Teo41

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ITALY'S TEN YEARS WAR

This is my first AAR with Hearts of Iron 3 TFH. Please apologize any grammatical mistakes, I still need to gain experience in writing long texts in English!

Ante Scriptum: in this AAR, history has been voluntarily altered, in order to reach the goal of my military campaign.

I used a custom vanilla mod: I added unique units (desert armoured divisions or the infamous railway gun...) for Italy and some for all the countries; I reworked the ITA OOB 1936 and changed some technologies (added many naval ones) and created about 20 custom events. Maybe you won't see this but one of my aim is not to loose too many land units, since all of them are historically recreated and most of them will be activated through events!

What else can I say? I hope you all will enjoy the reading!

CHAPTER ONE - INTRODUCTION

SUBSTANTIAL CHANGES BETWEEN 1924 and 1935

With the signature of the London Pact, Italy officially (and secretly too) joined the Entente. The aims were clear: Italy would have fought along with France, United Kingdom and Russia against the German Empire and Austro-Hungary. As a reward, the British and the French promised Italy the Dalmatian coast and a deep influence sphere over Albania. When the Great War ended, Italy was on the victor side but the right-wing part of the population begun to talk about a 'mutilated victory', term coined by a famous poet, Gabriele D'Annunzio. In the immediatley aftermath of the Great War, Italy was on the brink of a civil war. While strikes were the daily bread of many industrialised cities and farmers too were pressing to have reforms, D'Annunzio, together with a group of veterans of the war, occupied the village of Fiume, and decleared it part of the Italy. Only in 1920, the Army forced D'Annunzio and his followers to leave the village. It was the so called 'Red Biennium'. Fearing an Italian Communist Revolution, many industrialist asked the intervention of the 'Squadracce', squads of Fascist militians who crushed without any mercy most of the Socialist opposition. Due to the fact that the Italian Communist and Socialist were much divided, and thanks to the vast use of violence to suppress the opposition, the Fascist movement begun to arise. After the elections of 1922 and of 1924, Benito Mussolini officially become a dictator with his 'March on Rome', on October 28th, 1924. Crushed the opposition by persecutions, imprisonments and reprisals, Mussolini, also called 'Il Duce' (the leader), quickly explained his future plans: Italy needed its empire, just like Britain or France, but not a normal one. According to him, it was Italy's destiny to expand its borders as far as those of the Roman Empire. Yes, Italy would become in the following years the Second Great Roman Empire.



The Roman Empire, at its maximum expansion

By giving a simple look to any map representing the European Continent, one thing becomes immediately evident: Italy is located in a strategically interesting position, since its fleet can control all the naval routes East-West, connecting, for example, Gibraltar with Egypt or the French Syria with the homeland. Since the Romans managed to conquer all the lands wet by the Mediterranean Sea, one of the first objective of Mussolini was gaining control of the Mediterranean Sea. Mare Nostrum, 'our sea' the Fascist called it. But 'their sea' was not only theirs. West of Italy, France had the port of Toulon, as well as many other ports in the North Africa. The Island of Corsica acted instead as a kind of groun carrier, from which French planes or even warships could have interfered with Mussolini's plans. But Italy's enemy number one was Britain: the Brits held the Gibraltar, the gate to the Atlantic Ocean. On the other side of the Mediterranean, they held the Suez Strait, as well as the one of Alexandria, the door to the Indian Ocean and the shorter way to bring supplies to the Italian colonies in Eritrea and Somalia. Although in the north-east, there were Greece and Turkey which both had their own ports facing the Mediterranean, but Mussolini thought that these nations were not a great problem to face with. Furthermore, the British held a very tiny island, right in the path of the Italian convoys running from Sicily and southern Italy to Lybia: Malta, Fortress Malta. Despite having only a surface of 316 km2 (122 sq miles), Mussolini, as well as the Navy Chief of Staff and the Staff himself, recognized the danger that Malta could have posed to Italian sea traffic in case of war.
Despite this, Italy had already the card with wich gain control of the Mediterranean Sea: its Navy. Not only Italians Naval Engineers were excellent in designing ships, from battleships to liners, but the Italian Royal Navy had at her disposal a great number of powerful and fast warships. The combination of speed and armour has been a tradition in the Italian ship designing and under the Fascist Government, Mussolini hoped to find a good team of engineers, in order to have a strong Navy, with which to fight the Royal Navy.
But Italy needed more than cruisers, battleships and submarines. By giving a deep look at the later stages of the Great War, Mussolini realised that planes would play a major role, even in future naval battles. Between 1925 and 1926, during various meetings with the Chiefs of the Royal Air Force and of the Royal Navy, he explained his thoughts. However, the two branches of the Armed Forces were not willing to cooperate, due to many problems that arose in that period, in Italy. A deep analysis of the major problems was then drawn by Mussolini himself, as well as another list regarding the solutions of those problems: the Air branch of the Navy would have remained under the command of the Navy, while the Aviation Industry would have been responsable for manufacturing planes and spare parts. In 1925 started the production of the first seaplane carrier, named 'Roma' (Rome). However, the construction was stopped after a few months. Between 1925 and 1930, important news were coming from the Japanese shores: thanks to some ocean-going submarines, Italy begun some secret talks with Japan, another nation whose Navy was to become a great power. So, while outside almost the entire world was crumbling after the US crack of Wall Street, Italian submarines 'Archimede', 'Torricelli' and 'Scirè' were surfing the Indian Ocean waves and were coming back in Italy with the projects of an aircraft carrier. Many Italian Naval Engineers studied these projects but it was not until 1936 that Mussolini gave green light on the practical research.

