World War II: Italian African Colonies


Figure 1.--This post card is from a set to show Italians what people looked like in African where Mussolini was building the new Italian empire. colonies. The series was published by Craldi Milano (# 225). The caption read, " Africa orientale Ragazzo Sudanese." Sudan was a British colony located next between Ethiopia and Sudan. The photo by Comini.

Italy entered the scaramble for Aftrica late. They only managed to seize part of Somaliland and Eritrea. An Italian Army attempting to seize Ethiopia was defeated. Italy was the only European country to be militarily defeated in Africa. Mussolini had been active in Africa during the 1920s and 30s. The Italian Army used brutal tactics and poison gas to subdue Libya. The Itlalaons invaded Ethiopia in 1935 and again employed poison gas. They were condemned by the League of Nations, a major factor in turning Mussolini away from the Allies into a closer relationship with Hitler. Mussolini after seizing the independent kingdom ofEthiopia, annexed it to Italy (May 9, 1936). Italy proclaimed Ethiopia to be part of Italian East Africa Africa Orientale Italiana ), a federation which also included Eritrea and Italian Somaliland (June 13, 1936). Italian authorities proclaimed King Victor Emmanuel III, emperor. …The Italians attempted to consolidate their colonial information of their East Afrrivan colonies. A variety of development projects includred road building, found industries, and establish agricultural plantations. There was resistance to Italian rule, especially in Ethiopia.

East Africa

Italy entered the scaramble for Aftrica late. They only managed to seize part of Somaliland and Eritrea. An Italian Army attempting to seize Ethiopia was defeated. Italy was the only European country to be militarily defeated in Africa.

Libya

Italy had wanted to colonize Tunisia. The French seizure of Tunisia was deeply resented by the Italians. Instead before World War II they moved to seize Libya from the Ottoman Empire. Ousting the Ottomans proved relatively simple. Defearing the Libyans proved more difficult. Mussolini was been active in Africa during the 1920s and 30s. The Italian Army used brutal tactics and poison gas to subdue Libya.

Invasion of Ethiopia (1935)

Mussolini's next step after securing Libya was to invade Ethiopia which at the time was an independent state (1935). Mussolini's invading army used modern weapons, again including poison gas, to attack a largely unarmed country. The Ethiopins had defeated an Italian Army in 1896 and Mussoline was determined to redeem what he saw as a blot on the national honor. Marshal Pietro Badoglio commanded the Italian invasion force. Using modern weapons, the Italian Army quickly overwealmed Emperor Haile Selassie's lightly armed forces. The Italian extensevly used poison gas. (The Allies in 1943 made a deal with Badoglio to overthrow Musolini.) The Italian Ministry of Defence did not admit until 1995 that poison gas had been used by the Italian Air Force. [Del Boca] The Italian invasion was widely condemned at the League of Nations more than 50 other countries. The invasion gave rise to world-wide indignation, but nor military support for Ethiopia. Criticism was especially heated in Britain which, still thinking about World War I, people were truly shocked by Italy's use of poison-gas as well as deliberate bombing of Red Cross hospitals and ambulances--especially the British Red Cross Unit. [Waley] Italy was condemned by the League of Nations, a major factor in turning Mussolini away from the Allies into a closer relationship with Hitler. Mussolini after seizing the independent kingdom of Ethiopia, annexed it to Italy (May 9, 1936).

Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana) (1936-41)

Italy proclaimed Ethiopia to be part of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), a federation which also included Eritrea and Italian Somaliland (June 13, 1936). Italian authorities proclaimed King Victor Emmanuel III, emperor. he Italians attempted to consolidate their East Afrrivan colonies. A variety of development projects includred road building, found industries, and establish agricultural plantations. There was resistance to Italian rule, especially in Ethiopia.

British Invasion of Italian East Africa (1941)

On paper it looked like the Italians also had a large force in Ethiopia. The Italian forces were, however, weak and their Ethiopian auxileries of questionable loyalty. It was the British, despite their numerical inferiority, who attacked the Italians. The British put together a small force of South African and African colonial troops. They were supported by Ethiopian insurgent guerrillas. Colonel Orde Wingate, who was later to play an important role in Burma, coordinated the operations of the Ethiopian guerrillas forces. Behind the British forces, Emperor Haile Salassie returned to Ethiopia, arriving in Gojam (January 20, 1941) and began organizing the resistance groups. The British launched a southerm and northern offensive. The southern offensive involved moving north from Kenya into Italian Somaliland and eastern Ethiopia. The initial objective was to isolate the Italian forces in the Ethiopian highlands. Unlike the Italian Army in Libya, the Italians in East frica had no way to obtain supplies and refinforcements as a result of the Royal Navy control of the Indian Ocean. The major British offensive was directed at the Harer and Dire Dawa, which was designed to cut the rail line between Addis Ababa and French Djibouti which at the times was in Vichy hands. The British were incontrol of Italian Somaliland (March 3). A second prong of British troops from Sudan drove into Eritrea which cut the Italians off from the Red Sea. The northern campaign climaxed with the Battle of Keren and the defeat of Italian troops in Eritrea (March 27). The Italian governor initiated negotiations for the surrender of the remaining Italian forces. Haile Selassie triumphantly reentered Addis Ababa (May 5). Isolanted Italian forces continued to resist. The final Italian forces surredered at Gonder (January 1942). Ethiopia thus became the first country the Allies liberated from Fascist invaders in World War II.

Western Desert (1940-42)

The campaign in the Western Desert was launched by the Italians from Libya (October 1940). The Italians moved a huge army a few miles into Egypt and stoped. There they were defeated by a small British force. The British then attacked into Libya. The Italians were savedfrom defeat by Prime Minister Churchill who weakdened the British Desert Army by diverting forced to the failed attempt to defend Greece from the Gemans (JMarch-April 1940). At the same time, a small German force under Erwin Rommel was disptched by Hitler to save the Italians. This set in motion the see-saw Desert Campsign between the Afrika Korps and 8th Army fought in Liya and Egypt. The campaign was decided at El Alemain (October 1942). After El Alemain, the 8th Army moved west and finally occupied Libya before moving west into Tunisia to join up with the British and American armies landed as part of Operation Totch (November 1942). .

Post-War Developments

The British restored Ethiopian indeoendence. Eritrea was placed under Ethiopian control (1952). Eritra after a war became indeopendent (1993) Italian Somaliland, after a period as a UN trusteeship, became part of independent Somalia (1960).






HBC







Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main Italian World War II page]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main Italian page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Italain glossary] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: 8:17 AM 2/20/2005
Last updated: 11:37 AM 10/12/2010