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On October 13, 1943, the government of Italy declares war on its former Axis partner Germany and joins the battle on the side of the Allies.
With Mussolini deposed from power and the collapse of the fascist government in July, Gen. Pietro Badoglio, Mussolini’s former chief of staff and the man who had assumed power in the Duce’s stead by request of King Victor Emanuel, began negotiating with General Eisenhower regarding a conditional surrender of Italy to the Allies. It became a fact on September 8, with the new Italian government allowing the Allies to land in Salerno, in southern Italy, in its quest to beat the Germans back up the peninsula.
The Germans too snapped into action. Ever since Mussolini began to falter, Hitler had been making plans to invade Italy to keep the Allies from gaining a foothold that would situate them within easy reach of the German-occupied Balkans. On the day of Italy’s surrender, Hitler launched Operation Axis, the occupation of Italy. As German troops entered Rome, General Badoglio and the royal family fled to Brindisi, in southeastern Italy, to set up a new antifascist government.
On October 13, Badoglio set into motion the next stage of his agreement with Eisenhower, the full cooperation of Italian troops in the Allied operation to capture Rome from the Germans. It was extremely slow going, described by one British general as “slogging up Italy.” Bad weather, the miscalculation of starting the operation from so far south in the peninsula, and the practice of “consolidation,” establishing a firm base of operations and conjoining divisions every time a new region was captured, made the race for Rome more of a crawl. But when it was over, and Rome was once again free, General Badoglio would take yet one more step in freeing Italy from its fascist past-he would step down from office.
READ MORE: V-E Day Around the World
At the First Session Begun and held at the City of Washington, on Friday, the third day of January, 1941.
JOINT RESOLUTION Declaring That a State of War Exists Between The Government of Germany and the Government and the People of the United States and Making Provisions To Prosecute The Same
Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Germany and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
(Signed) Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives
(Signed) H. A. Wallace, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate
American History: US Declares War on Japan, Germany and Italy
STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.
Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December of nineteen forty-one was one of the most successful surprise attacks in the history of modern warfare. Japanese warships, including several aircraft carriers, crossed the western Pacific to Hawaii without being seen. They launched their planes on a quiet Sunday morning and attacked the huge American naval and air base at Pearl Harbor
(SOUND: Pearl Harbor attack)
ANNOUNCER: “We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin: The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by air, President Roosevelt has just announced.”
ANNOUNCER: “The attack apparently was made on all naval and military activities on the principal island of Oahu. A Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor naturally would mean war.”
STEVE EMBER: Many of the American sailors were asleep or at church. They were unprepared for the attack. In fact, some people outside the base thought the Japanese planes must be new types of American aircraft on training flights. The sounds of guns and bombs soon showed how wrong they were.
The Japanese planes sank or seriously damaged six powerful American battleships in just a few minutes. They killed more than three thousand sailors. They destroyed or damaged half the American airplanes in Hawaii.
American forces, caught by surprise, were unable to offer much of a fight. Japanese losses were very low.
There was so much destruction at Pearl Harbor that officials in Washington did not immediately reveal the full details to the public. They were afraid that Americans might panic if they learned the truth about the loss of so much military power.
The following day, President Franklin Roosevelt went to Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Japan.
FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: “Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:
"Yesterday, December seventh, nineteen forty-one -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor, looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific …
"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory…
"We will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us …
"I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, nineteen forty-one, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”
STEVE EMBER: The Senate approved President Roosevelt's request without any opposition. In the House of Representatives, only one congressman objected to the declaration of war against Japan.
Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Congress reacted by declaring war on those two countries.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended the long American debate over whether to become involved in the Second World War. American politicians and citizens had argued for years about whether to remain neutral or to fight to help Britain and France and other friends.
Japan's aggressive attack at Pearl Harbor united Americans in a common desire for military victory. It made Americans willing to do whatever was necessary to win the war. And it pushed America into a kind of world leadership that its people had never known before.
President Franklin Roosevelt and his advisers had to make an important decision about how to fight the war. Would the United States fight Japan first, or Germany, or both at the same time?
Japan's attack had brought America into the war. And it had severely damaged American military power. But Roosevelt decided not to strike back at Japan immediately. He would use most of his forces to fight Germany.
There were several reasons for Roosevelt's decision. First, Germany already controlled much of Europe, as well as much of the Atlantic Ocean. Roosevelt considered this a direct threat. And he worried about possible German intervention in Latin America.
Second, Germany was an advanced industrial nation. It had many scientists and engineers. Its factories were modern. Roosevelt was concerned that Germany might be able to develop deadly new weapons, such as an atomic bomb, if it was not stopped quickly.
Third, Britain historically was one of America's closest allies. And the British people were united and fighting for their lives against Germany. This was not true in Asia. Japan's most important opponent was China. But China's fighting forces were weak and divided, and could not offer strong opposition to the Japanese.
Adolf Hitler's decision to break his treaty with Soviet leader Josef Stalin and attack the Soviet Union made Roosevelt's choice final. The American leader recognized that the Germans would have to fight on two fronts: in the west against Britain and in the east against Russia.
He decided it was best to attack Germany while its forces were divided. So the United States sent most of its troops and supplies to Britain to join the fight against Germany.
