Italy 1936 - An alternate Italian history of
World War II
This timeline is a "what if," on what if Mussolini was a smarter, shrewder politician in the realm of international relations from 1936 onwards. The point of divergence is the conquest of Ethiopia by Italian forces on May 5th 1936.
I will most likely be posting this in parts to make it easier for myself to put together and to properly take in criticism and suggestions for the timeline. So if you have any comments please feel free to contact me. This is also my first attempt at writing an alternate history and I hope to fine tune my writing and get a better grasp of the genre before moving on to a much larger and ambitious project.
May 5th 1936
In Rome Mussolini, Victor Emanuel III and the Grand Council of Fascists are pleased with the success of the invasion of Ethiopia and the formation of Italian East Africa. However this war has left bitter taste in the mouths of the western powers and has left Italy diplomatically isolated. There is also Hitlerís Germany a politically similar regime that is rapidly gaining power, but Mussolini does not trust the Austrian artist.
Mussolini decides on a dangerous course he will attempt to forge closer relations with both parties secretly and see which side will offer him the best deals.
May 15th 1936
Count Ciano the foreign minister of Italy and son in law to Il Duce begins a diplomatic blitz with France and the United Kingdom trying to drum up support for the Ethiopian war. Ciano even goes as far to offer both France and Britain reduced prices on any exports produced from the Ethiopian colony.
June 30th 1936
Haile Selassie the former Emperor of Ethiopia speaks in front of the League of Nations and delivers a scathing speech against the blind Imperialism of the Italian Empire and warning "It is us today, It will be you tomorrow." His warning falls largely on deaf ears as Britain and France though still displeased with the actions of Italy see possible gain from it.
The League of Nations votes to condemn the attack but offers no sanctions in effect basically letting Italy off the hook.
* Note: I believe that with the lacklustre sanctions placed in OTL without any damage control efforts by Mussolini that in this timeline there will be even less desire to for sanctions since Italy has attempted to smooth things over.*
The Spanish civil war starts with Francesco Franco attacking mainland Spain from bases in Africa. By the end of the month Italy (and Germany) begins supplying Francoís nationalists with supplies and volunteers against the Republicans.
This action has once again hurt the international image of Italy to the western powers and Ciano is again sent on a tour of nations to attempt to rectify it. This time however it is much less successful with Italy currently out of any bargaining chips.
Despite the economic strain of both the Spanish Civil War and the recurring costs from the Ethiopian campaign Mussolini orders the construction of two railroads in Italian Africa. The first being an east west railway in Libya linking the major cities. The second is a railway linking the major cities of Italian East Africa. They are expected to be completed within two years.
October 25th 1936
Mussolini meets with Hitler in secret and they agree to aid each other in secret. Hitler at first insists that any alliance be a public one but Mussolini holds firm and insists that Italian interests can not allow such a public display. Hitlerís hand is also forced on a technology exchange between Italy and Germany. Mussolini specifically requests German engineers to aid in the construction of synthetic oil plants within Italy. As a concession Italy shall sell a large percentage of the oil (around 40%) to Germany at a reduced rate.
A few German military officers are also sent to Italy to instruct Italian officers and NCOís in new training measures and drills.
The construction on the first of four synthetic oil plants begin.
The first Synthetic Oil Plant comes online with an initial production output of 10% of its full capacity. Over the next six months it will gradually work towards full production and begin research on its own methods for oil production. The second plant is currently 50% of the way to completion and the remaining two are 25%.
The German advisors have trained a core base of Italian NCOís and officers who will go on to train the Italian army as a whole.
Through constant diplomacy and agreements for future economic benefits with the sale of cheap oil the relations with Britain and France are once against returned to "normalcy" the governments of both nations are still wary of Italian aggression but they have their own problems to be concerned with at this time.
November 11th 1937
Mussolini gives issues a proclamation and gives a speech asking that all true Italians who emigrated oversees to return to Italy(or one of its colonies,) and work towards making the land of their ancestors great. Incentives of free housing and jobs are offered to those who chose to return home. Mussolini is hoping that the influx of foreign more valuable money into the Italian economy will help keep everything trotting along until more viable sources of income can come online fully(i.e. the oil plants.)
March 12th 1938
Anschluss occurs in Austria. Italy neither condemns or offers praise to Germany officially but Mussolini secretly gave his consent to Hitler for the annexation(Mussolini originally opposed Hitlerís first attempt.) Hitler in a state of joy for the smooth turnover of power is heard to remark in a staff meeting "Tell Mussolini I will never forget him for this...never, never, never, never..."
Though the call for all true Italians to return to Italy was issued months before very few of the millions of emigrants or their children have returned. Only a few thousand have made their way back to Italy.
September 30th 1938
The Munich agreement is signed between Great Britain and Germany giving Germany control of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Prime Minister Chamberlain gives his speech of "Peace for our time..."
Enrico Fermi, Italian physicist wins the Nobel Prize. He praises Mussolini and the Grand Council for the funding he received while working in Rome and returns home to parades and other publicity events.
