The Italian campaign

Brief history of the Italian involvement in the Second World War

The fascist dictator Mussolini dragged Italy in to the Second World War beside the Axis Powers, Germany and Japan, with the war declaration in 10 June 1940 against the Allies, guided from France and Great Britain.

The” Sleeping Giant”, the United States of America, was involved in the second world conflict on 7 December 1941, in answer to the Japanese attack in Pearl Harbour.
Germany and Italy, allied with Japan in the Tripartite Axis, declared war to USA in 11 December 1941. From this day, Italy and USA were formally in war.

Mussolini, in trouble with the opposite wartime events, placed in minority from the fascist in the assembly of the Fascism’s Grand Board in 25 July 1943, was let arrested from king Vittorio Emanuele. After Fascism downfall, Pietro Badoglio that dealt the armistice with the Anglo-Americans guided the new government. In 8 September 1943 was publicly announced the armistice: the king and the government were transferred from Rome to Brindisi, leaving the Italian military force total mayhem and without a guide, in fact favouring Germans forces work switched from Italian allies in to occupation force.

On 12 September 1943, Hitler freed Mussolini from the imprisonment and put him to the guide of the Italian Social Republic (RSI), founded the 17 September 1943 in the north of Italy, to support the Nazi occupation troops still controlling the non-freed parts of Italy.

After 8 September 1943, the Resistance established the National Liberation Committee (CLN), picking up partisan, citizens and soldiers not joining to the RSI Nazi-fascist forces, to cooperate with the Allied forces.

The motivations that urged the Allies to open a front in Italy

On 9 May 1943, the Italian and German forces of the Afrika Corps, laid of siege in Tunis, surrendered to the allied forces.

The African adventure of the Axis definitely failed the way to India and the oil resources of the Middle East transformed in a mirage for the high Nazi command. It was not easy to reach this target, the fates of the presence of the British Empire in North Africa had harshly been tried and the first fight experiences for the inexperienced American Army had not been encouraging.

Between the Allies, interests and opinions on how to continue the war were clearly in clash. Great Britain, guided by Churchill, was firmly convinced about the convenience to open as soon as possible a second front in Italy, confident in a rapid capitulation of the fascist Italy, the most important ally in the Nazi Germany.

Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Casablanca

During the Casablanca conference in January 1943, the United States, more than accepting this concept, gave it up in front of the ally’s insistence, hoping in a proof of the British trust.
According to USA administration the huge available resources, in every way limited in comparison to the situation, had to have used on the European theater (Italy belonged to the Mediterranean theater), toward the most greater threat against which the nation was mobilized: Hitler’s nazist Germany.
The United States fought another war in the Pacific against Japan, in which Great Britain effort was limited. The diffused fear was that it would not have been possible to face smaller operations employing least possible resources, risking to jeopardize operations for more important targets.

For the United States it was of vital importance to open a front in Europe, in order to balance the importance of the nazist armies that the Soviet Union, alone, was forced to bear and to keep the promise made to Stalin. The most greater part of the German forces were enganged in east, new weapons and increased human resources and material risked to give new force to the actions of the Axis.

Great Britain expressed the same intention of the American ally but the temporal vision on which Churchill was able went over the end of the war. In 1943, the Soviet Union could not be helped invading Europe and therefore, according to the British opinion, it was more convenient to keep enemy forces busy in smaller operations in Italy. Maybe Great Britain’s interest in beginning an operation in Italy over Sicily also moved from the wish to go up over the peninsula as quickly as possible, with the purpose to move then to east and to reach, or to stop, the advance of the Red Army in Central Europe. Other British proposals as the landing in the Balkans seem to confirm this supposition. Churchill did not find in the president Roosevelt an interlocutor having care about strategic and political equilibriums problems of the post-war period and in managing relationships with the Soviet ally.

These divergences never recomposed among the American and British commands and they negatively engraved the relationship during the course of the events. In Italy, a spirit of competition and distrust was established between the contingents of different nationalities more than a cooperation spirit. After sometime, the easy adventure in the peninsula becomes a tragic error and the Americans had the impression to have been dragged, unwillingly, to fight in a less important and unfavourable theater.

Other operations in progress or in preparation as the invasion of Europe, programmed for 1943 and then postponed to 1944, were more important, especially considering the human and material costs in relation to the attainable objectives. The frustration for the limited progress gotten in Italy and the mistrust in the possibilities of achieving success in the campaign, assigned low priority for the units reinforcements and restocking, making the situation on the field worse. Public opinion often induced to think Italian’s Campaign as an adventure, an easy enterprise on the wake of the initial successes in northern Africa, fully not perceiving the kind of tragedy about to concluding down.

The public opinion of the Allied countries was not particularly interested to the operations in Italy, so much that the landing in Normandy, happened in 6 June 1944 and two days after the liberation of Rome, captured the general interest. This had a strong psychological impact on the soldiers, above all on the Americans, considered as fighting in a second-class war, whose sacrifice could not bring any profit. For this diffused feeling, the campaign in Italy is remembered as “the forgotten war.”

made by Davide Bedin, 2018 - davide.bedin@gmail.com