American military leaders hoped to attack Germany quickly by launching an attack across the English Channel. Stalin also supported this plan. Soviet forces were suffering terrible losses from the Nazi attack and wanted the British and Americans to fight the Germans on the west.
However, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other leaders opposed launching an invasion across the English Channel too quickly. They worried that such an invasion might fail, while the Germans were still so strong. And they knew this would mean disaster.
For this reason, British and American forces decided instead to attack the Italian and German troops occupying North Africa.
British forces had been fighting the Italians and Germans in North Africa since late nineteen forty. They fought the Italians first in Egypt and Libya. British forces had successfully pushed the Italians across Libya. They killed more than ten thousand Italian troops and captured more than one hundred thirty thousand prisoners.
But the British success did not last long. Hitler sent one of his best commanders, General Erwin Rommel, to take command of the Italians. Rommel was brave and smart. He pushed the British back from Libya to the border with Egypt. And in a giant battle at Tobruk, he destroyed or captured more than eight hundred of Britain's nine hundred tanks.
Rommel's progress threatened Egypt and the Suez Canal. So Britain and the United States moved quickly to send more troops and supplies to stop him.
Slowly, British forces led by General Bernard Montgomery pushed Rommel and the Germans back to Tripoli in Libya.
In November nineteen forty-two, American and British forces commanded by General Dwight Eisenhower landed in northwest Africa. They planned to attack Rommel from the west, while Montgomery attacked him from the east.
But Rommel knew Eisenhower's troops had done little fighting before. So he attacked them quickly before they could launch their own attack.
A major battle took place at Kasserine Pass in western Tunisia. American forces suffered heavy losses. But in the end Rommel's attack failed. Three months later, American forces joined with Montgomery's British troops to force the Germans in North Africa to surrender.
The battle of North Africa was over. The allied forces of Britain and the United States had regained control of the southern Mediterranean Sea. They could now attack Hitler's forces in Europe from the south.
The Allies wasted no time. They landed on the Italian island of Sicily in July of nineteen forty-three. German tanks fought back. But the British and American forces moved ahead. Soon they captured Sicily's capital, Palermo. And within weeks, they forced the German forces to leave Sicily for the Italian mainland.
In late July, Italy's dictator, Benito Mussolini, was overthrown and placed in prison. The Germans rescued him and helped him establish a new government, protected by German troops. But still the Allies attacked.
They crossed to the Italian mainland. The Germans fought hard. And for some time, they prevented the allied troops from breaking out of the coastal areas.
The fighting grew bloodier. A fierce battle took place at Monte Cassino. Thousands and thousands of soldiers lost their lives. But slowly the allies advanced north through Italy. They captured Rome in June of nineteen forty-four. And they forced the Germans back into the mountains of northern Italy.
The allies would not gain complete control of Italy until the end of the war. But they had succeeded in increasing their control of the Mediterranean and pushing back the Germans.
One reason Hitler's forces were not stronger in Africa and Italy was because German armies also were fighting in Russia. That will be our story next week.
Our program was written by David Jarmul. You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I’m Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
This was program #191. For earlier programs, type "Making of a Nation" in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.
United States declaration of war on Italy
On December 11, 1941, in response to Italian declaration of war on the United States, four days following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and three days after the United States declaration of war on the Empire of Japan, the United States Congress passed the Joint Resolution Declaring That a State of War Exists Between The Government of Italy and the Government and the People of the United States and Making Provisions to Prosecute the Same, thereby declaring war against Italy. It also declared war upon Germany that same day.
Whereas the Government of Italy has formally declared war against the Government and the people of the United States of America. Therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Government of Italy which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Italy and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States. 
Italy declares war on Germany - HISTORY
German Declaration of War against the United States
The Government of the United States having violated in the most flagrant manner and in ever-increasing measure all rules of neutrality in favor of the adversaries of Germany and having continually been guilty of the most severe provocations toward Germany ever since the outbreak of the European war, provoked by the British declaration of war against Germany on September 3, 1939, has finally resorted to open military acts of aggression.
On September 11, 1941, the President of the United States publicly declared that he had ordered the American Navy and Air Force to shoot on sight at any German war vessel. In his speech of October 27, 1941, he once more expressly affirmed that this order was in force. Acting under this order, vessels of the American Navy, since early September 1941, have systematically attacked German naval forces. Thus, American destroyers, as for instance the Greer, the Kearny and the Reuben James, have opened fire on German submarines according to plan. The Secretary of the American Navy, Mr. Knox, himself confirmed that American destroyers attacked German submarines.
Furthermore, the naval forces of the United States, under order of their Government and contrary to international law have treated and seized German merchant vessels on the high seas as enemy ships.
The German Government therefore establishes the following facts:
Although Germany on her part has strictly adhered to the rules of international law in her relations with the United States during every period of the present war, the Government of the United States from initial violations of neutrality has finally proceeded to open acts of war against Germany. The Government of the United States has thereby virtually created a state of war.
The German Government, consequently, discontinues diplomatic relations with the United States of America and declares that under these circumstances brought about by President Roosevelt, Germany too, as from today, considers herself as being in a state of war with the United States of America.
Accept, Mr. Chargé d'Affaires, the expression of my high consideration.
December 11, 1941
1915 - Italy enters World War I on side of Allies.
1919 - Gains Trentino, South Tyrol, and Trieste under peace treaties.
