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Showing 1-10 of 13 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 22 reviews
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.
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on May 4, 2011
"..our poor M 13's with their 47mm guns could never be effective against them, ( allied Shermans Grants and valentines), we could only hope to hit their tracks to immobilize them; our shells just bounced off their armor. We did every thing possible giving our very best.... we had no chance."
So wrote Antonio Tomba , tank driver, Italian Ariete division during the final stages of the Battle of El Alamein, November 1942.
During that great battle there was no shortage of bravery and sacrifice from the men on either side of the opposing forces, but imagine if you will what courage it must of taken to enter into a fight that you knew you could not win, not from a lack of courage or a will to fight , but with antiquated equipment.

Ian M. Walker has done a superb job of bringing to light the bravery and sacrifice of the Italian soldier, so many times maligned as incompetent, cowardly and comical, by the Allied propaganda machine.
In his book Mr Walker brings to light details which for whatever reasons were not published before... his handling of the historical material takes the reader through the battles and more so the attitudes and mind set of the soldiers who fought them. He uses personal diaries of the men as well as after action reports sparingly but most effectively to keep the reader in touch with the "on the ground" experiences of those who took part.
I have never been more proud of my Italian heritage as i was after finishing this book.... i highly recommend this to any one.

Amazon delivered this to me, here in Australia, in timely fashion and up to now i have not had cause to find any fault on their part
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on July 5, 2015
This is a very detailed and clear account of the relevant Italian units in Italian North Africa. It helps to subvert the usual stereotypes about the Italian forces in WWII. Graziani, and through him (and more culpably) Mussolini, failed to provide their men with the requisite armor and armor-piercing anti-tank weaponry, so that the Italian lighter tanks were overwhelmed by larger British tanks, whose thicker armor the Italian anti-tank weapons could not penetrate. Nor was it David vs Goliath in terms of numbers of tanks. The material advantage was with the Allies in these contests.
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on April 14, 2015
Excellent. A real eye opener on the true story, oftene ridiculed, of the Italian armed forces. Any history buff should read it.
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on November 5, 2008
Italian Armor performance is finally getting the appreciation it deserves, particularly for how -well- "Ariete" performed in the Crusader battles in 1941. I'd say it was probably the equivalent of British Armored divisions, at least 2nd Armored, around that time. To get the full story, combine this book (Amazon gives you a price break) with "Iron Arm", which discusses the development of Italian armor.

Now someone needs to do a similar reassessment of Italian artillery...
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on February 10, 2007
As the author says in his book, many military historians ignore or complete underrate Italy's contribution to the war in North Africa. In fact, it was the Italians who provided most of the Axis forces in North Africa, especially at the beginning of Rommel's counteroffensive. Poorly equipped by the standards of Germany, Britain and the U.S. the Italians nonetheless made war with what they had. The Italians might have been defeated but when well-led they fought as well as any WWII soldier.

Ian Walker really brings to life the difficulties encountered by the Italians, the deficiency of their equipment and (most important of all) WHY their equipment was deficient. Walker goes beyond the stereotype of the Italian soldier and then goes beyond THAT in way of explaination as to how and why he was in the predicament he was in in Africa. Anyone interested in the desert war will want this book.
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on August 26, 2007
This book by Ian Walker is the best treatment of the subject in English I have ever seen. For those who read this book with an open mind, Walker succeeds admirably in what I believe was his aim, i.e., to put the performance of the Italian armored forces in North Africa in somewhat of a proper perspective. No, Walker does not cite specific examples of British and US negative bias towards Italian military performance (that in itself would be a work of monumental proportion), but any serious military buff or historian knows full well in how many ways, from outright falsehoods, to innuendo, the Italians have been marginalized. The facts, as Walker shows, are different. Somewhere, many years ago, I read an account by a British veteran who said something to the effect that "We made many jokes about the Italian artillery, but every time they fired at us, we took cover". Back to Walker's book. I was particularly impressed by his account of the battle of Bir el Gubi - I have written a couple of articles on the battle myself (one, in English, so many years ago that I can't even find a copy of it in my files, although I still have the original correspondence I got from half a dozen British participants in the battle), and one in Italian a few months ago. Walker's in-depth treatment eclipses mine by far. I was also impressed by Walker's reference to the Gruppo Cantaluppi on page 179 - I have never seen any reference to Cantaluppi in any other English-language publication. Cantaluppi was a very colorful commander who managed to squeeze more performance than could be reasonably expected from his exhausted troops on the retreat through Tunisia - but that's another story. My hat is off to Walker for the first serious, balanced treatment I have seen of the subject in English. This book is a must for anyone interested in the war in the desert, or in Italian military operations.
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on August 18, 2005
This book fills a void in WW2 histories by explaining almost all of the actions of the Italian Armoured Divisions during the North African campaigns of WW2.

The book gives a good account of units actions with some excerpts from witness's and also tells when new equipment and tanks became available.

Without any doubt this is the most comprehensive account of Italian units actions i have read, tactical maps are there for most important battles and in 2 colours! (which is much nicer than b&w). Some very good high detail b&w photos are in the book, some i've never seen before, and sharp line drawings of the major Italian tanks.

I would deduct 0.5 stars if i could because i would have liked more indepth analysis(data tables) for the Italian guns, ammunition and tanks performances. The very short tanks data appendix in the book has some silly errors that any experienced person will immediately see so it is a bit dissapointing in that respect.
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on March 25, 2013
This is a very interesting book in that the subject has not been much covered in the past and goes
some way into addressing the standard view that the Italian soldier was 'not up to much' in the way
of combat value.
I highly recommend this book.
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on October 9, 2005
When people think of WWII in North Africa they tend to think of the German, British, and American armies with the Italians as a minor side show. Walker's book fills in a significant gap in the forces involved in that theater by providing a military analysis of the Italian forces without falling back on the clich's that grew from the conflict. He does not, and cannot, argue that the Italian army in WWII was great; he does put the army in its appropriate strategic and political context. In fact the first few chapters of the book provide a contextual analysis for the army in North Africa so that you can understand why the Italians did poorly, but at the same time know why they did well given their constraints -- something often overlooked in a theater where Rommel, Montgomery, and Patton made their names and became larger than life.

One thing to keep in mind is that the focus of the book is on the three Italian armored divisions that fought in North Africa -- Ariete, Littorio, and Centauro. This is not bad given that this was a theater that required mobility to fight and survive. Following the contextual analysis the balance of the book is a straight forward military history that describes and analyzes the performance of these divisions first as Italy fought alone against Britain, then as Italy fought with their German allies against Britain and then the Americans in Tunisia.
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