When World War II began in September 1939, Mussolini took the position that he was under no obligation to aid Germany militarily because he had made it clear to the Nazis that Italy would not be prepared for war until 1942.
German successes during the first year of the war, however, led Mussolini to reverse his policy. In June 1940, when France lay prostrate in defeat and Britain alone faced the powerful German armies, Italy entered the war and granted France an armistice. In August 1940, Italian forces in East Africa occupied British Somaliland, and the following month Fascist armies in Libya and Italian East Africa began a gigantic pincers movement designed to overwhelm British defenses in Egypt. On October 28, 1940, Fascist forces in Albania invaded Greece, apparently to divert British forces from Egypt and to secure bases on the Greek peninsula. The invasion failed, however, as the Greeks drove the Italians from Greece and Albania. This debacle, followed by British victories in the Mediterranean and in Egypt, seriously weakened the Fascist regime.
Mussolini had to ask Hitler for aid, and thereafter Italian policy in all fields fell increasingly under German control. Sweeping changes in the Fascist military hierarchy were instituted, but these and other reforms failed to restore the morale of the Italian people.
In 1941 Italy suffered successive military and naval disasters and growing economic privation caused by an Allied blockade. A successful end of its Balkan campaign, as a result of German intervention, somewhat offset the Fascist reverses, however, and Italy acquired several new territories. By arrangement with Germany, almost all Greece was occupied by Italian troops. But Italy was forced to pay an increasingly high price for Hitler’s military assistance.
Italian foodstuffs and other commodities ran low as large shipments were sent to the Third Reich in return for German coal and oil. Italy declared war on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on June 22, 1941, on the day Germany invaded the USSR, and five weeks later the first Italian division was sent to the Soviet front. As difficulties developed in the German offensive, Hitler became more pressing in his demands on Mussolini. At the same time, relations between the United States and Italy approached a showdown. Italian assets in the United States were impounded in June 1941, and similar measures were taken against U.S. assets in Italy. In December 1941, after Japan attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Mussolini declared war on the United States. The outlook for Fascist Italy in 1942 was gloomy. In North Africa, temporary Italo-German gains were liquidated by a vigorous British offensive. Axis forces, including the Italians, suffered serious reverses in the Soviet Union. Italian occupation troops in Albania, Yugoslavia, and Greece suffered heavy losses from guerrilla bands. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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