1922 - Fascist leader Mussolini forms government after three years of political and economic unrest.
1926 - Suppression of opposition parties.
1929 - Lateran Treaty creates state of Vatican City.
1935 - Italy invades Ethiopia.
1936 - Mussolini forms axis with Nazi Germany.
1939 - Albania annexed.
1940 - Italy enters World War II on German side. Italian forces occupy British Somaliland in East Africa.
1941 - Italy declares war on USSR.
1943 - Sicily invaded by Allies. King Victor Emmanuel III imprisons Mussolini. Armistice signed with Allies. Italy declares war on Germany.
1944 - Allied armies liberate Rome.
1945 - Mussolini, who had been rescued from prison by Germans, is captured and executed by Italian partisans.
Towards European integration
1946 - Referendum votes for republic to replace monarchy.
1947 - Italy cedes land and territories under peace treaty.
1948 - New constitution. Christian Democrats win elections.
1951 - Italy joins European Coal and Steel Community.
1955 - Italy joins United Nations.
1957 - Founder member of European Economic Community.
1963 - Italian Socialist Party joins Christian Democrat-led coalition under Prime Minister Aldo Moro.
1972 - Giulio Andreotti becomes prime minister - a post he will hold seven times in 20 years.
1976-78 - Communist election gains lead to voice in policy making.
1978 - Former Prime Minister Aldo Moro kidnapped and murdered by fanatical left-wing group, the Red Brigades. Abortion legalised.
1980 - Bombing of Bologna station kills 84, linked to right-wing extremists.
1983 - Bettino Craxi becomes Italy's first Socialist prime minister since war.
1984 - Roman Catholicism loses status as state religion.
1991 - Communists rename themselves Democratic Party of the Left.
1992 - Revelations of high level corruption spark several years of arrests and investigations.
Top anti-Mafia prosecutor, Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards killed in car bomb attack.
1993 - Bribery scandal leads to Craxi's resignation as leader of Socialist Party. He later flees the country, is tried and sentenced in absentia to imprisonment but dies in Tunisia in 2000.
1994 March - Freedom Alliance wins election. The coalition, which includes Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the Northern League and the neo-Fascist National Alliance, collapses by end of year following clashes with anticorruption magistrates and a battle with trade unions over pension reform.
1995-96 - Lamberto Dini heads government of technocrats. Austerity budget.
1996 - Centre-left Olive Tree alliance wins election. Romano Prodi becomes prime minister.
1997 - Earthquakes strike Umbria region, causing extensive damage to Basilica of St Francis of Assisi. Four killed.
Prodi government loses confidence vote. Massimo D'Alema becomes prime minister.
1999 - Carlo Ciampi becomes president.
2000 April - D'Alema resigns after poor regional election results and is replaced by Giuliano Amato.
2001 May/June - A centre-right coalition, led by Silvio Berlusconi of the Forza Italia party, wins the general elections.
Berlusconi forms new coalition government which includes the leaders of two right-wing parties, Gianfranco Fini of the National Alliance and Umberto Bossi of the Northern League as well as the pro-European Renato Ruggiero who becomes foreign minister.
2001 Oct - First constitutional referendum since 1946 sees vote in favour of major constitutional change giving greater autonomy to the country's 20 regions in tax, education and environment policies.
2002 Jan - Euro replaces the lira.
Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero resigns in protest at the Eurosceptical views of right-wing cabinet colleagues.
2002 February-March - Controversy as parliament approves bill enabling Berlusconi to keep control of his businesses.
2002 October - Lower house of parliament passes controversial criminal reform bill which critics allege is intended to help PM Berlusconi avoid trial on corruption charges.
2003 May-June - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appears in Milan court at his own trial on corruption charges relating to business dealings in the 1980s. He asserts that he is the victim of a conspiracy by a politically-motivated judiciary.
2003 June - Mr Berlusconi's trial halted after parliament passes law granting immunity from prosecution to five holders of key state posts, including the prime minister.
2003 November - Italy declares national day of mourning after 19 of its servicemen are killed in a suicide bomb attack on their base in southern Iraq.
Multi-billion euro fraud uncovered at Parmalat food-manufacturing giant. The company is declared insolvent.
2004 January - Constitutional Court throws out law granting Mr Berlusconi and other top state post holders immunity from prosecution. Mr Berlusconi's trial resumes in April.
2004 October - Forced expulsion from island of Lampedusa of hundreds of African asylum seekers is criticised by UN.
2004 December - After a four-year trial Prime Minister Berlusconi is cleared of corruption.
2005 March - Italian secret service officer shot dead during operation to free hostage in Iraq.
2005 April - Parliament ratifies EU constitution.
Government coalition collapses after suffering a crushing defeat in regional polls. Berlusconi resigns. Days later, he forms a new government after receiving a presidential mandate.
2005 December - Antonio Fazio resigns as governor of Bank of Italy following a scandal over the sale of Banca Antonveneta. He denies acting improperly.
2006 January - Defence minister says Italian troops will leave Iraq. The mission ends in September 2006.
2006 April - Centre-left leader Romano Prodi wins closely-fought general elections. He is sworn in as prime minister in May.
Italy's most-wanted man, suspected head of the Sicilian mafia Bernardo Provenzano, is captured by police.