Luckily for Italy, the economic crisis that weakened many European nations did not touch the 'boot of Mussolini': this can only be explained thanks to the policy of autarky. In prevision for a future, and maybe long, war with France and Britain, Italy needed to become self-sufficient, especially from a resources and raw material point of view. The policy of autarky was coupled with the policy of free market in 1932, due to a particular, unique and revolutionary event: the discovery of oil in Lybia by Ardito Desio, a famous Italian geologist, in 1928. Despite further researches needed to be made to exploit the 'black gold', this news shocked the entire world, half still drowned by the crisis of 1929. Setting a low and competitive price, Italy quickly gained the upper hand in the European oil market and begun to trade important resources, such us aluminium, woods and rubber from other countries, such Hungary, Germany and France. After almost four years of drilling and analysis, in the early days of 1936 Ardito Desio reported that the oilfields in Lybia were going at full speed and that within two years, Italy would have had enough fuel to fight a war for almost five years.

The discovery of oil in Lybia revolutioned Mussolini's mind: what has always been believed being the 'sand-box', became the 'oil-box' and needed to be exploited at its maximum. To do so, not only Mussolini ordered the construction of better ports and infrastructures in Lybia, but also financed the construction of important highways all across the country. This would have had its impact not only on the transportation of resources but also of troops and supplies across Italy: the faster the supplies would have came to their destination, the faster Italy would have won the war.

The matter of supplies became Mussolini's second great interest, linked to the need of having a large, modern and fierce Navy. If he was to regain all the territories of the Roman Empire, his Armed Forces needed to be supplied. Troops in Eritrea Somalia and Lybia needed to receive their monthly amount of ammunitions, fuel, food, water, medicines and other good stuff and this was mainly done by naval convoys. The appearance of the first fighter planes in the skies of north-eastern Italy, after the shameful defeat of Caporetto, enlighted Mussolini. In 1929, in a meeting with the Air Force Chief of Staff and a team of twenty aeronautical engineers, he discussed about realizing a big and with a great load capacity transport plane. The resoult came in 1934 as the first quad-engine transport plane, a Caproni Ca.170, flew from Milan to Tobruk and from Tobruk to Asmara, an important Air base in Eritrea. This was an awesome record and from now on, it was decided that the Air Force too would have collaborated with the Navy to bring supplies to the colonies in the African Horn. Despite Mussolini and the Air Force high chiefs came very close to forging the idea of an 'air-bridge', they did not studied in deep the question.
Coupled with the modalities of sending supplies to the colonies in Africa, Mussolini came with his thrid great project: to win a war, he realized the necessity to disrupt the enemy supply lines, destroy enemy bases, even those located well inland and sink enemy convoys across the Mediterranean Sea. To achieve this goal, a famous Italian aviator, Giulio Douhet, headed for him. Giulio was the first officer of the Italian Air Force to believe that to win the war against the Austro-Hungary, Italy needed something like 500 bombers, to disrupt enemy lines and stop the enemy from bringing supplies to the front. When the war erupted, he criticised the Army incompetence and was then imprisoned one year. Following the disaster at Caporetto, he was then released, right on time to see his early theories being adopted from the pilots of the Fighter branch, who were targeting the enemy supply columns. His masterpiece, however, came in 1921, when he published his revolutionary book: 'The Command of the Air'. Amongst its pages, Douhet showed what would have happened barely twenty years later: the Air Force needed to be an indipendent branch of the Armed Forces and needed to have a large number of fast, high altitude and high speed bombers, that were to destroy enemy vital centres. Not only supply lines, but factories, cities, supply dumps, oil depots, infrastructures, bridges... The faster the enemy morale was destroyed by 'strategic bombing', the faster the war would have ended. Unfortunately for Mussolini and for the entire Italy, Douhet passed away in 1930, struck by a heart attack, while he was cultivating pinks in his garden. However, his theories did not died with him. Thanks to the funds received by exporting oil and by trading other goods with the other European nations, Mussolini invested much time and resources to give the Italian Air Force his strategic bomber branch. In 1933, the first strategic bomber of the world, the Piaggio P.108, made its first flight, beating all the records (of course, it was the only competitor!).


