Building On the Past: The Italians

Carro Armato M13/40 - Italian Medium Tank and Semovente Da 75/18 - Self Propelled Gun

When the world went to war in 1939, Italy was not ready for the impending onslaught.

The fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had effectively ruled Italy since 1925. After conquering Ethiopia in 1935, he entered his nation into an alliance with Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Although this alliance proved fruitful at first, the Italian military was using outdated World War I equipment. New Italian tank production started in 1940–41, but Mussolini had failed to mobilize the economy for war, resulting in low production numbers.

Although inferior to German panzers, Italian tanks performed well against Allied forces in North Africa. Two in particular, the Semovente Da 75/18 and Carro Armato M13/40, were both deployed when the Allies began Operation Torch. Many of these vehicles were captured and used for a short time by the Allies, who were also lacking in armor during the campaign.

After the invasion of Sicily in 1943, available Italian tanks only become more scarce as the offensive continued. Never nearing the thousands of tanks produced by other nations, weak Italian war factories only produced these vehicles in the hundreds. Only 800 Carro Armato and 300 Semovente were deployed. The few that were deployed served until Italian surrender in 1943, after which any remaining were seized by Germany as they attempted to resist the Allies on the peninsula.

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