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Italian Army in Wwii

Italian Army in Wwii

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Published by wwturnbow9902
Paper describing the organization and tactics of the Italian army in WWII.
Paper describing the organization and tactics of the Italian army in WWII.

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Published by: wwturnbow9902 on Dec 23, 2008
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11/05/2012

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THE ITALIAN ARMY IN WWII
W.W. TURNBOW
BACKGROUND AND PREPARATIONS
a. The Italian armed forces were faced with a conflict between theories of employment. They had historically been structured for deployment in the mountainousterrain found in Italy and her immediate neighbors. These forces were forced to adaptthemselves to a colonial role, and, even more conflicting, to the “War of Rapid Decision.”These theories mixed about as well as oil and water, and Italy lacked the industrial power and the raw materials to field forces able to meet all these needs. She even lacked themeans to be a major power in a modern industrial war.b. All Italy’s plans and preparations had been made for war against Germany/Austria,France, and Yugoslavia. Industry and trade had traditional ties with Britain, France, andthe U.S. This was so prevalent that the geography section of the officer’s qualifying exam(tests prior to consideration for promotion) included the border areas with France,Switzerland, Austria, and Yugoslavia. The characteristics of the armies of these nationswere also covered. Africa was ignored.c. One faction of the army wanted an alpine oriented army. In a 1937 conference onthe future of armor, a ranking general said, “The tank is a powerful tool, but let us notidolize it; let us reserve our reverence for the infantryman and the mule.” This group saw“Men, our indisputable resource,” not machines. They came close to the philosophy of French Col. de Grandmaison and believed in “mind over matter.” This meant that thesolution for any tactical problem was a mass of infantry.d. Architect of the mechanized concept was Gen Federico Baistrocchi (CoS duringEthiopia. Gen Alberto Pariani succeeded him. This faction developed an innovativetheory of manuever warfare in restrictive terrain. The “
 La Guerra di Rapido Corso”
wasadopted as doctrine in 1938. These men then found themselves in charge of an army thatwas not organized, equipped, or trained for the type of warfare envisioned. They foundthemselves in charge of an army wherein a large percentage of senior officers opposedthe accepted doctrine. They also found themselves in charge of an army with its reserveofficers lacking any training and experience in the new doctrine.
DOCTRINE
A. General—A “war of rapid decision” was intended. Its chief features were supposed to be— 1)
Celeri
divisions, designed for exploitation and reconnaissance.2) Tank brigades, designed for penetration, encirclement, and exploitation.3) Motorized divisions, designed for rapid manuever over a wide range and for thereinforcement of mechanized or fast moving units. This new doctrine emphasized that
 
surprise, speed, intensity, sustained action, and flexibility of plan allowing for unforeseencontingencies were the basic factors for a successful action.B. Main policies—In an effort to obtain the requirements for victory, the Italian combateffort was to become predicated upon the following policies:(1)Enormously increased firepower.(2)Opposition to hostile fire by combined fire and movement.(3)Direction of fire mass against the sector of least resistance to achieve rapid penetration and to permit subsequent flanking movement.(4) Simultaneous fire and movement with supporting artillery fire to neutralize enemyeffort.(5) Substantially independent exercise of command except as regards reserveemployment and artillery support.C. Comparison of doctrines—Italian doctrine denied manuever at division level andinstead expected manuever to be controlled by corps and armies. This was even moreunusual because great stress was placed on manuever and initiative by lower units.Earlier doctrine placed its trust in numbers. Doctrine proclaimed the absolute primacy of the infantry, but did stress the necessity of infantry-artillery integration. Armor wasenvisioned as an infantry support weapon. Light tanks were to operate with horse cavalrysquadrons. The new idea of the decisive war, a war of manuever using flanking attacksrather than frontal assault, pointed toward major changes in the future. The concept wasone of rapid advance by truck or bicycle-borne infantry hordes, backed by road-boundartillery and 3.5-ton tankettes.D. DOCTRINE A 1938 circular signaled the adoption of this doctrine of high-speedmobile warfare as the official strategic and tactical concept of the Italian army.
 LaGuerra di Rapido Corso
(the war of rapid course) would be a war of manuever, usingwhat Liddell Hart had called the strategy of the indirect approach. The army wouldmanuever against the flank of the enemy. Mechanized and airborne weapons would beimportant aspects of war. Exploitation by motorized forces would follow the use of themaximum mass available to break the enemy line. Weaknesses of equipment and fuelwould prevent this doctrine from being fully effective.COMBINED ACTIONA primary element of the Italian doctrine was the combined employment of various arms, particularly infantry and artillery. Italian infantry was designed to be used in small, flexible,highly maneuverable units of great firepower. Each forward echelon, upon achieving a breakthrough was followed by reinforcements for purposes of exploitation. Mobility andmaneuverability comprised the fundamental characteristics of Italian artillery. Closely allied tothe artillerys mission to support the infantry were the secondary missions of engaging incounterbattery firing and of providing antitank protection. Cavalry manuever was mounted, butcombat could have been mounted or dismounted. Mechanization of the cavalry resulted inincreased mobility and firepower. This added, for the first time, the element of fire mass to the
 
common cavalry missions of reconnaissance and exploitation. Italian engineers, although armed,were more concerned with normal engineer functions and less concerned with combat than inother modern armies. Chief features were: fast moving divisions, designed for exploitation andreconnaissance; tank brigades, designed for penetration, encirclement, and exploitation, andmotorized divisions, designed for rapid movement over a wide range and for the reinforcementof mechanized or fast moving units. Surprise, speed, intensity, sustained action and flexibility of  plan allowing for unforeseen contingencies were seen as the basic factors for a successful action.Staff studies and war plans laid very little stress on the defensive, the assumption being that anoffensive against its soldiers was a remote possibilities. It was discovered that applying theorieswas somewhat more difficult than developing them. Organization was, however, based upon this“Rapid Decision” doctrine.RECONNAISSANCE AND INTELLIGENCEIntelligence was a relatively neglected aspect of operational planning, and commanders in thefield tended to make insufficient use of intelligence resources. Until 1941, the army failed torecognize the need for specialized reconnaissance units to ensure surprise, to avoid it from theenemy, and to find opportunities to exploit. Italian units lacked armored cars with radios to keepcommanders appraised on the locations and activities of enemy units. Air Force reconnaissancesupport was poorly coordinated.SECURITYThe Italians aimed at security through offense and penetration. Intelligence, camouflage,and similar means of attaining security were regarded as preliminaries to offensive penetration. Security measures were not merely supposed to guard against surprise by theenemy, but were also supposed to be so planned as to enable the Italian commander toinflict upon the enemy a surprise of his own. Italian leaders were urged not to let securitymeasures betray them into undue caution, which might slow up the forward drive of anaction. On the contrary, daring was thought to be quite as important as security. Nevertheless the Italians kept a somewhat greater distance between the advance guardand main body than the German did.MEETING ENGAGEMENTSA.General—Meeting engagements, as distinct from mere preliminary engagementsor patrol activities to test the enemy’s strength a and determine his weak points,were regarded by the Italians as a matter of rapid aggressive action. It was believed such engagements would occur only in the case of relatively smallforces, for Italian military theory denied the possibility of surprise in modernwarfare, at least on any considerable scale. The Italians ‘did not admit that asudden and unplanned clash could occur between sizable forces.” In other wordsthey expected proper reconnaissance to always reveal the presence of large enemyunits.B.Doctrine—The Italians believed that their system successfully combined the bestfeatures of both French and German tactics. It was supposed to provide for “bothconceptions—planned collision and swift and precise intervention with decidedly

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