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Italy announces Surrender


8 SEP 1943: World War II and Italy announces unconditional surrender to the Allies. Prior to this the Italians had been fighting with the Germans. Despite the Italian surrender the Allies faced more than a year of difficult fighting against the Germans in Italy. The Armistice of Cassibile was an armistice signed on 3 September 1943 by Walter Bedell Smith and Giuseppe Castellano, and made public on 8 September, between the Kingdom of Italy and the Allies (“United Nations”) of World War II. It was signed at a conference of generals from both sides in an Allied military camp at Cassibile in Sicily, which had recently been occupied by the Allies.

Of all the major military forces involved at the start of World War II, Italy had the by far the least competent high command. Mussolini filled the officer positions with men whose only “qualification” was loyalty to Il Duce.

Before the start of hostilities, Italy did have some capable generals – especially those who experienced the mistakes made during the First World War. However, things would change once Mussolini attempted to militarise Italy as he would purge the country of anyone whose allegiance was questioned.

Many men from titled families, whose ancestors had been fighting for centuries were considered more loyal to the King, and so stripped of their status and given menial positions.

Anyone unlucky enough to be more out-spokenly against Mussolini would be sent to the confino and exiled to wastelands like Italy’s holdings in Somalia to suffer in the heat. What was left were a group of military commanders short on any talent or innovation, but long on loyalty to Mussolini’s long term fascist goals.

The Italian navy, with a limited number of fighting ships was handcuffed by extremely conservative approach by its admiralty.

Conversely, men like Rodolfo Graziani, the “Butcher of Ethiopia” were loyal to Mussolini until the end and would throw his men into fights he knew that they could not win. It would not take long to prove how poorly the high command would lead Italy’s troops, and unfairly put into question their bravery.

When the poorly led Italian troops were used in conjunction with, or under German forces, they fought considerably better.

The Italian forces that participated in Hitler’s invasion of Russia were known to have fought particularly well, despite facing vastly superior numbers of Soviet troops and harsh weather. In fact, the bravery of the Italian Alpini (mountain troops) and Voloire (horse artillery) regiments during Operation Barbarossa was legendary. Even when the entire offensive started to fail, Radio Moscow was heard to say “Only the Italian Alpini Corps is to be considered unbeaten on the Russian Front.”

On several occasions these brave men were surrounded by enemy forces, only to successfully battle back to their own lines. Italy’s attempt to take over Greece was a complete disaster; Italy was beaten back by the much weaker Greeks into Albania.

Once Germany took over the Greece campaign, the Italian forces under their command fought much more effectively than under their own generals, whom they regarded as little more than Mussolini’s butchers.

In truth, Italy seemed uninterested in war from the start. The announcement of Italy’s entrance in the War was not met with enthusiasm, but despair. It seemed that only Mussolini and his Fascist cronies were interested in fighting, and so in 1940 Italy started out on the attempt to conquer the Mediterranean with troops that had no faith in their commanders or a desire to fight.

The botched attempt to take over Greece was met with a fierce resistance from men fighting for their lives and homeland: the Greeks were ready to die for their freedom; the Italians barely knew what they truly fought for.

The armistice was approved by both King Victor Emanuel III and Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio.

After its publication, Italy left the Axis powers but the country was plunged into a civil war with some co-belligerent forces joining the Allies while others remained loyal to Mussolini and the Axis. Italian forces both in and outside Italy who would not join the Axis but could not resist until the Allies reached them were interned by the Germans. Photo: An American family reads the news. More;


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