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Post How Much Did Mussolini's Spanish Intervention Weaken Italy in WWII?
Created by John Eipper on 04/05/21 3:51 AM

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How Much Did Mussolini's Spanish Intervention Weaken Italy in WWII? (Paul Preston, -UK, 04/05/21 3:51 am)

A couple of points in support of Ángel Viñas's arguments about Mussolini's objectives in Spain and the negative consequences for Il Duce (April 4th):

One of the clinchers for Mussolini's support was Franco's promise--via the Italian military attaché in Tangiers, Major Giuseppe Luccardi--of future subservience. That, if Mussolini gave him limited military aid, he was prepared to make Spain a fascist satellite, "a republican government in the fascist style adapted for the Spanish people" (intende instaurare governo repubblicano tipo fascista adattato popolo spagnolo). He promised that, if Italy smiled on his cause, "future relations will be more than friendly" (se Italia favorisce, future relazioni saranno più che amichevoli).

Regarding the military consequences for Italy, I quote from my chapter on Mussolini in a book that I edited with Sebastian Balfour, Spain and the Great Powers (London: Routledge, 1999). With help from Lucio Ceva and Brian Sullivan, I concluded the following:

"In September 1939, Italy had ten relatively well-equipped divisions and 800 functioning combat aircraft. By May 1940, there were 19 divisions and 1600 relatively modern aircraft. If what was used up in Spain had been available in September 1939, Italy would have had 30 divisions. 764 aircraft were left in Spain included one hundred Savoia-Marchetti SM79 trimotors--a quarter of those available for bombing, air-torpedoing and reconnaissance. An additional 442 modern artillery pieces and 7,000 vehicles might have made a decisive difference in Albania or in Libya where Graziani complained that he could not attack Egypt for the lack of 5,200 aircraft. Similarly, had the 373 Fiat C.R.32 fighters left in Spain, condemned as obsolete, been available in North Africa, they could still have dominated the even more antiquated British aircraft in use there."

If Eugenio Battaglia would like to check my sources in this regard, Luccardi's reports are in the Documenti Diplomatici Italiani. For the military consequences of Mussolini's help to Franco, I would direct him to Lucio Ceva, "Conseguenze politico-militari dell'intervento italo-fascista nella guerra civile spagnola," in La guerra civile spagnola tra politica e letteratura a cura di Gigliola Sacerdoti Mariani, Arturo Colombo & Antonio Pasinato (Florence: Shakespeare, 1995) pp.222-26; Mario Montanari, "L'impegno italiano nella guerra di Spagna" in Memorie Storico-Militari 1980 (Roma: Ufficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito, 1980) p.152; Brian R. Sullivan, "Fascist Italy's Military Involvement in the Spanish Civil War," The Journal of Military History, Vol.59, No.4, October 1995, pp.711-12.

JE comments:  I'm doing some back-of-the-envelope math.  If we put the strength of a division at 10,000, the eleven "missing" divisions due to Italy's intervention in Spain would translate to 110,000 troops.  Of the 80,000 Italians who fought on Franco's side, only (what a grim adverb) some 4000 were killed.  I see how Spain chewed up valuable Italian planes and weaponry, but in the harsh calculus of warfare, Italy's loss of personnel doesn't seem militarily significant.


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