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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post How Many US Bases in Italy?
Created by John Eipper on 06/21/13 5:11 AM

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How Many US Bases in Italy? (Randy Black, USA, 06/21/13 5:11 am)

Eugenio Battaglia's 20 June post mentioned a newspaper article titled "Aircraft Carrier Italy" from Il Fatto quotidiano. The article apparently claims that there are 129 US military bases in Italy. I and others in WAIS have addressed this discrepancy a number of times dating back a decade. Regardless, much of the Il Fatto quotidiano story is just plain false or selectively deceptive.

The excerpts cited by Eugenio described the US military base in Vicenza, Italy. The truth be known, the Italian newspaper got its facts wrong.

The Vicenza US Army base at Vicenza is in reality an Italian military base with a US Army garrison stationed within the Italian facility, which in turn serves as an umbrella support group for other US and Italian military needs in the region. The place even has an Italian commander. http://www.usag.vicenza.army.mil/sites/local/about_usag_vicenza.asp

As I understand the military terminology, to qualify as a "US military base," not one US military person must be present. In Italy, there are unmanned radar and communications towers on top of mountains. Those "bases" are called GSUs (geographically separated units).

Once a week or a month, someone drops by to check the station's status, dust out the cobwebs and I suppose to feed the local stray cat, yet that is legally a military base.

In short, there are dozens of US military bases across the world with as few as none to fewer than a few dozen to tens of thousands. Two US Marines are guarding a small US Embassy in a global backwater equals one military base; at least that's my understanding of the labeling.

Some bases have thousands of personnel, others only a handful, as is the case with the US military garrison at Vincenza with its approximately 3,000 doctors, lawyers, teachers, bean counters, tech support and the occasional ground pounder.

Thus, this "129 base" claim seems a bit of a reach in order it would seem to portray the big old USA as the bad guy. Ditto the bit about the "the US submarines were withdrawn from La Maddalena (Sardinia) they left behind terrible pollution on both land and sea."

In fact, the Italian navy made up a significant percentage of the naval forces at La Maddalena (on Sardinia). And while it is not always appropriate to generalize, it's safe to assume that the Italians left some trash behind too.

Local employment is always appropriate. While it's difficult to identify a specific number, apparently the garrison at Vicenza employs several thousand local teachers, lawyers, doctors and medical professionals, cooks, bus drivers and other positions. Security is also left to the Italians.

By the way, the local town council approved the expansion of the garrison several years ago. Because base housing is limited, most of the US military at Vicenza rent hundreds of homes and apartments from the locals, thus further supporting the local economy. And then they buy cars, take vacation in the region, go out to restaurants, buy gasoline off-post, see a movie, buy furniture and all the rest.

Personally, I'd prefer that we bring these troops home so they can spend their discretionary funds on American goods. We're going to need those hundreds of doctors and nurses to treat Americans once Obamacare fully kicks in, too.

Moreover, Eugenio's article allegedly stated, "The base at Vicenza is doubling in size now." The truth? Maybe it is, maybe it's not. The proposal to double the size, to begin building additional facilities on an abandoned airport, was made in 2006.

To date, there is no confirmation that construction has begun, and considering the budget issues of the US military, it's questionable if it ever will.

What I confirmed is that the locals along with others from far beyond the immediate region have been protesting any expansion of the facility for more than five years.


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  • How Many US Bases in Italy? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/22/13 3:47 AM)
    First of all, let me express my deep liking for Randy Black. I understand very well his feelings as expressed in his post of 21 June. When we are under the impression that someone is attacking our men and women in uniform, we get angry. I went through this situation for 70 years, but I did not want to attack the USA GIs. As a matter of fact, in my life I've had many quarrels with the communists when I've defended the Americans!

    However, I believe that no nation should have foreign troops on its soil. In any case, the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano is really not very friendly with the USA.


    It is possible to find a list of the USA/NATO bases at http://www.kelebekler.com/occ/busa.htm .  This list does not make a distinction between USA and NATO bases, but the Italian Defense Minister Parisi on September 2006 stated in Parliament that the specific US military bases (not NATO) were only 8:


    1) Airport at Capodichino Naples

    2) Airport at Aviano

    3) Camp Derby Pisa

    4) Gaeta

    5) Island of Maddalena (the nuclear submarines were based there, but not any more)

    6) Sigonella

    7) San Vito dei Normanni

    8) Vicenza and Longare


    Now it is necessary to add Niscemi for the construction of the MUOS, but the Sicilian Region is trying to stop it.


    I did not like that Randy called the glorious 173rd Airborne Brigade the "the military garrison at Vicenza with its approximately 3,000 doctors, lawyers, teachers, bean counters, tech support," and later, "the garrison of Vicenza employs several thousands local teachers, lawyers, doctors and medical professionals, cooks, bus drivers and other positions."


    Let me repeat: the bottom line is that the USA GIs are nice fellows and good allies; nobody doubts this. The bottom line is that a nation cannot progress if has foreign troops on its territory for 70 years and counting.


    JE comments:  On the MUOS (Mobile User Objective System), see the following:


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_User_Objective_System




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    • US Bases in Italy (Istvan Simon, USA 06/22/13 5:01 AM)
      In response to Eugenio Battaglia (22 June), the bottom line is that the American troops on Italy's soil are there because of agreements between Italy and the United States. If Italy does not want them there, we will withdraw those forces. But apparently Italy does want them there and they defend NATO and Italy by being there. Eugenio has to differentiate between his opinions and others that agree with him, from those expressed by Italy's democratically elected government that signed those agreements.

