10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

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RF
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10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:32 am

I am starting this thread arising from discussions in other threads over the Italian failure to prosecute an aggressive war once Italy entered WW2.

The scenario on 10 June 1940 was that Italy was unprepared for war and had no aggressive war plans. If Mussolini was militarily and politically competant, what should he have done?

Before setting out my thoughts on this I will let other forum members make an initial response.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby alecsandros » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:07 am

Italy should have REFRAINED from making ANY military move ANYWHERE. Mussolini's incompetence was just the tip of the iceberg.
From what I understand, training and leadership in the military were lacking, equipment for the troops was (and remained) far behind the other major competitors (especialy in the crucial domains of medium tanks and air force), etc. An attack over any decent military force would have been an invitation to kick Italian a**. And, guess what ? This is precisely what happened to the Italian air force, ground forces AND navy in ALL the campaigns they became involved with. Hardly can we blame Mussolini for the Eritrean' disaster, or for the countless beatings the Italians took from the British in NOrth Africa and the Med.

The best move, IMO, would have been to supply the German forces with all the mineral resources available in Italy for the war effort (oil, iron, coal, etc, even the small quantities ITaly possessed). Germany would have put them to a far better use.

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby lwd » Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:14 pm

I'm not sure I would go quite that far. Italy might be able to grab some territory in the Balkans without getting into the wider war. From an ethical stand point that of course is hardly a proper course but certainly better for the Italian Fascist in the long run than the historical course. Staying out of a war with Britain until it's clear what's going to happen would make a lot of sense coordinating with the Germans would have also made it clear that little could be gained from France.

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby alecsandros » Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:40 pm

lwd wrote: Italy might be able to grab some territory in the Balkans without getting into the wider war... .

But could they do this ? When they confronted the Greeks, they hardly made any real progress until German tank forces stormed the area...

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby lwd » Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:58 pm

alecsandros wrote:
lwd wrote: Italy might be able to grab some territory in the Balkans without getting into the wider war... .

But could they do this ? When they confronted the Greeks, they hardly made any real progress until German tank forces stormed the area...

That's a good question. If they take Yugoslavia first and fully abosorb it before going on to Albania and then Greece I think they have a chance. They should take their time so as not to provoke the allies and might need to pull troops out of Africa for the Grecian campaign. Even then they might have problems but it leaves both them and Germany in a better strategic position I believe.

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby José M. Rico » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:18 pm

Mussolini would have been much wiser adopting a posture similar to that of Franco.
However, if he is determined to enter war in June 1940 as he did, then he should have taken Malta at once. I'm also thinking of surprise raids on Alexandria and Gibraltar with manned torpedoes.
Hitler launched his Blitzkrieg, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, but Mussolini just expected others to win the war for him.

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:44 am

The essence of my post starting this thread is about what Italy should have done at the point of declaration of war. I think that the responses so far have not looked at this at the strategic and grand strategic level - what can Italy do to defeat France and Britain. Winning the war should be the aim. Otherwise - why declare war at all?

Once war is declared, neutrality ceases to be an option. That is why the date in the thread is 10 June and not 9 June.

In the case of France, Germany is clearly winning. That is the reason for declaring war at that point. What happened in reality was a token invasion of southern France by the Italians which exposed the total unpreparedness for war of the Italian forces. They failed to penetrate beyond the French border posts.
But that conflict ended with the French-Italian armistice of 24 June 1940. Under that armistice Italy occupied Menton and Nice. The Italians passed over the opportunity to occupy Tunisia, which they could have forced France to accept. In the event the Italians only did so in November 1942 in company with Arnim's forces.

To win the war from Italy's perspective means eliminating France as a power (the Germans did that) and forcing Britain out of the Med and North Africa. Without winning that war then other territorial expansion is pointless. Some forum members have argued for moves into the Balkans and Yugoslavia - ignoring Bismarcks' view that the Balkans aren't worth the effort. But Balkans or not, Britain has to be eliminated or Italy loses the war.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:55 am

Forcing Britain out of the Med involves the taking of two key strategic objectives - Malta and the Suez Canal.

Just as the Japanese opened with their attack on Pearl Harbor, so the Italians should have timed a surprise invasion of Malta to coincide with the declaration of war.
Once Malta is seized and France is out of the war, then an advance into Egypt is required - an advance that continues into the Nile Valley and Suez, and not stopping after only a fraction of the distance is covered. This is where the logistics and proper planning, training and equipping of the Italian forces was required. If it was me running Italy's war I would done what the British and French did in 1956 and launched an airborne/seaborne assault on Suez to seize the objectives quickly. Such an operation is required to re-link with the Italian forces in East Africa and to threaten Palestine.

