Military History of Italy During World War II

MatthewA By MatthewA, 8th Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Sports>Sports

A brief military history of Italy during World war 2.

Military History of Italy During World War II

In 1940, the Italian Empire declared war on Great Britain. Now Italy had joined the war a whole new front opened in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Italy had one of the largest navies in Europe, although its army was more limited compared to its chief ally in Europe, Germany. Victory in North Africa and the Mediterranean was always an unlikely outcome for Italy without the German army.

Soon after Italy's war began, Britain routed the Italian army in Libya. A smaller British army defeated the Italians during Operation Compass. Hundreds of thousands of Italian troops surrendered to the British. Elsewhere, Italy was also in retreat as the Greek army advanced further into Albania.

The defeats of Italy's armies in the Balkans and North Africa ensured further military support from the German. No longer could the Germans remain on the sidelines as Italy's army gradually collapsed in North Africa and Italy. To re-enforce Italy, Germany dispatched Rommel and further divisions to North Africa which would be merged with the Italian troops stationed there. This was the Afrika Corps, which was essentially a German-Italian army.

With further German reinforcements Italy's troops were much more effective in North Africa. The Korps pushed the British out of Libya and back into Egypt. This culminated with the fall of Britain's Tobruk stronghold during the Battle of Gazala in 1942. All of a sudden, victory in North Africa seemed to be within reach as the Korps advanced steadily towards El Alamein.

However, the Afrika Korps were still low on supplies, especially fuel. With further Allied reinforcements expected, the Axis had to win the campaign quickly. At El Alamein two further battles effectively ended the Afrika Korps advance. Although the campaign continued into 1943, it was effectively over as the Italians and Germans retreated to Tunisia.

At sea Italy's navy did not have any notable victories. Even though Italy had a sizeable fleet of battleships, its lack of aircraft carriers ensured that the Royal Navy had the advantage in the Mediterranean. Battle of Taranto was a landmark battle in which the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers took out three of Italy's battleships in the shallow-water port of Taranto in 1940.

Further surface fleet naval battles were little better. The Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941 was one of the larger naval battles in the Mediterranean, and another victory for the Royal Navy. The Allied fleet, which included one aircraft carrier, wiped out five of Italy's cruisers and destroyers.

Manned torpedoes were an innovation that actually had some impact in the Battle of the Mediterranean. With these underwater manned torpedoes, Italy could transport small teams equipped with mines to Allied surface fleet targets in port. Then when they reached their targets, the mines would be attached to the ships and detonated. They were most effective at the Allied port of Alexandria in 1941 when the manned torpedoes put two Royal Navy battleships out of action.

The final year of the war for Italy was 1943. Italy stationed the last remains of its army at Sicily as the Allies landed there for the Italian Campaign. The defeat of Italy's army in Sicily ensured the demise of the fascist regime, and Mussolini was effectively removed from his post by the Italian king.

Italy's king established armistice with the Allies months later. Although, with German reinforcements in Italy the Italian Campaign continued up until 1945. Postwar treaties dissolved its colonies in Africa and the Mediterranean.


Italian Empire, Italy, World War Ii

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author avatar MatthewA
Matthew is the author of the book Battles of the Pacific War 1941 - 1945. You can find further details at

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author avatar M G Singh
8th Oct 2015 (#)

Nice post, but Italy was not much of a force then

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