      Furthermore, as John Heelan and Randy Black have pointed out, American bases and personnel contribute a great deal to the Italian economy. That is also part of the bottom line.


      JE comments:  A history question:  is France the only European ally that ever asked the US military to leave its territory?




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      • What Nations Have Asked the US Military to Leave? (Robert Whealey, USA 06/23/13 4:17 AM)

        JE (22 June) asked which nations, other than France, have asked to leave or thrown out the US Military:


        1. Japan has asked the US to leave Okinawa



        2. The Philippines asked the US to leave Manila



        3.  Iran threw out US bases in 1979



        4.  Fidel and Raul Castro would like to close Guantánamo down



        5.  The PRC would like the US to leave Taiwan



        6.  Hanoi, like Tehran, threw the US bases out of South Vietnam



        7. Some Serbs would like the US to leave Belgrade, if a small "base" or outpost still exists in Serbian Territory


        8. Spain has cut back on some of the US bases


        9. Panama has like Spain gone back and forth about US bases in the Canal Zone


        JE comments:  I had inquired specifically about European countries, but this is an interesting list.  Is there, or was there ever, a US base in Serbia?  Or are we talking about Kosovo?

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    • Foreign Troops on Italian Soil (Alan Levine, USA 06/24/13 3:19 AM)
      Eugenio Battaglia wrote on 22 June: "I believe that no nation should have foreign troops on its soil," and that "a nation cannot progress if has foreign troops on its territory for 70 years and counting."

      I agree with Eugenio that everything else being equal, I wouldn't want foreign troops on my soil, but the idea that a nation "cannot progress" with a foreign troop presence seems way overstated to me. Leaving aside what one means by "progress," haven't Japan and Germany made a most admirable "progress" with US troops on their soil these past 70 years? Now, perhaps a country cannot progress all the way to being a fully self-reliant state with the presence of troops. I would agree with that. But it is obvious that under such conditions they can nonetheless have much "progress."


      I post this, however, to ask a related question. I spent all of last week teaching Machiavelli, both The Prince and many of his Discourses, for three hours a day Monday-Friday. I love teaching Machiavelli, as he is a deep, witty, and mature thinker, not to mention purposely shocking. One of the things that Machiavelli repeatedly discusses--that I was reminded of in Eugenio's post--is how various Italian city-states and factions repeatedly "invited" foreigners into Italy to serve their political purposes. Machiavelli condemns this behavior as stupid and self-defeating.


      But if my understanding of history is roughly accurate, Italy has had a foreign presence on its soil more or less continually from the immediate pre-Machiavelli epoch at the end of the 15th century to late in the 19th. If this is even more or less correct, what Eugenio complains of about the US presence after WWII has existed in Italian history both 1) in much worse ways, and 2) as more the norm than the exception during the last 500 years of Italian history.


      Here's my question: Is there any other sovereign country that has had such a pathetic political record? Countries such as Poland have been swallowed up and disappeared for more than a hundred years at a time or been incorporated into larger empires. I am not talking about that. Has there been a technically sovereign country that has been as poor as Italy in keeping its soil free of foreign troops? If there are others, I'd be interested in hearing about them and why. But Italy's failure to keep out foreign troops for more or less the past 500 years seems to suggest something deep about the the Italian people and political culture. What exactly?


      I ask Eugenio and others for an explanation.


      JE comments: I'll let Eugenio Battaglia address this very interesting question; I also hope to hear from Roy Domenico. But Alan Levine seems to be on the money here--and I suspect Eugenio will point out that it was precisely in the Mussolini period, 1922-'43, that there were no foreign troops of any kind in Italy.



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      • Foreign Troops on Italian Soil (John Heelan, UK 06/24/13 5:39 AM)
        Alan Levine wrote on 24 June: "One of the things that Machiavelli repeatedly discusses...is how various Italian city-states and factions repeatedly 'invited' foreigners into Italy to serve their political purposes."

        Were those "foreigners" primarily mercenaries--e.g., the Vatican's Swiss Guard?


        Given the increasing reliance of Western states on "contractors" (i.e. mercenaries) to act as their proxies overseas, does not Machiavelli's view that such "behaviour is stupid and self-defeating" have some merit today as well?


        JE comments: "Contractors" have become of euphemism of choice for today's mercenaries. This is understandable: the former word evokes happy notions of constructing and remodeling; the latter connotes selling one's ideals and allegiance to the highest bidder.



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      • Foreign Troops on Italian Soil (Roy Domenico, USA 06/25/13 3:19 AM)
        Greetings from Casale Monferrato in Italy. I'm here working on some archives of a second-level Christian Democratic figure, Giuseppe Brusasca. His title from 1955 until 1957, however, says it all--Undersecretary of Show Business!

        On foreigners in Italy (see Alan Levine, 24 June), there's no clear answer why Italy "suffered" under foreign occupiers from (about) 1494 until 1866 (when the Austrians left). Was it some sort of internal weakness? Italian loyalties were local ones long after other peoples created their "nation-states" (England, France and Spain)--so larger nations could dominate it. We should remember, however, that Venice was never occupied until 1797--it still easily holds the record as the longest-lasting republic in history; the Papal States generally kept their identity and Piedmont/Grand Duchy of Savoy had a fairly free history.


