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Mussolini's War : Fascist Italy's Military Struggles from Africa and Western Europe to the Mediterranean and Soviet Union 1935-45
Among the great misconceptions of modern times is the assumption that Benito Mussolini was Hitler's junior partner, who made no significant contributions to the Second World War. That conclusion originated with Allied propagandists determined to boost Anglo-American morale, while undermining Axis cooperation. The Duce's failings, real or imagined, were inflated and ridiculed; his successes, pointedly demeaned or ignored. Italy's bungling navy, ineffectual army - as cowardly as it was ill-equipped - and air force of antiquated biplanes were handily dealt with by the Western Allies. So effective was this disinformation campaign that it became post-war history, and is still generally taken for granted even by otherwise well-informed scholars and students of World War Two. But a closer examination of recently disclosed, and often neglected, original source materials presents an entirely different picture.
They shine new light, for example, on Italy's submarine service, the world's greatest in terms of tonnage, its boats sinking nearly three-quarters of a million tons of Allied shipping in three years' time. During a single operation, Italian 'human torpedoes' sank the battleships HMS Valiant and Queen Elizabeth, plus an eight-thousand-ton tanker, at their home anchorage in Alexandria, Egypt. By mid-1942, Mussolini's navy had fought its way back from crushing defeats to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean Sea.
Contrary to popular belief, his Fiat biplanes gave as good as they got in the Battle of Britain, and their monoplane replacements, such as the Macchi Greyhound, were state-of-the-art interceptors superior to the American Mustang. Savoia-Marchetti Sparrowhawk bombers accounted for seventy-two Allied warships and one hundred-ninety-six freighters before the Bagdolio armistice in 1943.
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May 06, 2010
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