2006 May - Giorgio Napolitano, a former communist, is elected as president.
2006 June - National referendum rejects reforms intended to boost the powers of the prime minister and regions. The changes were proposed during Silvio Berlusconi's premiership.
2006 August - Hundreds of Italian peacekeepers leave for Lebanon. Italy is set to become the biggest contributor to the UN-mandated force.
2007 February - Prime Minister Prodi resigns after the government loses a Senate vote on its foreign policy. The president asks him to stay on and Mr Prodi goes on to win confidence votes in both houses of parliament.
2008 January - A no-confidence vote forces Mr Prodi's government to resign.
Berlusconi back again
2008 April - Berlusconi wins general elections, securing a third term as premier after two years in opposition.
2008 August - Berlusconi apologises to Libya for damage inflicted by Italy during the colonial era and signs a five billion dollar investment deal by way of compensation.
Italy's national airline, Alitalia, files for bankruptcy.
2008 November - After posting two consecutive quarters of negative growth, Italy is declared to be officially in recession.
2009 April - Earthquake strikes towns in the mountainous Abruzzo region, leaving hundreds of people dead and thousands homeless.
2009 May-July - Parliament approves controversial law criminalising illegal immigration and allowing citizens' patrols.
2009 October - Constitutional court overturns law that granted Premier Berlusconi immunity while in office.
2009 December - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is assaulted at a rally in Milan. A man said to have a history of mental illness flings a model of Milan cathedral at the premier's face, breaking his nose and two teeth.
2010 January - Pope Benedict calls on Italians to respect the rights of illegal migrants. The call came after a wave of violence against African farm workers in southern Italy which left some 70 people injured.
2010 March - Mr Berlusconi's coalition makes strong gains from the centre-left in regional polls.
2010 July - Government survives confidence vote on austerity package meant to bolster the country's finances.
Mr Berlusconi splits with his former political ally, speaker of parliament Gianfranco Fini, who sets up rival centre-right party Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI).
2010 August - Mr Berlusconi's coalition loses majority in lower house of parliament after more than 30 deputies break away from his Party of Freedom and join Mr Fini's FLI.
2010 December - Mr Berlusconi wins two confidence votes - brought after scandals in his private life and corruption allegations - by slender margin.
2011 February - A Milan judge orders Mr Berlusconi to stand trial on 6 April for abuse of power and paying for sex with an under-age prostitute.
2011 July - IMF calls on Italy to do more to reduce its public debt - one of the largest in the eurozone - and push through spending cuts.
2011 September - Parliament gives final approval to a 54bn euro (£47bn $74bn) austerity package. The package contains a pledge to balance the budget by 2013.
2011 October - Prime Minister Berlusconi wins key confidence vote over his handling of the economy.
More than 130 members of the public and more than 100 policemen are injured in mass protests in Rome marking a day of global protest against austerity and banking practices.
2011 November - Amid growing doubts about Italy's debt burden, Mr Berlusconi resigns after his government fails to gain a full majority in the Chamber of Deputies during a budget vote. President Giorgio Napolitano nominates former European Union commissioner Mario Monti to form a government of technocrats.
2011 December - Mr Monti's package of austerity measures amounting to 33bn euros (£27bn $43bn) of spending cuts gains parliamentary approval. The package also includes measures to raise taxes and tackle tax evasion.
2012 January - Government issues de-regulation decree designed to curb restrictive practices, reduce protectionism and encourage competition. The decree is intended to promote a more meritocratic system and to make it easier for young people to find employment.
US ratings agency Fitch downgrades Italy's credit rating by two notches to A-.
World War II
World War II is appropriately called “Hitler’s war.” Germany was so extraordinarily successful in the first two years that Hitler came close to realizing his aim of establishing hegemony in Europe. But his triumphs were not part of a strategic conception that secured victory in the long run. Nonetheless, the early successes were spectacular. After the defeat of Poland within a month, Hitler turned his attention westward. He believed that it was necessary to defeat Britain and France before he could again turn eastward to the territories that were to become the “living space” for his new empire. The attack on the Western Front began in the spring of 1940. Hitler took Denmark and Norway during the course of a few days in April, and on May 10 he attacked France, along with Luxembourg, Belgium, and The Netherlands. Once again his armies achieved lightning victories Luxembourg, Belgium, and The Netherlands were overrun in a few days, and France capitulated on June 21. Only the British, now alone, obstructed Hitler’s path to total victory in the west.
Hitler determined that he could take Britain out of the war with air power. German bombers began their attack in August 1940, but the British proved intractable. The vaunted German air force (Luftwaffe) failed to bring Britain to its knees partly because of the strength of the British air force, partly because the German air force was ill-equipped for the task, and partly because the British were able to read German code (see Ultra). Yet Hitler had been so confident of a quick victory that, even before the attack began, he had ordered his military planners to draw up plans for an invasion of the Soviet Union. The date he had set for that invasion was May 15, 1941.
