The Italian Navy in World War II

The Italian Navy in World War II

The Italian Navy in World War II

The Italian Navy in World War II

Synopsis

This revisionist history convincingly argues that the Regia Marina Italiana (the Royal Italian Navy) has been neglected and maligned in assessments of its contributions to the Axis effort in World War II. After all, Italy was the major Axis player in the Mediterranean, and it was the Italian navy and air force, with only sporadic help from their German ally, that stymied the British navy and air force for most of the thirty-nine months that Italy was a belligerent. It was the Royal Italian Navy that provided the many convoys that kept the Axis war effort in Africa alive by repeatedly braving attack by aircraft, submarine, and surface vessels. If doomed by its own technical weaknesses and Ultra (the top-secret British decoding device), the Italian navy still fought a tenacious and gallant war; and if it did not win that war, it avoided defeat for thirty-nine, long, frustrating months.

Excerpt

In 1977, while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant for a course on World War II. Although my own research dealt with Italian foreign policy and Yugoslav internal politics during the early 1930s, I was happy to do the course, which was a sort of remunerative busman's holiday for me, because it helped defray the cost of my research abroad that year and allowed me to indulge a longstanding interest in the war and things military.

Stanley Payne, who taught the course, assigned Basil Liddell Hart's new history of World War II as the main text. A comprehensive account of the war by the renowned and revered British military historian, the book was still fresh in those days, and I devoured it, in the process rekindling a passion for military history and war stories that dated back to watching Victory at Sea and B movies as a child during the late 1940s and early 1950s. In those days, I had been convinced that the good guys always won, and of course I believed that we were always the good guys, a belief radically reexamined during the 1960s, but never altogether abandoned, because like many of my generation I felt strongly that we should always be the good guys and therefore greatly resented administrations that compromised American ideals by their actions at home or abroad.

Of course, I knew that mine was a naive point of view. In the years between devouring comic books and reading Liddell Hart, I had lived abroad and discovered that Italians and fascists were no more identical than were Americans and good guys. My reading of such Italian and American authors as Renzo De Felice and William Appleman Williams had made me realize that Mussolini's brand of nationalism may have been more exaggerated, but not that different in kind from the sort of hyperpatriotism espoused by 100% Americans; and I had learned enough to realize that the British Empire's interests had not always coincided with the good and had often conflicted with those of my own country. If imperialism was at bay in the 1940s, as a variety of historians have shown it to have been, it was not merely fascist Italy that stood to lose an empire, but Britain, France, Holland, and Belgium as well.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.