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How strong was the Italian Navy between WWI and WWII? Started doing some research into this and thought it might make for a good discussion topic. Especially since aside from mismanagement of it, it looks as though there might be more there than meets the eye as far as how well they might have fought if their training had been up to the standards of some of the top navies and if they had the fuel as well. So hoping to have this discussion cover not only what they did manage to accomplish, but also what their Navy could have accomplished with what they had as far as ships. After all they were in naval arms against France and Great Britain, so surely they must have come up with some things to at least have some kind of hope in a conflict?

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The Italian navy was about equal to the French navy, and I put both above the Germans because of having a long naval history, and not having world wide holding was able to be designed to dominate the Mediterranean Sea although. The Italians had a more modern cruiser force while the French had a more modern destroyer force with about equal battleship force. Not having a fleet air arm was hampered in its operation because they had to rely on the Air Force which often did not even respond to requests for help. Up until the Taranto raid they were very active in searching out the Royal Navy in the Med. In fact at one point in 1939 to mid 1940 the Italians were out looking for the RN and the MN was out looking for the Italians. The Italians missed the RN by about 30 miles and the MN missed the Italians by about the same amount. There are a couple of interesting what ifs there, Italian vs RN and Italian vs MN. A friend and myself have done the second.

 

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Uh... let's see. Italy was probably tied for the fourth most powerful navy in the world? So, pretty darned powerful.

They were definitely a Mediterranean force, though - they had really no ability (or reason) to project power much beyond that body of water. But the British went into WWII thinking that Italy would be able to effectively close down the entire sea. That didn't happen largely due to incompetence by Italian senior staff and fuel/materiel shortages. 

Edited by Battleship_Elisabeth
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Lack of fuel and lack of a naval air arm effectively crippled the Italian navy.  There was also a degree of simple incompetence in many of their operations.  For example, in Italian East Africa, their naval forces pretty much did nothing.  This was in part (and applies to the whole of their navy) due to their not spending a lot of time at sea prior to the war.  A fleet that doesn't go to sea, can't fight when they do go to sea.

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53 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

Lack of fuel and lack of a naval air arm effectively crippled the Italian navy.  There was also a degree of simple incompetence in many of their operations.  For example, in Italian East Africa, their naval forces pretty much did nothing.  This was in part (and applies to the whole of their navy) due to their not spending a lot of time at sea prior to the war.  A fleet that doesn't go to sea, can't fight when they do go to sea.

The incompetence was at the higher levels. At the operational level they were very good just as the Italian army was. Rommel made good use of Italian troops when he took over only needing a liaison officer with each unit.

The Germans suffered the same issues to a certain amount but not to the extent that happened with the Italians.

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On paper it was very good. Local to the Med, so not IJN, USN, or RN levels. But definitely equal to the French and Germans (though not Bismark).

Senior command was incompetent though, and fuel was an eternal problem. Also, they had no carrier or other naval aviation, so they were at a severe disadvantage there compared to the Brits. Especially because as with most nations, the different military branches didn't work well together, so Air Force support was sketchy at best. So realistically they were quickly sidelined in WWII.

They did have some very good ships though. Shame they were never used properly.

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54 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

Lack of fuel and lack of a naval air arm effectively crippled the Italian navy.  There was also a degree of simple incompetence in many of their operations.  For example, in Italian East Africa, their naval forces pretty much did nothing.  This was in part (and applies to the whole of their navy) due to their not spending a lot of time at sea prior to the war.  A fleet that doesn't go to sea, can't fight when they do go to sea.

Yeah because even the North Africa Campaign a lot of that was close enough to the sea for the BBs and perhaps even some of the CAs to have provided fire support by bombarding British positions. 

Of course they probably would have needed to deal with RN Mediterranean Fleet first. Although I f Italians had the 4th biggest Navy in the world all in the Mediterranean, surely they could have possibly  managed against the largest Navy in the world that could only station a fraction of their Navy in Mediterranean?

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7 hours ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Yeah because even the North Africa Campaign a lot of that was close enough to the sea for the BBs and perhaps even some of the CAs to have provided fire support by bombarding British positions. 

