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Italy WW2 - 6/3/2021 9:17:25 PM   
Lobster


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Does anyone know any good books covering Italy around the time the Allies reached the Gustav line?

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/4/2021 7:07:17 AM   
sPzAbt653


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No, but I will warn NOT to get 'Battleground Italy' by Franz Kurowski. It has a lot of detail but is poorly written and terribly organized to the point of being frustrating. There must be better books out there.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/4/2021 11:45:46 AM   
76mm


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It's been many years since I've read these books, but IIRC Thomas Brook's The War North of Rome and John Ellis' Cassino: The Hollow Victory were pretty good. There are some others that you might like if you are interested in strictly tactical accounts from that period rather than an operational level history.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/4/2021 3:20:28 PM   
Lobster


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Thanks. Seems Italy is fairly under represented when compared to France/Russia.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/4/2021 4:49:16 PM   
76mm


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Indeed, although frankly I don't really like reading about the theater, I find it rather dreary. There is another book that I could recommend, although it is a memoir rather than an operational history:

https://www.amazon.com/CAVALRYMANS-STORY-Hamilton-H-Howze/dp/1560986646/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=a+cavalryman%27s+story&qid=1622825120&s=books&sr=1-3

It covers Howze's experiences from North Africa through Northern Italy; he has a lot of anecdotes that I found very interesting, and often rather amusing.

Another book that might be worth checking out: https://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Decision-Anzio-Battle-Rome/dp/0060158905/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=carlo+d%27este&qid=1622825256&s=books&sr=1-3

I haven't read it, but read another book by the same author (Bitter Victory, about Sicily), and thought that it was very good.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/4/2021 5:03:28 PM   
golden delicious


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 76mm

Indeed, although frankly I don't really like reading about the theater, I find it rather dreary.


I was thinking that. A long series of not very impressive offensives which eventually force the Germans to withdraw to the next set of incredibly formidable natural obstacles.

There's not really much of an opportunity to create a mobile situation because of the terrain, and Clark managed to make enough of a hash of Anzio that there was never a sequel- and in any case the whole thing was eventually overshadowed by Overlord.

What would be an interesting- if formidable- what if would be if the Italians had broken with tradition and put up even the slightest resistance to having their still remarkably large army disarmed by the Germans after the Armistice. One could then end up with an extremely confused situation which could dissolve into the historic outcome or the Germans being promptly thrown out of everywhere south of the Po, or anything in between. As I understand it, apart from the usual deficiencies of the Italian army, no-one in the high command had bothered to make any preparations whatsoever to resist the Germans after the Armistice- at least nothing beyond making sure sufficient transport was in place to remove the high command itself from harm's way. Certainly most of the headquarters seem to have learned of the Armistice from news broadcasts, rather than their chain of command.

< Message edited by golden delicious -- 6/4/2021 5:04:56 PM >


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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/4/2021 5:45:26 PM   
Zovs


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Not a book but one of my scenario modifications.

The intro(ish):










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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/4/2021 9:35:40 PM   
carll11


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 76mm

It's been many years since I've read these books, but IIRC Thomas Brook's The War North of Rome and John Ellis' Cassino: The Hollow Victory were pretty good. There are some others that you might like if you are interested in strictly tactical accounts from that period rather than an operational level history.



Ellis's book is excellent imho...;)

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/5/2021 12:49:47 AM   
rhinobones

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Lobster

Thanks. Seems Italy is fairly under represented when compared to France/Russia.


Take a look at 1940 Battle of Pindus. Italian operations in Greece.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/5/2021 10:56:40 AM   
Rescue193

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Lobster

Does anyone know any good books covering Italy around the time the Allies reached the Gustav line?



"Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War"; James Holland, HarperPress, London, paperback edition 2009.

Personally I'm not enamoured of Holland's prose style - but that's just me. Part I, set the wider scene in-theatre (both politically and strategically) and discusses the trials and tribulations that the Allies faced in getting to the Gustave line. Chapters 9-15 deal with breaking the Gustave Line itself through to the Fall of Rome.


