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The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod

 
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The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 8/17/2021 6:09:57 PM   
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Italian Army is coming




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/4/2021 7:16:49 PM   
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1 Fasci di Combattimento

During the first half of this century, one nation, more than any other, excelled in these methods of modern statecraft in furthering its goals. For quite a lengthy period, Italy managed to maintain a political image out of all proportion to reality. The claims that were made by her leader-ship, notably by it Duce, Benito Mussolini, were to ring especially hollow in the aftermath of the destruction they brought upon their homeland. Yet many in Europe believed, or wanted to believe, the myth of a resurgent Rome in 1940. The Italian military had indeed fought bravely throughout the First World War, suffering several reverses but proving that it was capable of meeting the best that the Central Powers could mass against it. Still, the Italians felt cheated when the war ended. Prior to the beginning of WW1, Italy had been aligned with the Central Powers; but, she failed to uphold agreements with the empires of Germany and Austria-Hungary and remained neutral. The second year of the war, 1915, saw Italy declare war against her former allies and field forces along the northern and eastern borders; by 1918, the nation had suffered 462,000 military dead. When peace came, the Italian government, and her people, expected Italy to gain greatly from the collapse of the Austrian empire. Instead, it was—or felt it was—ignored and humiliated.
With the state left destitute by the cost and casualties of the war, and as the cost of living soaring, the people despaired. Political factions sprang up to voice all manner of dissent and to divide the government into competing splinters, making it in-capable of acting to correct the problems. One such, founded in Milan in 1919 by an ex-socialist, was the Fasci di Combattimento (Combat Groups). Growing from a small core of less than 200 founding members, by November 1921 it was to number over 300,000 and to achieve party status. It had been but May 1921 that Mussolini and some 35 other fascists had first been elected to public office. It was this new party that, the following year, would face down the growing chaos and seize the reins of control.



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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/5/2021 7:25:45 PM   
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2. Benito Mussolini

With the collapse of its sixth coalition government in three years, Italy was paralyzed by a general strike called by the Trade Union council and the Railwaymen's Union. Mussolini, as head of the Fascists, demanded that the government take action. When the king refused to give his approval to the Facta cabinet's proclamation of a state of emergency, the squadristi of the party moved in and took over the operation of vital services. The mail was delivered, the trains ran, farms were tilled, factories remained open; the Socialist-sponsored strike collapsed. In-stead of the planned protest march on Rome, a victory parade was held instead. On 29 October 1922, King Victor Emmanuel III called upon Benito Mussolini to form a new cabinet. At the age of 39, Mussolini was the youngest man to ever hold the office of Prime Minister of Italy. By and large, the Italian people now felt the nation was at last on the road to economic and political recovery—and indeed it was.
As Hitler would do in Germany in the '30s, Mussolini spent the 1920s melding the fortunes of domestic policy, foreign policy and the military of Italy into a single entity (only to lose all in a bid for dominance in the Mediterranean). Thus, the discussion here cannot but revolve around the role of the Italian army as reflected in the foreign policy of Italy, of the Fascists, and of it Duce. While Mussolini often harkened back to the glory that was ancient Rome, the history of the Italian military is more correctly traced to the regiments that served Prince Eugene in Napoleon's campaigns across Europe. More recently, the exploits of the Italian army during the First World War served to high-light both its strengths, and its weaknesses. During that conflict, Italy mobilized some 5.6 million men and suffered casualties on the order of two million. Of these, 462,000 were killed or died, 947,000 were wounded, and some 600,000 were taken as prisoners (or were otherwise unaccounted for). Even given the disaster that was Caporetto (1917), Italian morale proved steadfast, given capable troops capably led. Indeed, the Italian army was shown to be able to secure Italy's borders, and even carry the war to the enemy. But after the war, the military, due in part to the political discord and in part to the disrepute of military means to settle international affairs and in part to economic necessities, languished and declined.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/6/2021 6:35:59 PM   
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3. Regio Esercito

With the coming of the Fascists to power, the state set forth a program of modernization for the Italian military aimed at increasing its effectiveness. Unfortunately for the Regio Esercito (the Italian Army), the majority of the reforms and investment in new equipment went to the showpieces of the totalitarian establishment—the Regio Aeronautica (Air Force) and the Regio Marina (Navy). This is not to say that the army did not receive new equipment or experiment with new weaponry, for they did. But, in comparison with the Air Force (which was obtaining numerous new aircraft) and with the Navy's sleek new battleships and cruisers, the army's pace of modernization lacked vigor, due in large part to the small industrial base of the country and the financial realities of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Still, Mussolini demanded the flexing of military muscle on the international scene, and was to take advantage of every possible situation to achieve territorial expansion. A myth was created, and fostered throughout the decade.
Mussolini had first tried his hand as a conqueror in 1923, when he dispatched an expedition against the Greek island of Corfu (pressure from the Western democracies obliged him to retreat). His aspirations took on substance with the coming of the world-wide depression in 1929. Mussolini was convinced that, as a result of economic crises and social upheavals, the democratic powers were bound to collapse, and so be unable to put up much fight for their colonial empires, much less the lesser states of Europe. Three regions exercised a particular fascination for Italy's imperial dreams: the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the north-eastern section of Africa.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/7/2021 5:34:33 PM   
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4. Warrior nation