Of course they probably would have needed to deal with RN Mediterranean Fleet first. Although I f Italians had the 4th biggest Navy in the world all in the Mediterranean, surely they could have possibly  managed against the largest Navy in the world that could only station a fraction of their Navy in Mediterranean?

That's not how it works.  If Italy cannot directly strike at the UK, then the Italian Navy would always be at a disadvantage against the Royal Navy because there will never be that decisive battle.  This forces the Italian Navy to be a Fleet In Being.  And since Italy had such a weak industry and no direct control over oil fields of substance, they were not in a position to be aggressive.  The Royal Navy control both exits to the Mediterranean and by going to war with them, they boxed themselves in.  Worse, they got themselves into a conflict in Africa, which was just a black hole for supplies.  The territory that Italy controlled was just not conductive to a naval war.  Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Provence, Africa, these places are not rich in iron or oil during WW2 and yet considerable resources would have to be committed to garrisoning these territories. The Regia Marina was strong enough to compete with the Marine Nationale and that was it.  The Royal Navy was stronger and had open paths to retreat and thus always had the initiative, so the Regia Marina couldn't win a war of annihilation .  Once the USN were involved, The Regia Marina's only hope was the armistice.

Map_of_the_Mediterranean_Sea_in_Summer_1

Edited by Royeaux
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2 hours ago, commando_brian said:

What crippled the Italian Navy was lack of fuel, most capital ships never left port after 1942.

 

I mean, the same could be said for the Japanese navy. Wasn't Kongo grounded and left to be a shore battery / anti aircaft battery?

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5 minutes ago, The_Painted_Target said:

 Wasn't Kongo grounded and left to be a shore battery / anti aircaft battery?

No, Kongo was sunk by a submarine.  I guess your thinking of the Nagato?

 

Edited by Royeaux

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As italian i can tell you this: Italy do not want war. So army, navy air Force were not even far ready for this. We entered in WW2 for a Mussolini's gamble about war will end in 1940 with France collapse. But he was wrong. Btw Italy was and is a very peaceful country.

Saluti a tutti

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4 hours ago, BrushWolf said:

The Italian navy was about equal to the French navy, and I put both above the Germans because of having a long naval history, and not having world wide holding was able to be designed to dominate the Mediterranean Sea although. The Italians had a more modern cruiser force while the French had a more modern destroyer force with about equal battleship force. Not having a fleet air arm was hampered in its operation because they had to rely on the Air Force which often did not even respond to requests for help. Up until the Taranto raid they were very active in searching out the Royal Navy in the Med. In fact at one point in 1939 to mid 1940 the Italians were out looking for the RN and the MN was out looking for the Italians. The Italians missed the RN by about 30 miles and the MN missed the Italians by about the same amount. There are a couple of interesting what ifs there, Italian vs RN and Italian vs MN. A friend and myself have done the second.

 

As I understand, the Italian Air Force was just as dangerous to the Italian Navy as the Allies were.  They were the reason why the navy adopted those high visibility barber pole deck recognition paint schemes?  :Smile_veryhappy:

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14 minutes ago, Mikebello said:

As italian i can tell you this: Italy do not want war. So army, navy air Force were not even far ready for this. We entered in WW2 for a Mussolini's gamble about war will end in 1940 with France collapse. But he was wrong. Btw Italy was and is a very peaceful country.

Saluti a tutti

Yes Italians are typically kind hearted people in my experience and by reputation that I have heard. Italians were suffering the same things as rest of the Axis Powers, mostly good and peaceful population with a few people in power that drove them into war. Like even the Emperor of Japan wanted peace instead of War, but it was his Prime Minister that drove Japan into war.  Germany had large percentage of people that never even joined the Nazi party, including much of the military, they just fought because it’s what their nation had called them to do. Sad how mistakes made by a few people are paid for by millions of people.

Would be nice to visit Italy at some point, beautiful part of the world and the food is excellent. Been trying some actual Italian recipes instead of the fake ones you often end up with, and the way Italians actually cook is quite good.

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1 minute ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Yes Italians are typically kind hearted people in my experience and by reputation that I have heard.

Would be nice to visit Italy at some point, beautiful part of the world and the food is excellent. Been trying some actual Italian recipes instead of the fake ones you often end up with, and the way Italians actually cook is quite good.

