Italy 1936 - An alternate Italian history of
World War II
Preliminary Notes: First I would like to clarify a few issues about Part 1. One of the questions I was asked was that without Mussoliniís backing how will the Papacy react to Nazi aggression in this timeline. During the invasion of Poland, the Papacy condemns the attack by Germany and proclaims the actions to be unbecoming of Catholics and advises the German Catholics and more importantly Catholic Naziís to more carefully think of their nationís public policy. The Vatican will begin to take a more hardline stance in the near future.
Though I left it out in Part 1 the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland occurred and had the same result as it did historically.
The Vatican issues a Bull condemning the Nazi subjugation of good Catholic people in Western and Eastern Europe. It goes on to condemn the Nazi especially the Catholics and states that they must reconsider what it means to be Christian. It does however ask for leniency in occupation to be granted to the people of occupied Europe as they are good Christian stock and should be treated humanely and fairly.
The Bull has little actual effect with most high level Catholic Nazis only paying mere lip service to the Church. In the predominately Catholic areas of Germany there are minor protests to their governments behavior and actions but these are limited and disperse The only real effect is a harsher crackdown on Catholic Priests who preach against Nazi Ideology.
In Italy construction begins on two more Synthetic Oil Plants.
Ethnically Italian troops are recalled from the colonies back to Italy leaving the African possessions with large amounts of native troops and only a handful of divisions of Italians. In Italy they are being reequipped and retrained to fight in a European theater of war.
Italy and Bulgaria negotiate the division of Yugoslavia. Bulgaria will gain all land east of the Nis River south of Belgrade and Italy will gain all lands to the west as well as Macedonia. The date for the invasion is set at April 14th. When asked what would be done if England attempted to intervene the Italian military commanders revealed the facts of the Italian Neutrality Treaty which makes the Bulgarians very nervous about the future of their state.
The Battle of Britain has been raging for nearly eight months now and though the British have gained the upper hand there is no end in sight and the British people are beginning to grow anxious and uneasy with talks of asking for a peace treaty emerging. Churchill and his cabinet realize they must open up a new front where victories can be gained. Norway was the logical choice for the attack and British planners are given the task of organizing it.
At the same time in Germany, Hitler and his men prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
Bulgarian government officials meet secretly with the Turkish government and agree to a defensive pact to ward against Italian aggression in the region. The Turks also wish to see a reoccupation of the lands stolen from them by Greece but that matter is left undecided.
Italy and Bulgaria begin mobilizing their forces for the attack against Yugoslavia. The Italian attack will consist of 3 Armies of 125 thousand men apiece. 1st army will be positioned in northeastern Italy near Trieste with its mission to attack through the Slovene territories and keep any defensive forces from the Northern border off balance. 2nd Army will strike out of the Istrian peninsula and will head towards Belgrade. 3rd Army in Albania will strike along the Western side of Lake Skodar and capture the coastline. In addition marine landings will be conducted at Bar and Split with Paratrooper landings occurring in Tivar and Rijeka. Over 800 tanks (most of which outdated,) and 600 aircraft are being devoted to the success of the operation.
In Bulgaria a force of 200 thousand men are being prepared along the border to open up a second front.
April 5th 1941
The Bulgarian Ambassador to Rome informs Mussolini that the current agreement between Rome and Sofia is no longer satisfactory and that a new arrangement has to be agreed upon. Bulgaria insists that Macedonia be divided into two with the eastern half being made a puppet state of Bulgaria to serve as a buffer from the Italian border. Mussolini is outraged by this demand but his hands are tied, he needs the Bulgarians to pull off the attack and he is forced to agree to the new terms.
Later in the day to his private aides he swears he will get revenge upon the treacherous dogs to the East.
April 7th 1941
High flying recon flights are sent over Yugoslavia and prompt an official protest from the government. The Italian government issues a press release that the overflies were due to an error in a flight plan but this does not explain the continued overflies later in the day and the following days. The government orders a mobilization of troops along the Italian border as a precautionary measure. The mobilization will be complete within two weeks.