However, ironically, Italy's first step towards being "a warrior nation" (Mussolini's words, upon taking on the portfolios of War, Air and Navy in 1933) was to thwart Hitler's aspirations. In 1933 il Duce met with the Austrian Chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, and promised him Italy's full support and friendship. It was, he announced privately, in Italy's best interests not to see resurgent Germany's influence extended southward. In March 1934, protocols were signed in Rome between Mussolini, Dollfuss and the Hungarian Gyula Gombos which bound the three states to consult each other on international political questions and pledged mutual support if threatened. In June 1934, Hitler visited Mussolini at Venice and undertook not to intervene in Austrian Nazis (with German connivance) in July. Mussolini, at whose home Dollfuss’ family happened to visiting when the news was received, immediately ordered Italian troops mobilized along Italy's border with Austria, ready to defend Austrian independence. Hitler, still not in complete control of the German military (who expressed their concerns), was forced to order the Austrian Nazis to cancel their plans and the envisioned German-Austrian unification did not take place. While the remainder of Europe was much impressed with Italy's determined and speedy show of force, it must be admitted that in reality the only real action taken was limited troop movements within Italy itself and, the issuing of ammunition to some border post.
These events brought about a temporary normalization of Italian foreign policy. Italy's opposition to Germany was followed by a brief resumption of friendship with the members of the League of Nations, notably with the Western democracies. From France, Italy obtained rectification of certain colonial boundaries as a result of an agreement between Pierre Laval and Mussolini in January 1935. England surrendered Jubaland in East Africa, and a few oases on the Libyan-Egyptian border. Hungary and Bulgaria drew close to Italy, as Mussolini decided to support their own revisionist claims. But the Fascists were to throw all of this away within the year with their unprovoked attack on Abyssinia.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/8/2021 5:44:54 PM   
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5. Abyssinia

A minor clash at Wal Wal on the Abyssinian frontier in December 1934 had not attracted much attention at the time. But with the agreement with France, which seemed to presage a formal alliance, De Bono (Italian Minister of Colonies) was emboldened to demand an indemnity, ordering at the same time two divisions to be mobilized for dispatch to Eritrea. In March, Rodolfo Graziani, the most experienced of Italy's colonial commanders, was appointed governor of Somaliland. Haile Selassie suggested that the matter be turned over to the League of Nations, but Italy refused all compromise proposals made. By May, over a quarter-million Italian troops were assembled in East Africa, and by September some 12 divisions stood poised on the border. On 3 October, Mussolini announced that hostilities had begun.
The League at once declared Italy to be the aggressor and in November instituted economic sanctions. The absurdity of their actions can be judged from the fact that oil was specifically exempted from the embargo. Meanwhile, the war continued apace, pitting a relatively modern army against a colonial state. Addis Ababa fell in May 1936, Selassie driven into exile, and Victor Emmanuel (without being consulted) given the grandiose title of "Emperor" by Mussolini to mark the establishment of Italian sovereignty. The victory had not reflected any great glory on the Italian Army, though the organization of the campaign had been workmanlike. But the success had done much to reconcile doubters at home, and elsewhere. The fact that Italy had, singlehandedly and with apparent success, defied 52 nations of the League gave Mussolini (and indeed, many of the leaders of the world) the illusion that Italy could afford to throw its weight about, and that the democracies were decadent and could be safely pushed along the path of appeasement. It was to be a fatal illusion.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/9/2021 6:18:41 PM   
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6. Camicie Nere

From this moment, one may say, Fascist Italy was doomed. Mussolini, now in unquestioned control of Italy's destiny, was not observant enough to deduce the implications of his aggressive policies.
He governed by intuition, oscillating violently from one extreme to another: from anti-socialist to socialist, from conservative to revolutionary, and most critical, from anti-German to pro-German. So it was that Mussolini could suddenly discover ideological reasons compelling the Italian government to intervene in the Spanish Civil War (July 1936) in favor of the insurgents. Italy stood to gain little save prestige from this. As things turned out, it gained little even of this and lost considerably in the way of men and military material. What Mussolini had expected to be a short and glorious war in fact continued for three years, and Black Shirt troops (Corpo Ausiliario delle Squadre d'azione di Camicie Nere) suffered some notable reverses in the process. The myth of Italian military ability was salvaged only by General Francisco Franco's victory.
In April 1939, the last piece of the Italian myth fell into' On the 7th, Italian troops landed in Albanian harbors and seized full control of that state, over which Mussolini had established an Italian protectorate in 1927 by helping Ahmed Zog seize power. But this operation was a parody of a well-planned military offensive. Troops were assigned to motorcycle units that had never seen one; others Were assigned to signal units who knew no Morse Code. Many of the Italian troops had never fired their own weapons, and tactical control was rudimentary at best (chaotic at worst). It was said by some Italian officers, "if the Albanians had possessed one armed fire brigade, they could have driven us back into the Adriatic."