The first Piaggio P.109 strategic bomber flying from Milan to Tobruk

But all these projects, despite trying to modernise Italy's Armed Forces, had their negative aspects too, the worst of all of them was their weight on the lifestyle of the medium Italian citizens. When funds were not enough to subsidise a research project, the Government took them from the Italians, by increasing the fuel taxes or by adding new ones. For about three years, from 1929 to 1932, the situation remained almost the same. But with the beginning of 1933, the population begun to show its adversities toward the Government and the increasing taxes. To relax the Italians, Mussolini introduced some minor reforms: pensions, loans, free holidays for workers and other small advantages for the medium class. Although these changes reassured the northern half of the country, the southern half was still pressing for major reforms. Instead of calling again the fascist squads, Mussolini financed in 1934 the construction of new factories in southern Italy. Despite a good start, works were almost stopped in middle 1935, when France, Portugal, Greece and Spain cancelled all the trade agreements they had with Italy. Without enough money to finance the construction of new plants, Mussolini playes his last card: WAR!

But against who declearing war? In Eastern Africa, Ethiopia was the only nation not already colonised by the European powers. Mussolini accepted the challenge and in early September 1935, the Italian Royal Navy begun transporting troops in Eritrea and Somalia, while the new wings of Caproni Ca.170 heavy transport planes were flying over Lybia and Egypt, bringing ammunitions for rifles, mortars and guns. The plan, drawn during a military conference with Mussolini, Balbo, de Bono and Graziani, was relatively simple: from Eritrea, the bulk of the Italian Army would have advanced along three different axes, while the troops in Somalia would have remained in a passive state, ready however to counterattack any hostile penetration in that territory.


The theoretical plan to invade Ethiopia

To achieve this goal, the Italian Army fielded a considerable number of forces: excluding some colonial formations, seven divisions were transferred to Eritrea and one to Somalia. All of them had their own artillery regiment and most of them had a battalion of 'Camicie Nere' (Black Shirts) attached. Amongst them, there was the 5th Alpine Division 'Pusteria' and the 27th Division 'Brescia': this was a quite particular division, as being classified as a 'North African Truckmobile' division: although not fully motorised, it was equipped with halftracks which have been modified in order to best perform their job in a desert environment. The entire Army was to be supported by the Air Force, and with this occasion, the 1st Strategic Bombing Division was sent to Asmara. The Second Italo-Ethiopian war will serve as a testing ground, to show all the destructive power of the new Piaggio P.108. However, it will demonstrate all the lacks and deficiencis that were still affecting the Italian Armed Forces and Mussolini himself: amongst them, a poor infrastructure in both Eritrea and Somalia, bad supply conditions and a large quantity of incompetent generals, who were still matched to the principles of the Great War and who considered the tank 'a futile, useless and timeconsuming innovation'.

War officially broke out on October 3rd, 1935, when the first artillery shell was shot against the Ethiopian position located south of the Mareb River. Despite some air raids undertaken by the Italian Royal Air Force, no serious penetrations have been made by Italian soldiers. Time passed and on December 29th, 1925, Mussolini decided he had enough. After many reproaches to General Arturo Vacca Maggiolini [born in Pinerolo, my hometown!], he left Rome aboard a quad engined Caproni Ca.170. His destination? Asmara, Eritrea. When he arrived, the sentinels at the air base were really astonished to see Mussolini as the first person that got off the plane. 'Bring me to the HQ' he ordered. Immediately, a capitan arrived with a liaiason car and brought the Duce to the General HQ of All the Italian Armed Forces in Eastern of Africa (A.O.I.). There, he found his generals complanining about which strategy they would have adopted to subdue the Ethiopians. Mussolini, angry, shouted: "Bunch of incompetent. The war started about two month ago and you are still here? Excellent. If you like it or not, I don't care: from the first day of the incoming year, I will stay here, directly directing the military operations in Ethiopia".

Three days later, finally arrived January 1st, 1936. With Mussolini in Ethiopia arguing with his Generals, the Ethiopians well entrenched on the mountains and with half of the Italian population still causing disorder and slowing down the military production, Italian soldiers crossed the Mareb River, officially beginning their invasion of Ethiopia.
 
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Teo41

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Avindian

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Good luck! I should note that it's a good idea not to manually change the text to black -- if you leave it at the default, the forum will choose an appropriate color that's easy to read (I use the EU3 background and black is hard to see).
 

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This seems very interesting! Following of course!
Thanks!

Good luck! I should note that it's a good idea not to manually change the text to black -- if you leave it at the default, the forum will choose an appropriate color that's easy to read (I use the EU3 background and black is hard to see).

I will edit it immediately!
 

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Good news! Tomorrow I'll upload two more chapters!
 

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CHAPTER TWO - THE WAR IN ABYSSINIA

THE MARCH TOWARD ADDIS ABABA...

