MovieChat Forums > Lion of the Desert (1980) Discussion > Italian's Army are jokers in WW2

Italian's Army are jokers in WW2

I know very well that Italian USED TO BE great warriors and tremendous soldiers during Roman Empire's reign in Europe. But they were reduced to a gang of jokers and losers during WW2.

In every historical battle during WW2, the Allied Army look for Italians to start break through. This work in El-Alamein if not mistaken. In the envelopment of Stalingrad, the Soviet burst through the Axis wing defence which was consist mostly of Italians almost immediately. The best shot done by Italian Navy was a deadly blow to shot down their own plane. There was some sort of General, Italian of course on board the plane. The poor guy was the highest ranking officer to be shot down by friendly fire during WW2.

Before WW2, they were engaged with tough battles in Africa. One against Umar of course, the second in Ethopia, both barely won against much weaker opponents. The Ethopian were to said own small numbers of rifles and machine guns. They used spear that made of bamboo sticks to fight the Mighty Italians and inflict huge losses.

I guessed the inability of Musolini as a commander and most important, the Italian themselves who refused to go to war or anti-war contribute to all these humiliation.

Everytime I saw movies bout Italians Army, I ll recalled a scene in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The Italians Army officers led by Nicholas Cage (Captain Corelli) kept taunting that they were Artists, Singers and they look exactly like a bunch of losers. They can't even make a stand when the *beep* invades. What a pity.


While your comment about the Italian Army in WW II is generally true, some individual units were held in high regard by their German allies. One such formation was the Italian "Alpini" Regiment which fought on the Eastern front along side German mountain troops. The regiment saw action outside Murmansk during the fall of 1941 and then during Operation Blue in the Caucuses in 1942 while attached to First Panzer Army.

You should watch "Attack and Retreat", starring Peter Falk. A joint Italian-Russian movie production, it follows a squad of Italian soldiers on the Eastern Front. Has a cast of hundreds. On DVD.



Rommel himself gave a fair appraisal of Italian troops under his command. (Read "The Rommel Papers") It's a far better source of information than that stupid 'Corelli' flick. The original film "Mediterraneo" was much much better and portrayed the soldiers as people, not silly cardboard stereotypes.

Back to Rommel, he grew to respect his Italian comrades and admired their sacrifices under deplorable conditions. Their equipment was extremely poor, as was their leadership, logistics, et al. He worked well with the more capable and daring Italian officers and inspired the troops to make a fair contribution to the Desert Campaign. Still, no amount of leadership and inspiration can obviate the appalling disadvantage they had in armor and anti-tank weapons, especially in the desert.

To paraphrase Rommel, "The amazing thing was not the poor quality of the Italian Army, but all the reasons for it." It shows what can happen with poor leadership and an anemic commitment politically as well as militarily to waging a war.

To their credit, some of Mussolini's top generals warned him that Italy would not be prepared for a modern war until at least 1943. (Ironically, Mussolini was ousted in 1943)


Just a few points of actual history, before we start relying too much on Hollywood garbage myths:

1) There was a hell of a good reason why the Allies looked for the Italian army to break through the Axis in WWII: they had the most antiquated and uneffective weapons among the big powers, and they knew it.
Despite Mussolini's pomposity about creating a 'new Roman Empire' most of the the technological weaponry of the Italian Army was pretty much stuck at the end of WWI, with exception of few specialist corps like the submarine human-guided missiles ('maiali' in Italian, or pigs), not to mention the quantity itself:
in 1941 the effective number of fighter planes owned by the Italian forces was barely 10% of the British RAF.