"Monte Cassino: Ten armies in Hell"; Peter Caddick-Adams, Preface Publishing, London, 2012.

As the title suggests the book deals specifically with the battles (virtually a campaign in itself) at Monte Cassino.

Holland's book covers a much broader tableau than the Gustave Line itself. It puts the whole Italian campaign in context so, understandably, its less specific about individual actions. Caddick-Adams' book concentrates (obviously) on Monte Cassino but it doesn't neglect the wider campaign to take the Gustave Line. For the same reason the maps are better and more detailed.





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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/5/2021 11:24:01 AM   
Lobster


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Thanks for all the suggestions. Big help.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/6/2021 10:47:20 AM   
sithlord_shag

 

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Lobster, If I recall correctly the New Zealand official history has some good material in it. I'm not sure though of its been digitised like the Australian official history.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/6/2021 2:21:22 PM   
76mm


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quote:

ORIGINAL: sithlord_shag
Lobster, If I recall correctly the New Zealand official history has some good material in it. I'm not sure though of its been digitised like the Australian official history.

I read these about 15 years ago, and they were digitized (and free) even then. There are indeed some excellent accounts in them, although they are more tactical-level (regimental histories, etc.) than operational.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/7/2021 8:00:43 PM   
StuccoFresco

 

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quote:

rge army disarmed by the Germans after the Armistice. One could then end up with an extremely confused situation which could dissolve into the historic outcome or the Germans being promptly thrown out of everywhere south of the Po, or anything in between. As I understand it, apart from the usual deficiencies of the Italian army, no-one in the high command had bothered to make any preparations whatsoever to resist the Germans after the Armistice- at least nothing beyond making sure sufficient transport was in place to remove the high command itself from harm's way. Certainly most of the headquarters seem to have learned of the Armistice from news broadcasts, rather than their chain of command.


This is not what happened. The king and high command delivered instructions to big units' commanders about what to do and how, covering almost all units on the field. Thing is: those officers mostly just fled leaving their units with no instructions. Lower officers and soldiers were left without orders and superiors, with no means to contact anyone in time, and mostly disbanded thinking the war was over.

I'm not accusing you of ignorance, though, because this has been discovered only relatively recently here in Italy and it is still known only to a tiny minority of people who had access to the research. To the general public and even to history teachers, the disbanding of the Army is still pinned on the king and higher-ups.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/8/2021 12:29:33 PM   
golden delicious


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quote:

ORIGINAL: StuccoFresco

This is not what happened. The king and high command delivered instructions to big units' commanders about what to do and how, covering almost all units on the field. Thing is: those officers mostly just fled leaving their units with no instructions. Lower officers and soldiers were left without orders and superiors, with no means to contact anyone in time, and mostly disbanded thinking the war was over.

I'm not accusing you of ignorance, though, because this has been discovered only relatively recently here in Italy and it is still known only to a tiny minority of people who had access to the research. To the general public and even to history teachers, the disbanding of the Army is still pinned on the king and higher-ups.


The principle fact of the matter is that the Italian army- which on paper was still quite formidable- ceased to exist in a matter of days. The Germans for their part were prepared for the prospect of their forces in southern Italy being wiped out- which suggests an alternative outcome was not impossible. As a hypothetical, it serves to make the Italian campaign a good deal more interesting.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/13/2021 2:15:12 PM   
sithlord_shag

 

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There is much that is interesting about the Italian army and the Italian campaign. Some huge possibilities, the big one being being the arguments around it de-railing Citadel and Albert Speer's report of Hitler's take on what the allies should have done.

Aside from that stuff, I have been doing a bit of research on it for a scenario I'm writing. The campaign on the peninsula form part of it. I've not quite got to the nitty gritty on the Italian surrender. There are some excellent recent accounts of the Italian armed forces one of which goes into quite the deep dive about the army called HITLER'S ITALIAN ALLIES: Royal Armed Forces, Fascist Regime, and the War of 1940–43.

