Much has been written about the major WWII antagonists such as Germany. However, one of the Third Reich's most ardent supporters, up until the time Mussolini was deposed from power, was Italy. Indeed, when Italy declared war on France and Great Britain on June 10, 1940, it had a formidable total of 73 divisions. This new book from Concord Publications addresses a glaring gap in terms of providing photographic coverage of the Italian infantryman. Written by Philip Jowett, the comprehensive introduction outlines the relative merits and weaknesses of the Italian Army as it launched into a new war on top of its protracted campaign in Ethiopia. It must be noted that this book exclusively covers the Italian Army in Europe, so North Africa is not included.
Spurred on by Mussolini, the Italian Army's first foray into WWII was in the French Alps, followed by the invasion of Greece four months later. Let down by inadequate supplies, the Italian Army made heavy work of overcoming Greek resistance, and Hitler had to commit German troops to the region. After this, Italian troops carried out occupation duties in Greece, Albania and Yugoslavia. The other major area of combat was in Russia, with large numbers of troops committed in support of the German effort. Tragically, 85,000 Italian soldiers were to die or go missing in this rugged theater. All of these aforementioned campaigns are well represented in the selection of black and white photos. Beginning with pre-war parades, the book then proceeds through to the freezing snowbound landscapes of the wintry Eastern Front. The photos are interesting in that they show all manner of uniform and personal weapon details, as well as ancillary equipment like motorbikes, tankettes, tanks, artillery pieces, mortars and wheeled vehicles.
Dmitriy Zgonnik has supplied four color plates that occupy a central position in this book, and these are accompanied by useful notes about uniforms and equipment. Extended captions pass on as much information as possible about Italian soldiers, a topic that few will probably be up to date on. This is a most welcome title in this popular Concord series, and it brings to light a nation's soldiers that played an important role in WWII.