You are right.  If you came here (in Italy)write me. I can show you some nice place in North Italy ( I live there) and you will try real Italian food. 😉

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42 minutes ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Yes Italians are typically kind hearted people in my experience and by reputation that I have heard. Italians were suffering the same things as rest of the Axis Powers, mostly good and peaceful population with a few people in power that drove them into war. Like even the Emperor of Japan wanted peace instead of War, but it was his Prime Minister that drove Japan into war.  Germany had large percentage of people that never even joined the Nazi party, including much of the military, they just fought because it’s what their nation had called them to do. Sad how mistakes made by a few people are paid for by millions of people.

Would be nice to visit Italy at some point, beautiful part of the world and the food is excellent. Been trying some actual Italian recipes instead of the fake ones you often end up with, and the way Italians actually cook is quite good.

You just need to look up ARMIR, the Italian expeditionary force in the Eastern Front to see how the leaders led ill equipped troops for the winter with obsolete equipment basically to their slaughter.

Italy is a beautiful country filled with history and very friendly people, though there is a big gap between North and South.

 

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7 hours ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

How strong was the Italian Navy between WWI and WWII? Started doing some research into this and thought it might make for a good discussion topic. Especially since aside from mismanagement of it, it looks as though there might be more there than meets the eye as far as how well they might have fought if their training had been up to the standards of some of the top navies and if they had the fuel as well. So hoping to have this discussion cover not only what they did manage to accomplish, but also what their Navy could have accomplished with what they had as far as ships. After all they were in naval arms against France and Great Britain, so surely they must have come up with some things to at least have some kind of hope in a conflict?

The Regia Marina was quite strong by the standards of the beginning of the war. So much so, in fact, that a very good chunk of the Royal Navy was forced to be kept in the Mediterranean in order to make sure that they couldn't turn it into the 'Roman lake' Mussolini dreamed it would be or break out into the Atlantic.

 

1 hour ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Yes Italians are typically kind hearted people in my experience and by reputation that I have heard. Italians were suffering the same things as rest of the Axis Powers, mostly good and peaceful population with a few people in power that drove them into war. Like even the Emperor of Japan wanted peace instead of War, but it was his Prime Minister that drove Japan into war.  Germany had large percentage of people that never even joined the Nazi party, including much of the military, they just fought because it’s what their nation had called them to do. Sad how mistakes made by a few people are paid for by millions of people.

I hate to disagree but, in this instance, I feel as though I have to. Don't forget that the Germans and Italians elected Hitler and Mussolini; They chose fascism and as such they accepted everything that came with it. Saying that 'a lot of them disagreed/wanted peace/were only fighting because they were forced to' is revisionism, plain and simple. Same thing with Japan; While the government may have stoked the flames, the Japanese people wanted the war, otherwise they wouldn't have been so eager to kamikaze themselves into American carriers or fought with such insane fanaticism in the Pacific Islands that the only way to make them give up was to nuke two of their cities.

In summary, WW2 was probably the only war in history where it was truly a case of good vs. evil. Of course the offending countries and their people have changed dramatically since then, but that doesn't mean that when you look back at that point in history they can be portrayed with any sort of sympathy.

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Italy pre-1946 and post are effectively two different places and this discussion could go on for days. It's disingenuous to say Italians didn't want to fight. Vittoria mutilata and angst with the British where very much real things that get swept under the table.

 


For everyone slagging the senior command it is time to stop being parrots. With extremely limited resources the successful supply of overseas territories was achieved straight through the end of the Tunisian front. The last purely British attempts to force the route to Malta where near disasters. Rommel's claims of never having enough supplies are countered by the fact that the RM delivered more material than he actually requested for his dash to the wire.

Wanting to avoid losses to heavy units is not the same as being incompetent. Think a little

Just an example of how the Regia Marina handled the convoys.

https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1394&context=nwc-review

 


As to the original subject on paper it was considered a credible threat with a very large submarine threat. Although nothing like the UK/USN/IJN

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3 hours ago, 1Sherman said:

The Regia Marina was quite strong by the standards of the beginning of the war. So much so, in fact, that a very good chunk of the Royal Navy was forced to be kept in the Mediterranean in order to make sure that they couldn't turn it into the 'Roman lake' Mussolini dreamed it would be or break out into the Atlantic.