April 14th 1941
5:00 AM Local Time
Across the airfields of Italy hundreds of fighters and bombers are taking flight heading eastwards. Off the coast of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia the Italian fleet sits in wait silently for the signal to be given. Hundreds of artillery crews are opening up sealed envelopes with their target coordinates and begin sighting their guns.
5: 45 AM Local Time
A short message is telegraphed to the Yugoslav government stating that the Kingdom of Italy can no longer stand their destabilizing influence in what is Italyís Sphere of Influence and that a state of war now exists between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Hundreds of Italian telegraphers and radiomen relay messages to units across the front ordering them to commence operations.
5:50 AM Local Time
Battleships and cruisers open fire against enemy cities and fortifications in preparation for the armyís advance, marine landings and ground invasions. The Italian fleet is broken up into four groups. With concentrations near the Albanian border, Istrian border, and the two marine landings at Split and Bar.
Belgrade sends out emergency alarms to their military installations ordering all forces to go on full alert. They have not been able to fully prepare but they will make sure to give the Italians one hell of a fight as they ready their forces.
5:55 AM Local Time
Italian fighters and bombers sweep into Slavic airspace and break off towards their individual targets. Most of the bombers are assigned to knocking out enemy border fortifications and critical communications and road and rail junctions leading to the front to keep the Yugoslavs off balance. Fighters are to establish air superiority preferably by destroying the aircraft on the ground, of course if that is not possible they will blast them from the sky.
Along the borders most of the air bases are hit before they have a chance to get aircraft airborne but further inland the bases with more warning manage to launch their own aircraft including 4 of the 6 operational IK-3's.
The squadron tasked with clearing that base was taken completely by surprise as they were beset upon the extremely agile and well built fighters. Immediately two planes went down as they entered into combat in the predawn light over Yugoslavia. The radioband was filled with chatter declaring their confusion:
"I canít see him! Where is he!"
"Heís on your tail pull up!"
"I got him...Shit! I missed! Heís turning to tight!"
"Someone get him off me!"
For nearly twenty minutes the conflict went on before the Italian fighters with their numbers (and the help of a two Aces from the Spanish Civil war responding to their calls for help) they managed to down the four IK-3's at the loss of eight of their own.
6:00 AM Local Time
Hundreds of artillery guns unleash a mighty barrage into Yugoslavia as the Italian armies state their advance into the confused enemy lines. 1st army attack the northernmost route has Alpine troops leading the way and flanking the spearhead to guide the rest of the force.
2nd and 3rd army have their tanks lead the way on the more favorable terrain(600 of the 800 tanks are assigned to these two armies.)
Landing craft depart from their motherships and head towards the outskirts of the targeted cities (bar and split,) with a total of 5,000 troops attacking each.
6:15 AM Local Time
The meagre border defenses of the Yugoslavian forces are shattered and the Italian armies roll across the divide freely preparing for a quick victory over their enemies.
Paratroopers drop out of the sky in the areas around the cities of Tivar and Rijeka. 4,000 men are dropped for each city. Most of the Paratroopers are misdropped and dispersed around the countryside. Luckily for them there are very few defenders in these regions since they were considered to not be in the path of an Italian invasion.
*Note: The Comando Supremo is not using the paratroopers in a combined arms offensive with the regular army but instead as separate units in different roles. This will have both positive and negative effects on the campaign as a whole.
6: 30 AM Local Time
Bulgaria officially declares war on Yugoslavia in support of their Italian allies. Over 200 thousand troops start the attack on the Eastern border of the kingdom.
Italy releases an official press release to its people and the world citing the reason for the invasion which is the Yugoslav crown infringing on Italian influence and attempting to incite uprisings throughout the territory of Albania.
