Both World War I and II were world events that left territories, countries, nations, and individuals exhausted from the effort and from loss. These wars proved ultimately ironic when the term "the war to end all wars" proved tragically inaccurate with the outbreak of World War II. In addition to the devastation, however, were significant changes, developments and effects on the world and its paradigms. Decolonization, for example proved to be one of the most important effects. Whereas colonization was a mainly European paradigm as means of transport and new discoveries enabled increasing voyages across the world, the World Wars created the ability of territories to become autonomous, searching for their own identity rather than identities that were associated with those of their colonizers. For Italy, World War II also held its own specific events and paradigm shifts as the country became a territory affected by war and manipulation attempts.
World War II created conditions that became fundamentally unfavorable for colonialism, since old powers were being overrun by Axis forces. New allies were formed to overrun old colonial and despotic powers during World War II. Britain was particularly threatened in this way by powers in North Africa, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Anti-colonial leaders like Gandhi, Mao Tse-tung, HO Chi Minh and others created realities in which leaders could liberate their territories from the rule of colonial forces. To this day, it remains unclear whether this development has created a paradigm of peace or simply more warfare as new territories attempt to create an identity.
As World War II raged on, this effect ran concurrently with the Allied strategic problem of a new cause after the end of the North African campaign, along with the Italian need, politically, to end its involvement in a war the country perceived as increasingly pointless. At the time, Italy was under the Fascist rule of Mussolini. However, Mussolini at this stage remained the leader in little more than name. Even among his own administration Mussolini faced a lack of support. In addition, other leaders regarded him as little more than a puppet for Hitler. Hence, the Germans were increasingly involved in the Italian war effort and its direction.
As much as Mussolini was Hitler's puppet, Italian troops were increasingly used in the German war effort. Italian soldiers were, for example, sent to fight the Russian Communists. They were also used on anti-guerilla missions in the Balkans. Italians were also regarded as somewhat "second-class," a fact that the Italians themselves were painfully aware of.
Hitler responded by simply sending more German troops. He even went as far as sending Germans instead of the Italians Mussolini requested in assistance against the threat of Allied invasion.
Interestingly, Field Marshal Kesselring promoted Italian-German relations by being a fan of all things Italian. He was the German commander of the Mediterranean and somewhat softened an otherwise difficult experience for the Italians in the region.
When the situation became intolerable for the Italians in 1943, they understood that it was time to eliminate Mussolini. They also understood that they would need Allied assistance to help them against the German reaction to this effort.
Thus, the invasion of Sicily acted as a spur to help the effort to rid Italy from Mussolini and his rule. The result was a bloodless coup, in which the king demanded that Mussolini resign. Mussolini was then taken away and replaced by Badoglio, who demanded that Italy remain in the war. Hence, even though Mussolini was now out of the picture, Italy's remaining problem was that it was no closer to emerging from the war than it was in the past.
At the same time, the Allied decision to invade Italy, despite their initial intention not to do so, created further difficulty for the Italian drive to join the Allied forces. Churchill believed that an invasion of southern Italy would form a sound follow-up strategy for the operations in Sicily. This would create a basis for operations in the Balkans, while Allied bombers could also be stationed in Italy's airfields for reaching Rumanian oil fields. In the long-term, Churchill's intention was to not only invade Italy and bring Mussolini down, but also to create a victory for the Allies in terms of gaining Rome without German resistance. It was projected that the Germans would not wish to fight in southern Italy.
This proved to be a tragically flawed view, as the Allied forces faced increasing opposition in Italy, denying them a cheap or easy victory. Hence, Churchill maintained his requests for additional resources to promote an Italian victory.
There was, however, division among the Allied leaders, and those opposing the Italian invasion adamantly refused such requests. Alexander, the field commander in the territory, was then forced to fight without the required resource. Ultimately, the Allied forces were obliged to allocate the resources after all in order to mitigate the disastrous conquests. Hence, not only the Italians themselves, but also those fighting within the country's borders, were reduced to a sense of second-class operations.
It appears, therefore, that Italy was the location of senselessness in terms of the war effort. The division among the Allied leadership created a feeling among the troops of being embroiled in an effort without a clear purpose. In general, the feeling was that they were located in the country simply because the Allied forces did not know what else to do at the time. In addition, the terrain in the country did not lend itself to easy access or easy warfare. Soldiers fighting within this territory therefore faced the dual problem of psychological and physical hardship.
Despite the fact that the Allied troops entered and conquered Rome in 1944, they had failed to accomplish their initial purpose, which was to destroy the German army in Italy. Indeed, this was indicative of the general lack of purpose behind the Italian war effort for the Allies.
As a result, northern Italy remained under Axis control. Mussolini was rescued from his isolated prison by German airborne troops. Behind German lines, he attempted to set up a shadow Fascist government, which failed to have any great effect. At the same time, Italy has lost the battle to keep war away from the country or indeed to withdraw from what part it did have in the war effort.
In terms of the Second World War, Italy therefore seems to have played all but the passive part of the victim. Citizens were first victims of Mussolini's rule, and then were victims to the German and Allied war forces within their borders. In addition, those fighting within Italy were also victims of a somewhat senseless effort at invading and conquering territory while fighting in a notoriously difficult environment.
This was also true towards the end. As Germany became increasingly weak in their war efforts, they remained hanging on to the northern Apennines in Italy. If it ever was anything other than second class, Italy had reduced to this status by the end. Few remained to deny this. Rome's fall could no longer be regarded as a glorious victory, and General Alexander and his army recognized this. The troops were, however, forced to remain where they were, fighting the rest of the war for a mountain range that was all but strategically meaningless and even less memorable.
Mark Clar took over from Alexander as the army group commander, while General Heinrich von Vietinghoff replaced Kesselring. Both these military men believed firmly that they were fighting to ward off the danger of Russian takeover in south-central Europe. Ironically, this was simply an illusory purpose to mask the fact that the war had become even more meaningless for both Italy and the foreign troops who fought inside its borders.
Because of these factors, Italy's role in the Second World War is not recognized as significant. Instead, it was regarded as a "puppet state" by other forces. The leadership in Italy, in addition to the fact that the country never wanted war within it at all created an image of division and weakness of the country and its efforts in the war.
At the end of the Second World War, Italy tended towards communism in terms of ideology, resulting from the country's unpleasant experiences with democracy and capitalism in the past. This attempt at a relative sense of autonomy, however, was again usurped by American forces.
The United States conducted a campaign to prevent communism from taking hold in Italy. The country therefore relocated its ideological attentions towards democracy, and was established as a democratic republic in 1948. After its popular election, the country was then brought under the influence of Western democratic rather than Communist forces.
What is interesting about this is that Italy appears to have remained a puppet for whatever forces were able to control it first. The advantage for the country is, however, that it could enter the world arena in terms of communication, political, and sociological ties in ways that the U.S.S.R. was not able to do…