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/10/2021 5:36:05 PM   
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7. Rome-Berlin Axis

In April 1939, the last piece of the Italian myth fell into place. On the 7th, Italian troops landed in Albanian harbors and seized full control of that state, over which Mussolini had established an Italian protectorate in 1927 by helping Ahmed Zog seize power. But this operation was a parody of a well-planned military offensive. Troops were assigned to motorcycle units that had never seen one; others were assigned to signal units who knew no Morse Code. Many of the Italian troops had never fired their own weapons, and tactical control was rudimentary at best (chaotic at worst). It was said by some Italian officers, "if the Albanians had possessed one armed fire brigade, they could have driven us back into the Adriatic."
Meanwhile, Italy's drift into the orbit of Nazi Germany became the predominant theme in foreign affairs. As a member of the League at the time of the Abyssinian war, Germany had refrained from imposing the economic sanctions the League approved; at the same time, it stressed how little Mussolini could expect from the Western democracies. So it was that he came to follow Crispi's example of giving up a position of independence between the coalitions of power in Europe and set his hopes on reaping some gain from Hitler's determination to upset the Treaty of Versailles. In September 1937, Mussolini visited Hitler in Germany, where he received a great welcome—flattering his vanity and persuading him that Nazi Germany could win the next war. Italy joined the German-Japanese Anti-Comintern Pact in November, and withdrew from the League in December. March 1938 brought German occupation of Austria; and so, with the reappearence of a powerful state upon its northern frontier, Italy had thrown away its chief gain from the settlement of 1919. Mussolini next renounced the Italo-French agreements of 1935; but at the same time, he was anxious not to appear to be a pawn of Nazi Germany. In September 1938 at Munich, Mussolini intervened to prevent a premature war over Czechoslovakia. Finally, following the occupation of Albania and thinking this proved Italy's right to be taken as an equal, on sudden impulse Mussolini converted the Rome-Berlin Axis into a formal alliance in May 1939. But there was little friendship here, and this "pact of steel" gave Italy many of the disadvantages of formal ties with few of its compensations.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/11/2021 5:50:29 PM   
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8. Casus foederis

Despite the "pact of steel" and its militaristic underpinnings, Mussolini—in his sane moments—knew that Italy was unready to face a major conflict. At the time of the seizure of Albania, he confided in Hitler that his country could not be ready for such a war within three years. (In his less rational moments, il Duce seemingly was overcome by his own rhetorical statements about mobilizing "eight million bayonets"; it is unfortunate, that these were taken to heart by both other Italian leaders and the Western democracies.) But when he made his pact with Germany, evidently Mussolini was unaware that Hitler—far from intending to wait three years until Italy was ready—had instructed his military to prepare for the invasion of Poland. Indeed, Hitler did not even inform his erstwhile ally of his negotiations with the Soviet Union, or the invasion, until after the fact.
Surprised by the bad faith, Mussolini dispatched Ciano to Berchtesgaden. Hitler was, of course, unmoved by Mussolini's desperate attempt to preserve peace and was content to allow that the casus foederis had not arise, so Italy was not bound to enter the war. Italian military leaders were strongly in favor of neutrality, knowing how weak the armed forces really were; most had always resented the attempt to fascitizzare the army. The naval commanders knew how risky it would be for a country so dependent upon overseas supplies to challenge the British and French in the Mediterranean. Even without the outbreak of open hostilities, the point was driven home; Great Britain cut off shipments of coal, and copper and steel were soon in short supply. In December, General Faragrossa announced that if the nation received needed raw materials required, and if the factories went on double-shift production, then, perhaps, Italy might be prepared to enter the war by October 1942—but certainly not before.
Italy was again in the position it had enjoyed at the beginning of the First World War; it could barter its support to either side and profit from the eventual exhaustion of both belligerents. But Mussolini felt this to be ignominious. With the exaggerated myth of Italian military power in his mind at the time, and restive as the war progressed (bringing a stream of German victories in Scandinavia and Western Europe), he feared that further delay might leave Italy out of the reckoning at the end of the conflict. Following one of his intuitive urges, and without consultation with his ministers or military experts, Mussolini unilaterally declared Italy at war with Great Britain and France on 10 June 1940. On 11 June, the Italian submarine Bagnolini sank the British cruiser Calypso in the Mediterranean.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/12/2021 5:42:34 PM   
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9. Officers

When properly led, as the earlier Great War had demonstrated, the Italian soldier could function well. But, arriving at a consensus of opinion as to the worth of the Italian military leadership as a whole is a daunting task.
Commissioned officers of the regular, active army were drawn mainly from the graduates (second lieu-tenants) of the military academies at Turin (artillery and engineers) and Modena (all other arms), and from a few non-commissioned officers who had completed a special course for applicants from this class. There was also a certain intake, especially after hostilities opened, from the "complementary" (reserve) ranks. A corps cadet school was maintained in each of the territorial corps’ areas. All conscripts with a high school diploma were required to attend, unless the necessary yearly quota of officers had been filled. Attrition, however, was high and most were returned to the ranks. After graduation from these cadet schools, and with not less than three months service with an active regiment, these non-coms could become applicants for the commissioned rank of second lieutenant. Commissioned officers were promoted by arm or branch, and took place based on seniority up to the rank of colonel, and by selection for merit through the higher ranks. Overall, the military education of the professional Italian officers was considered, by their enemies, to be rather good. Prior to the war, inefficient officers were eliminated, usually in the lower grades. And those who rose from the ranks of the non-commissioned had the practical experience that can so often make up for format schooling.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/13/2021 7:02:29 PM   
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10. Sottufficiali