It paints a damning picture of the whole system from the top to the bottom. But what is quite clear is that the individual infantryman was the least of the problems. It is amazing is how the average Italian soldier put up with the problems. People should also be careful to not be too misled by the mass surrenders with Operation Compass. The army was effectively immobile, badly supplied and led by the likes of Annibale Bergonzoli.

When you look at the bigger picture it is really interesting at how the Balkans sucked the life out of the army. The defence of Italy was heavily compromised because of the mess there. The part of the army actually in Italy at the time of the surrender in 43 was dwarfed by what was in the Balkans. Italy raised 69 regular infantry divisions in the war and had 35 of them on long term deployment to Yugoslavia and Greece. It managed to leech 4 of them back in late 42 to Italy and with some of the newer raised divisions managed to fix up a defence of the homeland along with the questionable coastal divisions. It burnt from recollection about 12 divisions in North Africa (not counting the armoured and motorised units), 6 in Russia and eventually had 5 in Sicily and just to demonstrate how stupid the higher command was it wasted another 5 guarding Sardinia and Corsica.

You start to see how its position in North Africa was affected by the Balkans. The few divisions replacing the losses in NA had to be scraped out of the French occupation. In the end I count 9 regular infantry divisions in Italy post sicily, not counting the Coastal divisions and some of the other units. With the 6 German divisions the picture could have well been very different at Salerno.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/13/2021 2:59:50 PM   
golden delicious


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quote:

ORIGINAL: sithlord_shag

It paints a damning picture of the whole system from the top to the bottom. But what is quite clear is that the individual infantryman was the least of the problems.


This keeps coming up- and by all means the cards were stacked against the Italians- but it really is remarkable how the Italians have been walked over in war after war after war for centuries, right up to the present day (I heard somewhere that UN peacekeepers in Somalia learned not to expect much if they were deployed alongside an Italian contingent).

There was some 19th century Italian king who was asked his preference for the colour of the new uniforms "...whatever colour you like. They'll run away just the same"

quote:

When you look at the bigger picture it is really interesting at how the Balkans sucked the life out of the army.


I think the life was gone long before the Italians got involved in the Balkans. If you want excuses for the Italians, you should start with the colossal expense of intervention in the Spanish Civil War and the simultaneous campaign in Ethiopia. At a time when Italy's rivals were pouring vast sums into modernising their militaries, Italy was stuck fighting with her c. 1935 military because there was no money left over from all these adventures.

< Message edited by golden delicious -- 6/13/2021 3:01:22 PM >


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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/13/2021 4:23:55 PM   
sithlord_shag

 

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Well GD, in terms of the Balkans it meant that there was just nothing to send elsewhere when they needed to. So from a high level ops view, they were overcommitted in a disastrous way.

Certainly you are correct that division for division, you were not getting much. For starters, the two regiment structure, the artillery meant your combat power against a commonwealth division was very sub-par. And thats not getting to the appalling equipment, flawed doctrine, misuse of its resources etc.

The problems were so bad, and I agree with the author of that book, that trying to disentangle cause and effect is really too difficult. So yes, it really was that bad. As the author also points out, how could Japan with less than twice Italy's total industrial potential outproduce it in terms of aircraft and ships quantity and quality.

There is a fatal flaw in your argument on the the civil war and Ethiopia. You are assuming that there was some type of logical, thinking entity operating and guiding. It was not. This was the same army that never addressed the problem of its soldiers feet by issuing a sock, a military industrial complex so incompetent that its tanks could be knocked out with an actual hurled stone. If they had extra money they would have spent it on some useless crap like continuing to staff a cavalry school/college with 3500 assigned personnel up to the day of surrender.

The money question does not even come close to explaining the systemic problems of the army. In the interwar period it spent more of national income than most other powers but here again is the absurdity of the thinking. During the war it actually shrank its military expenditure as % of GDP??????? WTF!!!

