balbo was Govenor of Libya at the time (1935-6) he would have had some imput into them-in fact the whole idea may have initially come from him.

One of the most interesting 'what if's' of Italian military history is what would have happened if Mussolini had have allowed Balbo to take over the armed forces as Minister? Certainly a large navy and air force, at the expense of the army, was the most logical way for the Italian armed forces to be set-up.

RJ

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