Although the defeat of the Soviet Union was central to Hitler’s strategic objective, during the early months of 1941 he allowed himself to be sidetracked twice into conflicts that delayed his invasion. In both instances he felt obliged to rescue his ally Mussolini from military difficulties. Mussolini had invaded Greece in October 1940, despite the fact that he was already in difficulty in North Africa, where he was unable to cut off Britain’s Mediterranean lifeline in Egypt. In February 1941 Hitler decided to reinforce Mussolini in North Africa by sending an armoured division under the command of General Erwin Rommel. When Mussolini’s invasion of Greece also bogged down, Hitler again decided to send reinforcements. To reach Greece, German troops had to be sent through the Balkan countries, all of them officially neutral. Hitler managed to bully these countries into accepting the passage of German troops, but on March 27 a coup in Yugoslavia overthrew the government, and the new rulers reneged on the agreement. In retaliation Hitler launched what he called Operation Punishment against the Yugoslavs. Yugoslav resistance collapsed quickly, but the effect was to delay for another month the planned invasion of the Soviet Union.
When the invasion of the Soviet Union finally came, on June 22, 1941, it did so with both campaigns against the British, across the English Channel and in the Mediterranean, still incomplete. Hitler was prepared to take the risk that fighting on multiple fronts entailed, because he was convinced that the war against the Soviet Union would be over by the onset of the Russian winter. The spectacular German advances during the first weeks of the invasion seemed proof of Hitler’s calculation. On July 3 his army chief of staff wrote in his war diary that the war had been won. The German Army Group North was approaching Leningrad Army Group Centre had broken through the Soviet defenses and was rushing toward Moscow and Army Group South had already captured vast reaches of Ukraine. The prospect of capturing the summer harvest of Ukraine along with the oil fields of the Caucasus led Hitler to transfer troops driving toward Moscow to reinforce those operating in the south.
Hitler’s generals later considered this decision a turning point in the war. The effect was to delay until October the drive toward Moscow. By then an early winter had set in, greatly impeding the German advance and finally bringing it to a halt at the outskirts of Moscow in early December. Then, on December 6, the Soviets, having had time to regroup, launched a massive counteroffensive to relieve their capital city. On the following day the Japanese, nominally Germany’s ally, launched their attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Although they had not bothered to inform Hitler of their intentions, he was jubilant when he heard the news. “Now it is impossible for us to lose the war,” he told his aides. On December 11 he declared war on the United States.
Though his plans for a quick defeat of the Soviet Union had not been realized, Hitler’s troops at the end of 1941 controlled much of the European territory of the Soviet Union. They stood at the outskirts of Leningrad and Moscow and were in control of all of Ukraine. To prepare for what would now have to be the campaign of 1942, Hitler dismissed a number of generals and assumed himself the strategic and operational command of the armies on the Eastern Front.
At the high point of Hitler’s military successes in the Soviet Union, members of the Nazi leadership were, with Hitler’s understanding, feverishly planning for the new order they intended to impose on the conquered territories. Its realization called both for the removal of obstacles to German settlements and for a solution to the “Jewish problem.” Nazi planners were drafting an elaborate scheme, General Plan East, for the future reorganization of eastern Europe and the western Soviet Union, which called for the elimination of 30 million or more Slavs and the settlement of their territories by German overlords who would control and eventually repopulate the area with Germans. During the fall of 1941 Himmler’s SS expanded and refurbished with gas chambers and crematoriums an old Austrian army barracks near the Polish rail junction at Auschwitz. Here was to continue, with greater efficiency, the Holocaust—the mass murder of Jews that had begun with the June invasion, when SS Einsatzgruppen (“deployment groups”) began rounding up Jews and shooting them by the thousands. The assurance of victory in the east, the heartland of European Jewry, convinced the Nazis that they could implement a “final solution” to the “Jewish problem.” Experts estimate that ultimately some six million Jews were murdered in the death factories of eastern Europe. At least an equal number of non-Jews died of murder and starvation in places like Auschwitz, including two and a half million Soviet prisoners of war and countless others from eastern European nationalities.
The success of Nazi armies until the end of 1941 had made it possible to spare German civilians on the home front from the misery and sacrifices demanded of them during World War I. Hitler’s imagination, however, was haunted by the memory of the collapse of the home front in 1918, and, to avoid a repetition, the Nazis looted the occupied territories of food and raw materials as well as labour. Food shortages in Germany were not serious until late in the war. Women were allowed to stay at home, and the energies of the German workforce were not stretched to their limits, because eventually some seven million foreign slave labourers were used to keep the war effort going.
Through much of 1942 an ultimate German victory still seemed possible. The renewed offensive in the Soviet Union in the spring at first continued the successes of the previous year. Once again Hitler chose to concentrate on the capture of the Caucasus and its oil at the expense of the Moscow front. The decision entailed a major battle over the industrial centre at Stalingrad (now Volgograd). Elsewhere, by midsummer of 1942, Rommel’s Afrika Korps advanced to within 65 miles (105 km) of Alexandria in Egypt. In the naval battle for control of the Atlantic sea lanes, German submarines maintained their ability to intercept Allied shipping into mid-1943.
By early 1943, however, the tide had clearly begun to turn. The great winter battle at Stalingrad brought Hitler his first major defeat. His entire Sixth Army was killed or captured. In North Africa Rommel’s long success ended in late 1942 when the British broke through at El Alamein. At the same time, a joint British-American force landed in northwestern Africa, on the coast of Morocco and Algeria. By May 1943 the German and Italian forces in North Africa were ready to surrender. That same summer the Allies broke the back of the German submarine campaign in the Atlantic. On July 10 the Allies landed in Sicily. Two weeks later Mussolini was overthrown, and in early September the Italians withdrew from the war.
