Why Italy Joined World War II Referencing Italian need to Join Axis efforts in World War II, Hitler told to Mussolini, “A German victory would be an Italian victory, but the defeat of Germany would also imply the end of the Italian Empire,” In time, the prophecy proved to be relatively true, but why? Specifically, why did Italy align with the Axis? Were there non- belligerent alternatives for Italy, and was the decision to enter the war wise? Italy’s entry into World War II was a mistake based upon poor leadership, non-existent readiness, and misaligned alliances. War leadership failures were centered upon
Bonito Mussolini’s self-centered decisions that propelled an unprepared Italy toward war while aligned with a country that did not share similar values or war-time goals. In an effort to explain war entry, this paper will explore who Mussolini was and why he decided to enter the war, the status of Italian agriculture and industry prior to the war, the nation’s military situation, and the complexities associated with the German and Italian relationship. Mussolini’s leadership or lack thereof… Mussolini, like Hitler, is not the stereotypical image of a strong national dictator.
Professor Douglas Porch describes Mussolini as an awkward person, lacking a core set of beliefs, and with no self-image. Furthermore, Mussolini is described as a leader that lacks self-confidence and courage. He was an opportunistic person who suffered from an inferiority complex. Despite his shortcomings, Mussolini eventually became the leader of Italy, but lack of moral structure or a consistent set of ideals allowed for shaky political control throughout his tenure as an Italian leader. Mussolini’s rise to leadership was not based upon significant accomplishment.
His participation in the Great War was cut short due to an accidental mortar explosion during a training exercise; as a result, Mussolini exited the Italian Army as a Sergeant. Afterwards, Mussolini’s opportunistic personality and Fascist tendencies led him to take over an underperforming Fascist newspaper. This platform gave rise to Mussolini as a politician?allowing him to popularize his name. In short order, Mussolini’s political position was transitioned from a radical outsider to becoming the Italian Prime Minister; eventually he turned himself into an Italian dictator.
Mussolini remained in power until his arrest in 1943. In short, Mussolini’s rise to rower was not based upon leadership?a skill he never mastered. Mussolini’s decision to enter World War II was a result of untested leadership and blatant arrogance. As a leader, Mussolini was frustrated by perceived Italian limitations in the Mediterranean. He dreamed of an Italian empire would rule the Mediterranean, without British presence, and with him at the helm. This dream, combined with no accurate concept of Italian industrial and military capacity, led to his decision to Join the Axis and commit to war on June 10, 1940.
In Mussolini’s mind, the war was going to be short?Just a few weeks. He viewed Hitter’s ability to break Italy was about to miss an opportunity for imperial growth. In a conversation with his Foreign Minister, Mussolini said, “What can you say to someone who doesn’t dare risk a single soldier while his ally is winning a crushing victory? ” Blame cannot be assigned to Mussolini for not properly forecasting the length of the war, but the irrational decision to enter the war in an unprepared manner for the sake of personal glory is his fault indeed.
Mussolini’s leadership style is one of all thrust with no vector; his leadership is likened to a bottle-rocket that is lit without the guiding support of the bamboo stick. The decision to enter World War II is similar to this example. Prior to declaring war Mussolini gave an order to mobile a small portion of the Italian military. The manipulation effort was a disaster. Mussolini, instead of addressing the poor state of his army, decapitated his senior military leadership, and ignored the underlying readiness problem.
Seven days after the Italian declaration of war, Mussolini attempted to take control of French territory in an effort to prove Italian military worthiness to Germany. The French were in utter ruin from previous encounters with Germany, yet they still defeated the Italian advance. Due to the battle, the French lost 37 lives while the Italians lost 631. To make things worse, the Italians gained zero land and did not make claim to Tunisian ports when retreating?ports that Germany would later have to fight for.
The battle was an utter failure, and it would be representative of Mussolini’s leadership for the remainder of his power. Ready or not… Not only did Italy have no stomach for war, but the country was not prepared for war either. Mussolini did not care about, was unaware of, or allowed his arrogance to overlook these facts prior to entering the war. The author Eric Eliminate summarized Mussolini’s decision as an example of humanity failure to be sensible and civilized. Lack of sensibility allowed for Mussolini to enter the war, triggering an automatic challenge to the British Empire.
The British, due to territories in the Mediterranean, were committed to keeping sea lanes open. Italy’s entry into the war meant one thing ?immediately British naval confrontation. Predictably, confrontation began with control the Mediterranean via the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. With British control of the Mediterranean, the poor Italian civilian and military situation only worsened. Mussolini’s gamble that the war would end within weeks is the only rational explanation of why he would pursue such a disadvantageous endeavor.
Italy’s industrial capability was weak and the country military was in poor condition. Additionally, the country was dependent on imports such as coal, scrap iron, and oil that arrived via seaports?the same seaports vulnerable to British blockades. To make matters worse, Italy made no effort to create a reserve of cash, coal, food, or oil prior to the war. When the British closed the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, Italy immediately had to depend on Germany for land based liveries of needed supplies. Impulsive decisions and lack of planning were hallmarks of Mussolini leadership.