Young men who had attained a certain standard of university-level education were compelled by law to carry out their conscript service as complementary officers. These reserve officers formed the main source from which the junior officers were provided in each of the three mobilizations. They were required to first serve seven months in "school units", and the remainder of their 18 months as officers in active units. In wartime, a portion of these reserve officers were recalled each year for duty and training, the number of these reaching 20,000 annually. The system of promotion for these officers was severely proscribed, however, although social position sometimes had a good deal to do with appointment. In most cases, the reserve officers were wretchedly trained, especially those unlucky enough to be placed with the infantry formations (the vast majority by 1943).
All non-commissioned officers of the rank of sergeant and above were known as sottufficiali ("under-officers"), and were usually volunteer, long-service, professional soldiers. Ranks below that of sergeant were filled from the short-service conscripts. Hence, the percentage of well-trained, long-term non-commissioned officers was lower in the Italian Army than in most others. Given that the highest rate of pay for a sergeant-major was $25.71 monthly (although in October 1942, Mussolini ordered the allowances doubled—the increases to be paid, together with interest, after the war), it was not a career that attracted the ambitious. Those who were, applied for entrance into the schools leading to a commissioned grade.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/14/2021 7:46:00 PM   
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11. Paramilitary organizations

The Carabinieri Reali (Royal Carabinieri, or CCRR) were a select corps of well-trained, well-equipped and disciplined military police. Apart from their peace-time functions, during war they, for instance, administered PoW camps, provided security for base areas, and "supervised" the population in occupied areas. In 1942, the CCRR included some 1,400 commissioned and 11,550 non-commissioned officers. The Fascist Militia (Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale, or MVSN, better known as the "Black Shirts") numbered some 132 "legions", each with its complement of officers; in March 1940, these were incorporated into the army. There were, in addition, various "special militias", largely concerned with internal affairs (for instance, the Highway Militia with a strength of 65 officers and 1,185 ranks, or the Forestry Militia with 400 officers and 4600 enlisted men). Finally, there was the Regia Guardia di Finanza (Royal Finance Guard), serving the role of a frontier guard (in Albania, a few battalions were used as ordinary infantry), as well as being responsible for the collection of taxes and duties, and the suppression of espionage, and served as a covering force during mobilization and con-centration to meet invasion; its 1,000 officers and 30,000 men were distributed along the land frontiers and coasts of Italy.
"During the North African campaign, Italian troops gave proof of dash and courage; this applies particularly to those who came from the old cavalry regiments, and to the air force units. But although they could be induced to advance with great dash, they lacked the coolness and phlegm required in critical situations ... and generally speaking the fighting qualities of Italian formations could not be compared with those of the Eighth Army" (Generalmajor F.W. von Mellenthin).




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/15/2021 5:24:43 PM   
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12. Distinctive elements

The Regio Esercito grew directly out of the old Piedmontese army, which had played a major role in the unification of Italy. The laws of 1875 introduced conscription for every able-bodied Italian but, chiefly for financial reasons, only a proportion of the available recruits were actually inducted (in 1906, for instance, only 87,493 were conscripted, although some 475,737 were eligible). At the end of World War I, the army comprised 96 three-battalion regiments of infantry, 12 of besaglieri (riflemen) and eight of alpini (mountain troops), 29 regiments of cavalry, and 51 regiments of artillery (including two of mountain and ten of fortress artillery). Between the great wars, five new infantry and two new alpine regiments were formed. The artillery was reorganized and expanded; and an armored force was created. By May 1940, the Italian army consisted of 20 divisions, with about two-thirds of the necessary armament and trained manpower, and another 20 divisions at half-strength. The Italian army contained certain distinctive elements. The most characteristic of these were the Royal Carabinieri and the San Marco Marines, similar to the US Marine Corps in function, provided a link between the navy and the army.
The Bersaglieri were first employed in Piedmont in 1836 by General La Marmora when the advantages of light infantry, trained in marksmanship, became apparent. Prior to the First World War, elements of the Bersaglieri had been mounted on bicycles; after the war, they were entirely transformed into bicycle units, and in the 1930s were equipped with motorcycles. To these regiments were assigned the men "of superior physical strength". The long plumes of black cock feathers worn on their headgear are a tribute to those worn by La Marmora's marksmen.
The Alpini were specialists in mountain warfare. In 1871 it was first realized that there would be an advantage in creating special units from recruits from the region of the Italian Alps, instead of merely scattering them among the regular infantry. Several Alpini regiments were formed before the outbreak of World War I; by 1918, 88 alpine battalions were in service. After the war, the battalions were organized into brigades and divisions, with permanent assignment of artillery and equipment adapted to mountain warfare. The distinctive cap of the alpini resembled that of a Tyrolean mountaineer.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/16/2021 5:49:29 PM   
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13. Military duty

Under the Fascists, all Italian males were subject to military duty, and training began at an early age and continued through most of their life. The youth organizations provided the first indoctrination —the Figli della Lupa (birth to the age of eight), the Balilla (from eight to 14 years of age), and the Avanguardisti (from 14 to 16). The latter two presented the young men with their first formal training (target practice, military regulations, and the like), and were grandiosely patterned on the structure of the ancient Roman legionary system. The Giovani Fascisti (age 16 to 18) concentrated on political instruction; and compulsory military training (Premilitari) began at the age of 18. Actual control for military service began at the age of 11, when a libretto personale was issued, in which was kept an exacting record of the individual's physical, scholastic, political and military history. After service, post-military training was compulsory until the age of 32; and these reserves were periodically recalled, particularly in the case of specialists and NCOs.
Although Mussolini referred to the "eight million bayonets" he could raise, the figure somewhat exaggerated the Italian manpower available—and grossly exaggerated the number that could be equipped. Armament and equipment were to be always the limiting factor in mobilization for Italy during the Second World War. Plans for the first phase of mobilization provided for the fielding of five armies (together with vane-of-interior troops and services). This phase was completed by 1 November 1939. The mobilization reached only about 2.224 million men. This included the regular force of approximately 1.657 million, the Black Shirt battalions for service with the army, and all the various special militias.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/17/2021 7:15:38 PM   
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14. Mobilization