When the signal was given, a huge army of 110.000 men begun marching toward the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. They were moving along three different routes: on the right, there was the I Army Corps, commanded by General Alberto Barbieri; in the middle there was the II Army Corps, led by General Francesco Bellini; finally, on the far left, was moving the III Army Corps, under the command of General Nicola Bellomo. Along his troops, there was the entire A. O. I. staff. Mussolini wanted to be close to his troops while they were marching toward victory. Despite the presence of The Duce amongst the troops boosted their morale, he did not manage to boost their marching speed. The impervious terrain of northern Ethiopia, mainly made by hills, rocky mountains and some dry river, did not help the attacking soldiers. The formations of the militia of the 4th Black Shirts Division 'January 3rd' occupied the village of Makale by the evening of January 5th and by the 6th, the entire area was under Italian control. The division was immediately followed by the 5th Alpine Division 'Pusteria', whose men were trained to fight on mountainous terrains. When the entire division arrived, together, the Black Shirts and the Alpins, resumed the march: their next destination was the city of Tandaho, right in the middle of the mountains. Here, the first contact with the enemy was made. Maybe is not correct to speak about 'enemy': the 'enemy' was instead a regiment of Ethiopian militians, badly equipped, disorganised and with a morale not so high. While the artillery of the Alpine regiment pinned down the Ethiopians, the Black Shirts attacked the city frontally, and the Alpins supported them by flanking it. After a brief fight, the militans retreated. The result of the battle was astonishing: out of 40871 soldiers, only 10 were killed on our side, while the Ethiopians lost 155 men, out of 9000. When the report reached Mussolini, he praised his Black Shirts and the commanders of I Army Corps.


The Italian advance into Ethiopia, from Eritrea

However, he did not praise his generals who were operating on the middle and left axes of advance. When the Black Shirts of the 4th Division occupied the area around Makale, Bellini's and Bellomo's troops were still trying to cross the Mareb River. Its water were not so much deep nor were so much impetuous but the engineers battalions were running forward and backward, to bring there the necessary bridging equipment. Although most of the infantry formations crossed the river without any difficulty, the same cannot be said about the artillery regiments. The trucks and the guns needed a safe and dry place to cross the river. Since there were no bridges, they had to be built at the time. This process took many precious hours but when General Bellini asked Mussolini the permission to leave the artillery alone, the Duce rejected. Despite many reports from the reconnaissance battalions were indicating that there was no sign of the enemy, Mussolini ordered that the artillery had to follow the infantry, in order to give the soldiers a proper support. By the end of the second day of advance, January 7th, both the Army Corps finally crossed the Mareb River. Things were going damn slow. It was just by morning of January 16th, that Bellomo's soldiers won their first batt... skirmish. With 9 men killed out of 35578 on their side and with 50 dead out of 8998 amongst the Ethiopians, the Italians occupied and fortified the area in and around Debra Tabor.

Exactly twelve hours later, General Barbieri's troops met their first real opposition while approaching the city of Dessye. A division of Ethiopian militians blocked all the roads and put up a stiff resistance. This time, however, Barbieri attacked with a colonial division and two regular infantry division, with one indipendent artillery regiment each. The battle was furious and lasted for ten hours. The Ethiopians run out of ammunitions and were forced to fall back. Totally, they killed 26 Italian soldiers, out of 40612 attacking them, but lost 165 of theirs, out of only 9998.

By far, this has been the bloodiest battle ever fought on Ethiopian soil. Since the report of General Barbieri was quite alarming, Mussolini ordered Bellini's Army Corps to halt its advance and dig in around the city of Dessye, even if he did not know that his troops were still many kilometers away from their objective. To sap enemy morale, Mussolini asked the intervention of the Air Force. Finally, the moment to show the entire world the destructive power of the new Piaggios P.108 has come. The only (and quite big) mistake undertaken by him was to use a strategic weapon as a tactical one. Instead of bombing the surroundings of Addis Ababa, in order to cut the enemy supply and communication lines, The Duce ordered to General Porro Felice, commander in chief of the 1st Strategic Bombing Division, to carry 'unleash terror and destruction on the Ethiopians'. The results were, however, very different from the expectations: between January 20th and 31st, Felice's bombers flew 24 missions, day and night and killed only 296 enemy soldiers. Mussolini, ashamed, ordered his plane to rebase at Asmara and wait there until the end of the campaign.

The end of the bombing on the Ethiopian positions around Addis Ababa marked the end of the first phase of the northern thrust. While irregular formations of militians were trying desperately to dislodge the Italian troops, in the south the situation was reversed: on January 7th, troops of the 1st Ethiopian Militia division occupied the fortified camp of Rocca Littorio. The 6th Black Shirt Division 'Tevere' along with the 7th 'Cirene', took three days to repel the invaders. In the end, Rocca Littorio was retaken, with 'high' casualties (as Mussolini said) for the Italians: 40 men passed away out of 20978 and 132 Ethiopians were sent to the Great Maker of All Things, out of 8993. Not satisfied with their resoults, the Ethiopians tried to attack the fortified town of Baduen. They took it around midday of January 21st. One hour later, the town was again in Italian hands.


The Battle of Rocca Littorio has just begun...

