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Published diaries, letters and contemporary oral testomonies by Italian generals or admirals

DrG

Active Member
I admit I am not a keen reader of post-war memoirs, given that quite often they were written under the heavy influence of the political climate and/or dictated by the will of casting a positive light on the author's deeds during and before the war. Not rarely, unless they had been written by a ghostwriter, they are also books of very limited stylistic appeal (with two notable exceptions, "Sciacalli addosso al S.I.M." by gen. Mario Roatta and "Pelle d'ammiraglio" by adm. Alberto Da Zara, which are very enjoyable).

Instead, I find extremely interesting the diaries and collections of private letters by military leaders, provided they haven't been altered of course. As far as I know only a handful of such books have been published by Italian military leaders. If anybody can add further books to the following list will be wellcome.
  • Ugo Cavallero, "Diario 1940-1943": it is a diary fully centered on marshall Cavallero's activity as Chief of General Staff, without any intimate remark. It is absolutely a must read, given that it provides a day-by-day account of its author's point of view on the Italian strategy. At the same time, Cavallero was rather myopic in his approach: for example, when he acted as commander of the Army Group of Albania in the winter 1940-41 he devoted only a handful of lines to the other theaters of war, but he was very detailed with regards to the Greek campaign. When he returned to Rome his focus was centered on North Africa and especially on the logistics for most of the time, therefore he left the Balkans and Russia in the background. Naval and Air matters were often neglected or simply delegated to the respective chiefs of staff or their second in command (adm. Sansonetti and gen. Santoro).
  • Giovanni Messe, "Lettere alla moglie": the collection of marshall Messe's letters to his wife, covering the Greek, Russian and Tunisinian campaigns. This book is very interesting about the personality of the author, even though the intimate passages have been cut (the book has been edited by his very old son, with a rather unimpressive introduction by prof. Giusti), while it is of limited interest with regards to military operations. It is useful, instead, to understand how the author cared for his soldiers, his faith in the political leadership and his rather bad relations with colleagues.
  • Mario Roatta, "Diario. 6 settembre-31 dicembre 1943": I haven't read it, so I can only report a friend of mine's comment, who has found it a rather intimate book, useful to understand the author's personality and mood, but with only a handful of passages of broader historical interest.
Finally, a further book which is probably the second most interesting, after Cavallero's diary: Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi, "Noi non sappiamo odiare". This hasn't got the success it deserves, probably because of its dull title. It is a collection of excerpts from the British transcripts of the secretly recorded conversations of the captive Italian generals (included Messe) and admirals in a country house used as a POW camp in 1943. They spoke about the war, about politics, etc. I would have preferred much longer quotations and less comments by the author, which are quite politically biased and not much relevant, but this book is still unique and very interesting.
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
I have read about the recordings of the German generals but not of the Italian. I will need to get this book.
 

DrG

Active Member
Yes, this book deserves to be read for its excerpts from records. Its price in Italy is extremely low (less than 10 euro for a hardcover book!), due to its poor sells.

Returning to marshal Cavallero's diary, there are two editions. One, published under the title "Comando Supremo" in 1948 by Cappelli, was incomplete, but several historians still quote from it... The full edition, which anyway does not include the documents that Cavallero had collected (probably he planned to publish his memoirs after the war), was published by Ciarrapico in 1984 and it is the one which I have linked to.

I have just discovered that the Cappelli edition even got a Russian translation in 1968, which is freely available online: "Записки о войне. Дневник начальника итальянского генерального штаба".
 

DrG

Active Member
Marshal's Graziani's diaries covering the period 1 January 1940 - 23 April 1941 have been recently published: Rodolfo Graziani. Diari 1940-1941. The editor, prof. Mauro Canali, has found them at the NARA (at least 14 years ago... https://xflottigliamas.forumfree.it/?t=28908705). This new book is divided into two tomes, one for the diaries and the other one for a biography of Graziani by Canali himself.
I haven't read this book yet but, honestly, I had found the manuscript diaries (I had read them in Salò about a dozen of years ago) very uninteresting, except of course for a study of the Marshal's psychology. With regards to this last aspect, I was struck by how much the completely false information about the strength of the British forces provided by the SIM mislead Graziani and caused his terrible pessimism since the beginning of Compass.
 

Frollo

New Member
I have read about the recordings of the German generals but not of the Italian. I will need to get this book.
Yes, Osti Guerrazzi's book is a little gem. Besides Messe, it features Paolo Berardi, Taddeo Orlando, Giuseppe Mancinelli, pretty much the entire staff of the Italian First Army in Tunisia, Admirals Gino Pavesi (Pantelleria) and Priamo Leonardi (Augusta), and General Gino Ficalbi (Sicily).

Regarding the topic, Ettore Bastico's diary exists somewhere, but for some reason has never been published. It is mentioned in Operazione Compass by Andrea Santangelo, who apparently was able to access it.

Also unpublished and probably interesting is the diary of Admiral Pietro Barone, who was the naval commander of Sicily for most of the war (from the outbreak till the evacuation in August 1943), mentioned here.
 

1089maul

Member
I have just received the below book which I am about to read. Whilst it does not come under the umbrella of a diary or similar, it is the only book in the English language on Graziani. I haven’t read any biographies or books by Graziani so am looking forward to it. Will do a review in due course.
Regards to all,
Bob
 

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DrG

Active Member
These are the transcripts of Graziani's diaries (plus Canali's biography of Graziani), while the book that you mention is a post-war memoir about the campaign in North Africa.
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
I will be interested to read what you think of the book. Graziani is an interesting character.
 

DrG

Active Member
I have just read an old review of Cavallero's diary by Lucio Ceva. Sadly, the Ciarrapico edition is far from complete: its editor, Giuseppe Bucciante (who had edited also the previous Cappelli edition) made extensive cuts and interpolated the annexes into the main text of the diary. These interventions, while made with the approval of the Cavallero family and only with the aim of cutting the lenghth to make the book more marketable and enjoyable, have made this edition far from complete anyway, even though longer than the previous one.
 
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