Sacrifice on the Steppe




 
--
 
October 22nd, 2014  
MontyB
 
 

Topic: Sacrifice on the Steppe


As many of you know I am not a fan of the Italian performance during WW2 but I found this book to be an interesting read...

Sacrifice on the Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943 Hardcover – June 1, 2011


by Hope Hamilton (Author)
When Germany’s Sixth Army advanced to Stalingrad in 1942, its long-extended flanks were mainly held by its allied armies—the Romanians, Hungarians, and Italians. But as history tells us, these flanks quickly caved in before the massive Soviet counter-offensive which commenced that November, dooming the Germans to their first catastrophe of the war.

However, the historical record also makes clear that one allied unit held out to the very end, fighting to stem the tide—the Italian Alpine Corps.As a result of Mussolini’s disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany, by the fall of 1942, 227,000 soldiers of the Italian Eighth Army were deployed on a 270km front along the Don River to protect the left flank of German troops intent on capturing Stalingrad.

Sixty thousand of these were alpini, elite Italian mountain troops. When the Don front collapsed under Soviet hammerblows, it was the Alpine Corps that continued to hold out until it was completely isolated, and which then tried to fight its way out through both Russian encirclement and “General Winter,” to rejoin the rest of the Axis front. Only one of the three alpine divisions was able to emerge from the Russian encirclement with survivors.

In the all-sides battle across the snowy steppe, thousands were killed and wounded, and even more were captured. By the summer of 1946, 10,000 survivors returned to Italy from Russian POW camps. This tragic story is complex and unsettling, but most of all it is a human story. Mussolini sent thousands of poorly equipped soldiers to a country far from their homeland, on a mission to wage war with an unclear mandate against a people who were not their enemies.

Raw courage and endurance blend with human suffering, desperation and altruism in the epic saga of this withdrawal from the Don lines, including the demise of thousands and survival of the few.Hope Hamilton, fluent in Italian and having spent many years in Italy, has drawn on many interviews with survivors, as well as massive research, in order to provide this first full English-language account of one of World War II’s legendary stands against great odds.

REVIEWS “Raw courage and endurance blend with human suffering, desperation and altruism in the epic saga of this withdrawal from the Don lines, including the demise of thousands and survival of the few.”Recollections of WWII, 07/2011 “…tragic account of the fate of the Alpini, Italy’s elite mountain troops… Historian Hamilton tells their story through interviews with survivors, extensive historical records and archival photos.” Italian America, Summer 2011 “…a ground-breaking study of Italy’s participation in the Second World War on the Russian Front… an excellent addition to any library on Italian participation in World War II...”Strategy Page, The NYMAS Review, August 2011 “With the Italian Army often the butt of cruel jokes, this book sets at least one of the records straight. Hope Hamilton’s account of the Italian Eighth Army on the Steppes of central Asia is compelling and informative. “Books Monthly UK, 08/2011“…a useful addition to the literature on the Eastern Front, giving an interesting picture of an army normally only mentioned in foot notes”History of War, 10/2011”… a well told story, complex and unsettling and Casemate have picked a rich subject which has been concealed and misrepresented, even in Italy.”Military Modelcraft International, 11/2011“…draws on personal interviews, exhaustive research and the written accounts of Italians who participated in and survived Mussolini's tragic decision of Italian involvement.…includes good notes, is well indexed, and has a great bibliography …If you're looking for a good overview and an understanding of what the Italian soldiers experienced then you'll enjoy the book. I give it four stars. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library. It is a good first volume to fill a long void of an English language account of the Italian involvement on the eastern front.”Kepler’s Military History“..the rarely told story of 227000 Italian troops fighting and dying in Russia in WII…details the Italian defense of their sector with tactical placements and actions in harrowing details of logistical failures, indefensible positions and bitter cold endurance…”Marine Corps Gazette"... powerful and affecting human story. It is well presented and can be very highly recommended."War in History “Raw courage and endurance blend with human suffering, desperation and altruism in the epic saga of t his withdrawal from Don Lines, including the demise of thousands and survival of few.”Reenactor’s Magazine

http://www.amazon.com/Sacrifice-Step.../dp/1612000029
October 25th, 2014  
JOC
 
 
Sounds like an interesting read. Particularly since the Italians on the left flank are generally said to have caved in rapidly as with the Hungarians and Rumanians. A bit of lost history (almost) perhaps
November 8th, 2014  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JOC
Sounds like an interesting read. Particularly since the Italians on the left flank are generally said to have caved in rapidly as with the Hungarians and Rumanians. A bit of lost history (almost) perhaps
It is funny because Manstein had a great deal of respect for the Romanian troops and believed that had they had 5 years to prepare and equip them for war they would have been the equal of German forces.

I have always had a very low opinion of Italian forces during WW2 but that is to be expected growing up in a family that had spent much of the war fighting them and serving in the Italian campaign, the general Commonwealth view was that they were more of a hindrance than a help to the Germans.

However the more I read the more I discover that Italy did field "some" very good units during the war.
--
November 8th, 2014  
JOC
 
 
I believe the Italians in general didn't share Mussolini's dream of a new Roman empire. Particularly if came at the cost of a lot of bloodshed. However like the "Decima Flottiglia MAS" the Italian frogmen they had some very good units. It seems the same was true on the eastern front.
November 8th, 2014  
tetvet
 
My image of the Italians is North Africa where they surrendered by the thousands , Rommel had no use for them , MUSOLINE did one good thing he hanged or imprisoned most of the Mafia in Sicily .
November 8th, 2014  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JOC
I believe the Italians in general didn't share Mussolini's dream of a new Roman empire. Particularly if came at the cost of a lot of bloodshed. However like the "Decima Flottiglia MAS" the Italian frogmen they had some very good units. It seems the same was true on the eastern front.
True but then my family did not really care about defending the British empire or all the patriotic nonsense they were fed, they certainly didn't want to be stuck in foxhole in a freezing, muddy, miserable Italian winter yet instead of surrendering by the truck load they fought.

I can understand perfectly that they did not believe in the cause they were fighting for but I can not understand the lack of desire to at least fight for your own country.
The thing that stands out when talking to the family (father and 6 uncles fought in Italy) about their time in Italy is that every one of them spoke highly of the German soldier and not one of them of his Italian counterpart.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tetvet
My image of the Italians is North Africa where they surrendered by the thousands , Rommel had no use for them , MUSOLINE did one good thing he hanged or imprisoned most of the Mafia in Sicily .
This is pretty much the view that troops came back from WW2 with the problem is that while it may be accurate (for whatever reason) it is clearly not the case for all Italian units.
November 8th, 2014  
JOC
 
 
In addition to not wanting to take part in Mussolini's war I don't think they were particularly fond of Hitler as well. They fought well enough in WW1 but as a whole many didn't fight with enthusiasm or grit in WW2. The Germans were led Kesselring who had many crack division under his command and was a master at defense. The Allies unfortunately were stuck with general Clark. Also many Italian partisan units fought with distinction against the Germans and at great peril.
 


Similar Topics
Soyuz capsule lands in Kazakh steppe with 3 aboard (AP)
KAZAKHSTAN AIRBORNE FORCES EXERCISE STEPPE EAGLE 2004
President Addresses Troops at Osan Air Base in Korea
Chinese military aircraft present situation
Sacrifice and such