Despite these modest achievements, the Ethiopians were suffering heavily. Even if the Italian Air Force disappeared from the skies, they lacked every kind of equipment to fight a modern war. While the clock was ticking, yime was running out for them. On February 6th, the 5th Alpine Division supported by the 4th Black Shirt Division, the 'heroes of the Battle of Dessye', begun their attack against the fortified hostile capital. The presence of Haile Selassie inspired the militians to fight until death and, inexplicably, the militians repelled the first Italian attack. The Ethiopians exulted when they saw the enemy soldiers throwing smoke grenades and falling back to their starting positions but did not realize that they have been attacked only by the vanguard of the 4th Black Shirts Division. When the Alpine artillery begun pummelling their positions, they exulted no more. Despite the superiority in numbers, the Italians needed four hours to penetrate the defensive lines around Addis Ababa, losing 83 men out of 59011 and killing 228 Ethiopians out of 11952.

The fate of the Ethiopian capital seemed certain but right on time arrived the Imperial Guard Division. These were the best soldiers that Selassie had. Better equipped, far more trained and highly motivated, they were ready to defend the capital and their Emperor. However, the disparity of forces was enormous and tipped the balance in favour to the attackers. Where the Imperial Guards fielded old machineguns, anti-aircraft guns used in an anti-tank role (even if the Italians had no tanks in Ethiopia!) and rudimental hand grenades, the Italians deployed 60mm mortars, 75mm howitzers, modern machineguns and a lot of men. When rienforcements arrived, the entire I Army Corps of General Barbieri attacked Addis Ababa from the East. The battle lasted for four long days, during which 271 Italian soldiers out of 39315 were sent in heaven, as well as 398 Ethiopians out of 8996.


The Battle of Addis Ababa: during and after

On early morning of February 19th, Ethiopian resistance collapsed and the Italians had a free way all along the roads leading to Addis Ababa. But even if they run out of ammunitions, the Imperial Guard's soldiers did not run out of courage: when they saw the spearhead of the Italian column approaching the eastern outskirt of their capital, they pulled on the roads trees, rocks, no-more-used guns and all what they had to create an obstacle and slow down the Italian advance. It might be strange, but they did it. The Alpins and the Black Shirts needed three days to clear all these obstacles that were rising like mushrooms at every corner and at every crossroad. But when, on February 22nd, they arrived at the Imperial Palace, they found Haile Selassie. He reassured the invaders that all his men were ordered to cease fire. General Barbieri took Selassie under protection and, inside his new Headquarter, they both signed the Ethiopian capitulation.

Exactly at 08.00 hours, Ethiopia ceased to exist as a indipendent nation and begun its short-live period as a puppet government of Fascist Italy. When Mussolini entered Addis Ababa, he had no words to say: on one hand, he had insisted with both Generals Bellini and Bellomo, since he wanted to be the first Italian soldier who entered the Ethiopian capital; on the other hand, he wished to congratulate with General Barbieri, for his fast advance across Ethiopia. In the end, he made both: first, he conferred, directly in the field, the Gold Medal of Military Valor. Then, together with the Black Shirts, he reconstructed the scene of his entry in Addis Ababa. Standing on the back seat of a liaison car and with his helmet on his head, he entered for the second time into the former Ethiopian capital, this time only to be recorded by the propaganda operators, who arrived right on time to film this epic moment. 'This - Mussolini explained to his Generals and journalists - will significantly improve our position, both in Italy and in Europe'. When the filming was concluded, Mussolini quickly nominated Lij Johannes new Emperor of Ethiopia, although even as an emperor, he was completely subjugated to the rules set by the victors. As a military occupation force, Mussolini decided to create an indipendent theatre of operations, under the command of Fieldmarshal Ugo Cavallero, Supreme Commander af all the Italian Armed Forces in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The war in Abyssinia ended in a complete victory for Italy but, as we will see, not all that glitters is gold.

 
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RikD

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Looks like a serious first attempt, good stuff so far.
Going to agree with sunsterson though, I'd prefer a smaller font.
Also you could consider making sure that your AAR fits in a 800 pixel width, the pictures that is.
 

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Looks like a serious first attempt, good stuff so far.
Going to agree with sunsterson though, I'd prefer a smaller font.
Also you could consider making sure that your AAR fits in a 800 pixel width, the pictures that is.
Reduced from 3 to 2! Apologize me but I tend to write very big, both on paper and with pc.

About your second question: do you mean to reduce the picture size? How can I do this with imageshack?

Wow, that was fast! Usually people milk the war in Ethiopia for a while. Not gonna lie, these text blobs hurt my eyes.

Next time it will be written in a smaller size!
 

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Yes, I don't know about imageshack but you can use any image editor, like paint, to crop an image.

Alright! I'll reduce in sizes all my future images!

And I have already an update! Stay tuned for more info about technology, production, unit upgrades, special events and and more!
 