        But compare all that with Germany--the other "broken up" country. Others certainly trampled on it (the Austrian Habsburgs above all) and how does that compare with Italy? The Austrians "owned" a few Italian states (like Lombardy) and "controlled" others (like Tuscany or--maybe--Naples/Two Sicilies). The Austrians also "controlled" much of Catholic Germany during a similar historical period. During the 16th and 17th centuries Italian wealth and its proximity to the East probably made it more attractive than Germany.


        One other point here is that many Italians supported Austrian rule (and, for the same reasons, Napoleonic)--it was easily more efficient and stable than other governments which preceded it. Austrian Lombardy was a model of good government and Napoleon's brother-in-law Gioacchino Murat, dragged Naples almost into the 19th century.


        JE comments:  A great historical overview, as always, from Roy Domenico.  Roy reminds us that before we dismiss Italian governance as hopelessly dysfunctional, we shouldn't forget that Venice lasted longer than any other republic in history.  I'm also intrigued that Austrian Lombardy is remembered as an example of efficiency.  We don't usually think of Habsburg institutions in such terms.


        Best of success to Roy in Casale Monferrato.  I'd love to know more about Mr. Brusasca and his Show Business portfolio.




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        • Foreign Troops on Italian Soil (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/26/13 2:07 PM)
          In response to the excellent post of Roy Domenico (June 25), I wish to add a few things:

          The Free Italian Republic of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik) lasted from 634 until 1815, even if for some time was united to Venice (1204 - 1358). Later from 1430 until 1718 it was independent but paid a tribute to the Turkish Empire. Therefore it was practically a free state for 1181 years.


          Venice lost its independence in 1797, but from 1805 through 1809 it was part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, with all of Dalmatia except of course Ragusa.


          Austria was out of Italy in 1918 when finally the Trentino and Trieste with Istria and some of Dalmatia were freed. United Italy arrived on 1924 when also Fiume was reunited.


          It is true that the political development of Italy was mostly on local city states.  However we should consider that the Papato (the Papal State) was most probably the main reason for the failed union of Italy.


          JE comments: I'd like to know more about Eugenio Battaglia's last point.  Was Rome the probable reason that Italy was not united earlier, given that the Holy See was an "attractive nuisance" which invited intervention from outside powers?

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          • Role of the Papal State in Italian History (Alan Levine, USA 06/27/13 3:16 AM)
            JE asked for followup on Eugenio Battaglia's point (26 June) on the role of the papal state in Italy.  Machiavelli wrote something similar to Eugenio, blaming the misery of Italy largely on the papal state, which he said was strong enough to prevent anyone else from unifying Italy but not strong enough to do so itself. It did indeed also repeatedly invite foreign armies into Italy in pursuit of its conception of its interests, and Machiavelli blames Rome for that too.

            But I'd like, if I may, to go back to my original question on the historic political culture of Italy (if it isn't too gross to speak about such a thing among such a divided people). Machiavelli also blames Italy for a pervasive corruption related to the Church that he says feminized Italians and taught the people to be passive sheep. I'm wondering if there isn't some passivity or resignation in the Italian character that particularly marks it.


            Roy Domenico properly noted Italy's similarity to Germany as a divided people, but Machiavelli and all the other early modern theorists repeatedly cite the German states as republics and praise them for their freedom, freedom understood as self-rule and self-reliance. I also take Roy and Eugenio's point about Venice as a great exception to the general example of Italy as a doormat, and all the early modern thinkers do indeed cite Venice as the great modern example of a republic.


            But is there something to the general rule about the rest of Italy? Even in the post-WWII environment, Italy's governments are usually described as weak, ineffective, and short-lived. Once West Germany got on its feet after WWII, it was not described this way and today it is the opposite, the engine of Europe. Italy by contrast is still described as having a corrupt state, deeply penetrated by organized crime, with problems as in Greece of a lack of paying taxes, etc. Maybe it's not fruitful, or perhaps there is a chicken and egg thing here, but I'm wondering if there isn't something in the Italian character that tolerates this corruption, perhaps even revels in it, and which has led over the centuries to its political difficulties. I invite Roy and Eugenio to address this.

            JE comments:  Descriptions of "national character" are difficult to pull off without resorting to stereotypes, but Alan Levine has posed this question with subtlety and nuance.  So--what's the deal with Italy's toleration of corruption?  Do the Italians even revel in it?  We could ask this same question about other societies that are noted for corruption.
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            • on Italy's "National Character" (Roy Domenico, USA 06/27/13 2:50 PM)
              I thank Alan Levine for his interesting questions on Italian national character, and I confess that I don't have an answer. National character is forever an intriguing issue for every nation. What is the American national character or the British national character?

              As someone who does a lot of work in cultural history, I have to say that one can locate many conflicting strands and that, somewhere, there must be some truth to the idea. In Italy, for example, the notion of "Italiani brava gente" (which I have treated in earlier WAIS posts) runs very deep. Many Italians are very proud of "their" strain of simple decency that--for example--led to extraordinary cases of heroism in the protection of Jews during the Second World War. The figure that I mentioned a few days ago--the Christian Democratic Undersecretary of Show Business, Giuseppe Brusasca, risked his life in smuggling two Jewish families to Switzerland during the war and received the honor of "righteous among the gentiles" from Israel.