The Italian Army second phase of mobilization being completed by the end of May 1941. Plans for this stage were greatly affected by the course of the war, for the character of the theater of operations in Albania and Greece had required a duplication or expansion of certain alpine and mountain formations. Units in this phase were eight field armies (24 army corps; 68 divisions). These included armored, motorized celeri, and Alpini divisions, with proportionate GHQ and service troops. In the second phase, Italian forces reached about 2.467 million. This included both the regular forces (1.885 million) and replacements for existing units, and requisite zone-of-interior elements. The mobilization was retarded chiefly by a lack of equipment; most of the men called to service must have received older weapons—at least at the beginning. The peak of mobilization on September 1942 may have reached as high as three million. This third stage called for the mobilization of all available man-power. With it, the Italians had 11 armies and 27 corps. This last mobilization included regular forces of 2.564 million, all classes of military age (including the 18-year-olds) having been called.
By July 1943, there remained about 1.180 million first line troops, 600,000 second-line troops, and some 200,000 depot troops—a total of 1.980 million. In all, it is believed that the Italians put 91 divisions in the field, though not necessarily all at one time. Perhaps 30 divisions had been destroyed by the middle of 1943. The decline was due to the heavy losses in Russia, North Africa and the Balkans. At the time of the Armistice, there were an additional 2.765 million reservists, 1.250 million men avail-able for training, 1.300 million in critical industries, and 1.293 million older ex-military (mainly 45-55 years of age). Mussolini had his eight million men, but he didn't have eight million bayonets to give them.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/18/2021 5:45:20 PM   
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15. Support Weapons

The Italian army was equipped with a variety of infantry weapons during the Second World War but, in general, the quality of its equipment never was up to the level of either Germany or, more importantly, its enemies. Some of the fault for this has to be laid upon mere circumstance—the continued usage of the 6.5mm round in the Model 1891 Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Designed for an earlier war, and severely underpowered for the requirements of a modern battle, the weapon was scheduled for replacement in 1938 with a 7.35mm one. But the coming of war would halt this moderization; the need to equip hastily-raised troops and reservists required that the 1891 weapon be reissued, and that the majority of those 7.35mm weapons already in service be rebarreled to accommodate the weaker round. The Mannlicher was a serviceable weapon surely, but its primary limitations (in range, accuracy and impact power) were never overcome.
On the other hand, the Italian automatic weapons were effective designs. Their sub-machine guns, notably the Beretta Models 1938A and 1938/42 firing a 9mm Parabellum round, were capable of putting out 600 rounds per minute (550 rpm in the later model). Either of these compare favorably with the German-made MP38 or MP40 SMGs used by the Wehrmacht, which fired the same round at a rate of 500 rpm. Italy was, indeed, the first country to adopt a sub-machine gun (the Villar Perosa in the latter weeks of 1917, though the weapon qualified as such only by virtue of its blowback action and pistol cartridge). It was employed as a LMG by mountain troops and as an aircraft MG; in neither role was it particularly effective. But somebody at OVP (the manufacturer) realized the potential and had the mechanism incorporated into a handier weapon, after which the SMG was always part of every Italian army's TO&E.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/19/2021 5:45:52 PM   
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16. Machineguns

As to machineguns, the Italian manufacturers produced a wide variety, some which were outmoded and some of which were innovative. To give an idea of the range of weapons used, we need only con-sider that their arsenal still included the Austrian-made 1907/12, the M1907 F St. Etienne HMG from France and the Colt model 1914 Browning machine-gun. But the standard LMG of the Regio Esercito was the Breda Model 1930 (6.5mm).
Based upon the earlier Breda 1924 model, this was hardly a satisfactory design. For, while it was one of the first machineguns to feature a quick-change barrel, it also required that each shell case be well lubricated in order to be ejected satisfactorily in sandy or dusty conditions. While this LMG could reach a theoretical rate of fire of 450-500 rpm, it also suffered from another major drawback other than the lubrication—it had only a 20-round capacity in a non-detachable magazine that was fed by chargers, thus effectively limiting its actual rate of fire to about 150 rpm. Range too was a problem, as noted by German analysists during desert trials.
The 8mm Breda Model 1937 HMG was reputedly the best that Italy had; yet it too had peculiar problems. It also required that the rounds be well lubricated by means of an oil pump prior to their injection into the weapon's chamber. As to feeding rounds in, this was accomplished by inserting 20-round trays (in which the empty shell cases were reinserted prior to replacement—a tidy arrangement, but to what purpose). Also in 8mm was the Fiat (Revelli) Model 1935 HMG—known as the "knuckleduster". Equipped with a 300-round non-disintegrating belt, this weapon had a cyclic rate of 500 rpm; but it was not successful because of "cook-offs" (rounds set off by heat building up in the firing chamber) after a period of sustained fire. As a comparison, the German MG34 could fire at a sustained rate of 800-900 rpm using a 250-round belt.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/20/2021 6:31:35 PM   
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17. Light mortar

