FAQ

What was the role of Mussolini in during World War II?

In the early years of the war, Italy and Mussolini were full-fledged allies of Germany, doing their part to advance the Axis war effort. However, during this time, Mussolini and his fascist government were steadily losing the support of both their ally Germany, for failing to cooperate with
Axis agendas especially where it concerned the Jews, and the citizens of Italy, who were quickly tiring of the policies of Mussolini’s government and their association with the German war machine.

Mussolini was ousted by the Italians in 1943, but was later reinstated by the Germans as a figurehead leader when Germany gained military control of Italy shortly after his overthrow.

What was the role of the Italian Military after 1943?

The army continued to fight with the Axis, though under a modified Italian flag, but was largely ineffective due to the shortage of supplies and weapons available to them and the fact that nearly 90% of their ranks had been themselves imprisoned in slave camps for failing to follow the dictates of Nazi policy. Those that continued to fight did so out a sense of honor and commitment, rather than any loyalty to the Nazi cause.

While the Italian Navy was still a force to be reckoned with, with ships and crews that far outnumbered many of the Allied battle groups afloat at that time, they were very much underused by the Axis. This was partly due to concerns over loyalty issues, much more difficult to monitor and control at sea, and the fact that the ships themselves, though numerous, were not well equipped, lacking many of the advanced guns available to the Allies. Most ships were also lacking Radar equipment, a technology that had changed the game when it came to ocean warfare in World War II.

What was the Italian Cobelligerent Army?

It was a combat group that fought on the side of the Allies. Calling themselves the Royal Italian Army, they declared their loyalty to the now exiled King of Italy and did their best to hinder the German war effort. Their ranks were made up of soldiers who had escaped imprisonment by the Germans for disloyalty to the Axis, and whatever recruits they could find. This army was most effective in their early months. Using repurposed Allied uniforms and weapons, they did a creditable job dealing with Axis troops along the Gustav line, though they lost many of their own numbers in the process.

By the time they were re-equipped and their ranks replenished in 1945, the tide of the war had turned and the Royal Italian Army was no longer in a position to be useful.

Why Did Italy Join the Axis?

There are a number of conflicting theories on that, but most agree that Mussolini’s expansionist policies at the time and the compatible ideologies between the Italian government and the Nazi party were primary contributors.

The kernel of this relationship began with a mutual agreement treaty between Germany and Italy in 1935 which was described as the formation of a ‘Berlin-Roman’ axis. But when the time came to choose, most authorities believe that Mussolini’s own pride and ambition were the deciding factors.

Was Italy Ready for World War II?

The short answer is No.

Mussolini had been trying to gain a foothold in Northern Africa via a war with Ethiopia, while at the same time was sending troops to Spain to help Franco and his Fascist part seize control of that country.

When it came time for Italy to take its place in the Axis, these conflicts had decimated the military strength as well as the viability of the Italian financial and industrial bases.

In addition, while the largely World War I era arsenals of the Italian military worked well in Ethiopia and in Spanish support actions, they were a poor match to the Allied forces, especially when the United States took a part.

Was Italy able to contribute to the Axis war effort?

Yes. Despite the state of their economy and their military arms, there were able to contribute in several areas:

  • North Africa: While their initial actions in this area were a failure, largely due to poor German decisions, once they were under the command of General Rommel, who furnished them with up to date training and weapons, they were much more effective.
  • The Battle of Britain: The Italian Air Force, despite having obsolete planes, dropped over 50 tons of armaments on Britain.
  • Sea Battles: The Italian Navy at the time was among the largest in the world, and contained over 100 modern submarines and several very effective battle groups, including the 10th Flotilla, created with the sinking or disabling of 28 major ships, including 2 battleships.