1935-1939 History of Italy World War II

Italian stamps featuring Hitler and Mussolini.
The inscription on the Right - Due Populi, Una Guerra, translates to : Two Peoples, One War

Italy, 1939-1943

The War . The Home Front

The Military Course of Events . Although Italy's Fascist propaganda emphasized preparation for war, in 1939/40 Italy was not ready for it. Italy's army had been able to conquer Ethiopia (1936) and occupy Albania (1939), but the economic sanctions implemented against Italy since 1936 deprived the country's industry of raw materials.
When World War II began in September 1939, Italy remained neutral. When Germany in spring 1940 within a matter of weeks occupied Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and forced France to surrender, Mussolini, fearing for Italy's and his personal prestige, entered the war on the side of his German Axis ally. The Italians occupied British Somaliland and attacked (British) Egypt from Libya, Greece from Albania. However, the Italian troops were pushed back into Libya by the British, back into Albania by the Greeks. Italian attempts to take Malta (British) failed.
Hitler, seeing his southern flank threatened, dispatched Erwin Rommel to North Africa and postponed the invasion of Russia by 6 weeks in order to occupy Yugoslavia and Greece, preventing a British bridgehead there. Yugoslavia and Greece fell quickly and Rommel's Afrika Korps became legend. Large tracts of Yugoslavia and Greece came under Italian military administration.
It quickly became obvious that Italy as an ally was more a liability than an asset to Nazi Germany. Italian East Africa fell to the South Africans in 1941; on Nov. 3rd 1942 the British defeated the German-Italian forces at El Alamein and by May 7th 1943 all Africa was in allied hands. By the end of September, Sicily had fallen, too.
On the Italian peninsula, the terrain proved the Allies' worst enemy. The mountains prevented fast movement of both equipment and troops and offered the Italians and Germans ever new, easily defensible positions. Despite a number of invasions, progress was very slow and costly.

The Home Front . Lack of military success, economic hardship (coupon economy, women recruited to work in the factories), from 1942 on Italy's cities being exposed to bombardment by the British and U.S. air force created a growing sentiment of war fatigue. The Fascist Party lost prestige. In 1942, Alcide de Gasperi founded the Democrazia Italiana, as an underground organization - at that time, political parties other than the Fascist PNF were illegal.
Meanwhile the Germans requested Italy to hand over their Jewish population for "special treatment"; the Italians did not cooperate.

Italian Stamp overprinted Allied Military Government

Cronologia, Italian language site on Italian and World History
History of Italy : Monarchy, from Wikipedia
Italy, from Spartacus Schoolnet
Italian Life under Fascism, online exhibition by Library Univ. of Wisconsin
Biography of Benito Mussolini, from The World at War
Italia durant la Segona Guerra Mundial, from La Pagina de la Historia, in Catalan
La Italia feixista (1922-1944), from La Pagina de la Historia, in Catalan
Article Italian War Crimes, from Wikipedia
I bombardamenti aerei su Milano durante la II guerra mondiale (Air Bombardments of Milan in WW II), in Italian
Italia durant la Segona Guerra Mundial, from La Pagina de la Historia, in Catalan
Italy, from Jewish Virtual History Tour
Italy in World War II, from World War II Multimedia Database
Italian Army in Russia 1941-1942, from Orbat
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Italy
Images from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, of Benito Mussolini (22), of El Alamein (4), Sicily (9)
Italian Propaganda Posters, from : Miscellaneous Propaganda Posters, posted by Earth Station #1, scroll down. Several Italian posters listed under topic 'Anti-Masonic Posters'
Three-Power Pact Between Germany, Italy, and Japan, Signed at Berlin, September 27, 1940, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Declarations of a State of War with Japan, Germany, and Italy, US Congress reactions on, Dec. 1941, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Count Ciano, Hitler sign the Steel Pact, May 22nd 1940; Italian Fleet, 1940; Benito Mussolini; Fascist Propaganda Poster; Montgomery and Patton during the invasion of Sicily, July 10th 1943; Dino Grandi ousts Mussolini, July 24th 1943; A statue of Mussolini is destroyed, July 25th 1943; Allied Commanders Alexander, Clark, McCreery during the Invasion of Italy
Speech by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, Rome, February 23, 1941, from New York Times, Feb. 23rd (in English)
REFERENCE Historical Population Statistics : Italy, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
History Book Reviews : Italy under Fascism, 1922-1945

Article Italy, in : Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Macropaedia, Vol.22 pp.165-247, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 032 B862n v.22
Aristotle A. Kallis, Fascist Ideology, Territory and Expansionism in Italy and Germany, 1922-1945, Routledge 2000, 304 pp.
MacGregor Knox, Hitler's Italian Allies, Royal Armed Forces, Fascist Regime and the War of 1940-1943, Cambridge UP, 2000, 210 pp.
Martin Clark, Profiles in Power : Mussolini, Harlow : Pearson 2005 [G]
Article : Italy, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.1023-1038 [G]
Article : Italy, in : Americana Annual 1940 pp.402-405, 1943 pp.394-396, 1944 pp.363-366 [G]
Article : Italy, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1940 pp.317-320, 1941 pp.267-270, 1942 pp.236-238, 1943 pp.238-244 [G]
Vera Zamagni, How to Lose the War and Win the Peace, in : Mark Harrison (ed.), The Economics of World War II, Cambridge : UP 1998 pp.177-223, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 940.5314 H318e
Llewellyn Woodward, British Foreign Policy in the Second World War, London : HMSO 1962 [G]
VIDEOS Patton, 1970, cc, especially the Sicily campaign; Anzio, 1968 ; V for Victory - Anzio and the Italian Campaign, documentary, bw; Mussolini - Italy's Nightmare, documentary from A & E biography
Life is Beautiful, 1998, English version with English subtitles

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 4th 2008

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