Much of the blame for the deplorable state of Italian arms must be laid on the political system that Mussolini forged. With the concentration of the role of military procurement concentrated in the hands of the party elite during the world-wide depression, in too many cases cost, not effectiveness, became of primary importance. Nor did the Italian industrial system counterbalance this understandable tendency, for it became noted for dishonest contracts, cynicism, bribery, refusals to modernize, and the squandering of vast amount of government credit. Eventually not only did production start to decline, but quality as well. By the mid-30s, the equipment being produced for the Italian military was, at best, of questionable worth--grenades did not explode, nails fell out of shoes, and uniforms were made from second-hand fabrics that gave no protection from the cold. While many officers recognized these problems, no one among those in power seemed capable (or willing) of instituting the reforms necessary to correct them.
The other primary SW found in the all-national arsenals is the light mortar: in this case, the 45mm "Brixia". It had a number of good points, including a high rate of fire, steadiness in action, and the fact that it folded conveniently for carrying. But its design also embodied a number of unique—and unfortunate—features: breech loading, firing cartridge, trigger fired, gas ports, etc.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/21/2021 6:07:32 PM   
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18. Artillery & Guns

The employment of artillery by the Italians was quite traditional, and the only feature of note was their proclivity to site the bulk of their guns well forward. Italian artillery personnel earned a reputation for sharp shooting, and consistently displayed considerable courage under heavy counter-fire or direct attack. In many cases, artillery firing over open sights was used against assaulting infantry and tanks. The Alpini artillerymen were highly skilled in the use of pack artillery, and their methods were widely adopted by other mountain and irregular forces. In short, of the three arms of the army, the Italian artillery branch proved the most effective, efficient and steadfast—despite the limitations under which it operated.
In action, the divisional artillery commander regulated the employment of the artillery batteries—except in counter-battery and interdiction roles. Decentralization of command for these functions was designed to expedite rapid and effective action. Even when in defensive positions, roving pieces (mostly AT and INF guns) were sent far forward of the main defensive line in order to force the enemy to deploy. The artillery officers, trained at the school in Turin, were uniformly competent, exhibited quite high personal initiative, and were fired with a strong esprit de corps.
Usually the deployment of the Italian artillery pieces is quite a bit better than even the Americans—although given the Italian tendency to site their guns near or on the front lines, its justified.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/22/2021 5:45:28 PM   
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19. Cannone

The Mortaio da 81/14 again traces its lineage to the French Brandt 81mm mortar, from which both the American and Soviet weapons devolved. This weapon could fire, besides seven and 15-pound shells of Italian manufacture, French, American and even German rounds when available. As to range, it far outclasses that of either the American or the Russian model. This mortar was quite serviceable, capable of firing Smoke and illuminating rounds as well as HE, and being blessed with QSU. The 81mm MTR is perhaps the best weapon in the Italian arsenal of guns, although its rarity penalizes its deployment.
Unfortunately, the one AT weapon the Italians are likely was not up to the same standard. The Cannone da 47/32 was pitted against both German and British AFVs. This Italian copy of the Austrian Buehler had several faults when compared to AT guns available to other nations. First, and foremost, the 47/32 had a smaller effective range and its marksmanship was not very good; while sufficient against most early-war enemy vehicles, with the advent of the likes of the Russian T34 and American Sherman and British Churchill, its performance declined greatly. And, although blessed with QSU, it has no gunshield to provide protection for the crew. Unlike the Italian 37mm AT, was not possible fired it en portee; worse still, prior to August 1941, it even was not possible towed. another handicap of the 47/32 was his rarity, causing it to see its greatest usage in North Africa and Russia. Still, when properly was placed and sited, the Cannone da 47/32 will prove valuable, in an anti-tank or even in an anti-infantry role.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/23/2021 6:07:10 PM   
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20. Heavy MG

Large-bore direct infantry support is supplied by an outdated (1913) World War I mountain gun; the Cannone da 65/17. This weapon has at least one point to recommend usage—its ability to use AP and HEAT rounds. It is less expensive than the 47/32 AT gun, and more versatile. It has no gunshield and is not a QSU weapon. In effect, this combines to demand that, for most effective use the crew must carefully site the 65/17. When properly situated, and perhaps in tandem with an 81mm MTR, it can give any opponent pause.
The final Italian piece, their Cannone-mitragliera 20/65, is totally unsuited for its original role of air defense. Nor, due to its small bore size, is a suitable AT weapon. But, used in the role many Italian officers adapted it to (i.e., as a heavy MG), this particular weapon can serve quite well as a deadly threat. Due primarily to its long range, placed on an elevation with a good field of fire, the 20/65 can dominate any route of advance. Particularly impressive is its ability to fire in a limbered state. It is a very common weapon and appeared in all theaters.
Overall, once again the Italians suffered from a marked lack of modern weaponry. Their most common ordnance pieces are all outdated, and hence underpowered, designs often forced into roles for which they were not designed. Only the 81mm Mortaio proves an exception. Still, if carefully handled, and the range of engagement kept within reason, these must serve. Depending on date and what is faced, they may even serve quite well.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/24/2021 5:41:10 PM   
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20/1 Experience in AFV design

In the late 1930s the Italian Army officially committed itself to a program of mechanization, believing that if so equipped it could win swift and decisive victories, thereby avoiding the stalemates and appalling casualties of the Great War. Unfortunately for those ultimately involved in the impending conflict, the implementation of this program was severely impeded by a number of factors. Among these were a basic lack of raw materials, a relatively small industrial base with little experience in AFV design, a general lack of funds due to the financial stringencies of the 1930s, and the conservatism of certain high-ranking officers and officials. In the autumn of 1939 the army possessed about 1,500 hundred "tanks", but the overwhelming majority of them were marginally useful L3 tankettes. When Mussolini declared war in June 1940, his army was far from ready. Its total number of "tanks" had increased only to some 1,660, while the army's rapid expansion had created widespread equipment shortages in areas from those as crucial as motor transport to items as normally taken-for-granted as helmets. Moreover, the approximately 11,700 infantry, artillery and AA guns of a 65mm in service included less than 250 modern (i.e., '30s-era) pieces—the newest of the remainder being World War One veterans.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/25/2021 5:59:53 PM   
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20_2 Italian AFV characteristics