 

I hate to disagree but, in this instance, I feel as though I have to. Don't forget that the Germans and Italians elected Hitler and Mussolini; They chose fascism and as such they accepted everything that came with it. Saying that 'a lot of them disagreed/wanted peace/were only fighting because they were forced to' is revisionism, plain and simple. Same thing with Japan; While the government may have stoked the flames, the Japanese people wanted the war, otherwise they wouldn't have been so eager to kamikaze themselves into American carriers or fought with such insane fanaticism in the Pacific Islands that the only way to make them give up was to nuke two of their cities.

In summary, WW2 was probably the only war in history where it was truly a case of good vs. evil. Of course the offending countries and their people have changed dramatically since then, but that doesn't mean that when you look back at that point in history they can be portrayed with any sort of sympathy.

Will have to look at Italy, but Germany had several political parties at the time, and Hitler got elected on about 30% vote which included having some of his party troops at some of the voting areas to “encourage “ votes for Hitler. So your looking at the vast majority of Germany against Hitler. And you can’t entirely fault the people for being deceived by somebody with a silver tongue “ who had all the answers to their troubles”. 

Some poloticians today that made me neverous listening to some of their campaign speeches if they promise everything pretty much, you know they will be lying and potentially another such leader. Because nobody can fix everything in their term or teams in office, just usually far too much to do and too little time to do it. So I tend to pay attention to the politicians that promise only a couple things or so that I feel are good things to work on, those are the ones that more than likely are telling the truth. Since let's say as an example the goal they promise is to see to it that an oil pipeline is ordered and constructed, and a leader will be in office 4-8 years, that’s a reasonable goal and enough time to get it completed.

I have listened to a couple of Hitler’s Speeches with sub titles to find out how on earth he ever got elected, and they are scary if you pay careful attention to the words, or more so when you realize you heard such a speeches before from other people in recent years. But when  Mussolini and Hitler got elected the world had been having the Depression and the people were seeking hope and change, so they felt could take the chance if they were already seemingly at rock bottom.

Edited by Admiral_Thrawn_1

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2 hours ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Will have to look at Italy, but Germany had several political parties at the time, and Hitler got elected on about 30% vote which included having some of his party troops at some of the voting areas to “encourage “ votes for Hitler. So your looking at the vast majority of Germany against Hitler. And you can’t entirely fault the people for being deceived by somebody with a silver tongue “ who had all the answers to their troubles”. 

Some poloticians today that made me neverous listening to some of their campaign speeches if they promise everything pretty much, you know they will be lying and potentially another such leader. Because nobody can fix everything in their term or teams in office, just usually far too much to do and too little time to do it. So I tend to pay attention to the politicians that promise only a couple things or so that I feel are good things to work on, those are the ones that more than likely are telling the truth. Since let's say as an example the goal they promise is to see to it that an oil pipeline is ordered and constructed, and a leader will be in office 4-8 years, that’s a reasonable goal and enough time to get it completed.

I have listened to a couple of Hitler’s Speeches with sub titles to find out how on earth he ever got elected, and they are scary if you pay careful attention to the words, or more so when you realize you heard such a speeches before from other people in recent years. But when  Mussolini and Hitler got elected the world had been having the Depression and the people were seeking hope and change, so they felt could take the chance if they were already seemingly at rock bottom.

You don't need to remind me. I've had a front-row seat to exactly those kind of politicians before as a Canadian, be they abroad or even sometimes domestic. However, you forget that in a country with a democratic system of government, it is ultimately the people who decide what goes on. Though Hitler did promise an end to all of Germany's troubles, the people of the time still elected him and as such they are to be held just as responsible for WW2 and all the horrible stuff that happened as Hitler himself was.

To use an example closer to home, the American people are fine with the Electoral College being able to essentially override the popular vote in a federal election because the people haven't forced the lawmakers to remove it. As such, whomever the Electoral College decides will get the presidency, for good or ill, is also the decision of the people because they are seemingly fine with a cabal of old guys having that much power.

