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The structure of Italian high commands

DrG

Member
The Italian high command was organized according to the following scheme since 1927 till June 1941:
Funzioni CSMG 1927.jpg


According to the chart above, the workflow was the following:
  1. The Head of the Government, the Military Intelligence Service (Servizio Informazioni Militari, SIM) or the Ministers of each Armed Force provide information of political and military nature to the Chief of General Staff;
  2. The Chief of General Staff, given these information, submits his proposals on military matters to the Head of the Government;
  3. The Head of the Government states his directives to the Ministers of the Armed Forces;
  4. The Ministers of the Armed Forces turn them into directives to their subjects, i.e. the Chiefs of Staff of each Armed Force;
  5. The Chiefs of Staff dispatch their executive orders to their subject units.
 

DrG

Member
Within the "Stato Maggiore Generale", the "Comando Supremo delle Forze Armate" ("Comando Supremo" in short) is activated during wartime, with the operational command on the subject units.

The Comando Supremo, established on 30 May 1940, was a very small office, because under Marshal Badoglio it had a mere function of coordination among the three Armed Forces and the Head of the Government, i.e. Mussolini, according to the Royal Decree n. 68 of 6 Feb. 1927.

The following was the organization of the Stato Maggiore Generale in June 1940 (these schemes indicate the ranks of the officers for each function and their number):
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DrG

Member
After his return to Rome from the Greek campaign, Gen. Ugo Cavallero completely updated the Stato Maggiore Generale and the Royal Decree-Law n. 661 of 27 June 1941 gave it the command on the Comandi Superiori of the subject Armed Forces.
This was the structure of the functions of the Italian high command since June 1941:
CSMG.jpg


According to the chart above, the workflow was the following:
  1. The Head of the Government, the Military Intelligence Service (Servizio Informazioni Militari, SIM), the Ministries of each Armed Force or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provide information of political and military nature to the Chief of General Staff;
  2. The Chief of General Staff, given these information, submits his proposals on military matters to the Head of the Government;
  3. The Head of the Government states his directives to the Chief of General Staff;
  4. The Chief of General Staff turns them into military directives to his subjects, i.e. the Chiefs of Staff of each Armed Force or the High Commanders of each of the overseas Armed Forces (Libya, Italian East Africa, Italian Egean Islands);
  5. The Chiefs of Staff or High Commanders dispatch their executive orders to their subject units.
 

DrG

Member
This was the organization of the Stato Maggiore Generale (the Duce was above its chief but was not member of the Staff, of course) after June 1941:

CSMG organigramma 1941.jpg
 

DrG

Member
Each command had (and still has today) an acronym, written in capitalized letters and used as telegraphic address, with which it was known:
  • Stato Maggiore Generale: STAMAGE
  • Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito: STATESERCITO
  • Stato Maggiore della Regia Marina: MARISTAT
  • Stato Maggiore della Regia Aeronautica: STATAEREO
Only during a war, within each Staff there was also a "Comando Superiore" ("High Command"):
  • Comando Supremo delle Forze Armate: SUPERCOMANDO
  • Comando Superiore del Regio Esercito: SUPERESERCITO
  • Comando Superiore della Regia Marina: SUPERMARINA
  • Comando Superiore della Regia Aeronautica: SUPERAEREO
 

DrG

Member
While usually each Armed Force followed its chain of command, in certain theaters of war the command was concentrated in the hands of a single organism. In these cases, a "Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate" (in brief: Supercomando) was created. I see that often these Supercomandi (plural of Supercomando) are mistaken with Armies of Regio Esercito, but they were two distinct units, despite the fact that usually the commander of an Army was also the commander of the "Comando Superiore".

This is a list of the "Comandi Superiori" activated during WW2, with their telegraphic addresses:
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate dell'Africa Settentrionale Italiana: SUPERASI
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate della Libia: SUPERLIBIA (it replaced SUPERASI on 16 Aug. 1942, when the Armata Corazzata Italo-Tedesca, ACIT, was put directly under the Comando Supremo, wich in turn operated in Egypt through the Delegazione del Comando Supremo in Africa Settentrionale, DELEASE)
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate dell'Africa Orientale Italiana: SUPERCOMANDO AOI (I am not 100% sure of this address)
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate dell'Egeo: SUPEREGEO
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate dell'Albania: SUPERALBA
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate della Grecia: SUPERGRECIA
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate della Slovenia e della Dalmazia: SUPERSLODA
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate della Sicilia
  • Comando Superiore delle Forze Armate della Sardegna
 

DrG

Member
While the organizational charts that I have posted look relatively clear and straightforward, the actual implementation of the chain of command was highly dependent on the men involved and their human relations and biases.

Upon the entry into war, on 11 June 1940 the Stato Maggiore Generale, which up to that date had just 6 (six!) men in its service, was expanded into the larger oranization which I have shown here. On 13 June the undersecretary of War, gen. Ubaldo Soddu, was appointed to the new charge of Underchief of General Staff. Therefore, he was formally under the command of the Chief of General Staff, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, but at the same time he was directly in contact with the Minister of War, i.e. Mussolini himself (who was also Minister of the Navy and Minister of the Air Force). This allowed Soddu to skip the hierarchy and receive orders from Mussolini, avoiding the passage through Badoglio; a similar situation happened with the Chiefs of Staff of the Navy (adm. Domenico Cavagnari) and the Air Force (gen. Francesco Pricolo), who were Undersecretaries too.

