Jeff Sanders' Blog

Return to

Home > October 2016 > The Italian Co-beligerent Army of World War II.

The Italian Co-beligerent Army of World War II.
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I have always thought that the Italians got a bad rap in World War II.  When I was a kid, I heard jokes about the French and Italian armies in that time period.  It was almost always about them running away from battle or immediately surrendering.  No one ever joked about the Russians, Germans, or Japanese.  As I got older and studied more, I realized that these stereotypes of the Italians and French were way off the mark.  I'll talk about the French Army in a later blog.  But for now, let's look at the Italians.  

First of all, the Italian military had no shortage of courageous men.  They had some very good elite units like their Navy frogmen who destroyed thousands of tons of Allied shipping in WW2.  Their Alpine, Bersaglieri (sharpshooter) and Parachute divisions were known for their determination and fighting spirit.  (On the Russian front the Italian Eighth Army frequently asked their German allies for the toughest assignments.  They got 'em, and usually carried them out with success.)    

The problem with the Italian military was that they were poorly equipped and sometimes poorly led.  Their infantry had antiquated rifles and machine guns that frequently jammed.  Unreliable hand grenades that would not go off.  Ancient artillery.  And tanks that were under-powered, under-armored, and under-armed.  They did have some good equipment such as the Sahariana combat desert car and the Macchi 205 (a fighter plane that was equal to anything the Americans or British could put in the air), but the industrial output of Italy just could not keep up with the other nations.  Nevertheless, certain Italian units acquitted themselves quite well against vastly superior forces.  

The picture changed dramatically on September 8, 1943, however.  On that day Italy surrendered to the Allied forces.  As German troops rapidly tried to scoop up Italian soldiers and imprison them, or scuttle Italian warships, many Italians went over to the Allies.  The Italians had simply given up on Mussolini, fascism, and the stupid war that their government had dragged them into.  By late 1943 these Italian soldiers who now were fighting the Nazis were called the "Italian Co-Belligerent Army.  It began with only 20,000 soldiers.  The 1st Motorized Combat Group was formed with about 6,000 and sent into battle against the Nazis at the battles of Monte Cassino and Monte Lungo.  They showed great skill and courage in battle against their former allies.  Later these warriors were transferred to help out the Polish II Corps on the leff of the British 8th Army in Italy.  

By April 17, 1944 the force was called the "Italian Liberation Corps."  It consisted of two new divisions, and in the early part of the year they were attacking the Germans on the Gustav Line.  Italians were flocking to join this new army or the numerous partisan groups for the liberation of their homeland.  By 1945 the Italian military had six "Combat Groups" numbering some 54,000 men.  These soldiers, outfitted in British uniforms and using British and American tanks, rifles, and machine guns, were a lethal force against the Germans.  They were assisted by some 80,000 Italian partisans who were constantly attacking the Nazis behind the lines.  The newly reconstituted Italian Army mercilessly attacked the Nazis all the way up the Appenine Mountains to the Alps until the Germans finally surrendered in May of 1945.

Don't ever believe the nonsense that the Italian soldier could not fight well.   When people have a noble cause, are supplied with reliable weapons, and are well led. . .they fight just fine.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016, 11:47 PM

Email to a Friend  |  Printer Friendly Page  |  Permalink | Comments

Bookmark and Share

Jeff Sanders' Bio


Past Posts

December 26
Christmas 1942
The Ghosts of Christmas Past -- 1941
The Ghosts of Christmas Past--1776
Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (Part 2)
George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation
The Contributions of Luther's Reformation
The Valley of Vision
Why ISIS Lost in Syria and Iraq...For Now

December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009

Search this blog:

Copyright 2008 American Policy Roundtable