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Found WW2 Italial Tactical Training Manual on line

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It is an interesting read. In most respects it looks similar to US, British, and German low level manuals I've seen. A couple of glaring exceptions are, however, noteworthy in CM terms. For example, no mention of combating enemy armor or working with friendly armor. In fact, there's pretty much no mention of combined arms concepts at all. Not to mention a lack of emphasis on how to keep the Squad functioning in the face of key personnel losses. Maybe there's more than what was translated, but I'm guessing not.

One of the most fascinating things about TO&E is that you can look at two organizations and see them as basically similar, but in reality function very differently. By looking at the details, and comparing them against each other, you can see reasons for the real world differences.

Note that I say "differences", which isn't necessarily a better/worse judgement. However, it can be. In this case it definitely is.

As I read through this I see all the problems that CM shows. The two designated leaders have too many things heaped on their shoulders for the number of men under their control. Too many men! It takes the Italians nearly twice as many men to perform the same actions that other nations do and do better.

For those of you who have studied military organization principles, you can see the old WW1 "binary" mentality in this manual. It envisions formations, from Regiment on down, being used in pairs. Even the older "square" model basically boiled down to a double "binary" type system.

In contrast to Italy (and some others), most nations had gradually gotten rid of the binary concept during the WW1 and inter-war years and replaced with the "triangular" model. The triangular system operated under the concept of threes instead of twos. Two battalions engaged while a third is held in reserve. Two squads engage while a third maneuvers. etc. Losses compelled the Germans to shrink to binary concepts at higher levels, but battalion and lower was basically kept triangular (with manpower compromises in places).

Why did the binary system fall out of favor? Because it was wasteful of manpower and at the same time wasn't as effective. Sound familiar? :D It's why the triangular concept is still very much the central focus of modern thinking, though there are exceptions.

It's always interesting to see how these organizational differences play out. They should play out differently since organization matters.


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It is an interesting read. In most respects it looks similar to US, British, and German low level manuals I've seen. A couple of glaring exceptions are, however, noteworthy in CM terms. For example, no mention of combating enemy armor or working with friendly armor. In fact, there's pretty much no mention of combined arms concepts at all.

Or maybe someone just skipped through those parts? ;)

In the attack with the support of tanks, the squad

follows, in open order formation, the tanks that operate to its

front. To the moral and material effect produced by the tanks

the squad must add their fires and actions, without breaks in

continuity, to the decisive assault.

The commander of squad has to know how to exploit and

merge the action [of the squad with those] of the tanks without

waiting to see them [the tanks] eliminate all resistance that was

present, and at the cost of any sacrifice, to come to the defense

of the same tanks if these are immobilized by damage or other


To face an attack supported by tanks the squad:

in the moment of the penetration, to reduce the readily

individual [tanks], maintaining cover;

if possible, to act against tracks, loopholes etc.;

if bypassed by the wave of the tanks to take up, without

hesitation and with the maximum vigor, the fire action against

the attacking infantry.


cooperation with tanks (exploitation of the action of the

tanks; defense of the tanks

I think for a section discussing an infantry squad's combat that suffices. 'Combined arms' is a pretty meaningless phrase at that low level.

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I am no expert on this, but there are two things that should be said.

1)The noun 'tank' means many things. In CMFI, German tanks are -in most cases - pretty formidable; American tanks are probably less so, but are still a force to be reckoned with. Italian tanks - again in most cases - resemble upturned bath tubs mounted on tracks and are very ineffective indeed. How were you supposed to come up with an effective armoured doctrine with totally inadaquate equipment when you were stacked up against Shermans? Printed words in a manual would count for very little under those conditions.

2) There is a well known saying that: "There are no bad soldiers, there are only bad officers." I believe that I am right in saying that both the Germans and the Americans placed a far higher emphasis on both leadership and junior leadership than the Italians. Without wishing to sound disrespectful to many gallant Italian service personnel, their armed forces were to find out from the earliest days of the war that without proper leadership from squad/section level upwards, fine words printed in a manual, again, counted for very little.


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The Italian army in the interwar years was filled with a lot of geriatric generals and young officers who received little practical mentoring, beyond perhaps hearing veterans' war stories from "La Grande Guerra" (as they called WW1.) Many of the men in the ranks had relatively poor educations, coming from the working class, and in some cases, spoke different dialects from their officers, who were generally drawn from the ranks of the middle and upper classes. NCO ranks existed, but were not so much professionals as "lifers" who were expected to do little more than pass on the orders of the officers. There was not much mingling between officers and enlisted - again, class tended to work against them. The officers were better paid and coddled with better food, faster mail service, etc. The disparities created a gap that tended to break down unit cohesion under the stress of combat. Mussolini's administration tended to simply put tinsel on the tree, so to speak, and did almost nothing to prepare the army for war.

BTW, BFC: were the Italian voices done by native speakers of Italian? They seem pretty stilted and not at all comfortable with the language. Some of the words were actually mispronounced. This was a bit of a let down.

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Early war German tanks were anything but formidable - in the invasion of Poland the overwhelming majority of their Panzers were PzKpfw I's and II's. For basic infantry tactics this doesn't matter, the main thing is to beat the supporting infantry back and hope for the best. Until the advent of rocket anti-tank weapons the chances of infantry destroying the attacking tanks on their own were not great.

But this is a squad leader's manual. A squad leader doesn't need to know how to walk and chew bubble gum simultaneously, there are higher officers to chew the gum for him!

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I suggest that people here start reading the works of the now deceased Dr. Nicola Pignato, arguably the world's expert on Italian armor development. I saw a series he did in in the 1970s AFV-G2 magazine on this matter, and it was mind blowing. The Italians had an integrated armor family with loads of specialist vehicles--long before Hobart's Funnies. For their time (1930), the Italians had impressive armor, but they had little in the way of a manufacturing base. I don't know the whys and the wherefores other than that.


John Ketter

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Binary divisions was a fascists period change following Ethiopian war experience where three regiments divisions resulted too heavy. The idea itself was not bad, because the principle was to use two divisions in coordinate mode, leaving to army corps the duty of quaternary division, and increasing the support weapons for each division. The problems were: the italian industrial system was not so big to create and mantain the increased weapon request, at the 1940 the reorganization was still incompleted: the complete reorganization was foreseen for the 1943 like the full equipment change after the losses of spanish and ethiopian war which consumed the bigger part of war ministery resources for new equipment. More than this respect Germany situation, the fascist regime was slave of industrial complex and not the contrary, Mussolini fear more the Agnelli than the allied (being a regime based on consensus the possibility of strykes is considered with terrors). NO industrial mobilization was declared, no standardization was considered, you can see the planes: the country with less industrial capability produced more planes model than any other. Simply the regime don't force a single model to vary industry houses.

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Yes, as Mitra76 said, binary divisions were a result of a 1938 change, not a WW1-era leftover (Italian Army switched to a triangular system in 1926).

Anyway, since, now, the Tactical Manual has been linked to this forum for the third time, wouldn't it be a great idea to follow what it says, and allow the Italian LGM groups to split into two teams? ;)

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