After the death of Marshal Italo Balbo (28 June 1940), Marshal Rodolfo Graziani was appointed as new commander of SUPERASI, but at the same time he was also the Chief of Staff of the Army. Nevertheless he kept both the positions, becoming a subordinate of himself (!), as noted wittingly by his second in command, the Underchief of Staff of the Army gen. Mario Roatta. Therefore, during Graziani's stay in Libya, the true command of the Army was kept by Roatta, who limited himself to inform Graziani ex post by regular despatches summarizing his own orders and the situation in Rome.

The chain of command war made even more complicated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, count Galeazzo Ciano, who wished to command a campaign by himself, more or less as he used to do during the Spanish Civil War. So he kept direct contacts with the commander of the troops in Albania, gen. Sebastiano Visconti Prasca, given the fact that the Lieutnant General of the King in Albania, marquis Francesco Jacomoni di San Savino, was under the direction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After the beginning of the Greek Campaign the situation became even more chaotic. In first place, on 8 November 1940 gen. Visconti Prasca was exonerated from his command and replaced, as commander of troops in Albania, by gen. Ubaldo Soddu. So Soddu was, at the same time, Undersecretary of War, Underchief of General Staff and commander in Albania. His absence from the Supreme Command was not a problem, given that Badoglio was still in Rome, but with Mussolini too busy to follow the Ministry of War, the role of Soddu was practically taken over by the chief of cabinet of the Ministry, i.e. col. Antonio Sorice, who later became a general and then Undersecretary of War (Feb.-Sept. 1943).
Soddu was replaced in his roles at the General Staff and at the Ministry by gen. Alfredo Guzzoni on 30 November 1940, therefore normalizing (at least in part) the situation in Rome.

On 5 December 1940 Badoglio was forced to resign and was replaced by gen. Ugo Cavallero as Chief of General Staff. But Cavallero immediately flew to Tirana, in order to inspect the command the Army Group of Albania, practically taking the command from Soddu's hands. Soddu was formally relieved only on 13 January 1941. So, who was really in command in Rome? During Cavallero's mission in Albania, the true Chief of General Staff was his second in command, i.e. gen. Guzzoni.
When Cavallero returned to Rome in May 1941, he suggested to Mussolini the reform which I have explained here and his first moves were to sack gen. Guzzoni, abolishing the charge of Underchief of General Staff, and to ask Mussolini to replace him as Undersecretary with a general that Cavallero had met and appreciated in Albania, i.e. gen. Antonio Scuero. From this time on the situation of the General Staff, now always called Comando Supremo, became more normal and Cavallero managed to promote a relative cohordination among the three armed forces, despite the fact that the Chiefs of Staff of the Navy and the Air Force still kept a direct link to Mussolini given their roles as Undersecretaries. Cavallero's control on the Army, instead, was almost complete, with its Chiefs of Staff gen. Roatta and then gen. Vittorio Ambrosio.
For aeronaval operations, Cavallero was able to create also a Stato Maggiore misto per le operazioni aeronavali (Joint Staff for aeronaval operations), which comprised gen. Antonio Gandin for the Comando Supremo, adm. Giuseppe Fioravanzo for the Navy and gen. Simon Pietro Mattei for the Air Force.

Gen. Pricolo, in order to provide first-hand information to Mussolini and thus aiming to become his new military counselor, replancing the disgraced Soddu, spent most of the time between Nov. 1940 and April 1941 in Albania. Therefore, the true commander of the Air Force in this semester was gen. Giuseppe Santoro, Underchief of Staff of the Air Force. On 15 November 1941 Pricolo was replaced by gen. Rino Corso Fougier, who in turn was replaced by gen. Renato Sandalli on 27 July 1943, but gen. Santoro kept his role, guaranteeing the continuity of command in the Air Force.

The only armed force that kept an orderly and straightforward chain of command during the War was the Navy, where the Underchief of Staff was an invaluable support, especially for practical and operational matters, to the Chief, but did not replace him. The most important officer in this role, to some extent the true mind of the Italian war on the sea, was adm. Luigi Sansonetti, since 24 July 1941 till the Armistice. He succeeded adm. Inigo Campioni, who had taken this charge on 10 December 1940, when he was appointed by the new Chief of Staff of the Navy, adm. Arturo Riccardi, who in turn had replaced adm. Domenico Cavagnari (whose second in command had been adm. Odoardo Somigli).
 
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jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Very good and succinct run down of this complex issue.

I will note the both Santoro (RA) and Fioravanzo (RM) wrote military histories of the respective services.

Grazie!
 

DrG

Member
Jeff, thank you for your appreciation.

Also Roatta, with his "Otto milioni di baionette", published a history book about WW2, but with a broader scope and not only focused on the Army. Anyway, probably the best book about the Italian war written by a general is "L'Italia e la seconda guerra mondiale. Revisione di giudizi" by gen. Emilio Faldella.

The history of the Comando Supremo under Cavallero, instead, has never been described by the men involved, due to their unfortunate fate. Cavallero committed suicide in unclear circumstances under German custody in Sept. 1943, his closest collaborator, gen. Gandin, was executed by the Germans after his resistance in Cephalonia, and col. Montezemolo, another important officer of this command, was executed in the German reprisal of the Ardeatine Caves. Of course we have Cavallero's diary, which is an invaluable source, albeit quite similar to the "Diario storico del Comando Supremo" published by the USSME, but it is not a personal account nor a history book.
 
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