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CHAPTER THREE - A YEAR OF DECISIONS

TECHNOLOGY, SPIES, FACTORIES AND ARTILLERY


Before leaving Italy, Mussolini left a headed envelope upon his desk, personally adressed to the man who formally gave him the power almost twelve years ago. The envelope was brought into the King's bedroom at 08.00 hours of the first day of the new year. King Vittorio Emanuele III opened it and wanted to read before having breakfast. The letter was short, simple and clear:

'King, although we have never been in good terms with each other, I beg your help. Not for me, but for our people. While I will lead our troops into Ethiopia, I leave you full power in our beloved Italy. Act according to the best and keep the morale of the Italians high. I will be back soon.

God may bless you.

B. Mussolini
'

While King Vittorio was thinking about what to do and what not to do and if it was worth to help Mussolini or not, a second news arrived in his room. This time, the envelope came from Cesare Amè, Minister of Home and Foreign Security. Once more, the words were enough to describe what happened in Lybia during the last days of December 1935: the derricks designed and built by the AGIP and ENI, the two Italian Oil Companies responsible for selling oil to foreign countries as well as supervise the process of refining it, has just entered in function. Oil was being drilled at an astonishing speed immediately south of Benghazi and in some remotes areas south of the Gulf of Sirte, not too far from the oasis of Mabruk, Hun and Umm Farud. Informed by this splendid news, King Vittorio ordered to spread it, to write it on the first pages of all the newspapers and to announce it at the radio.
His decision was to be awarded. At that time, almost 30% of the Italian population showed an open opposition against the Fascist Government and almost 40% mocked Mussolini and his staff with some phrases such as: 'PNF: Partito Nazionale Fallito' (PNF means National Fascist Party, and they renamed it the National Failed Party). When the news of 'rivers and rivers' of black gold were coming out from Lybian oilfields, the Italians erupted in the street, joying and crying: 'Finally, we will not have to pay anymore the fuel taxes!'. As a typical Italian style, almost everyone now blessed Mussolini, his Government and all his efforts to improve the infrastructures in Lybia, to finance the explorations of Ardito Desio and to colonise that empty land.


The revolutionary discovery in Lybia

The overall situation could have not been better when a special report arrived from Italo Balbo, an Air Force General as well as Governor of Lybia, that he has inaugurated the Via Balbia on February 2nd. The Via Balbia (Balbo's Highway) was a long, coastal highway, stretching from Tobruk to Tripoli and was coupled, from Benghazi to Tripoli, with a modern, electric, double track railway. Under the direction of Balbo, during the first two months of 1936, around 400 trucks, newly manufactured in Italy and equipped for the harsh desert conditions, arrived in Tripoli and became the artery between the oilfields and the railway stations of Sirte and Misurata. The process of shipping oil to Italy was much simplified, thanks to Balbo's genius: the trucks transported the crude oil until the two railways stations. From there, it was loaded into a long cistern train, which job was to shuttle between the port of Tripoli and these two stations. Once arrived, the tanks were loaded into some merchant ships and the ships would have sailed in the direction of Palermo, once the process has been completed. From February 15th, 110.000 tons of crude oil reached Italy and were transported to Naples, Taranto and Genoa, were the refineries plants were located.


Balbo and his highway

Mussolini had the right view. His decision to bring the modern roads and railways to southern Italy too would have not been more guessed. Thanks to this modern road network, transporting supplies from Palermo to the northern half of the boot became an easy and quick job. On March 2nd, the Reggio Calabria-Naples high speed highway was inaugurated by Mussolini himself, with a cerimonial and pompous parade of Fiat cars. Not only in infrastructures but also the new plants that the Fascist Government had ordered into southern Italy begun to operate between March and April, and were immediately equipped to help the poor and meagre Italian war industry. The beginning of April also saw the complention of another job undertaken by Balbo: the improvement of Lybian naval and air bases, in order to facilitate the supply traffic that was needed to operate those enormous derricks.


The infrastructure network is ready


Italy is making a good progress under Mussolini

Although the fuel taxes were not reduced nor removed, the Italian people begun once again to trust the Fascists. Every day, more and more young men, with an age comprised between 20 and 30, were making the queue outside the Recruitment Offices in the main cities, waiting to be integrated into the Italian Armed Forces, impatient to do their bit for the growing Fascist Empire. Those who were too old to fight, instead, begun to work harder and longer than before, to assure those future and young soldiers all what they needed to fight and destroy all Italy's enemies. As a consequence of this, the PNF became once again the National Fascist Party and its popularity started to grow. However, on September 25th, in a small village in Piedmont, the local security agents discovered a group of oppositors who were printing pamphlets and short articles criticizing the act of Mussolini's Government. Although they manage to escape to Switzerland, despite all the efforts to track them down, Mussolini agreed with Amè: the more the oppositors were leaving Italy, the more the Fascist Party would have gained.


