Italy declares war on France and Great Britain

Benito Mussolini was the founder of Fascism and leader of Italy from 1922 to 1943.
Benito Mussolini was the founder of Fascism and leader of Italy from 1922 to 1943.

Jun 10, 1940:

Italy declares war on France and Great Britain

On this day in 1940, after withholding formal allegiance to either side in the battle between Germany and the Allies, Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy, declares war on France and Great Britain.

What caused Il Duce’s change of heart? Perhaps the German occupation of Paris did it. “First they were too cowardly to take part. Now they are in a hurry so that they can share in the spoils,” reflected Hitler. (However, Mussolini claimed that he wanted in before complete French capitulation only because fascism “did not believe in hitting a man when he is down.”)

Italy’s lack of raw materials had made Mussolini wary of waging all-out war previously. Britain and France were also wooing him with promises of territorial concessions in Africa in exchange for neutrality. But the thought of its Axis partner single-handedly conquering the Continent was too much for his ego to bear. While Germany had urged Italy’s participation in September 1939, at this late date such intervention would probably prove more of a hindrance than a help. For example, despite Italy’s declaration of war on the 10th, it wasn’t until the 20th that Italian troops were mobilized in France, in the southwest-and easily held at bay by French forces.

The reaction by the Allies to the declaration of war was swift: In London, all Italians who had lived in Britain less than 20 years and who were between the ages of 16 and 70 were immediately interned. In America, President Roosevelt broadcast on radio the promise of support for Britain and France with “the material resources of this nation.”

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Italians renew battle on mountain-tops in Trentino

Guerra_Altipiani_Dopo_Assalto
The remaining alpine vegetation.

 

Jun 10, 1917:

Italians renew battle on mountain-tops in Trentino

On June 10, 1917, Italian troops launch a renewed assault on Austro-Hungarian positions in the mountains of the Trentino region in northern Italy, on the border with Austria.

The formidable nature of the northern Italian terrain—four-fifths of the 600-kilometer-long border with Austria was lined with mountains, with several peaks rising above 3,000 meters—made the Italian, of all the fronts during World War I, the least well-suited for battle. Nevertheless, upon their entrance into the war in May 1915 on the side of the Allies, the Italians immediately took the offensive against Austria in the Trentino, with little success. By the end of 1915, after four battles fought on the Isonzo River, in the eastern section of the Italian front, Italy had made no substantial progress and had suffered 235,000 casualties, including 54,000 killed.

The Tenth Battle of the Isonzo—by the end of the war there would be 12—in May 1917 had met with a similar lack of success for the Italians. A major Austro-Hungarian counter-offensive launched on June 3 reclaimed virtually all of the ground Italy had gained; Italian Commander-in-Chief Luigi Cadorna shut down the attacks on June 8.

Two days later, the increasingly frustrated Italians renewed the battle, attacking six mountain peaks in the Trentino. Italian deserters had revealed details of the assault to the Austrians, however, and they were able to counterattack successfully and hold their positions. The Italians did manage to capture one mountain peak, however—the nearly 7,000-foot-high Mount Ortigaro—and take some 1,000 Austrian prisoners. Two weeks later, the Austrians seized control of Ortigaro again, taking 2,000 Italian prisoners. By the end of June, after three weeks of heated battle on the mountain peaks and passes, the lines of territory had barely changed, at the cost of 23,000 Italian and nearly 9,500 Austrian casualties.

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