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27 January 2016 - 03:42 PMI recently received and finished reading Emanuele Sica's Mussolini's Army in the French Riviera. The book was published as part of the University of Illinois Press's The History of Military Occupation series. Sica offers an examination the Italian involvement in France after the June 1940 surrender during WW2 war, first addressing the Italian demilitarized zone, then later the Italian occupation zone. I would rank it as a specialist’s book, offering a chronology of events and some details, but understanding it was an introduction to a complex topic more than a definitive work. A major theme is his challenge to the idea that the occupation was shaped more by ‘Italiani Brava Gente’ rather than polices and goals set by the Italian government. After I finished the book, I wondered if the Italian occupation had any real impact on the war. I would need to answer no. Besides the added strain on the Regio Esercito to garrison the area, the occupation had little real impact, if any on the war.
In his introduction, Sica states that his analysis will examine the occupation at three different levels; as historical sociology rather than using a purely national framework; the structural effects of occupation on the occupied society's environmental and living conditions; and the face-to-face interactions between occupiers and occupied peoples (pg 9). All three levels would include a compare/contrast between the Italian occupation of France, the German occupation of France, and the Italian occupation of the Balkans. While this sounds good, its usefulness was mixed. Sica didn’t do as much of this compare/contrast as he could have; the reader requires a decent background on the other two military occupations to fully understand the context; and the long-term effects of the points compared weren’t offered to the reader (how well did the different/similar approaches work in German occupied France and Italian occupied Balkans). One topic where the compare/contrast worked well is when Sica shows that the Italians could be ruthless, using their occupation of the Balkans to illustrate this point. This reinforces his theme that that it was conditions, polices, and cultural similarities, more than ‘Italiani Brava Gente’, that shaped the nature of the occupation in France. This was a good point to highlight.
Sica does a good job in addressing the various aspects of the occupation using his three levels. He provides plenty of examples to support his points/comments. focus areas. These comments are well cited and endnoted, offering the reader a good 'first look' at the occupation. I wanted more of this type of detail. The endnotes are well worth reading.
What Sica brings to the reader is that the Italian occupation wasn’t a story about the armed resistance to the occupiers, but the legal battles waged between the Italian and Vichy governments and the simultaneous internal conflict between the Regio Esercito and the Commissione Italiana per l’Armistizo con la Francia (CIAF). Treaties, laws, and regulations were the weapons of choice, not arrests, round-ups, executions and the like. The first Italian soldier’s death due to partisan activity was on 27 April 1943, a surprising bit of information that contrasts sharply to the popular understanding of the French resistance. While there were earlier attacks, Sica documents that many of them were vendettas against individuals more that organized resistance. The similarities of the French and Italian peoples in terms of religion, culture, society, etc., combined with a careful/controlled use of regulations made this occupation distinctly different from others in Europe. Sica does provide some information on the Italian internment camps, including the harsh conditions and the sometimes arbitrary arrests that put people in the camps. The escape by French Jews from the Free Zone or from the German Occupation area into the Italian zone and their protection by the Italian occupation is another interesting point in this story. In all, the Italian long-term goals are examined, with discussions on how efficiently they were implemented and whether they were effective in achieving their objectives.
The negatives for me included the lack of hard information provided on garrison size, locations, equipment, etc. There was little discussion of repartitions, the push by Italy to gain access to French military equipment, or Italian demands on the French economic system. Given my interest is mainly military, I wanted a lot more on the activities of the military units. The November 1942 ‘invasion’ itself is addressed only with a very broad brush and the Italian involvement in the attempt to seize the French fleet is barely mentioned. The 1940 invasion and the results of the September 1943 surrender also lack detailed discussion. This is not a military history but more of a political/social history. Nothing wrong with this, just that any readers desiring a purely military examination of the occupation will be disappointed.
There was a lot of research supporting the book. For me, the bibliography, cites, and endnotes (66 pages for the latter) were the added spice to the book, adding detail and pointing out areas for further research. The maps were okay, the main issue was the lack of a clear map laying the location of the three lines detailed in the armistice. I have to refer to my copy of L’occupazione italiana dei territori metropolitan francesi (1940-1943) to clearly see these demarcations.
This is a niche area and this is the only book I am aware of in English that addresses this niche. If you have a strong desire to learn about this area of WW2 history, then I recommend this book. If you have a casual interest, then finding a library with the book is a better bet. If your focus is mainly military or you are a general WW2 reader, then I would recommend you should pass.
If you are a dedicated historian/researcher of the Italian involvement in the 2GM, then you should read this book.
Number of downloads: 4
04 November 2015 - 02:43 PMThe following maps are from, the Hellenic Staff history of the war. These maps depict the theater of operations and the Italian offensive.
