Why Study Italy in World War II?

By Jim Heddlesten
5/27/2010 • Italy in WW2

Jim Heddlesten, creator of Commando Supremo Website.
Jim Heddlesten, creator of Commando Supremo Website.
So, you may be asking yourself why this guy is so interested in Italian World War Two history. If the drama and intensity of warfare are what draw an individual to study it, surely other countries involved in the conflict would have more to offer.

The answer is really quite simple: It’s because I was born and raised in Italy.

As a young child growing up in Naples, Italy, I was able to see and hear the Italian perspective of the war. I was able to view the remaining relics and bunkers, hear first-hand testimony from my grandfather and his friends, and the eternal argument from those who still maintain respect for Benito Mussolini in shaping Italy into a superpower and disdain from those who blame him for Italy’s destruction in the war.

Italy was an Axis nation aligned with Germany and Japan in what is referred to as the “Pact of Steel.” Although Italy was able to achieve some tactical victories in WWII, it’s economy was never able to obtain a war footing and the Italian military forces—for the most part—had little interest in fighting and winning a war they did not believe in. Much can be said about the poor military leadership as well.

The Germans viewed the Italians as a drain on their resources, and the Italians viewed the Germans as hardheaded fanatics continuing to fight a lost war. The government toppled Mussolini, and Italy joined the Allies as a co-belligerent force against Nazi Germany in 1943.

I never viewed Italy as the soft underbelly of the Axis—as Winston Churchill called it—or the essence of ineffective combat as so many others have described it. Ultimately, I viewed Italy no different than any other nation at war during this dark period in modern history.

But curiosity did force me to question Italy’s role in the war. Were they the cowards claimed by so many of my classmates? Was Mussolini really the buffoon that school teachers and various television programming made him out to be? Unbiased literature about Italy’s part in this war was hard to come by, especially during the dawn of the Internet in the 1990s. It was the frustration at finding factual information that led me to create a Website to help others in a similar situation.

It has been 10 years since my Commando Supremo Website went online. Although I have never claimed to be an expert on Italy in World War Two, it is nice to know that I have developed a Website for those who have a passion for military history and an interest in Italy’s role. I can proudly say that individuals with much more historical knowledge than me regularly contribute to the site and continue helping it grow.

Everyone has their preference in what appeals to them regarding World War Two. But I urge readers to view some of the Web sources listed in this section. You may find some information that will give you a fresh perspective on this often-overlooked Axis (and Allied) participant.

—Jim Heddlesten

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