With the discovery of oil in Lybia, the Fascism was again trusted by the Italians

Not only its popularity but the Party's organisation in the Parliment begun to grow too, not thanks to all these national improvements, but instead thanks to the action of the Joint Secret Services. After having recruited a huge number of loyal spies, Cesare Amè, under the order of Mussolini, spread them all across the Country with three simple tasks: set up a refined counterespionage network, eliminate all the possible opposition, and convince the Italians that united we stand, divided we fall. While Amè's secrets agents in Italy were doing their job, teams of spies were also sent abroad, and infiltrated the security network of four major countries: France, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and United States of America. Their task was only one: spy and, if possible, steal enemy research projects. As we will see later, Italy was in desperate need of modern equipment, not only for its Army but for its people and factories too. The first fruits did not waited a long time before maturing: on July 20th, Italian secret agents operating in England managed to steal a study on how improve the ground crew training of tactical bombers. It was however on October 25th that the best resoult ever came: five spyes eluded the NKVD security network in Moscow, opened and cleaned a safe of the Commander in Chief of the Army and stole the resoults of years of study on how improve the organisation in battle of militia, garrison and police formations.


Italian spies doing their job in UK and Soviet Union

Talking about technology, we begin to see a series of Mussolini's mistakes. The first of all was his desire to modernise the three branches of the Italian Armed Forces, before going to war with Britain and France. Since his orders were clear: 'You must research everything', from January 1st to February 6th, the Italian scientists and theoretical engineers did research nothing. Without a proper lead, they did not know what start researching first. The resoult? Italy wasted almost one month of time. When Mussolini realised his mistake, it was now too late. But by meeting his military chiefs immediately after the Ethiopian campaign, he was given a brief relation regarding the overall situation. The Regia Marina was probably the best in the entire world: even before 1936, Italian Naval Engineers working at Genoa, Venice, Naples and Taranto, developed some of the most modern warships the world has ever seen: the Littorio-class Battleship, for example, was equipped with 8 x 406mm guns, had an inclined armour of 300mm, 75mm automatic cannons to defend from hostile planes and four powerful 290.000 hp turbines. So were the other warships, such us battlecruisers and destroyers: fast and well armed and armoured. But this was not all: thanks to the joined studies of Guglielmo Marconi and Professor Ugo Tiberio, Italy developed the most modern electronic revelation system, based on radio waves, what the British called 'radar'. In 1936, in the SAFAT workshops, were ready large and small warships radar detection tools and, on the ground, the first radar station was built in rome. Baptized 'Argo', it had a monstrous range of 250 km!!!
The Regia Aeronautica was not so good as the Regia Marina, excluding the studies made in the early '30s in the field of strategic bombing and long run transport planes. It was not in a bad shape afterall, since Italian planes were the fastest in Europe, but still it could be improved in some fields.
Perhaps, the worst of the three branches was the Army itself. Bad, outdated and unreliable rifles were still used by ALL the field divisions, most light guns and mortars were still those of the Great War while the regimental artillery was mainly made of old French, German, Czech and British guns. Yet the Italians developed their 'North African Truckmobile' divisions and fast light tanks to quickly encircle, surround and destroy enemy forces in the desert. But a deep analysis showed that Italian tanks were not tanks properly: they were tankettes, or also called 'the death cans' by their crews. But even assuming that Italy would have managed to research everything, prior to enter a war, two new big problems arose: the question regarding the distribution of the new equipment and the training of the troops with their new equipment. Italy's industry could not cope with producing both consumer goods for keeping the Italians calm, supplies for the troops at the front and upgrade the equipment of the existing divisions.
Italian industrial technologies were not as much advanced as those of the neighbouring countries, Yugoslavia and Switzerland excepted: Italy was in desperate need for a new Educational and Agricultural plan, to increase the number of intellectuals that would have became, one day, engineers or officers and the number of men to send in the National Reserve Pool, respectively. Italian industrial capacity had to be rationalised and Mussolini decided first to upgrade the Great War equipment with some modern stuff and ordered his groups of refined men to start developing new rifles, hand grenades, artillery pieces and anti-tank weapons for the infantry divisions. With the remaining engineers, he ordered them to think something to improve the armour, engine, gun and reliability of the existing light tanks, while to a group of geologist, led by Ardito Desio, he asked them to improve the existing tecniques of refining rare materials, of energy production and of steel extraction from mines. He, together with the Army General Staff, begun to study a modern approach to a new land doctrine, the assault concentration.

Why focusing on a research that would have improved nothing else but the organisation of the artillery officers? Two reasons lies behind this choice:
1) Mussolini had not yet understood how a modern war was to be fought. With infantry? With tanks? Or with carriers and strategic bombers?
2) The war in Abyssinia deeply influenced his choice. When he looked at his field howitzers batteries opening fire on the Ethiopians positions, something was beginning to grow inside him. He felt some kind of excitement when those big guns were firing. Their recoil and their noise induced Mussolini to think that artillery was the future of the modern war.
A proper artillery barrage could have wiped out the enemy positions, struck the enemy communications lines and shocked the defenders. After a storm of shells, the fast troops would have advanced and surprised the defenders. Yes, in his mind, Italy needed a powerful artillery force with wich bring destruction and annhilation everywhere. His love for the field guns became so intense that immediately he ordered the Ansaldo in Genoa to build around 300 siege guns. His idea was to use them against the fortification on the French border. But he did not stopped here. Mussolini made another, questionable, decision: toward the end of 1936, when he flew to Germany, he met Alfred Krupp, son of the manager of the famous German Gun Company. When he heard that Hitler had ordered the construction of an enormous railway gun, he became jelous and wanted one for him too. At the expense of one billion liras, Krupp Works begun the production of a second railway gun for Italy but even the most optimistic previsions said that it would have been ready for 1939.
Why Mussolini flew to Germany? The Soviets too were developing their own big guns and until the end of the Ethiopian war, relations with Germany had never been very good. As mentioned before, it was the discovery of oil in Lybia that changed drastically the situation of Italy on the European scenario. After signing numerous economic treaty, on June 2nd, at midday, the Italo-German Oil Pact was signed.


