World War II
Invasion of France
On June 21, 1940 Italy invaded southern France and the French Alpine division had tanks that inflicted many casualties on the Italian tanks.
By 1940 the Italians had built 1,320 tankettes, 27 light tanks, and 100 medium M11/39s. There were only 3,296 aircraft in the Italian air force with approximately half ready for combat. There were 594 fighters (most of these were the CR.42s), 783 bombers, 268 observation, and 151 reconnaissance aircraft.
There were 22 Italian companies that manufactured airplanes and six that made the engines.
In November 1940 the Italians captured Sidi Barrani in Egypt. After that they formed a Special Armored Brigade with two M11/39 battalions and a M13/40 battalion. There were also two light tank battalions. The brigade never achieved full strength and was later lost in December of 1940 during the British Operation Compass.
In December 1940 in the Western Desert 2 armored-battalion groups were formed. However, these were used piecemeal.
As the M13/40s started being massed produced they were rushed to Africa and the Ariete was the first to be completely equipped with these tanks.
In August 1941 the Corpo d'armata di Manovra (Mobile Army Corps) was formed by combining the Ariete and Trieste motorized infantry divisions and an armored reconnaissance unit.
Towards the end of 1941 the Littorio division was sent to Africa and was formed with a three battalion M13/40 regiment (with two groups of Semovente 75 mm assault guns), two desert patrol units, support elements, extra recon group of besaglieri, and a group of L6/40 light tanks. These never saw action as a unit as the infantry were destroyed in transit and many of the others were used as replacements for divisions already in place.
The Ariete was restructured with this new organization but both divisions were destroyed at Alamein.
The Centauro, Littorio, and Ariete armored divisions all fought in North Africa. Each had the following:
- 1 armored regiment
- 3 medium tank battalions
- 50 tanks
- 90 trucks
- 600 men
- 1 anti-aircraft company
- 1 officina (repair and recovery) company
- 1 bersaglieri (light infantry) regiment
- 1 artillery regiment
The Italians primarily had their main armored units in the Balkans. The only main units were the 3 Divisione Celere with its LXVI I Battaglione Bersaglieri Corazzato with L6/40 and the XIII Gruppo Semoventi with a squadron of Semoventi da 47/32. The tanks were sent to the front with a dark yellow sand color. Most often mud was smeared on the tanks to provide camouflage.
Losses of Aircraft
By the time of the armistice on September 8, 1943, approximately 10,000 planes had been lost. There were only 877 (359 fighters, 108 bombers, 247 reconnaissance, 61 torpedo, 102 two-engined combat planes) that were still operational.
Fighting with the Allies
During the time that Italy had sided with the Allies, they flew 4,893 missions and downed 23 Axis planes for a loss of 147 Italian planes.