The addition of an Italian front made the rollback of German forces on all fronts that much more likely. In the Soviet Union, German forces were stretched across 2,500 miles (4,000 km). They had lost their air superiority when Allied bombing raids on German cities forced the withdrawal of large numbers of fighter planes. British and American bombings reached a high point in midsummer when a raid on Hamburg killed 40,000 of its inhabitants. Similar air raids killed hundreds of thousands of German civilians and leveled large areas of most German cities. Shortages of food, clothing, and housing began to afflict German cities as inevitably as did the Allied bombers.
The rollback of German forces continued inexorably during 1944. On June 6 the Allies in the west launched their invasion of France across the English Channel. In the east the Soviet army was advancing along the entire 2,500-mile front. By the end of the year, it stood poised on the eastern frontiers of prewar Germany. In the west, British and American troops stood ready to attack across the western borders.
This day in History: Italy declares war to Germany (NYT)
By MILTON BRACKER
By Wireless to The New York Times
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Algiers, Oct. 13--Italy declared war on Nazi Germany, her former Axis partner, at 3 P.M. today, Greenwich time [11 A.M. in New York].
Acting on orders of King Victor Emmanuel as transmitted by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the Italian Ambassador in Madrid notified the German Ambassador there that:
"In the face of repeated and intensified acts of war committed against Italians by the armed forces of Germany, from 1500 hours Greenwich time on the thirteenth day of October Italy considers herself in a state of war with Germany."
Thus the defeated nation led into war by Benito Mussolini re-entered it against its former ally through a curt diplomatic exchange in the capital of the country in which they had first collaborated on a military basis seven years ago.
Asks People to Avenge Ferocity
Excoriating the nation that now occupies Italy's own "Eternal City" as well as the entire industrial north, Marshal Badoglio in a proclamation to the Italian people exhorted them all to avenge the inhuman ferocity of the German Army at Naples and in other areas.
And in a five-sentence note to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mussolini's successor as head of the Italian Government told the Allied Commander in Chief that all ties with the "dreadful past" were broken and that his government would be proud "to march with you to inevitable victory." He asked General Eisenhower to communicate the decision to Britain, the United States, Russia and the other United Nations with which in his proclamation he said Italy would now march forward "shoulder to shoulder" to the end.
His Government, the septuagenarian marshal asserted in his proclamation to the Italian people, will soon be completed, and to guarantee its functioning as a truly democratic administration the representatives of "every political party" will be asked to participate. Moreover, the man with whom the Allies negotiated the armistice of Sept. 3 pledged that the present arrangement would in no way impair the "untrammeled right of the people of Italy to choose their own form of democratic government when peace is restored."
There could be no such peace, Marshal Badoglio said in the proclamation, so long as a single German remained on Italian soil. He reiterated in a statement to the press issued at his headquarters in Italy that his Government had no intention of interfering with the right of the Italian people to a free choice of the government they desire "for the not less important tasks of peace and reconstruction."
Cites Ouster of Mussolini
Marshal Badoglio cited the fact that the decree dissolving the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations--which accompanied the ousting of Mussolini in July--had effectually indicated the Government's intention. It was therein provided that elections would be held four months after the end of hostilities.
"What was said then is reaffirmed now," Marshal Badoglio said. "The present Government has clearly defined the task of leading the country until peace has been won. With that its mandate will cease."
The New York Times' exclusive story on the declaration this morning took the edge off the surprise of the announcement here this afternoon, but even without that the news would not have been so much of a surprise here as the news of the armistice thirty-five days ago.
It had been known for weeks--and this correspondent among others had said--that negotiations between the Allies and Marshal Badoglio were continuing with a view to formalizing Italy's war role from now on.
A major consideration was public opinion--just how the Allies intend to cope with the obvious criticism that is sure to arise in many quarters. There will be cries of "Darlanism" and much blinking in puzzlement among many Americans and Britons who have not yet forgotten the fact that our troops were shooting at and being shot at by Italians until very recently.
But as of the moment that the decision was formalized, with the Italian Ambassador at Madrid actually handing the document of notification to the German Ambassador there, it can be assumed that Washington and London had pretty well resolved the problem. This is about the way the two governments and their military High Command are understood to feel about it.
Question of Italian Army
The Italian Army as such cannot be regarded in its present state as an important striking force because of its great losses of man and equipment, but primarily because the all-important will to fight had been observed as very low for a long time preceding the armistice. At the same time Italian hatred of the Germans unquestionably grew as the fighting spirit waned, and episodes between German and Italian soldiers and civilians before and after the armistice have shown pretty clearly a complete and incontrovertible end of all sympathy between the former Axis partners.
Therefore, it seemed reasonable to take advantage of the Italians' willingness, even eagerness, to pin their hopes of a better role in the peace settlement to the status of co-belligerency now. As co-belligerents, which the Italians now become by virtue of the documents published today, even though the Allies have not said so in so many words, the Italians will be able to help the Allies in a great many ways, even if not as fellow- soldiers in the front lines.
Although nothing has been said officially as to exactly how the Italians will be employed in the rest of the war, it is almost universally believed that a lingering feeling between them and their recent enemies would militate against their efficiently joining in the actual battlefront.