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/14/2021 8:55:36 AM   
golden delicious


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quote:

ORIGINAL: sithlord_shag

Well GD, in terms of the Balkans it meant that there was just nothing to send elsewhere when they needed to. So from a high level ops view, they were overcommitted in a disastrous way.


It's unclear why this would be, though. If one looks at what the Germans deployed to the Balkans, even what one would nowadays call a "surge" against the various guerrilla groups would only tie down a handful of first-class divisions. Certainly there's no reason for the Italians to have half or more of their regular army in the Balkans.

quote:

There is a fatal flaw in your argument on the the civil war and Ethiopia. You are assuming that there was some type of logical, thinking entity operating and guiding. It was not. This was the same army that never addressed the problem of its soldiers feet by issuing a sock, a military industrial complex so incompetent that its tanks could be knocked out with an actual hurled stone. If they had extra money they would have spent it on some useless crap like continuing to staff a cavalry school/college with 3500 assigned personnel up to the day of surrender.

The money question does not even come close to explaining the systemic problems of the army. In the interwar period it spent more of national income than most other powers but here again is the absurdity of the thinking. During the war it actually shrank its military expenditure as % of GDP??????? WTF!!!


Really it all boils down to Italy (despite Mussolini's pretensions) not really being a nation in the sense that France, Germany and Britain- and even countries like Poland or Turkey- are nations. One does not get the sense of tens of millions of people all pulling in the same direction: rather everyone is trying to take advantage of everyone else for their own local or personal concerns. The result was the incredible disaster of the Italian war effort.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/14/2021 11:17:45 AM   
sithlord_shag

 

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The whole Balkans thing was unknown to me until I started to do a bit playtesting on the scenario i was working on. The 40-41 pummelling got worse as the PO ground away at the remains of the Italians and than swallowed the DAK. I started to think about why they were not getting the replacements to shore it all up so I got out my copy of Ellis and started to a bit research on were the rest of the army was. Sure enough its sitting there in the Balkans or waiting to go. In some cases in early 41 they were actually sitting on divisions, un-deployed like the 32 ID as things disintegrated in NA. As far as I am aware, available transport to NA was not a problem.

So thats when I started to think over, exactly along the same lines you are, as to why the hell would you need 50% of the field army there??? So I had a look at what was around and got my hands on The Italian Army in Slovenia
Strategies of Antipartisan Repression, 1941–1943 by an Italian historian. I've read the first few chapters, and the distinct hint that I am getting is that 35 divisions was not enough lol.

In terms of the other matter you raise, you absolutely hit the nail on the head. Malcolm Knox argues the same thing that it was too divided by culture, ethnicity and a lack social cohesion. Its a bit more complicate than that but personal concerns as opposed to public concerns dominated decision making to their ultimate detriment.

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RE: Italy WW2 - 6/14/2021 1:22:45 PM   
golden delicious


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quote:

ORIGINAL: sithlord_shag

So thats when I started to think over, exactly along the same lines you are, as to why the hell would you need 50% of the field army there??? So I had a look at what was around and got my hands on The Italian Army in Slovenia
Strategies of Antipartisan Repression, 1941–1943 by an Italian historian. I've read the first few chapters, and the distinct hint that I am getting is that 35 divisions was not enough lol.


I can't imagine there were more than about twelve million people under Italian occupation in the Balkans, and a good chunk of that was supposed to be the pro-Axis Croatian regime. I really think it has more to do with keeping a good chunk of the Italian army out of harm's way. For comparison, when they launched Barbarossa there were only eight German divisions in the entire Balkans, most of which were two-regiment garrison divisions which had only been organised two months earlier while the occupation of the Balkans was still in progress.

With regard to North Africa, it might indeed have been feasible to ship more troops to Tripoli but there was a sharp limit on how much could be supported out to the Egyptian frontier based on the available motor transport.

< Message edited by golden delicious -- 6/14/2021 1:28:37 PM >


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