*Note: It may seem strange that I have Fermi return to Italy but so far in this timeline there is no reason for Fermi to defect to the United States. Historically he left Italy because of the enaction of anti Semitic laws since his wife was Jewish. Without those laws and without close public ties to Hitler, Fermi has no reason to uproot himself.*
January 1st 1939
For the most part the construction of two railways in Africa are complete and in Ethiopia mining and other economically strengthening activities have begun. The synthetic oil plants are nearly running at full production and plans are made to expand the number to six by 1941. Mussolini enacts a program to grant licenses for mining and logging rights to Italian corporations to increase production of raw materials.
Hitler invades and annexes the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Count Ciano is sent to Albania to give a set of extremely unreasonable demands to King Zog. Zog naturally turns down the offer and Rome gives an ultimatum to Zog to accept the terms by 12:00 PM April 6th.
Mussolini and Hitler have another secret meeting to discuss future relations. It is quite clear that Hitler is preparing for a war which Mussolini wants no part of, nor could Mussolini afford another war. They do agree to extend the terms of trade between Germany and Italy in secret. This trade will consist of only raw materials and generally untraceable goods to Germany in exchange for gold and technology schematics.
April 1st 1939
The Spanish Civil War ends in a victory for Franco and Italian troops which number over 37 thousand begin returning home. The war reveals defects in Italian military command that Mussolini orders to be corrected with all due haste.
April 7th 1939
The deadline has come and gone for Albania and the Italian fleet has begun shelling of the Albanian coast. By the end of the day 2 divisions would be on the shore and Albania would fall within a week and have King Zog fleeing to Greece.
In conjunction with the German training previously received and lessons learned in Spain the Supremo Commando has ordered a restructuring of the Italian military by implementing a new doctrine of warfare. Over the course of 1939 Italy will retrain itís troops for the use of Blitzkrieg style warfare.
Army supply depots are established in northern Italy along the German Italian border to keep trade secretly flowing with Germany freely even if Italy has to declare a trade embargo against the Reich.
September 1st 1939
Following a staged attack on a German radio station Germany declares war on Poland and launches a massive invasion of the country. Britain and France immediately condemn the attacks and Italy proclaims her neutrality. Mussolini even offers that Rome be used as a site of a conference to work out a peaceful solution to the unnecessary war. Of course this request is refused by Hitler but the gesture helps to increase his diplomatic standing with the Allies.
September 3rd 1939
Great Britain and France declare war on Germany.
September 17th 1939
The Soviet Union invades Poland in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
October 1st 1939
Poland is completely conquered by the forces of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union.
A treaty for Britain and France is drafted up that promises Italy will cut all economic and political ties with Nazi Germany in return for a Sphere of Influence over the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean and Mideast(Minus British and French Protectorates.) Presented secretly to those governments the treaty is immediately rebuked.
Nazi gold begins flowing into as Germany begins purchasing stores of supply for renewed offensives in a few months. Italian tank production is on the rise as a result of the brilliant use of tanks in Poland.
Meanwhile plans are being made for an Italian invasion of Yugoslavia. Though Italy does not have the assurances of Britain and France over Italian dominance in the region he is confidant that soon the Allies will be too distracted to care what Italy does.
April 9th 1940
Germany invades Norway and Denmark and both nations fall quickly.
Italy enters into negotiations with Bulgaria for an invasion of Yugoslavia. The tentative date is set for early 1941 so both nations can prepare their armed forces.
May 10th 1940
Germany Blitzís Belgium and France! Allied defense is shattered nearly from the start of the campaign.
June 10th 1940
With almost all of France nearly in German hands and the British forced to retreat back to England Mussolini once again submits the treaty of Italian neutrality to Britain and France. In chaotic Paris the treaty goes ignored but in Britain it is reluctantly signed by the new government under Churchill.
June 11th 1940
Italy breaks all economic and diplomatic ties with Germany citing their unlawful invasion of Belgium and France. The Italian government enacts measures to protect Italian industry by purchasing goods originally bound for Germany. On paper this is a dramatic act, in practice there is little or no effect on trade with it now just being conducted completely by the government in exchange for untraceable currency and technology designs.
June 22nd 1940
With Paris and two thirds of France under German control France is forced to sign an armistice with Germany. The neutral Vichy government is established in Vichy.
The Battle of Britain begins in the skies over England.
The Italian military reforms are largely completed there effectiveness is still unknown but they will soon be tested in Yugoslavia. An invasion date is set for early April.
After months of constant gold trading it was time to launder the funds into the economy and have Italy benefit from the sales. Mussolini begins approving plans for funding from a multitude of government organizations and private institutions. Most of which have a military value. One such request comes from the University of Rome for grant money to research the possibility of achieving nuclear fission and outlines the possible uses, one of which catches Mussoliniís eye which is the military aspect. It is quickly signed with a large "M" for his approval and the Italian Nuclear Program officially begins.
*Note: Some may seem it far fetched that Italy would begin a nuclear program on itís own but I believe that with Fermi still residing in Italy, the lack of Italian entry in the war and the influx of funds from Germany an Italian program is inevitable. Of course this program will take many years since Italy does not have the same amount of funds to devote to it as the United States nor the infrastructure to support the operation. We are looking at a development of at least 9 to 10 years.
End of Part 1.
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