At the same time, there is obviously an enormous amount of behind-the-lines work, particularly in their own country, where the Italians can be of enormous use. In all matters of supply, in furnishing guards over military property, as a collective liaison agency between advancing Allies and the liberated Italian people, there is no doubt that the Italians can contribute a major service to the Allied cause.
Italy's Position in War
This can be understood better when viewed negatively. If the Allies had turned down Italy's plea to be accepted as a co-belligerent, she would naturally have remained a defeated enemy. As such much Allied military strength would have had to be diverted to administering her disbanded army and her liberated but not militarily controlled territory.
As this correspondent wrote several times, the new status of Italy means a new and minimized role for the Allied Military Government, but at the same time it means giving the Italians more faith in those who defeated them, pride in having a share in the cleansing of their own territory of the hated Germans, and an opportunity actually to play an important role in ultimate victory.
Another highly important consideration behind the decision of the Allies to permit the Italian declaration was the probable effect on the populations of the occupied parts of Italy. Even with the status as it was up to this afternoon, the Allies had reason to be hopeful that the great laboring populations of Milan, Turin and Genoa would turn against the Germans in the same way the French and other European victims of Hitler had turned against the occupying forces.
Now, it may be argued, many persons north of the present Allied front will see in the advancing forces not only foreign armies considerably less odious than those they are driving out but Italian forces themselves. And no matter how limited is the extent to which the Italian troops are employed, that will nevertheless be true to some degree.
The question of who will figure in marshal Badoglio's completed government has been bruited about ever since the armistice. So far the only names released as officially connected with the Italian marshal are those of his military, naval and air aides who accompanied him on the visit to General Eisenhower Sept. 29. These also included Count Aquarone, Minister of Finance.
But it is uniformly agreed that outsiders will have to be brought in and, of course, Count Carlo Sforza's name has cropped up most often. He is now en route here.
But Count Sforza has said he will not actually be part of the Badoglio Government, although he will lend his influence and aid to the general project of kicking the Germans out. As Marshal Badoglio has said, the single objective is to free the country of Germans, and on that basis, it ought to be possible to unite many Italian leaders who otherwise are separated by vast political differences. Another hitch is that so many potential candidates are in German hands.
Attitude of the French
The attitude of the French Committee of National Liberation here remains generally calm, although there is still no love between the French and the Italians as the simple fact of newsreels showing Italians proves. But with Rene Massigli to direct its foreign relations and both Gen. Charles de Gaulle and Henri-Honore Giraud thoroughly aware of the primary military nature of the new arrangement, it is very unlikely that the French will make a formal protest.
At the time of the armistice they were most piqued, not by the armistice of course, but by the fact that it had been negotiated without their participation.
The establishment of the Politico-Military Commission, with France sharing membership with Russia, the United States and Britain, has helped to bring the committee into the swiftly enlarging Mediterranean picture and will undoubtedly help to alleviate any sting that the recognition of Italy as a co-belligerent might otherwise have provoked.
A member of the Committee of National Liberation said tonight that the Italian matter would undoubtedly be discussed at a regular meeting tomorrow morning, but he doubted that any formal comment would be issued. It was this man's opinion that many persons in France, particularly southeastern France, would be interested in the development. He said it was obvious from the background of French-Italian relations since 1938 that acceptance of the Italians as co-belligerents could hardly be seriously stomached by these French.
Many will never forget the circumstances of the Italian declaration of war against France. But the French spokesman also was sure the committee had come too far since those days to be seriously piqued by what is plainly a military step. Moreover, he cited a guarantee in the Allied leader's declaration that nothing growing out of the new status of Italy would be permitted to constitute inconsistence with the armistice terms. Beyond that he thought the French were prepared to await eventualities.
There may be a problem in Corsica, where 80,000 Italians have retained an army, which the patriots who figured in the liberation there would very much like to take over, as well as all of its transport.
The Italian Declaration of Neutrality
The Marquis di San Giuliano referred to in the dispatches was Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1914. On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary and on August 27, 1916, against Germany.
The German Ambassador at Rome, Baron Ludwig von Flotow, to the German Foreign Office tx5940 Telegram 161
The local Government has discussed, at the Ministerial Council held today, the question of Italy's attitude in the war. Marquis San Giuliano told me that the Italian Government had considered the question thoroughly, and had again come to the conclusion that Austria's procedure against Serbia must be regarded as an act of aggression, and that consequently a casus foederis, according to the terms of the Triple Alliance treaty, did not exist. Therefore Italy would have to declare herself neutral. Upon my violently opposing this point of view, the Minister went on to state that since Italy had not been informed in advance of Austria's procedure against Serbia, she could with less reason be expected to take part in the war, as Italian interests were being directly injured by the Austrian proceeding. All that he could say to me now was that the local Government reserved the right to determine whether it might be possible for Italy to intervene later in behalf of the allies, if, at the time of doing so, Italian interests should be satisfactorily protected. The Minister, who was in a state of great excitement, said in explanation that the entire Ministerial Council, with the exception of himself, had shown a distinct dislike for Austria. It had been all the more difficult for him to contest this feeling, because Austria, as I myself knew, was continuing so persistently with a recognized injury to Italian interests, as to violate Article 7 of the Triple Alliance treaty, and because she was declining to give a guaranty for the independence and integrity of Serbia. He regretted that the Imperial Government had not done more to intervene in this connection to persuade Austria to a timely compliance. I have the impression that it is not yet necessary to give up all hope for the future here, if the Italians should be met halfway with regard to the demands mentioned above, or in other words, if compensation should be offered them. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the attitude England has assumed has decidedly diminished prospects of Italian participation in our favor.