The small Italian armaments industry could not, in view of everything working against it, provide prodigious numbers of AFV. From June 1940 to August 1943 it produced only about 3,300 tanks, SP guns and armored cars. The highest monthly total was but 170 vehicles, of which 65 were medium tanks. There was some discussion with the Germans of building the PzKpfw III, IV and V in Italy— but this withered on the vine for a number of reasons, including the opposition of several high Italian officials and industrialists.
Italian AFV were characterized by their light weight, generally low horsepower-to-weight ratio and thin armor (the latter a policy resulting at least in part from the constant shortage of funds and raw materials). The armor plate was of poor quality, tending to crack and split when hit; and was attached by rivets, which further diminished its overall integrity while increasing the danger to the crew inside. The design of new and radically better tanks was not accorded a high priority, due to both military conservatism and the loss in production that extensive retooling would cause. Indeed, Mussolini (who, unlike Hitler, neither fully understood the correct priorities in tank design nor took much interest in such matters) had to order the development of a tank with a 75mm gun (the P26/40), as the army saw no need for one. And yet, despite the absence in the field of more-combat-effective tanks and SP guns until nearly the end, Italian AFV crews continued to fight bravely in their obsolete vehicles even when hopelessly outmatched.
At the start of the war, the nomenclature for Italian tracked AFV followed the format "letter #/#". The letter classed the vehicle as either light ("L"; <= 5 tons), medium ("M"; > 8 but <= 15 tons) or heavy ("P"; > 15 tons). The first number indicated the design weight in tons, and the second the year of acceptance.
All Allied Italian combat formations were re-equipped by the British in early 1945.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/26/2021 6:16:27 PM   
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21. Armor

Italian interest in tracked armored vehicles dates back to September 1916, when the first British tanks made their appearance on the Somme; shortly there-after Italy succeeded in obtaining a French Schneider tank and tests were immediately begun. Although tanks were totally unsuitable for the bloodbath in the Corso region, in 1918 Italy convinced French authorities to provide three Renaults and another Schneider. In the meantime, Fiat—Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, the major Italian automotive firm—undertook the construction of a tank of its own design, a ponderous machine weighing 40 tons. In 1918, Fiat received an order for a series production of a modified version of the Renault FT (known as the Fiat 3000, of which 100 were delivered to the army). Between the time of their delivery in 1921 and the acquisition of the British Carden-Loyd tankette in 1929, Italian tank development languished. From 1929 until 1935, Italian efforts centered on the carro veloce, as the Italian-built version of the Carden-Loyd was known. All of these fledgling Italian AFVs would be thrown into action during the war. But Italian actions in Ethiopia high-lighted the need for a heavier tank, and the General Staff authorized design of a medium tank. An 8-ton turretless design armed with a short-barreled 37mm was built in prototype but failed to be accepted. Instead, in 1939, the 11/39 was adopted. Shortly afterwards the design of the L6/40 was also accepted for production.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/27/2021 6:07:01 PM   
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22. Design and production

During the war, Italian tank development and production suffered from a variety of faults, ranging from a critical lack of raw materials to a gross miscalculation on the advent and duration of the war. Italian officers had, as early as 1939, realized the need for a tank heavier than the proposed M13, but there was no priority given to the development of such. As a result, when the P40 was first planned, the engine as well as the chassis itself had to be designed from scratch. The time lag between design and production stages was understandably lengthy. The manufacture of German designs in Italy seemed to offer a partial solution to the problems of tank development, but plans such as that to built the PzKpfw III in Italy withered on the vine. Nor did limited use of captured equipment (notably French) supplied by Germany suffice.
Italian industry showed its ability to improvise with what was at hand at several points. But the crux of the problem remained: at the outset of the war the Italians had only limited experience in designing their own armored fighting vehicles, and were able to draw upon their automotive industry, already hard-pressed by the war effort, only to a limited extent for the major components that were needed. The two principal areas in which Italian AFVs feel short of their German and Allied counterparts were in quality of armor plate and their horsepower-to-weight ratio. The armor plate was prone to crack and split when hit and, generally speaking, the deficiency in quality was not compensated by an increase in thickness. Italian crews improvised by sandbagging and affixing track links to vital areas in order to improve their chances of survival. Production models of Italian tracked vehicles also suffered from an unfavorable hp-to-weight ratio throughout the war. Efforts to increase horsepower, as in the case of the M15, did not significantly enhance the speed or maneuverability of the vehicles, and parity with Allied and German AFVs was never achieved in this respect.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/29/2021 6:00:10 PM   
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23. Armored units

