Friday, July 22, 2011
Monarchist Profile: Marshal Giovanni Messe
However, what General Messe is probably most known for was his contribution to the war against the Soviet Union. In July of 1941, after their first commander fell ill in Austria, Giovanni Messe was prompted to the temporary rank of lieutenant general and given command of the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia. This often overlooked military force represented the Italian contribution Mussolini was determined to make in the massive Axis invasion of the USSR, usually described as simply a Nazi or German invasion but which actually included a huge number of troops from all over Europe, from Spain to Scandinavia. Originally a corps of about 60,000 men, the Italian Expeditionary Force later grew to about 200,000. General Messe, however, was not pleased with this. At the outset he pointed out the gross insufficiency of their equipment and supplies, particularly considering the harshness of conditions on the Russian front.
General Messe expressed the opinion that his corps should not have been enlarged unless the Italian government could keep them properly supplied and they had been unable to do so even with the initial contribution. However, Mussolini wanted a much larger force to show that Italy was making a valuable contribution to the “crusade against Bolshevism”. The conflict between the general and Mussolini over this issue eventually led to him being replaced, however, during his roughly four months in command he had done quite well and was recognized by the Germans by the award of the Knights Iron Cross. On January 31, 1943 Messe was promoted to full general and sent to take command of the First Italian Army in Tunisia, a unit formerly led by the famous German Field Marshal Rommel and which was best known as the “Africa Corps” (though the German Africa Corps was only one part of a larger force and two-thirds of the troops were Italian throughout the war).
Marshal Messe remained chief of staff until 1945 after which time he left the army, one of the few men who had earned the respect of the Allies as well as the Germans and of course his own troops who admired him for his care of them as well as his skill. He wrote two memoirs and in 1953 entered Italian politics as a senator for the Christian Democratic Party. He later founded the strongly monarchist UCI or Italian Veterans Association. In 1957, his loyalty never wavering, he was elected to parliament again as a member of a monarchist party and he was reelected in 1963 with the Liberal Party (which does not mean the same thing in Italy as it does in places like America for example). His eventful life finally came to an end when he died in Rome on December 18, 1968 at the age of 85.