In the meanwhile, I pointed out to the Minister in the plainest manner possible the extremely regrettable impression which such an attitude would make on us, and then called to his attention the consequences which might develop for Italy in the future as a result.
The Austro-Hungarian Ambassador at Rome, von Merey, to Count Berchtold
Telegram Minister of Foreign Affairs spontaneously brought up today the question of Italian attitude in the event of a European war.
As the character of the Triple Alliance is purely defensive as our measures against Serbia may precipitate a European conflagration and finally, as we had not previously consulted this government, Italy would not be bound to join us in the war. This, however, does not preclude the alternative that Italy might, in such an event, have to decide for herself whether her interests would best be served by taking sides with us in military operations or by remaining neutral. Personally he feels more inclined to favor the first solution, which appears to him as the more likely one, provided that Italy's interests in the Balkan Peninsula are safeguarded and that we do not seek changes likely to give us a predominance detrimental to Italy's interests in the Balkans.
The French Ambassador to Rome, M. Barrere, to M. Rene Viviani,
President of the Council, Minister for Foreign Affairs
I WENT to see the Marquis di San Giuliano this morning at half-past eight, in order to get precise information from him as to the attitude of Italy in view of the provocative acts of Germany and the results which they may have.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs answered that he had seen the German Ambassador yesterday evening. Herr von Flotow had said to him that Germany had requested the Russian Government to suspend mobilisation, and the French Government to inform them as to their intentions. Germany had given France a time limit of eighteen hours and Russia a time limit of twelve hours.
Herr von Flotow as a result of this communication asked what were the intentions of the Italian Government.
The Marquis di San Giuliano answered that as the war undertaken by Austria was aggressive and did not fall within the purely defensive character of the Triple Alliance, particularly in view of the consequences which might result from it according to the declaration of the German Ambassador, Italy could take part in the war.
Why was Italy so ineffective as a military in WW2?
Ever since I learned about WW2 the most common thing I heard was how cowardly or incompetent the Italian military was. So I was hoping to have light shed on this reoccurring theme. Was the Italian military as bad as everyone says it was? If so then why? I’m sorry if this is a repost but I’m very curious about this topic.
From one of the better threads that explained it:
"The Italian army during WWII was completely unready for a war against modern European armies. The Individual Italian soldier was for the most part brave and willing to fight, but they were ineptly led, poorly supplied, and inadequately armed.
Fascist Italy never had the full support of the people when they went to war, what little Jingoism they had quickly dissipated when the British appeared of the coast of Italy and destroyed two Italian battleships. Mussolini had envisioned a "separate war" from Germany, but that quickly became impossible as Italy went from defeat to defeat.
Mussolini, in order to enlarge the size of his army, instituted "Binary" infantry divisions. This means that each division only had two brigades of infantry as opposed to the three or four of other nations. So right of the bat the average Italian infantry division is going to be weaker than its counterparts. This came into play in Greece and France when stronger Greek and French infantry divisions were able to easily repel more numerous Italian infantry divisions.
Italy while it had a comparatively modern air force and somewhat modern navy, had almost completely neglected armoured development. Mussolini was deeply distrustful of foreign companies and gave Italian companies like FIAT a monoply on vehicle production. This meant that the tanks Italy did produce were often inefficient and inferior to the tanks fielded by Germany, the USA, and Britain. Even the elite Italian armoured divisions like the 132nd Armoured division (nicknamed Ariete) couldn't stand up to the tank divisions of Britain. In North Africa Rommel did not trust the Italian armoured divisions for exactly this reason. While the division did fight admirably at points, its lack of decent tanks caught up to it and it was eventually destroyed at the Battle of El Alamein.
Italy also had issues with mechanized transport. They had next to no mechanization. When Italy invaded British Egypt, they did so in long fighting columns that really belonged more to the 19th century than to the 20th. This lack of motorized transport would come to haunt them in Operation Compass. When a British motorized unit outflanked the retreating Italians and cut them off, taking over 100,000 prisoners. This lack of motorized transport also meant that the Italians couldn't partake in the rapid offensive movements that their German allies did. This led to them being relegated to cannon fodder since they could not be used to achieve breakthroughs, like the German Panzer and Motorized units could.
The Italian commanders were also often hamstrung by Mussolini who demanded they launch costly offensives that had little chance of success. Like in France and Greece when Mussolini demanded that his generals launch offensives into heavily defended, mountainous terrain. The Italian commander in Libya, Rodolfo Graziani, did not want to invade Egypt because he knew his army was not ready, but Mussolini forced him to.
Finally, the Italian Army was just not ready for war. Mussolini had been told that his army wouldn't be ready until at least 1943, but when the French began to collapse rapidly and Britain looked poised to do the same, he declared war expecting a short war. The Italians had no motorized divisions to speak of, the rest of their army was being modernized , and they just did not, as a country, have the ability to sustain a modern European war."