Hitler was not fooled by the Badoglio's assurances that Italy would continue the War. The NAZIs also treated Italy differently than the Allies, Hitler ordered Italy occupied by the Wehrmacht which quickly moved south. The German move into Italy seriously depleting the country's strategic reserves. Coming on the heels of the defeat at Kursk, the power of the Whermacht was seriously eroding, but still capable of executing an effective delaying action in the rugged teraune of mountaneous Italy. After Badoglio announced the Armistice (September 8), the NAZIs moved quickly to seize control and disband the Italian Army. The NAZIs gave the Italians soldiers the choice of fighting with the Germans or interment. The Italian Army for the most part did not resist the Germans. The NAZIs killed thousands of Italian soldiers who did not fully cooperate at this time. Large numbers were interned and deported to the Reich.
Italy despite Fascist propaganda had not been prepared for war. It was also not a rich country. There was substantial poverty in Italy before the War. The War reaked havoc on the Italian econmy. Production was diverted to support the war. Conscription adversely affected, both agricultural and indusdtrial production. The British destroyed the Italian merchant marine, cutting Italy off from both petroleum and other raw materials. The Allies by 1943 had begun bombing Italian targets. The Italian people except for Fascist loyalists wanted not part of the War. Unfortunately for the Italian people. worse was to come with Italy becoming a battlefield for the allies and Germans.
Hitler was not fooled by the Badoglio's assurances that Italy would continue the War. The NAZIs also treated Italy differently than the Allies, Hitler ordered Italy occupied by the Wehrmacht which quickly moved south.
The German move into Italy seriously depleting the country's strategic reserves. Coming on the heels of the defeat at Kursk, the power of the Whermacht was seriously eroding.
The British 8th Army under Montgomery invade southern Italy from Sicily. They land in the extreme south at the toe of the Italian boot. The Allies hope that the Germans will rish south leaving Naples unprotected. Field-marshal Kesselring does not, however, take the bait. The American 5th Army under Matt Clark landed at Salerno near Naples (September 9). Kesselring comes very close to throwing the Americans off the beach. Montgomery experienbes only weak resistance, but does not rush to releave the beleagered beavhhead. Keserling is eventiually is forced to retire north. The Americans reach Naples (October 1). The Germans have destroyed the port, but it is the most important port in Italy and the Allies immediately set about repairing the damage. On the same day the British captured the Foggia airfield.
The Wehrmacht by September 1943 had been badly mauled in Russia and sustained costly losses in North Africa as a result of Hitler's iladvised decision to attempt to hold Tunisia. The Wehrmacht was notyet, however, a defeated force and was still capable of executing an effective delaying action in the rugged teraune of mountaneous Italy.
Badoglio announced an armistice with the Allies (September 8). Fearing reprisals from the Germans, Badoglio with the King promply fleed Rome to reach Allied lines. The actual Armistice was signed on Malta. Most of the Italian Army was left without orders. A few units managed to stand together. Some went over to the Allies, such as the garrisons of Sardegna and Corsica. Others units stood with the Germans. A virtual Civil occurred within the military and the Fascist Government between pro-Axis cause and pro-Allied forces. The bulk of the Army wanted nothing more to do with the war. The Germans managed to disarm them and ship them north to POW camps in Germany before the Allies could land in force. Fascist Italy was the first Axis partner to fall to the Allies. The Armistice was unusual, because the Allies saw it as surrender, the Italians as an armistace. The most unusual part of it was usually an armistace ends the fighting. For the Italian people it was in many ways just the beginning of the fighting. German radio describes the "treacherous intrigue which for weeks had been enacted by an Italian clique, serfs to Jews and alien to their own people."
King Victor Emmanuelle and Field-Marshal Badoglio acting as Prime Minister commander of the armed forces fled Rome and set up a Government at Brindisi in the south. The Italian Army at this critical moment was left essentially leaderless. Army commanders were confused and unsure if they should fight the Germans, who had been their allies, or not. This in part explains why the Germans were able to so easily disarm the Italian Army. Badoglio and the King fearing capture by the Germans relocate to Pescara where the Allies are able to provide security. The new Italian government declared war on Germany (October 13).
The Germans were neither confused or leaderless. They acted decisively, activating Operation Fall Achse, the disarming of the Italian Army immediately after Field Marshal Badoglio announced the Armistice. The NAZIs gave the Italians soldiers the choice of fighting with the Germans or interment. The Italian Army for the most part did not resist the Germans. Many Italian officers object and are shot by the Germans. One author describes the widespread slaughter of surrendering Italian soldiers. [Lamb] The Germans intern over 615,000 Italian soldiers. Only about 1 percent of the Italian soldiers join the Germans.
There were exceptions. Most of which end tragically for the Italians. Italian soliders at Korpoe fought (September 13-16). About 7.000 men are killed by the Germans. The NAZIs killed thousands of Italian soldiers who did not fully cooperate at this time. Large numbers were interned and deported to the Reich.
As the Germans begin to seize control of Italy, the Italian admiralty ordered its vessels out of Italian ports to surrender to the Allies. The Battleships Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio sail from Taranto. The Italian Fleet escape from La Spezia to Malta. The Navy operation is largely successful. The Germans fail to get their hands on major elements of the Italian Navy. They do succeed in sinkinf the battleship Roma by a new weapon, a guided missle.
The Italians scuttle several vessels to prevent the Germans from seizing them.
After Badoglio announced the Armistice (September 8), the NAZIs moved quickly to seize control.
German Air-borne troops under Field-marshal Kesselring seized Rome (September 10).
After the fall of Sicily (July 17, 1943), Mussolini was moved from power by the Fascist Grand Council. He was arrested and detained in remote locations as the Italians were fearful that Hitler would try to rescue him. Which is precisely what he did. The NAZIs had been searching for Mussolini for some time. Finally they learned where he was being held (September 12). SS SS Major General Otto Skorzeny was put in charge of a resuce group. In one of the most spectacular comando operations of the War, German Parachutists rescued him (September 14). A small German paratrooop unit used gliders to free Mussolini from the Gran Sasso mountain top in the Abruzzi Mountains during the Badoglio putsch in 1943. It was a daring operation conducted by worthwhile to make a Hollywood movie about it, inconceivable of course, because that would glorify the NAZIs. Skorzeny did it with 90 soldiers who used gliders. The Italian garison of 250 men, who were guarding Mussolini, were taken by surprise and surrendered within minutes.
Field-Marshal Badoglio signs the formal documents of surrender woth General Eisenhower aboard Nelson off Malta (September 23).
Lamb, Richard. War in Italy 1943-1945: A Brutal Story.
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