THE ITALIAN ARMY IN WWII
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.
A. General—A “war of rapid decision” was intended. Its chief features were supposed to be— 1)
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