Mussolini’s decision to enter a war in unprepared fashion created Italian food and after Operation Barbarous, Germany’s ability to provide Italy with supplies was reduced. This exacerbated the dire conditions of civilian and military life for Italians. Further compounding problems, lack of German-provided fertilizer contributed to poor harvest seasons in Italy. The result was food shortages, which created a situation whereas the military competing against civilians for food; the Italian military ad priority for the available food, which caused tremendous difficulty for the civilian population.
British control of the Mediterranean and Italian supply shortages were predictable. The unfortunate truth is Italy had no need to suffer these effects of the war. Italy, as a non-belligerent, was safely protected from the effects of war by the natural boundaries of the Alps. Additionally, the great world powers had little interest in the Mediterranean. The focus of World War II for the greatest powers was primarily an east and west war centered on Germany.
Mussolini’s situational emergence and desire to be a power broker during eventual peace talks enticed him to unnecessarily and prematurely propel Italy into the war; the result was wide- spread Italian suffering and increased dependency on German support. Military (UN)preparedness… Not only was Italy’s industrial economy unprepared for war, the military was equally unprepared. The Navy, Army, and Air Force all suffered from a range of problems from technological deficiencies to soldier apathy; compounding problems was Mussolini’s hasty leadership style that did not factor reality into his decision matrices.
Mussolini’s faulty logic may have been derived from how robust the military appeared on paper, specifically the Navy. The Italian Navy was considered to be the fifth largest in the world, and the largest Ana in the Mediterranean. It was comprised of six battleships, 20 cruisers, 70 torpedo boats, and 100 submarines. The problem, however, was not the number of crafts; the problem was insufficient technology and poor leadership. After the Great War, the Italian Ana did not invest in technology such as radar or flash-less gunpowder.
The result was an inability to target the cannons properly or be able to effectively wage war at night. A compounding problem was lack of training. Italian ships were ill-prepared to navigate, much less wage war, on the open seas in any conditions other than fair weather. Finally, Navy leadership was aware of the poor Italian industrial capacity and the effects of the British naval blockades; meaning, Italian naval leadership had no intention of risking ship losses by waging war with the British?even if Italy held the tactical advantage.
Mussolini’s consistent inability to communicate with his Admirals ultimately undermined his ability to accurately estimate Italian naval capability. The effects of poor leadership and backward naval technology were discovered during the November 11-12, 1940 sea battle with the British. Admiral Andrew Cunningham made a daring, successful attack on the Italian Navy. When the British boarded the Italian vessels, the vessels were not in good order, the sailors had an apparent lack of training, discipline was non-existent, and some sailors were intoxicated as they were being processed as a prisoner.
Unfortunately for Mussolini’s Italy, the Army and Air Force were in similar condition. There was a vast gap between Mussolini’s ambitions for the army and what it was entrants, the Italians comparatively had better equipment and more war-ready troops during the Great War. During World War II, officer leadership did not possess a firm grasp on modern warfare techniques. Despite equipment and leadership deficiencies morale was high for soldiers?at first. Morale quickly dissipated as soldiers realized that Mussolini’s war was not going to be brief.
The Italian Army was so ill-prepared to enter the war, German Commander Erwin Roomer likened the Italians to three-year-olds and said the Italians are “useless except for defense, and even then they’re useless. In Mussolini’s mind, the Italian Air Force was a breakthrough technology. He had hoped that the Air Force would represent a power that broke the bonds of limited economy and geography. Mussolini’s hopes were quickly dashed as his air force performed similarly to the rest of the military.
Professor Porch gives a comedic description of Italian warplanes; he states that the planes are beautifully crafted, but they “ignored fundamental aerodynamic requirements, like lift and acceleration. ” Italy’s air deficiencies did not end there; bombing raids were considered inefficient u to inaccurate bombing caused by no technology allowing communication between the pilot and the bombardier, the bombs were too small, and the incendiary bombs tended to ignite upon release from the aircraft. In September 1940, the Italians crashed 75 Belgium-bound aircraft because of deficient instrument flying technology and training.
In short, Mussolini’s absent concept of readiness allowed him enter Italy into a war it was not prepared for. A divided Axis… Mussolini and Hitler were not friends, only men with agendas that appeared to be aligned for a time. Hitler wanted France and Mussolini wanted a Mediterranean empire. While Hitler pursued a proactive approach to attain his goals, Mussolini was reactive in nature and did not care to miss out on an easy opportunity to co-claim Axis victory at the end of the war. Had Hitler known what Mussolini’s ambitions were, and what Italy’s capabilities were, he likely would have preferred Italy to remain as a non-belligerent.