              On the other hand, one can find a lively strain of the rascal--an exaltation of the "furbo" in Italian culture. It's partly the concept that the "big shots" don't deserve any respect because they're all a bunch of crooks and the smart guy, the furbo, works the system for his (or her) own benefit. I think that Berlusconi's popularity rested on this to a great degree. Many Italians envied him, a self-made man whose success led to the creation of an "in-your-face" party animal. That Italy's two greatest comics of the 20th century, Toto' and Alberto Sordi, combined these two strains (in varying measures) says something.


              And then there's the Italian appreciation of style, elegance and beauty. I just finished Thomas Madden's recent book, Venice, A New History and he makes an interesting, maybe a devilishly interesting, point. He's very pro-Venice throughout, and says that the difference between the French knights and the Venetians during the sack of Constantinople in 1204, was that the former displayed more of a brutish mentality. When they laid their hands on Byzantine gold and silver, they melted it. On the other hand, the cultivated Venetians appreciated the beauty and craftsmanship of the eastern treasures and transported them back to the Most Serene Republic.


              JE comments:  Cortés in Mexico was another notorious melter of gold treasures.  Fortunately for posterity, many of these priceless artifacts survived nonetheless.




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              • on Italy's "National Character" (David Gress, Denmark 06/28/13 2:56 AM)
                JE, don't knock Cortés. (See Roy Domenico, 27 June.) Other conquistadores were far worse, and I have some affection for the old hidalgo, who died poor in Spain, despite his achievements, but whose remains lie to this day in Mexico, the land he conquered against amazing odds, and as he wanted.



                As many WAISers will know, the idea of "national character" is utterly rejected by contemporary social scientists and historians. Wrongly, because evidence suggests that there is something to that old idea. In Italy, a whole industry of historians has for decades tried to undermine the notion of italiani brava gente, in particular concerning Italians' behavior towards Jews during WWII.

                A fine historian, Jonathan Steinberg at U Penn, has shown that Italians did in fact act with great compassion towards Jews in their sector of occupied France, and much other evidence shows the same from Italy itself, including that concerning Pope Pius XII and the Italian clergy. That is not to say that many Italians did not act rascally, playing the furbo, in that time, betraying others.


                There are, in my view, two classic stories about the Italian people in crisis, which can be translated to stories about how we would all behave in such circumstances.



                The first is Salvatore Satta's "De profundis," an essay about the total collapse of civic spirit in the wake of the Italian surrender to the Allies in September 1943. Satta's message: we are a people of opportunists, cowards, who lose all sense of fellowship in an emergency; every man for himself; utter disarray.



                The second is Roberto Rossellini's film Il generale Della Rovere, with Vittorio de Sica in perhaps his best role ever as the hopeless gambler who is persuaded by the Germans to deceive imprisoned resisters, but who rises to the part and claims, indeed, to be the legendary "General Della Rovere" who will inspire them all.



                Both types of Italian existed then, and most likely today. I hope Eugenio Battaglia reads this, for I have much else to say in response to his recent post about the events of September 8, 1943.


                JE comments:  Eugenio Battaglia has been following this conversation most actively; his response to Roy Domenico is next in the queue.


                As for Cortés, I'll admit that other conquistadores were worse, and I'd list him as one of the five greatest military commanders in history.  I've visited his tomb at the Hospital de Jesús Nazareno (few visitors do this, as it's hard to find), and I also teach his brilliant Cartas de relación in my classes.  Although he was no more ruthless than most of his contemporaries, he was ruthless nonetheless:  just look at his actions at Cholula and elsewhere. 


                Have we ever assembled WAISer lists of the five greatest military commanders?  Here's mine, off the top of my head and in no particular order:


                Hernán Cortés


                Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck


                Ulysses S Grant


                George Washington



                Winfield Scott


                (This should really get the ball rolling, as every historian, from armchair to professional, has a list of personal favorites.)




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                • *Generale della Rovere* and Italian Irony (Anthony D`Agostino, USA 06/29/13 3:33 AM)
                  Just a thought to add to David Gress's citation (28 June) of the wonderful film Generale Della Rovere with regard to Italian national character. The main character, as David says, is the worst scoundrel and swindler in the world, but in the experience of impersonating General Delle Rovere, having others look to him for a lead, he finds that he rather likes the role of being a man of substance, even to the point of being willing to face a firing squad with "Long Live Italy" on his lips.

                  The Italian neo-realist films of my generation seem to have had an extraordinary taste for ironies like this, which perhaps Italians love more than other people. Along with this goes the Italian leftist thought that ordinary folk, even extraordinary low types, might have the stuff of greatness in the right circumstances.


                  JE comments:  As we navigate the difficult terrain of "national character," might we say that the Italian taste for irony surpasses that of most peoples?  Argentines are also very fond of irony, but then again they are Italians once removed.  (Note President Fernández de Kirchner's claim that there is no inflation in the country, just a "sensation" of inflation.)


                  I must see Generale della Rovere.




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              • on Italy's "National Character" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/28/13 3:37 AM)
                Excellent diagnosis on the Italian character from Roy Domenico (June 27). Very correct indeed, however the problem is how did such a character develop?

