Italy - The Political Conduct of the War and the Crisis of Autumn 1942

Italy – The Political Conduct of the War and the Crisis of Autumn 1942

Particular irritation produced in Mussolini the attitude of Hitler who once again did not inform him in advance of the attack on Russia (June 22, 1941): “absolute silence, and then wake up at night to inform him of the fait accompli”; “I don’t dare to disturb the servants at night, and the Germans make me jump out of bed without the slightest regard”. The annulment of Russia would have meant the completion of the vassalage towards Germany, feared and felt by the Duce; however he immediately wanted an Italian participation in the expedition, and then an increase of it.

In the Italian-Mediterranean theater the war proceeded in waves. The English offensive of the winter 1940-41, stopped, was followed by an Italian-German counter-offensive in the spring of 1941, which had taken over the whole of Cyrenaica, and this by a new English offensive in November 1941; in May 1942 Rommel resumed the initiative in Cyrenaica, and in June he went as far as el-‛Alamein, threatening Alexandria. At sea and in the air, the fight continued fiercely, but the greatest wear was that of the Italian transport ship: the supply of Libya became more and more difficult. As for East Africa, it was totally and definitively lost in the early summer of 1941.

According to aceinland, the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States on 7-8 December 1941 was immediately followed by the declaration of war on the latter by both Germany and Italy, although not the United States, but Japan attacked. Thus the United States was brought fully into the war, which became truly global and one all over the world: in addition to the solidarity of the British Empire, they also had that of most of Latin America. This event, which marked the beginning of the Axis defeat, was greeted with complacency by the fascist government. Mussolini had always devalued the American intervention to the extreme (forgetting 1918); more than what they already did, the United States, according to him, could not have done. Now, he announced at the meeting in Piazza Venezia: ”

In reality, the Tripartite had failed in its preliminary task: to keep the United States away from war, thanks to the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor. This attack, undoubtedly, cut off any delay in that American intervention which Roosevelt on his behalf had long considered necessary, but which American public opinion still balked at. Thus the main political, and soon also military, effect of the Tripartite was resolved to the detriment of the Axis, and more particularly of Italy. A political effect was that Franco less than ever thought of an active intervention in favor of the Axis; and indeed his non-belligerence evolved towards neutrality, especially after in September 1942, General F. Jordana replaced the ardent fascist Serrano Suñer from the Foreigners.

The successes of Japan in the Far East against the United States, the British Empire and the Netherlands seemed to respond in mid-1942 to those of the Axis in North Africa. At the end of June Rommel advanced, as has been said, into Egypt as far as el-‛Alamein: Alexandria seemed threatened and Mussolini left to join the Libyan army, preparing to make a triumphal entry into Cairo. To prepare the big blow politically, an Italo-German declaration of 3 July protested the Axis’ intention to respect and ensure the independence and sovereignty of Egypt. The exile Grand Muftī of Palestine, Amin el Huseini, exiled because head of the anti-English Arab party, sent a telegram to Mussolini, congratulating on behalf of the Arab people for the Axis victories in North Africa, and saying that the Arabs would line up with him to fight the common enemy until the final victory. This Arab irredentism, which had always been cultivated by Mussolini, remained sterile; and even more sterile were the Italian-Japanese attempts to use Indian irredentism (in July 1942 the incorporation of ex-prisoner Indian volunteers into the Italian army was announced).

The word remained with the arms. On the lines of el-‘Alamein the offensive Axis silted and October 23, 1942 broke the tremendous offensive 8 in the British Army (Montgomery) who broke everything before him. The German divisions, much better supplied, “cut the rope”, leaving the Italians in difficulty. Rommel began that very long retreat that led him to Tunisia, with the abandonment of the whole of Libya to the English. Tripoli was occupied by these on January 23, 1943. The entire Italian colonial empire had been lost by fascism.

Withdrawal and abandonment were due to the threat behind the American landing, with the English concurrence, in French Morocco and Algeria, on November 8, 1942. It marked the Wendepunkt of the war, the passage of the initiative to the United Nations. Then we saw the fundamental importance of Mediterranean Africa in this war, an importance glimpsed by Mussolini without his having been able to realize the consequences. Hitler and Mussolini could only react to the decisive blow with the occupations of all of metropolitan France, Corsica and Tunisia, of which the first two had very little military significance, while the third could not compensate for the loss of all the rest of the country. Northern Africa. When the fight was reduced to Tunisia, this was conducted by the Anglo-Americans with the usual slowness: nevertheless it ended in the first half of May with the total capitulation of the Axis (by the Italian command the demeanor of the German allies was judged ambiguous and disloyal).

Italy - The Political Conduct of the War and the Crisis of Autumn 1942

About the author