Greece Map 4.jpg (1.26MB)
Number of downloads: 32
Greece Map 5.jpg (1.19MB)
Number of downloads: 32
Operations in the Pindos
Greece Map 6.jpg (1002.77K)
Number of downloads: 23
23 October 2015 - 07:17 PMI have been involved in a recent discussion here on Comando Supremo that touched on how history is written, revisionism, and biases. What I am providing here is a discussion of my basic thoughts on the historiography of the Italy military in the 2GM and how I approach my research. Others are more than welcome to discuss what I have posted and offer their own thoughts on Italy and the history of the war.
A little background. My research in the Italy military began in the early 70s and focused primarily on the Italian Navy (RM). By the late 70s my interests expanded to include the Italian Army (RE) and I pretty much purchased any book or sources I could in English. By the early 80s it became clear that any serious research needed to be done using Italian sources. By the end of the 80s I was collecting the Italian officials, an effort that still continues to this day. Added to those basic works are books in English, German and French that touch upon wartime Italy. So what are my conclusions about the historiography of the RE’s involvement in the 2GM?
1. That at the strategic/overview level, the Italian efforts are fairly depicted. One cannot escape the realization that Italy’s wartime military effort was marginal and many of the operations/campaigns had serious flaws in planning, resourcing, and execution. Italy lacked achievable strategic goals that could be won by war.
2. That the reasons normally given for 1 above in English sources tend to be wrong, misrepresented, or overly generalized. For example, a reason given all too often for Italian failure is the lack of fighting spirit of the soldiers, when in fact a closer examination demonstrates soldiers fighting bravely with inferior equipment and/or training.
3. That Italy’s successes tend to be downplayed or omitted. This is partly due in some part to lack of significance of those successes. Ariete’s success at Bir el Gubi in November 1941 ultimately didn't affect the outcome of Crusader. Part of this is also due to Allied biases. The fact that the Battle of Bir el Gubi doesn't get a detailed tactical when other battles due is partially due to bias.
4. While the bulk of RE equipment was serviceable, too often it was overmatched by the Allies (either in capability, quantity, or both). For example, the 47/32 cc gun was a good weapon in 1940, but couldn’t counter the use of Matilda IIs employed by the UK. The authorization of the 47/32 cc in Italian units was less than the A/T gun authorizations in comparable Allied units.
5. The RE wasn’t equipped for mobile warfare. The lack of mobility of the Italian formations basically insured significant losses when the enemy prevailed.
6. Senior leadership was generally marginal to poor and didn’t improve much over the course of the war.
There are quite a few exceptions to each of these points (except #1), but never enough to change the overall understanding. Regardless of how distorted a stereotype might be, there is always a grain of truth somewhere in it.
So what can be done? We can better explain why things happened without trying to ‘wish away’ that they happened. Large numbers of Italian soldiers did surrender to Allied forces during the war. We can clear away the distortions by presenting a better understanding of why it happened.
In the discussion I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the point being debated is whether Italy ‘won’, stalemated, or ‘lost’ the Greek campaign. For me, stating Italy won ‘wishes away’ the very real failures of this campaign. After all, if you achieve victory, then the cost was worth it. But that only works if you actually gain the benefits you fought for. Stating Italy won also ‘wishes away’ the German intervention that actually secured that ‘victory’. Without that involvement, Italy might not have ‘won’. Furthermore, the German involvement needed for victory was the main reason why Italy didn’t achieve any of it pre-campaign goals.
Just some thoughts for others to ponder.
17 October 2015 - 05:48 PMI am selling a set of Mario Montanari's La campagna di grecia published in 1980. This is the definitive history of the Regio Esercito during the Greek campaign.
This is a extra set (I am keeping one set) that has been in my library for years. Books are written in Italian. The set is soft-bound (as originally published, no hardback edition were ever printed). An abridged one volume reprint (~879 pages) titled L'Esercito Italiano nella campagna di Grecia was published in 1991. As you can see, more than half the material was cut.
Tomo I - Testo (narrative) 965 pages. Detailed presentation of the campaign from prewar planning to the fall of Greece in April 1941. Crete is not covered as the Italian Army didn't truly participate.
Tomo II - Documenti (documents) 1024 pages. 336 document including orders, memorandums, transcripts of meetings, etc.
Tomo III - Schizzi e fotografie (maps and photgraphs) 266 pages. 176 maps and sketches, many of them folding. 52 pages of photographs include some aerial and panoramic photos (several of the latter are folding).
No markings or underlines, etc. in the first two volumes. The third volume has pen & ink corrections based on the errata corrige sheet from the USSME. These are the only markings in the volume. A Xerox copy of the errata will be provided. There is normal edge wear. No missing or torn pages.
Price is 210 priority shipped in CONUS. $200 plus actual postage for overseas (shipping is likely to be in the $60-70 range for Europe). Condition is as seen in the attached picture. More pictures on request.
Italian Officials Grecia 001.jpg (1.01MB)
Number of downloads: 8
02 October 2015 - 07:41 PMI have posted an OOB for the Hellenic Army under OBs on the main page. If you have any new information to share and and/or spot some errors, please post yoiur comments here. As always, please provide a cite for your information.
I am working on similar document for the Italian Army as well as OBs for April 1941.