                We have already agreed that in the last 1600 years of history Italy was only for few years independent and united, and this is the main reason for the defects of the Italians.


                In my post of June 11, "An expat visits Liguria," I mentioned why I am angry about the present situation of Italy and how such situation was reached, a badly lost war with consequently a practical loss of independence.


                On December 18, 1935 a Day of Faith was proclaimed, in which the people could donate gold wedding rings in order to counter the imposed sanctions. The response was enormous, and not only were rings donated, but gold medals, necklaces, etc. The Italian people (rightly or wrongly) were convinced that the country was united, had its own leader who really loved Italy, and for such reasons everyone was ready and willing to do his/her duty, to pay taxes, and to donate what has most cherished in exchange for a steel ring. For sure this is not the case now. The Italian people recognise that Italy is not independent, that its leaders are just selfish puppets of someone else, and so on.


                For decades now, the Italians just vote for the "meno peggio" (the least worst). When someone asks why Berlusconi had success, the answer is very easy: Just look at his adversaries. Many decades ago the great writer Montanelli wrote that it was necessary to vote while holding one's nose.


                Just after the wars in Italy there were three main parties: the Christian Democrats receiving money from the USA, the Communists receiving money from Moscow, plus the Socialist Party which had no foreign nation sponsoring it, so they started to impose "tangenti" (bribes) where they held power, as they were smart enough to be always allied either with the Christian Democrats or the Communists. Either way, they were collecting a lot of money.


                Later both Washington and Moscow stopped sending money, and all the parties claimed bribes. By 1992 the problem was in the open, but not much has changed if not for the worse. At one time the parties were stealing for the Party; now it is the single politician who is stealing to get his "champagne."


                On top of that you have the Mafia, which returned with the Liberators and for too many reasons is still powerful.


                JE comments: Many of Eugenio Battaglia's observations on the Italian character could be applied to Spain as well (the "furbo" has his counterpart in the "pícaro"), and Spain, except for the Napoleonic occupation, has never experienced a lack of "independence." Might Eugenio be putting too much stock in the independence argument?

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      • Foreign Troops on Italian Soil (Istvan Simon, USA 06/25/13 3:48 AM)
        I read with great interest Alan Levine's thoughtful post (24 June) on foreign troops in Italy during its long history. I'll let others answer Alan's question. But I want to briefly comment on JE's observation that it was during Mussolini that Italy did not have foreign troops on its soil. First, this is not quite so: Italy had German soldiers on its soil under Mussolini--German soldiers that interfered much more with its internal politics than did the US soldiers that Eugenio Battaglia is so upset about. And of course it was because of Allied troops on its soil that Mussolini lost power, and then became a puppet of the Germans until his execution at the hand of Italians. Just as important, it was under Mussolini that Italian soldiers invaded Ethiopia, against Ethiopia's will.

        There are contradictions that I see in Eugenio's thinking. On the one hand he thinks that the German troops were good for Italy, even though Italy should not have foreign troops on its soil, and even though the US troops that are there today are there because of agreements with Italy's democratically elected government. That is contradiction number 1. The same cannot be said about the Nazi troops on Italy's soil, for several reasons. (1) Mussolini was not elected democratically; he was a dictator. (2) He was a puppet of the Germans, particularly towards the end of the war. Northern Italy, which the Germans carved out for Mussolini when he was deposed, had no independence at all, no sovereignty that one could speak of. The rest of Italy was under Allied occupation, and even though it then became part of the Allies, one could argue that this was not entirely a sovereign decision either. (3) Italy invaded Ethiopia against its will. Now, if no nation should have foreign troops on its soil, then it seems to me that would include Ethiopia as well. So here we have contradiction number 2.


        JE comments:  I was referring specifically to Mussolini's Italy before the surrender of September 1943.  Were there large numbers of German personnel or "advisers" in Italy before that time?  Can anyone give us the details?

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        • Foreign Troops in Italy Before September 1943 (David Pike, France 06/26/13 4:18 AM)
          In his Comment to Istvan Simon (June 25), JE asked: "Were there large numbers of German personnel or 'advisers' in Italy before [the Italian surrender in September 1943]?"



          The Axis forces in Tunisia had indeed been trapped; there was no Dunkirk for them. But who assumes that the Allied forces that landed in Sicily, and later in the toe of Italy, walked up the beaches? In July 1943 Lieutenant-General Hans Hube commanded the XIV Panzer Korps in Sicily, and transported it to Italy in time to meet the Allied landings there.



          It is always an interesting test to ask who was the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean in all this. The same question for Supreme Allied Commander Southeast Asia. (Keeping in mind that Chiang's forces remained always outside Supreme Allied Commands.)

          JE comments: I would answer Montgomery for the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean, but David Pike's quiz is probably more complicated that it seems at first glance.


          In any case, I thank David for correcting me on the presence of German troops in Italy prior to September 1943.



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          • Supreme Allied Commanders in WWII (Edward Jajko, USA 06/26/13 11:29 AM)
            To answer David Pike's questions of 26 June: The WWII Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean was Eisenhower. The SAC in SE Asia: Lord Mountbatten.

            By the way, as for Americans not holding grudges...oh yeah?


