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Book recommendations for analysing and evaluating the Italian military during WW2

Jango32

New Member
Hello, everyone. For the past year I've slowly got an itch in need of scratching: learning more about Italy's military and its performance in WW2 and see if its pop culture reputation is well earned or exaggerated.

To this end I am not looking for books narrating the events that happened in north Africa or the other fronts. What I'm looking for, if possible, is a statistical approach to analysing Italian tables of organisation and equipment for its various formations, the state of their logistics, their training and equipment use, combat performance vis-a-vis their opponents, analysis and not narration of the campaigns fought by Italy and so on.

I do not speak Italian so if possible I need the recommendations to be in English, including translations of books originally written in Italian. For a while I had thought that The Italian Army in North Africa 1940-1943: Luck Was Lacking, But Valour Was Not would be a good introduction, but I've decided against buying it after reading the review on this forum.
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Jango32

Welcome to the forum.

Our Italian members likely need to help on this. I am sure there are some books in Italian that address the points you wish to study.

There isn't much in English that directly touch on these issues. The best analytical material are articles written by serious researchers.

Italian Military Efficiency - A Debate. The Journal of Strategic Studies, volume 5, June 1982, Number 2.
Carrier, Richard, Some Reflections on the Fighting Power of the Italian Army in North Africa, 1940–1943. War in History, Vol 22(4), 2015, pp.503–528.
Ceva, Luca, The North African Campaign 1940–1943: A Reconsideration. The Journal of Strategic Studies, volume 13, March 1990, Number 1, pp.84–104.
Sadkovich, James, Some Considerations Regarding Italian Armored Doctrine Prior to June 1940, Global War Studies, ( (1), 2012, pp.40–74.
Sadkovich, James, Understanding Defeat: Reappraising Italy's Role in World War II. Journal of Contemporary History, vol 24 (1989), pp.27-61.
Sadkovich, James, Of Myths and Men: Rommel and the Italians in North Africa, 1940–1942. The International History Review, XIII, 2. May 1991, pp.284–313.
Sica, Emanuele June 1940: The Italian Army and the Battle of the Alps, Canadian Journal of History, XLVII, Autumn 2012, pp.355–378.

Books:
Knox, MacGregor, Hitler's Italian Allies. Royal Armed Forces, Fascist Regime, and the War of 1940–1943. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Knox, MacGregor, Mussolini's War 1939–1941. Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Gooch, John, Mussolini's War. Allen Lane, 2020.

To really understand what happened, you must go to Italian sources. TO&E work is mainly in Italian. Equipment and training were significant factors affecting battlefield performance. Reality is that Italy built the wrong army for the war and lacked the resources/capacity to transition that army into something more effective. Senior leadership was a major problem.

RE: Luck Was Lacking. There is much good info in the book; one must have a well grounded knowledge of the history of the RE to separate what is well supported by research and what is revisionary but is yet to be proven.

I hope this helps.

Pista! Jeff
 
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DrG

Member
I was writing a reply when I saw that Jeff had arealdy written a more complete one, including all the sources that I would have suggested. Yet, I feel compelled to provide a caveat about these articles and books: none is to be regarded as really useful, because, planly speaking, the history of the Italian war on land is still to be written. First and foremost because successes have been systematically hidden and defeats inflated, and therefore, given that not even plain facts are established, it is even more difficult to make any assessment or evaluation.
Just think about the data about Italian and Greek losses quoted by Sadkovich in his "Understanding Defeat...": despite the author's great knowledge about Italy (more about naval matters, to be honest) in WW2, he repeated imprecise information taken from other sources (surely he counts ill men for Italy, but not for the Greeks), included Montanari's book about the Greek Campaign published by the Italian Army itself, which told the fate of MIA in a completely wrong way! [Honestly, Montanari is never really precise in his narrative: I still have to understand whether he agreed or not with the absurdly inflated data about Italian PoWs boasted by the British after operation Compass, for example.] See: https://comandosupremo.com/forums/i...eek-losses-in-the-greek-campaign-1940-41.883/
While, for the the naval actions, the three decades of work by Enrico Cernuschi, in first place, have allowed to discover many previously unknown or denied Italian successes or at least damages inflicted to the enemy (just think about this https://comandosupremo.com/forums/i...he-british-ships-damaged-at-cape-matapan.946/, and it is one of the least important instances, on a merely material, if not moral, point of view), and for the air war the job by Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo has shed a completely new light on the early air campaign in the North African theater, with a precise calculation of losses based on original internal documents and not on pilots' claims or public bulletins/reports by both sides, nothing similar exists for the Army, not even in Italian language. You can get glimpses of data, hoping they are realistic, scattered here and there, but nothing which would really answer the question by Jango32.
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
The challenge is what you asked for.....

What I'm looking for, if possible, is a statistical approach to analysing Italian tables of organisation and equipment for its various formations, the state of their logistics, their training and equipment use, combat performance vis-a-vis their opponents, analysis and not narration of the campaigns fought by Italy and so on.

There are so many different TO&Es in the R.E. that I am not aware of any current book that has them all (in Italian or English). Then there is the problem of assessing performance when it was rare for any unit except the basic infantry units that were ever fully manned/equipped at authorized levels. The effectiveness of the equipment and soldier training are major impacts on performance which complicates assessing the TO&Es. The poor performance of the senior leadership at the operational level also clouds the issue. The theater where the most information is available, A.S., is the one theater were the R.E. had the least capability to function well. It was a motorized/mechanized war and the R.E. was hopelessly outclassed due to the lack of vehicles. Their logistics worked fine, it was a lack of material and the inability to protect their supplies (the latter due to the factors above) that caused problems.

The R.E. had so many problems that an analysis would need to address ever single factor of how armies operate. IMHO, the one factor that wasn't a problem were the soldiers themselves. They tried their best given everything above. That they failed was not due to a lack of courage or soldierly ability.
 

Andreas

New Member
It might help if you told us what you consider a definitive work covering a statistical approach to analysing [US/British/Japanese/Russian/German] tables of organisation and equipment for its various formations, the state of their logistics, their training and equipment use, combat performance vis-a-vis their opponents, analysis?

All the best

Andreas
 
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