The armament mounted on Italian vehicles was quite another story. The 47mm gun of the M13 was a satisfactory weapon, and the 75/18 gun-howitzer of the SPA was an extremely reliable and accurate weapon that, although not designed as such, was used as an AT gun with excellent results. The 90/53 gun on a self-propelled mount is another example of the occasional first-rate weapons that can be found in the Italian arsenal, and indicates the direction in which Italian efforts were being forced at the time of the armistice in 1943.
The organization of Italian armored units was modified continuously throughout the war. This was due to a variety of reasons, among them the destruction or disbanding of some armored formations and the uneven introduction of new types of armored vehicles. Italian armored divisions were never armor-heavy, but rather were an almost equal mix of armor, artillery and infantry. By the end of 1941, organization of the armored divisions had been standardized, and consisted of a tank regiment (equipped with M13s), a Bersaglieri regiment, an artillery regiment with six groups (two of which were self-propelled), an engineer battalion and various support service units. Strength had been increased to 8,600 men and 189 medium tanks. Further organization of the divisions were some-what elastic, the actual composition of the regiments varying from time to time, depending on the situation, availability of replacements and the phasing in of new equipment.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 11/30/2021 6:13:52 PM   
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24. Performance

Of Italy's more than 70 combat-effective divisions, only three might be classed as armored—the 131st Centauro, the 132nd Ariete and the 133rd Littorio. A second-generation Ariete was organized in April 1943, and fought against the Germans on the outskirts of Rome immediately after the declaration of the armistice; it was disbanded by the Germans after its surrender. Plans were under way to convert a cavalry divison to an armored formation, to be designated the 134th Freccia Division, but were not implemented before the armistice. The 136th Giovani Fascisti has at times been referred to as an armored division, but in reality it was nothing more than an infantry division with some of its artillery mounted on trucks.
Although Italian armored units fought on all fronts, from Russia to Tunisia, most of their activity was conducted in North Africa; it would have to be in the context of desert combat that the record of Italian armor personnel during World War II should be judged. On balance, the performance of the armored units (and the armored artillery as well) was at the very least adequate, but probably could be better described as having been as good as that of German armored units in the desert. Too often, accounts making reference to "Italian armor" are misleading. Reports of engagements during O'Connor's offensive furnish a prime example, when L3s were pitted against Matildas and the actions labelled "tank battles". On the other hand, when Italian tanks were matched against comparable AFVs , such as happened at Bir el Gobi in November 1941 when 13/40s faced British Crusaders, results were far more equitable. As the war progressed, with the steady attrition of Italian armor and the simultaneous build-up of British and American forces, there was little hope in the long run. But the performance of Italian armored crews was, however, superior to the end—especially when one considers the relatively inferior equipment which they had to work with most of the time.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 12/2/2021 5:30:01 PM   
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25. Tankettes

As pointed out by numerous AFV authorities, Italian designs lagged two to three years behind that of the common AFVs of other combatants. For example, by the time the M15/42 came into service, it was already obsolete on the European battlefield.
The L3/35 tankette was derived from the Carden-Lyod Mark VI, 25 of which were acquired in 1929. Italian authorities showed an understandable interest in a small, light AFV suitable for use in mountainous terrain—such as that common along the northern borders; a joint venture of Fiat and Ansaldo promised just that. The Fiat-Ansaldo built version would eventually number 2,500, and see action (in various guises) in virtually every theater in which the Italian army operated. The CV was never meant to be used in lieu of heavier tanks, but was instead designed according to Italian doctrine of the time for security and recon duties and elimination of small pockets of bypassed resistance. However, the outbreak of hostilities earlier than anticipated forced them to be committed as the only AFVs available. More than three-quarters of the "tank formations" encountered by the British in their desert offensives of late 1940 and early 1941 were comprised of L3s, whose armor was not even proof against the armament of British armored cars.
When it became apparent that the M11/39 did not constitute a satisfactory design, the development of a suitable successor was initiated. The basic hull of the M11 was used, but the rest was much revised and took on a conventional appearance (with the MA mounted in the turret) with horsepower increased from 105 to 125 to compensate for the added weight. The M13/40 was the best known of the Italian tanks used in the war, and along with its improved (a 145-hp engine was installed) version the M14/41, was the standard AFV of their armored divisions. The M13 suffered from frequent mechanical breakdowns in the desert, but in this respect was no worse than British tanks of the period. In 1942 or later, the M13/40 and M14/41 were outclassed by most of the Allied armor encountered. Used in mass, or against enemy infantry, they can be quite effective however. The M15/42 was an upgunned version, but with a use limited—given that the bulk of them were used to equip the new Ariete, and hence surrendered to the Germans in 1943 after their brief defense of Rome.




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RE: The Italian Army in Heroes and Leaders mod - 12/3/2021 5:34:36 PM   
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26. Transports

Mounting a 75* weapon, the Italian Semovente M42 da 75/18 did not have good armor penetration ability, despite its larger bore size over the M13/40 series of tanks. Its armor protection it wasn't too effective either. Compare this with the German StuG with its 75L and a good armor protection, it is possible to understand why the Italians often referred to their assault guns as tascabili ("sardine cans"), which had nothing to do with similarities in appearance. However, of all the vehicles considered thus far, this one has the least opportunity of seeing use, due to its extremely limited time of availability—September 1943.
Only the Autocarretta of the Italian arsenal seems to function much as intended. As a specialized towing vehicle for artillery pieces, any Italian leader should consider it a valuable asset in mobile situations. It has, however, two real drawbacks—a low capacity to transport infantry troops, and a low speed (making off-road travel, with or without a gun in tow, was a slow proposition). Due to these limitations, beyond providing a tow for any on-board guns, many times it will be used to transport infantry teams (HS/crews) and their heavy SW (dismantled HMGs or MTRs). As with the Russians, the rest of the fleet of trucks are rather rare but do compare favorably with similar vehicles in other TO&Es.




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