The signing of the Italo-German Oil Pact provided advantages to both the signers

While Germany gained an almost unlimited source of oil, Italy found a solution of all its problems related to production and research. The Germans sent in Italy a highly experienced and professional engineers team, specialised in almost all the fields of research. With the help of the Germans, the speed of Italian research projects boosted and by the end of the month, new infantry weapons were being developed. By July 16th, the Italo-German Tank Design team, working together with Fiat engineers, ended their project about light tanks and they believed they had acquired a substantial knowledge to begin the development of a faster, more armoured, more reliable and better armed tank. On the same day, sixteen minor companies were expropriated by the Ministry of Public Relations, increasing Italian industrial efficiency by some amount, though at the cost of many disgruntled industrialists, who saw in this action a reduction of action of freedom in their consumer goods production. Between August 20th and 22nd, the projects led from Ardito Desio gave their results, and he assured Mussolini that, thanks to his studies, the production of Energy, Metal and Rare Materials would have increased by 5%. Italy begun to stockpile strategic resources and The Duce ordered Desio to continue in his research. Durign all September and October, many research projects were completed: some improved the processo of industrial production and efficiency, while others were more focused on getting better the militian's weapons, the artillery shells and guns, new tecniques of cultivating grain fields and a boost of 20% in the supply production. In mid October, Mussolini finally listened to Francesco Pricolo's insistent requests for a modern aviation and ordered the Campini-Caproni to develope a basic small fuel tank for fighters and single engined planes. Before the end of the year, a new tank of 150 liters was being installed on the few existing fighter squadrons. Another marvelous outcome arrived on December 1st, when the Italo-German Fiat engineers team designed and developed a prototype of the first italian medium tank. The new M10/36 had a weight of 16 tons, a 30 mm frontal armour, a powerful FIAT 2000 naphta engine but was armed with only a 20 mm gun. Despite this, Mussolini believed it was far more modern compeared to the old light and fast tanks. The four armoured divisions located in Cyrenaica were brought to Italy, at Salerno, south of Naples and there begun the process of moderinsation. But 1936 was not yet over, when the Regia Aeronautica Staff developed a short manual regarding some improvements in the strategic bombing doctrine. Giulio Douhet was already dead, but his teaching remained in the minds of those group of officers. The pamphlet, only 50 pages long, was being distribuited amongst the pilots and ground crews of the 1st Strategic Bombing Division, when Mussolini had a gloomy vision: what would happen if Douhet theories were being studied in England and France too? His secret agents were not able to provide such informations and fearing that Italian cities and factories would be vulnerable by any strategic bombing in case of war with the Western Powers, he took another confusionary decision: expand the radar sysyem all along the Western coast, as well as in the major cities, while within two years, he wanted a powerful fighter force, both in number and in equipment, ready to knock down from the skies every hostile plane that would have tried to violate the sacred skies of the Fascist Empire.

Though his decision was not wrong, this added another heavy toll on the Italian industry. By the end of 1936, it was barely managing to provide enough plants to upgrade the equipment of the Army divisions. If the reader take in consideration also that Mussolini personally ordered the construction of three aircraft carriers in January 1936, and that by far the construction had not yet begun, its easy to understand that the Italian industry simply lacked the numbers. Entrepreneur Guido Jung, Minister of Armaments, proposed the construction of new plants but Mussolini rejected it. Time was passing and building new factories from scratch was too time consuming. Furthermore, as the world calendars switched to 1937, he held a secret reunion, during Saint Silvester's night. While in Paris, London, New York, Washington, Tokyo, Moscow, Rome and Berlin the streets were day-lit, people were celebrating the arrival of the new year and fireworks were fillign the skies with splendid colour games, in an underground bunker, located near the Supreme Command of the Metropolitan Armed Forces (all the military troops located in Italy), Mussolini opened the new year with a historical, inflexible and dark sentence:

'Time has come to solve the Yugoslavian question once for all'.
 
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Teo41

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An update will come this friday evening, since I am busy with university all the week and I think real life has th priority over 'virtual' one!
 

guillec87

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I like your style... could please upload a map with your zones of interest? I don't think you are going to risk a war with Germany for Austria and the left side of the Rhin, are you?