            JE comments: Oh yeah? Those are grudgin' words! But Ed: grudges are not a WAISly virtue.



            I look forward to David Pike's confirmation of Ed Jajko's response.  But doesn't the answer depend on the time frame? Were Eisenhower and Mountbatten the SACs at the war's end?

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            • Supreme Allied Commanders in WWII (Anthony J Candil, USA 06/27/13 4:49 AM)
              In response to Edward Jajko (26 June), Ike was Supreme Commander in the European theater while MacArthur was the same in the Pacific theater.

              The role of Lord Mountbatten was merely cosmetic in my view. He never faced decision-making issues as either Ike or Mac, or even Nimitz or Slim--just to bring to light another British officer--did. It was nice for the Brits to involve in the war a royal personality, but not of great value. Nevertheless, I don't question at all Mountbatten's professional capabilities as a Royal Navy officer.


              JE comments: It's great to hear from our newest WAISer, Anthony Candil.  We should recall that the Mountbattens were originally the German house of Battenberg, who Anglicized their surname during the Great War.  The elderly Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA in 1979.  The most famous Mountbatten is Queen Elizabeth II's consort, Prince Philip, Lord M's nephew.



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              • Gen. William Slim (John Heelan, UK 06/27/13 1:04 PM)
                Anthony J Candil's mention (27 June) of General William Slim reminded me of my father, who was Bill Slim's driver from time to time. A professional soldier and surviving Dunkirk, my father fought WWII in the North African deserts and various Middle East countries.

                At the tail end of the war, his Royal Artillery unit was then deployed to become part of General Slim's XIV Army fighting the Japanese in Burma for two years. The fierce campaign was fought through the monsoon season. My father took part in all the main battles, the crossing of the river Irrawaddy, Meiktila, Imphal, Kohima, Mandalay and eventually arrived in Rangoon.


                He adored Slim and never forgave Mountbatten, who denied the XIVth Army the prize of taking Rangoon after some two years of fighting through the jungle in the monsoon--something the Japanese did not expect. For political reasons, Mountbatten gifted the taking of Rangoon to Indian forces in Operation Dracula--Mountbatten subsequently became Viceroy of India two years later.


                During my younger years he regaled me with stories of his exploits in that campaign. A flavour of those stories is well reflected in http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/21/a8708321.shtml . Fighting in conditions took such a toll on my father's body he died at a relatively early age.


                JE comments: What a small world! There are countless WAISer brushes with history, and this is one of the most interesting.  A question for John Heelan: have you ever written down your father's stories from Burma?



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                • Gen. William Slim (Anthony J Candil, USA 06/28/13 2:41 AM)
                  My congratulations and cheers up to John Heelan (27 June). I agree entirely with his father. Slim was one of the finest British soldiers ever! I understand he was revered and praised by his troops and feared by the Japanese.

                  We can't say anything even close of Lord Mountbatten. Some people win the honors and media admiration and others like Slim simply do the job.


                  Lord Mountbatten effectively became Viceroy of India and was behind the devolution of India and the partition of the jewel of the Crown, giving birth to modern Pakistan. Quite an achievement!


                  I apologize if anyone considers my views too rigid and strict in regards to Lord Mountbatten, to put it mildly.


                  JE is quite right regarding the Battenbergs, but don't forget about another famous Mountbatten, Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, niece of Queen Victoria and nicknamed by her "Ena," wife of Alfonso XIII of Spain and grandmother of the present (and should I say illegal and illegitimate?) Juan Carlos I of Spain.


                  JE comments: I used to be a fan of Juan Carlos, but no longer.  What is the specific reason Anthony Candil calls his reign illegal and illegitimate?



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                  • Juan Carlos I: Illegal Head of State? (Anthony J Candil, USA 06/29/13 4:42 AM)
                    This promises to be a very interesting topic that maybe will prompt a heated discussion, or maybe not...

                    When I said that Juan Carlos I is both an illegal and illegitimate head of state (28 June), I'm merely speaking of "technical and legal" reasons. Let me tell you why.


                    First of all, Juan Carlos is, no matter what, a by-product of general Franco. Franco and nobody else, made Juan Carlos a king. That someone who is not a king, not even an aristocrat or nobleman without any link to any royal household of any kind, but just a mediocre dictator, designs a successor to be called "king" no matter who he is, is beyond ridiculous and the most unbelievable extravagance ever committed in politics. Perhaps we can find some similar events in some dictatorial monarchies in Central Africa, now all gone, e.g. Emperor Bokassa. But speaking seriously, Franco's decision was illegal and without any justification in the constitutional and civil law of all countries in the world, but most especially in Spanish law. Franco's decision was also illegal because Franco himself was illegal, and just a dictator who rose to power through a bloody civil war and managed to stay in power for almost 40 years.


                    Juan Carlos's acceptance of the "nomination" simply made him illegal too and some kind of accomplice and associate. That's why he is illegal. Spaniards were never consulted or asked for their opinion.


                    As you all know, Franco decided back in 1947 (Law of Succession) to declare Spain a monarchy--without saying who would be king--hoping to relieve pressure from the Allies, who were certainly looking for his removal after the Axis defeat. To make Juan Carlos a king was a decision taken a year later, after a private meeting between Franco and the infante Don Juan--king Alfonso XIII's appointed heir. That's why Juan Carlos came to study in Spain, briefly attending the military academies and the university of Madrid. In 1969, Franco made official his nomination of successor "with the title of king," even taking an oath from Juan Carlos to respect and defend Francoist laws! Nothing more absurd had ever happened in any civilized country. Again Spaniards watched as mere spectators to the show, not being asked about their desires at any point.


