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Mussolini's 'Hard and Bloody' War Against France

Discussion in 'History of Italy during World War II' started by Jim, Nov 5, 2006.

  1. Jim

    Jim Active Member

    Sep 1, 2006
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    It would have been a sad state of affairs if Mussolini and his tame propagandists were to have been believed that Italy's 13-day war with France reflected the greatest glory on the triumphant Italian arms. Here is the Duce's published account of the battle and also the story of the" Battle of Mentone" incorporating material gleaned from an informative article in " The New Statesman and Nation."

    According to the Italians there was a big battle in the French Alps in the course of Italy's 13-day war with France. In this short struggle they had it on the authority of Signor Mussolini himself that the "superb" Italian troops crushed France's Alpine Maginot Line in a four-day battle in a blinding a snowstorm.

    The French troops resisted savagely to the end, that is to say, till the armistice and even a few hours after, for they had been kept in ignorance of what had happened in the rest of France. The battle was hard and bloody. Thousands of men who became casualties bared evidence to this. The names of those who fell on the field of honour will be made known. As for the wounded that I visited in the hospitals I declare that it is difficult to find in the whole world another race which through the most cruel physical sufferings could show as much calm and stoicism as the Italian race.
    These were the words of Mussolini, written on the morrow of the "battle" to the Prince of Piedmont, Italian Crown Prince and Commander of the Italian Forces in the West, and published after the Duce's visit to the front on July 1st

    It, is a matter of history that though Mussolini declared war on France on June 10th and hostilities were announced to begin at midnight; the Italians did not deliver their first attack on the Alpine front until June 21st, the day on which the French delegates in the forest glade at Compiegne had been handed the German armistice terms. But they made no real advance until June 24th, which was the very day on which the French signed the armistice with Italy at Rome. An Italian communique of that day stated:

    On the Alpine front from Mont Blanc to the sea our troops started a general attack on June 21st. The formidable enemy defences built into the rock on the high mountains, the strong reactions on the part of the enemy, who was firmly resolved to oppose our advance, and the bad atmospheric conditions, did not check the advance of our troops, who scored notable successes, everywhere. An Italian contingent managed to gain possession of certain fortifications, such as the fort of Chanaillet, near Briancon, and the fort of Razet, in the lower Roya valley. Entire Italian units reached the valley of the Isere, Arc, Guil, Ubaye, Tinee, and Vesubie, penetrating the enemy's fortified lines and threatening the whole enemy front. The advance of our troops proceeds along the entire front.

    By the time the "Cease fire" had sounded the Italians had advanced over the frontier a distance of some two miles....
    Mussolini's visit to the front on July 1st was described in ecstatic terms by a commentator on the Rome wireless, and his account was supplemented by details of the attack on the "Alpine Maginot" couched in almost lyrical terms. The spokesman described the French positions as having been made impregnable by Nature and military art," and so prepared his hearers for an account of "a magnificent out-flanking attack undertaken by a direct assault on the fortified town of Mentone"

    All who have visited the Riviera will know that to describe Mentone as a fortified town is, to put it mildly, an exaggeration. The memories most visitors bring away from Mentone are of a pleasant seaside town, shuttered and somnolent during most of the day, where large numbers of retired British preachers and missionaries and military gentlemen of the "Colonel Blimp" variety read " The Times" and "The Spectator" in English reading-rooms, drink regularly English tea and Scotch whisky, and go to the English church on Sunday.

    Scene of the 'Magnificent Attack' ​

    Like most of the other towns on the French Riviera, Mentone is built on a narrow strip of coast, behind which rise in rapid succession the ramparts of the Alps; and a few hundred yards beyond the English church the road crosses a little gorge into Italy.
    With this picture in our minds, talk of a magnificent outflanking attack, "direct assault," and "fortified town" is simply fantastic. But if we are to believe the Rome commentator, "after several days of tireless fighting against enormous odds, our gallant troops entered Mentone," and "our troops were supported by an artillery train which came through the tunnel under La Mortola, and shelled the strongly held town in which the enemy was maintaining an obstinate resistance." Though "obstinately resisting" the defenders do not seem to have blown up the narrow bridge mentioned above; nor was the railway along the coast very much damaged by "the pounding of the great guns from the southernmost forts of the Alpine Maginot." A desolate sight presented itself to the eyes of the Duce" went on the commentator, "in that once charming resort. The streets were littered with trees blown down by the power of our shells. The shutters of many shops in the main street had been blown in. The villas and great hotels stood gaunt and deserted with all the glass of their windows gone. Everything bore witness to the heroism of our conquering army on that bitterly contested battlefield."
    Later reports confirmed that Mentone was, indeed, in ruins, its streets filled with shell holes and its only inhabitants, hungry cats; but the havoc had been wrought by French guns after the Italian occupation on June 23rd.
    Such is the story of "the Battle of Mentone" which, as a writer in The New Statesman" has put it "may well go down to the future impartial chronicler as one of the biggest military frauds of history."
  2. vetwarner

    vetwarner New Member

    Nov 26, 2007
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    It can often be so hard in History to determine the actual truth of any event, especially when the only recordings or writings are done with such a Bias, and even more so in times of war, when it can easily be the case that only one side ever gets to have their story told.
    At least in this case, it seems that Mussolinis great victory was known for what it really was, political propaganda
  3. wallstreeterww

    wallstreeterww New Member

    Nov 30, 2007
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    throughout my reading of WW2 history it always seemed to me that Mussolini
    was more bark then bite. His army was definately no where near as power as hitler. I mean i still could never understand what major military coup he ever had in WW2?

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