Top positive review
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Correcting impressions from the past
on December 31, 2014
In "Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts ", author Ian W. Walker takes a deep look at whether the Italian’s ground troop’s poor fighting reputation in World War II was truly deserved. He selects the Italian armored units to analyze in North Africa from 1940 to 1943, as these units were as elite as any other Italian ground pounder in World War II.
Although on average the Italian mobile divisions were not as good as the Germans and British ones, the authors point out why this was initially so, while also showing the improvements they made over time, so that by the end of this period, they were every bit as good as their contemporaries once you adjust expectations because their smaller size and obsolescent equipment. The poor reputation of World War II Italian fighting men that carries forward to this day was cemented in the losses the Italians suffered in 1940, and as the authors show, was a result of many factors: obsolescent/obsolete equipment, very poor leadership both at the national level and within armed forces, an inadequate industrial base, as well as wartime and post-war propaganda by the British and Germans. However, the Italians performed better after 1940, although they seldom received the credit they earned.
The book is well-organized and well-written, and provides a great deal of information on the Italian armed forces in general and on how Italian armored doctrine and tank development specifically evolved from inception through the Axis surrender in North Africa in 1943. The descriptions and analysis of the fighting during the desert war clearly show the strengths and weakness of the Italian soldiers, and provide a more balanced portrayal of their true combat capabilities. The 8 pages of black and white period pictures were also interesting, and would be useful to modelers.
This book does a good job providing a full view of the Italian armored units and gives the reader a more nuanced view of the fighting, and shows that without large number of Italians fighting at their side, the far less numerical Germans would not have been able to win their spectacular victories in Libya and Egypt, before their eventual defeat. I strongly recommend this book. Five stars.