                    In 1975 when Franco died, Juan Carlos was finally appointed as king and crowned in a very fake ceremony both at the Cortes (today House of Representatives) and at a Catholic church nearby (Iglesia de los Jerónimos), Juan Carlos again taking an oath in front of the Gospels and a crucifix, to respect and defend Francoist laws. So he was king by the grace of God and Franco, we can say. I consider all this kind of surreal. I think Eugenio Battaglia will understand me well if I say that everything that happened looked pretty much like a Federico Fellini movie. For all that, he is illegal. (Curiously, when in 1947 Franco approved the Law of Succession, it was the infante Don Juan who denounced it as illegal in the so-called "Manifiesto de Estoril.")


                    Second, Juan Carlos is illegitimate for a twofold reason. Above all, we can say that the House of Bourbon is an illegitimate royal family in Spain. The whole thing started at the time of the War of Succession that engulfed European powers in a war that lasted 11 years, after Charles II Habsburg died without a close relative to succeed him. Philippe of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France, became king of Spain, but had no real rights to claim the Spanish throne. Nevertheless it was Philippe of Anjou, then Felipe V of Spain already, who approved a royal decree named "Auto Acordado" from 1713 (we can translate it as Agreed Decree or something similar), forbidding anyone not born in Spain to become even a candidate for the Spanish crown, in spite of the fact that he, Philippe of Anjou, wasn't born in Spain either. This law, to my knowledge, hasn't ever been disavowed or discarded by any Spanish government at any time. Juan Carlos was born in Rome, Italy, in 1938, so technically he can't be considered Spanish citizen.


                    But what is more, according to a decree established by the Second Republic prior to the Civil War, Juan Carlos doesn't have Spanish citizenship, as the whole royal family was deprived of it when his grandfather Alfonso XIII decided to flee from Spain in 1931, resigning the crown on his own will, as the Second Spanish Republic deprived the royal family of citizenship after it was established that King Alfonso XIII had conspired with General Miguel Primo de Rivera in the coup d'état of 1923. And I must remind you all that Franco, already a general in 1931, had given allegiance to the new Spanish republic, thereby accepting its laws, no matter that five years later he rebelled against the Republic. So, from a legal viewpoint, Juan Carlos is illegitimate also.


                    In my view once king Alfonso XIII resigned the crown on his own will in 1931, and the republic was established and there was no reason why anyone should claim rights to the Spanish throne. There was no longer a throne to claim.


                    And that's to speak frankly of the more technical reasons. We could talk more of Juan Carlos's behavior, of scandals, of corruption, and certainly of whatever role he played--it was certainly a key role--in the failed plot attempt of February 23, 1981, but that will be on another day.


                    JE comments: Anthony Candil has convinced me--the Agreement of 1713 legally disqualifies Juan Carlos from reigning, not to mention the Republic of 1931, which eliminated the monarchy altogether. Juan Carlos was long seen as redeeming himself due to his stand against the Tejero coup--but 32 years later, his moral capital for that noble act has been used up.


                    How often do we see these types of arguments in Spain today? Proponents of abolishing the monarchy usually come from the Spanish left--which denies the legitimacy of any monarchy--as well as from regional interests, such as those in Catalonia. Anthony Candil's arguments seem to come more from a Rightist perspective.

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              • Supreme Allied Commanders in WWII (Edward Jajko, USA 06/28/13 11:45 AM)
                With respect to my WAIS colleagues, I stand by my original answers to David Pike. He was talking about 1943 and before. Eisenhower was Supreme Allied Commander for North Africa, then the entire Mediterranean. He became Supreme Commander of the European Theater of Operations in January 1943. Mountbatten did have supreme command of SE Asia. His and McArthur's territories were separate.

                JE comments: I never question Ed Jajko's historical knowledge, but I still hope David Pike will weigh in to resolve this discussion.


                At least I can rest assured that I was totally wrong with my original guess: Montgomery for SAC in the Mediterranean.



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                • Supreme Allied Commanders in WWII (David Pike, France 06/29/13 9:19 AM)
                  In response to Edward Jajko (June 28):

                  We should start with the caveat that neither Soviet units nor Chinese Nationalist units were ever integrated into what we call Supreme Allied Commands.


                  Eisenhower was never Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean. The post was held by Field Marshall Maitland Wilson until November 1944, when he was replaced by Field Marshal Harold Alexander. Eisenhower held the title from 1944 of Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), thus commanding three army groups (Bradley, Montgomery, Devers), totaling nine armies. He was never Supreme Allied Commander Europe, because his command ended at the Alps, where SC Mediterranean took over.


                  Mountbatten never owed his command to his connections to the House of Windsor. He was selected for the same reason that Eisenhower and his deputy Tedder were chosen; they could really get along with people, as the prime donne Patton and Montgomery never could. Mountbatten had proved his courage in naval battle (similarly to John Kennedy but on a bigger ship), and he would never have been selected later as last Viceroy of India, and then as CIGS, if he wasn't generally admired for his abilities.