In Mussolini’s mind, the Italian war was to be a parallel war. Meaning, while Germany worked to expand in an east and west manner, Italy planned to wage war independently with a Mediterranean Empire in mind. Mussolini in no way entered the war to support Hitler; he entered the war with elfish ambition. The marriage of Germany and Italy during the war continued to unravel. Hitler became impatient with Mussolini’s perpetual needs and military blunders. Hitler described Mussolini’s leadership as one of “matchless amateurism. As Sir Percy Loraine pointed out, Mussolini had no great love for Hitler either; Loraine stated that Mussolini disliked lack of control and feared that “great events are happening and there is no heroic role” and that the war tied Italy to a “madman. ” Both Hitter’s and Mussolini’s perspectives were accurate. As Hitler implied, Mussolini quickly and eradicable rallied behind German victories without strategy, support, or apparent thought. Mussolini’s suspicions of Hitler were also correct; Hitler viewed himself as a Besides distrust for one another, Germany and Italy were misaligned in other ways.
For example, Mussolini did not use military resources in concert with German strategy. Hitler tried to caution Mussolini not to allocate resources to an invasion in Greece, but Mussolini’s response was that of a child?he alleged that Hitler was trying to suppress Italian victory. Mussolini’s dislike for Hitler was tempered only by the Italian dependency on Germany’s supplies and protection. Hitter’s patience with Mussolini’s failures in France, Greece, and Egypt hinged upon his previous decision to assign southern control of the war to Italy.
The UN-harmonious relationship between Germany and Italy had devastating effects. First Hitler had to use Germany’s strained resources to perpetually react to Mussolini’s opportunistic behavior and military failures. Ultimately Mussolini’s decision to enter the war and subsequent mismanagement of the war effort led to an Allied alliance with Italy in 1943?further compounding Germany’s problem set. In short, Mussolini weakened Germany. In response, Hitler granted very little respect, communication, or authority to Mussolini after he was freed from prison.
The fall of Mussolini’s status with Germany is based on the reality that Mussolini and Hitler never were true allies, only opportunists trying to achieve their goals. No issue made a clearer case of misalignment than that of the differing German and Italian views on Jewish human rights. Although an Axis ally with Germany, Italy did not embrace the German perspective of eliminating the Jewish population. Many Italian military members, police officers, and church officials risked much during the ar to refuse, delay, or prevent German orders from being carried out against the Italian-Jewish population.
Jews in Greece and Yugoslavia were also protected by the Italian military. General Mario Rotate claimed he would have sailed the Jews to safety via submarine had the crafts been available. General Rotate was not known to be a human rights advocate, but he stated handing over the Jews to Germany was “out of the question” and defied orders that were channeled through Mussolini. Even Mussolini began to distance himself from the anti-Semitic Murderer laws; in May 944, Mussolini rejected signing a memorandum supporting these laws. By the end of the war, 7,682 of the estimated 44,500 Italian Jews perished.
While many Italian- Jews died, many others were given safe harbor in thanks to misaligned values between Italians and the Nazis. The end of Mussolini and the war… In a 1943 proclamation to the Italian people, then British Minister of the Mediterranean, Harold Macmillan, touted that the Allies were not “enemies of the Italian people,” but Mediterranean presence was “to destroy the German over- lordship of Europe. The Italians would be beneficiaries of German defeat. Since 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill had purposefully crafted messages of a future Allied alliance with the people of Italy.
Churchill plan succeeded on May 7, 1943 as the Italian Axis alliance ended. This meant drastic changes for Italy. Immediately Fascist Italian leaders desperately tried to create political distance between them and Mussolini. During the transition Italian soldiers were confused; The rocky road for Mussolini began at this time; first he was arrested, then he was freed by Germany, and then he was relegated to puppet leadership for a German- controlled Italian province. With no military support or political power, Mussolini became acquainted with Italian desperation that he had helped create.
In the same way Mussolini left Italy with no choice but to enter an unwanted war, Mussolini faced an unwanted situation with no options in April 1945. Relying on false intelligence that military protection was in place, Mussolini delayed in Com, Italy to plan his retreat. That delay proved fatal. On April 27, 1945 Italian partisans captured Mussolini posing as a German soldier, and then executed him the next day. Great sorrow in the Italian countryside did not follow the news of Mussolini’s death cause he lost the fractured popular support he held years earlier, and common perceptions were that he had led Italy astray during the war.
German Field Marshal Albert Silvering stated that Italy’s involvement in the war was a mistake. Silvering said, “Italy’s military inadequacies drew the Germans into the Mediterranean where it had no fundamental interests. ” This statement is both true and ironic. The fact that Germany, represented by Silvering, regretted Italian involvement in the war is interesting because Italy had no fundamental reason to Join the war. By entering World War II, Italy undermined itself and Germany ambitions. Also, besides the fact that Italy changed allegiance during the war, Italy was not a natural enemy of the Allied states.
Cultural similarities were highlighted when British soldiers noted that in Italy it was difficult to distinguish who were the “good” guys from the “bad. ” In summary, in an attempt to attain greatness, an egotistical and careless Mussolini pushed a reluctant Italy into the throes of war; a war Italy was not properly supplied, trained, or prepared to fight in. Furthermore, Italy had no need to enter the war, no tomcat for it, and no apparent shared value system with the Nazi regime. Needless Italian participation in World War II cost many lives?one of which was Mussolini’s life.