Another example, this time from Star Wars: In the prequel films, Darth Sidious was able to amass so much power that he was able to turn the Galactic Republic into the Empire because nobody tried to stop him. None of the senators called for a Vote of No Confidence against him, nor did the citizens of the Republic realize that he had too much power before he could become the Emperor and change things so that he was unimpeachable. It's actually a pretty decent allegory, made all the more surprising since it's found in movies with glaring flaws.

In short, whenever a person gains power in a democracy and then uses that power to become a tyrant, the people, the central focus of a democracy, are just as responsible for that tyrant and every terrible thing they do as that tyrant themselves are.

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5 hours ago, Sparviero said:

Italy pre-1946 and post are effectively two different places and this discussion could go on for days. It's disingenuous to say Italians didn't want to fight. Vittoria mutilata and angst with the British where very much real things that get swept under the table.

 


For everyone slagging the senior command it is time to stop being parrots. With extremely limited resources the successful supply of overseas territories was achieved straight through the end of the Tunisian front. The last purely British attempts to force the route to Malta where near disasters. Rommel's claims of never having enough supplies are countered by the fact that the RM delivered more material than he actually requested for his dash to the wire.

Wanting to avoid losses to heavy units is not the same as being incompetent. Think a little

Just an example of how the Regia Marina handled the convoys.

https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1394&context=nwc-review

 


As to the original subject on paper it was considered a credible threat with a very large submarine threat. Although nothing like the UK/USN/IJN

It was necessary for the Italians to fight an aggressive war in the Med, and they didn't do that. What was really needed was to seize Malta and Gibraltar and lock down the whole basin. And yes, I believe an "Italian Nelson" could have accomplished both at the outset. They possessed the assets, but were paranoid about utilizing them effectively.

Winning a war against an established power means taking substantial risks. In terms of hardware and basic service-level training, they were probably pretty equal to the British. The shortfall was in command-level will and ability, and then, later, in fuel.

Edited by Battleship_Elisabeth

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13 hours ago, BrushWolf said:

The incompetence was at the higher levels. At the operational level they were very good just as the Italian army was. Rommel made good use of Italian troops when he took over only needing a liaison officer with each unit.

The Germans suffered the same issues to a certain amount but not to the extent that happened with the Italians.

The incompetence often came down to unit level too.  Much of the Italian military, particularly the army, had a very large gulf between the enlisted troops and officers.  Officers were often drawn from more well-to-do urban families in Northern Italy and had a sense of entitlement while the enlisted were usually from more rural areas, particularly Southern Italy, and got indifferent treatment.

There were some good units in the Italian military, but you can't say that of the whole.

For instance, Italian navy destroyers developed a good reputation for bravery and competence.  But, they were let down by the heavier units and lack of air cover for the most part.

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12 hours ago, Admiral_Thrawn_1 said:

Yeah because even the North Africa Campaign a lot of that was close enough to the sea for the BBs and perhaps even some of the CAs to have provided fire support by bombarding British positions. 

Of course they probably would have needed to deal with RN Mediterranean Fleet first. Although I f Italians had the 4th biggest Navy in the world all in the Mediterranean, surely they could have possibly  managed against the largest Navy in the world that could only station a fraction of their Navy in Mediterranean?

At the outset of war, Italy really made a mess of their opening moves.  It gave Britain the advantage and they took that to defeating the Italians pretty decisively.  It was German intervention that saved the situation.

In Italian East Africa they had a reasonably decent fleet, but it's purpose was completely botched up.  The main surface force was two destroyer squadrons with 7 ships between them.  They could have made a reasonable raiding force against British shipping headed into the Red Sea for Egypt but really did nothing.  There were two merchant raider / cruisers.  These left for Japan :Smile_amazed: instead of immediately setting sail and going on a raiding campaign in the Indian Ocean.

The MAS boats available broke down with alarming frequency and were useless, while the submarines were found to have faulty air conditioning that poisoned the crew, something that if they were being regularly at sea prior to the war would have been known and repaired.

There was a half-hearted attempt to mine the entry to the Red Sea, another thing that could have easily been accomplished with more aggressive and competent leadership.

On the whole, Italian East Africa should have been better prepared for a campaign in isolation.  Numerically, they had the forces to hold out for an extended period, but lacked the in-place supplies and material to support such a campaign.  That is again incompetence from peacetime.

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