                  Among the things I admire about the Germans is that they don't go into the business of belittling the commanders of their Axis partners in order to build up the reputation of their own generals. Glory-hogging and title-pinching is the sport of petty chauvinists.


                  Abandoning all modesty, I attach a small self-promotion, for no better reason than it came out yesterday, in the smallest imaginable tirage. But it would be fun to ask the WWII specialists to identify the Supreme Commander, and his two commanders in chief!





                  JE comments:  David Pike has stumped us all!  And my congratulations to him on the new book.  A curiosity:  what did a German officer have to do to get posted to France?  The comfort and safety were infinitely preferable to fighting in the East.



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      • Italian "Servilism Toward the Foreigner" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/27/13 4:19 AM)
        I can only agree with JE's response to Alan Levine (24 June), stating that practically in the last 1600 years Italy was fully independent only under the government of Mussolini, if we may forget about the war and how it was conducted and ended.

        Churchill stated the same thing in his Memoirs of WWII:


        "So ended the 21-year period, in which Mussolini raised the Italian People from the possibility of sinking into Bolshevism in 1919 to a position in Europe that it never had before. He gave a new impulse to national life--he built the Italian Empire in Africa. He finished important public works in Italy (the town of Littoria, now Latina, which had 10,000 inhabitants, was constructed in six months; presently in six months not even 100 meters of a new highway can be built)."


        I am not very sure that Germany and Japan have progressed with foreign troops on their soil, perhaps economically but not spiritually. During my trips to Japan, I always met people who were angry against the foreign troops on their territory.


        Unfortunately the Italians suffer from "greediness of servilism toward the foreigner," but this may also be a worsening of the habit in the Medieval Era of asking a foreigner to act temporarily as Mayor of a town in order that he should be an impartial arbiter among the local feuds/quarrels.


        Italy is the country of thousands good wines and good cheeses (thanks to no GM foods), and its inhabitants have thousands of different positions and only a great personality can unite them. But as I said in a previous post, most probably the main reason for the failed union of Italy is due to the political disgrace of having the secular power of the Papato (Vatican State) dominating the center of Italy.


        JE comments: A thought: Mussolini's most significant, lasting contribution to world culture may be the autostrada, the first limited-access motor highway (however, Wikipedia tells us that the first autostrada, from Milan to Varese, was approved in 1921, before Mussolini came to power).  Hitler picked up this idea for Germany, and Eisenhower perfected it after WWII with the US Interstate system. 


        Maybe I should say "perfected" in quotation marks--our Interstates are best known presently for their orange barrels and backups.

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      • Foreign Troops on Italian Soil; Response to Alan Levine (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/29/13 4:09 AM)
        Unfortunately, as I have had to exchange computers for a new one that I still do not really understand, I could not reply immediately to Alan Levine's interesting question of 24 June.

        It is very difficult to properly answer the question as to why the Italian people were not able to be free of foreign armies on their soil, save for a very short period under Mussolini who, rightly or wrongly, had almost the entire Italian population with him.


        From the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Italy suffered several "barbaric" invasions and "barbaric kingdoms," which were followed by the Holy Roman Empire, but none succeeded in completely unifying the Country.  Sicily was even in the hands of the Arabs. Around the 12th century, the Comuni appeared, which were practically independent democratic city states which were followed by the Signorie of various powerful families as Savoia, Visconti, Este, Gonzaga, etc. Also we saw the oligarchic republics such as Venice, while in the South of Italy the French Angiò were followed by the Aragonese, who also dominated Sardinia.


        As you can see from the year 476 there never was an independent united Italy, even if 1494 is the commonly accepted year in which the foreigners started invading Italy. In fact in that year the king of France Charles VIII invaded Italy to try to restore the Angiò to the Kingdom of Naples.


        At that time Italy was divided into an infinite number of small states unable to fight against the powerful French army. The Spaniards moved in too, and confirmed their control of the South, while the new French King Louis Louis XII maintained Milan. Practically only Venice was able to defend itself from a succession of alliance and enemies.


        From then on Italy was divided in several small states with a great foreign influence and various wars that brought Austria to dominance in the Northeast. After the Napoleonic storm with its depredations of art works, it was only in 1848 when the liberation of Italy started, thanks to Savoy, the most powerful of the Italian states.


        About Napoleon it is said that once he was at Milan in the house of a rich noble lady, and during a conversation he said: "All Italians are robbers," to which the lady answered: "Mi perdoni Maestà non tutti gli Italiani sono ladri ma Bonaparte si" (forgive me Majesty; not all Italians are robbers but Bonapartes are." After all, Bonaparte was a Corsican of a family from Tuscany so ethnically he had nothing to do with France.


        So why was Italy never really united and independent? Probably there are several geopolitical reasons that weakened the Italian people, but for sure the theory of Macchiavelli should be taken in serious consideration too.


        For sure even if Italy was forcefully accustomed to foreign armies on its soil except from 1924 (reunion of Fiume to the Fatherland) until 1943, there is no good reason to still have foreign armies for 70 years after 1943 with no end in sight.


        JE comments:  A curiosity on a topic unfamiliar to me:  How much of the Louvre's collection came from art plundered by Napoleon in Italy?


        Best of luck to Eugenio Battaglia with the new computer--always a source of joy and endless frustration!

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