Now all this was completely beyond the Italy led by Mussolini. There was no preparation or proper motivation for that type of war. But this is the only winning strategy for Italy. Concentrate on the Med and Africa. Stay out of the Balkans and certainly Russia.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:01 am

Once Britain is out of the Med, the Italian Fleet is then free to operate in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Seizure of British colonies such as Kenya, Tanzania, Bahrein, Kuwait can be considered - colonies worth far more than Ethiopia or Albania. Later development of the North African oilfields can be done. Italy could then develop into a major industrial power and its access to oil transforms its bargaining position in the Axis as a supplier of oil to a victorios Germany - and Japan.

One other factor. Don't declare war on the USA. italy has nothing to gain and everything to lose from that.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby alecsandros » Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:18 am

RF, my reply and others around are focosed on one specific point: Italy had no realistic means of winning a war with anybody! So "taking the British out of the MEd" is near impossible...

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby RF » Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:34 pm

Yes, indeed.

But had Italy a proper leader who prepared for war, allowed the RM to detail the strategic and tactical moves necessary, then in the summer/Autumn of 1940 things could have been very different. ''Mare Nostrum'' could have become a reality instead of being a fascist slogan.
And that is what Italy should have done.
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby lwd » Sat Oct 15, 2011 3:08 pm

RF wrote:Once Britain is out of the Med, the Italian Fleet is then free to operate in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. ....

Except not much of the Italian fleet was really well suited for Atlantic operations. Indeed most of her DDs could hardly make it into the Atlantic from Italy without refueling.

As for the the Indian Ocean they either have to go through the Atlantic (lots of luck with that). Or the Suez Canal but I doubt the British would have left it in condition for the Italians to use without a multi year clearing effort.

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby neil hilton » Thu Oct 20, 2011 1:36 pm

First of all the Italian air force was a capable fighting force in ww2, more so than the Italian army or surface navy. The raids on Malta and Maltese convoys clearly attest to this. some of the Italian aircraft designs were contemporary to other nations designs, the Alcione torpedo bomber was roughly equivalent to the Japanese Betty, the Folgore fighter was also capable.
The RM submarine service was more credible than the surface forces, and not only X-MAS (the low-speed torpedo flotilla).

IMO at the outbreak of war in the Mediterranean (10th June 1940) Italy should have surprise assaulted Gibralter (Italian Alpine troops backed by heavy naval gunnery could have taken The Rock from the small British garrison. No doubt it would have been very very hard). Note that Gib would have to be very heavily garrisoned from then on as the British would no doubt try to take it back. This would have sealed off the Med from the west. Simultaneously the Italians should have invaded Malta, again overwhelming the small British garrison. This would secure the west and central Med (France being taken care of by the Germans).
Next at some point later when logistics allow Suez should be targeted. An airborne assault of Suez isn't possible as the Italians don't have any paratroops and a direct seaborne assault would be suicidal against the RN Mediterranean Fleet, this leaves an overland approach from Tripolitania as historical as the only option which would have a better chance because Malta would be secure behind them. With Rommels Afrika Corps in on it too the chances would be much better.
This secures Mare Nostrum.
Chance of overall success? :lol:
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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby lwd » Thu Oct 20, 2011 2:31 pm

neil hilton wrote:... IMO at the outbreak of war in the Mediterranean (10th June 1940) Italy should have surprise assaulted Gibralter (Italian Alpine troops backed by heavy naval gunnery could have taken The Rock from the small British garrison. No doubt it would have been very very hard). ...

How are the Alpine troops going to get there? How are they going to insure surprise? What about Force H? What heavy naval gunnery? How likely are they to achieve surprise? What happens if the Italians are intercepted or engaged during the landings?

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Re: 10 June 1940: what SHOULD have Italy done?

Postby neil hilton » Thu Oct 20, 2011 2:51 pm

lwd wrote:
neil hilton wrote:... IMO at the outbreak of war in the Mediterranean (10th June 1940) Italy should have surprise assaulted Gibralter (Italian Alpine troops backed by heavy naval gunnery could have taken The Rock from the small British garrison. No doubt it would have been very very hard). ...

How are the Alpine troops going to get there? How are they going to insure surprise? What about Force H? What heavy naval gunnery? How likely are they to achieve surprise? What happens if the Italians are intercepted or engaged during the landings?


That was what the :lol: was for. Not much chance of success.

Having said that Force H at that time was pathetic.
The RM did have a few BBs, enough to provide escort and fire support for an invasion force.
Radar at Gib at that time was poor and an invasion could well have sneaked in and achieved surprise.
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