9:00 AM Local Time
Along all fronts the offensives have become bogged down after initial advances of 10-15 miles but they are now against concentrated defensive lines. At first the tanks are sent ahead to break the enemy lines but they are soon repulsed. Most of the tanks are not up for the task being outdated and the few "modern" ones are too few in number to decisively change the course of battle.
Italian commanders attempt to radio in for Close Air Support but there are a severe lack of planes available and those that are, are usually incapable of the task. When CAS can respond the results are usually mixed. One thing is apparent though that the current Italian dive bombers are not up to par.
The Bulgarian front meets with much greater success as there are nearly no defenders along this front. They make massive initial gains but are soon slowed down not because of defenders but because of the outdated supply and transportation system present within the army. As the Bulgarians attempt to reorganize their forces and get them moving they give the enemy time to organize a coherent eastern defense.
Not all news is gloomy though the paratroopers and marines have succeeded in capturing their target cities and are now preparing defenses for any counter attack.
11:00 AM Local Time
Governments worldwide begin releasing statements most of which condemning the attacks. All major world powers (except England) voice their opposition to the attacks but offer no support for Yugoslavia. England issues a half hearted response which basically states: "It is unfortunate that Italy wrongfully abuses its power over the Balkans while the world at large is occupied with greater concerns." This time statement would come to haunt the Churchill government as it makes the government look weak and appeasing
Oddly enough the harshest response attack comes from the German Reich which said that Italy has grossly overstepped its bounds in the world of international relations. Upon hearing of the invasion Hitler flew into a rage on the Italian actions. His anger was twofold first he felt (perhaps rightly so,) that the Italian war took valuable resources away from his own campaigns. In the past weeks Italian oil and munition sales dropped nearly 40%. The second reason was Hitler believed that by using the Bulgarians in the attack Italy has deprived Germany of an ally in the upcoming battle with Russia.
12:00 PM Local Time
Italy establishes near full air superiority over the skies of Yugoslavia only the most eastern territories are not under patrol by fighters.
Bombers are being refuelled and rearmed for a massive ground attack mission against the forces facing 3rd army.
2:30 PM Local Time
150 bombers provide CAS for 3rd army as they attempt to smash through the Yugoslavian defenders.
6:00 PM Local Time
The renewed offensive out of Albania have put the defenders on the retreat. 3rd army prepares to link up with the men in Bar and Tivar and press the offensive further north.
The massed air attack tactics employed here will be used on the two northern fronts in the upcoming days.
After a week of retreating the Yugoslav army has re-established defensive positions. They lost most of their coast as well as their fleet from a combination of being sunk and others being captured in port before being able to get underway. 3rd army turns eastwards to support operations in Bosnia and to tighten the noose that is forming around Belgrade.
Italian troops are outside the city of Ljubljana which is heavily fortified and preventing 1st army from advancing any further.
2nd Army is making good progress across Croatia but is not encountering stiffer resistance as they get closer to Serbia.
The Bulgarian front has reached the Nis river and both sides have established defenses on the opposing banks. Neither side is willing to commit the necessary troops for such an operation and the Bulgarians are banking on the Yugoslavs pulling troops out first to reinforce the west.
The current success comes with a high price. Over 20% of the Italian armored corps is wiped out in the first week of fighting and that number is expected to rise as the defense mounts. Tank crews have taken to mounting sandbags across the front of their tanks to add an extra layer of projection against high velocity weapons. Back at home this has already prompted the government to order the P.40(Note: The P.40 would be comparable to a Panther.) to enter into production as soon as possible to both replace losses and provide Italy with a reliable tank.
The Bulgarians have suffered even higher loses, fighting primarily with World War I tactics they have lost over 20,000 men already and are looking at a bloody grind towards Belgrade.
In Belgrade the mood is grim but with a tinge of optimism. The army has halted the attacks and established new defensive lines in favorable terrain but they were still outnumbered and soon would be running low on necessary supplies. They did have one ace up their sleeves on a front neglected by Italy. Unbeknownst to the Italians 5 divisions gather in Kosovo preparing to invade Albania.
End of Part 2.
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