2) The "friendly-fire plane" incident you are talking about, I'm quite certain refers to the death of Italo Balbo, supreme governor of Lybia and third highest ranking member of the whole Fascist elite, after Mussolini himself and Galeazzo Ciano.
He was a critic of Mussolini, especially after the dictator became close and adopted the policies of the Nazis, which he openly despised. It is not a mistery that having him moved to Lybia was nothing else but a friendly form of exile for many historians and scholars of Fascism and WWII.
He was also a keen and world-famous aviator, having broken few Atlantic-crossing records in the previous years (I believe 'doing a Balbo' is a term still used in some parts of America: now you know were it comes from!).
He was shot down on his plane on the skyes of Tobruk by Italian artillery which, allegedly, mistook him for a British plane. His wife and many of his close friends stated, in the years to come, that it happened on Mussolini's order, although this has never been factually proven.

3) As well as the reason on point 1, the reason why Italians performed poorly in WWII lays on conviction and motivation: within the Fascist party itself there were already strains being shown for quite a while on Mussolini and his command, infact he was pretty much given the boot by some of his closest allies in the power circle, including the king: Victor Emanuel 3rd, and Galeazzo Ciano, his own son-in-law (which he later had court-marshalled and executed in the short-lived Nazi/Mussolinian Republic of Salo`) in 1943, the year Italy switched side with the Allies.
You can imagine how it must have felt for those who already despised Fascism, having to fight for someone who was in trouble with his own friends, not to mention the lack of reason and the poor armaments. Mostly many italian divisions just surrendered without a fight but, when there was a chance and with decent equipment, the resulting battles were anything but the shameful performance that myths want you to believe.

4) The Ethiopian army had a little more than a "spear made with bamboo stick" like, for example, hundreds of shotguns, pistols and sub-machine guns that the Russians gave to cunning emperor Menelik II at the time of the first invasion; his successor, Haile Selassie (aka the Rastafari), certainly knew how to make the most of it.


Professichio, you're not writing anything that history hasn't already recorded.

1) The Axis Italian Army of WWII was inadequately equipped and armed.
2) Italy was no where ready to engage in a major war in 1940. The logistics and manufacturing base of Italy proved totally inadequate.
3) The bravery and capability of the average Italian soldier and the low-ranking officers are not in doubt. It was the poor overall caliber of the Italian generals that proved the Italian military's undoing.

Historians agree that Italy had no real reason for helping Hitler in World War II. In fact had Italy reneged on Germany and insisting on stayiing neutral, fascist Italy probably would have survived and and followed the path of fascist Spain, which endured to 1977. But that's speculation on my part, of course. Italy sat in a far more central, strategic location than Spain, located at the far western end of Europe and therefore out of the way of the major combatants. It is unlikely Germany and the Allies could or would have left Italy alone. Italy might have found itself fighting both Germany and the Allies to maintain its neutrality had it decided to take that path. Of course once the war turned in the Allies favor, then Italy would have greatly benefited by joining the Allies. But in real history, a defeated, surrendered Italy joined the Allies as a, 'co-belligerent', a looser diplomatic and military association than that of, 'ally'. We're splitting hairs. Great Britain and the United States were true, 'allies'. The Soviet Union, officially and technically an, 'ally', behaved throughout the war more as a, 'co-belligerent'.


Professichio, you're not writing anything that history hasn't already recorded.

I never claimed I had discovered something revolutionary, I just aimed on putting the facts straight!
Since this is not a place for Historians, these things need to be said at one point or another, otherwise dialogue just snowballs to total randomness; like we have not seen that happening enough.

You also are writing facts that history has already recorded, so no problem I guess?


Every country has taken a beating once.
Even the mighty America got its ass handed to it in Vietnam...

If you look past the usual brit propaganda, you find accounts of italian units and Italian actions being praised.

Eat the Neocons.


You haven't read any history.
Germany never asked Italy for help in its war effort.
Germany actually involved itself in the Balkans and North Africa...TO HELP ITALIANS who had started the conflicts there and were losing them.

Italy attempted on its own to re-establish the Roman Empire but against modern Colonial powers like France & Britain collapsed rapidly.


Just more anti-Italian bigotry.

"A stitch in time, saves your embarrassment." (RIP Ms. Penny LoBello)


Times change.