Giovanni Messe
Giovanni Messe was an Italian
Italian people
The Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...

 general, politician, and Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 (Maresciallo d'Italia). He is considered by many to have been the best Italian general of the Second World War.

Early life and career

Born in Mesagne
Mesagne is a comune in the province of Brindisi in Puglia,on the south-east Italy coast. Its main economic activities are tourism and the growing of olives and grapes...

, Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

, Giovanni Messe pursued a military career in 1901. He saw action in the Italian conquest of Libya and in the First World War. During this conflict, he gave an important contribution to the creation and training of the "Arditi
Arditi was the name adopted by Italian Army elite storm troops of World War I. The name derives from the Italian verb Ardire and translates as "The Daring Ones"....

", elite infantry units, and with the rank of Maggiore was the commander of the IX Nono Reparto Arditi that fought in the zone of Monte Grappa. Emerging considerably decorated from these conflicts, he became aide-de-camp to King Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Victor Emmanuel III was a member of the House of Savoy and King of Italy . In addition, he claimed the crowns of Ethiopia and Albania and claimed the titles Emperor of Ethiopia and King of Albania , which were unrecognised by the Great Powers...

, holding this post from 1923 to 1927. From this date until 1935, Messe commanded a unit of Bersaglieri
The Bersaglieri are a corps of the Italian Army originally created by General Alessandro La Marmora on 18 June 1836 to serve in the Piedmontese Army, later to become the Royal Italian Army...

 and held the rank of Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...



In September 1935, Messe assumed command of a motorised brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 in Verona, with the rank of Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

. Following a successful period of service with this unit in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
The Second Italo–Abyssinian War was a colonial war that started in October 1935 and ended in May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and the armed forces of the Ethiopian Empire...

, Messe was promoted to rank of Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 and he became commander of an Italian armoured division.

World War II

On April 1939, following the Italian invasion of Albania
Italian invasion of Albania
The Italian invasion of Albania was a brief military campaign by the Kingdom of Italy against the Albanian Kingdom. The conflict was a result of the imperialist policies of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini...

, Messe was appointed to serve under Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

's governor, General Ubaldo Soddu
Ubaldo Soddu
Ubaldo Soddu was an Italian military officer, who commanded the Italian Forces in the Greco-Italian War for a month.Soddu was born in Salerno. During the period of 1939-1940, Soddu was under-secretary at the Ministry of War...



Messe commanded a corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 during the Greco-Italian War
Greco-Italian War
The Greco-Italian War was a conflict between Italy and Greece which lasted from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. It marked the beginning of the Balkans Campaign of World War II...

 of late 1940 and early 1941 and achieved some success against Greek forces commanded by Alexandros Papagos. Before winter had even set in however, the Italian forces were forced onto the defensive, as Greek forces launched a counterattack and moved into parts of Italian controlled Albania.

In April 1941, with the help of the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Armed Forces (Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

), the Battle of Greece
Battle of Greece
The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion and conquest of Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941. Greece was supported by British Commonwealth forces, while the Germans' Axis allies Italy and Bulgaria played secondary roles...

 ended in an Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...



In other circumstances, the armoured warfare
Armoured warfare
Armoured warfare or tank warfare is the use of armoured fighting vehicles in modern warfare. It is a major component of modern methods of war....

 experience Messe possessed might have caused him to be given a command alongside Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

. But, instead, he was chosen to be the commander of the "Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia
Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia
During World War II, the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia was a corps-sized expeditionary unit of the Regio Esercito that fought on the Eastern Front...

" (Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia, or CSIR). The CSIR was a mobile infantry and cavalry unit of the Italian army that took part in Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....


Initially, the number of Italian troops in southern Russia numbered around 60,000. Messe never thought that this force was properly outfitted or supplied for the extreme conditions of the "Russian Front." By July 1942, the far larger "Italian Army in Russia
Italian Army in Russia
The Italian Army in Russia was an army-sized unit of the Italian Royal Army which fought on the Eastern Front during World War II...

" (Armata Italiana in Russia, or ARMIR) replaced the CSIR and General Italo Gariboldi
Italo Gariboldi
Italo Gariboldi was a senior officer in the Italian Royal Army before and during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross...

 replaced Messe. On November 1, 1942, Messe left Russia.

The number of Italian troops in Russia had grown to about 200,000. Although the troops fought well, after the German defeat at Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

 the campaign in the Soviet Union turned against the Axis powers. Italian forces had been severely mauled during Operation Saturn
Operation Saturn
Operation Saturn, revised as Operation Little Saturn, was a Red Army operation on the Eastern Front of World War II that led to battles in the northern Caucasus and Donets Basin regions of the Soviet Union from December 1942 to February 1943....

 on the flanks of Stalingrad while trying to hold back the Soviet forces.


At the end of February 1943, Messe was appointed as the new commander of the "Italo-German Tank Army
Panzer Army Africa
As the number of German armed forces committed to the North Africa Campaign of World War II grew from the initial commitment of a small corps the Germans developed a more elaborate command structure and placed the now larger Afrika Korps, with Italian units under this new German command structure,...

" (Deutsch-Italienische Panzerarmee) formerly commanded by Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

. The name was changed to 1st Italian Army in recognition of the fact that the army consisted of one German and three Italian corps. Rommel was promoted to the command of the new Army Group Africa (Heeresgruppe Afrika).

Messe fought a defensive campaign against the advancing American and British forces and achieved a defensive victory at the Mareth Line
Mareth Line
The Mareth Line was a system of fortifications built by the French between the towns of Medenine and Gabès in southern Tunisia, prior to World War II...

. But his continuous tactical delay of the Allied offensive could not prevent the inevitable defeat of the Axis in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...


On May 12, 1943, Messe was promoted to the rank of Marshal of Italy
Marshal of Italy
Marshal of Italy was a rank in the Italian Royal Army . Originally created in 1924 by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini for the purpose of honoring Generals Luigi Cadorna and Armando Diaz, the rank was granted to several other general officers from 1926 to 1943...

 (Maresciallo d'Italia). On May 13, after the collapse of the 5th German Tank Army, the fall of Tunis and the surrounding of the 1st Italian Army, still holding the line at Enfidaville, he formally surrendered to the Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...


Post armistice

As a loyal supporter of the Royalist
A royalist supports a particular monarch as head of state for a particular kingdom, or of a particular dynastic claim. In the abstract, this position is royalism. It is distinct from monarchism, which advocates a monarchical system of government, but not necessarily a particular monarch...

 cause, like many Italian officers Messe soon found himself re-employed, when after the Italian armistice in September 1943, he was made Chief of Staff of the "Italian Co-Belligerent Army
Italian Co-Belligerent Army
The Italian Co-Belligerent Army , or the Army of the South , was the army of the Italian Royalist forces fighting on the side of the Allies during World War II....

" (Esercito Cobelligerante Italiano), consisting of those units loyal to King Victor Emmanuel, many of which were reconstituted from Italian POWs and armed by the Allies. He served in this post with distinction until the war's end and then retired from the military in 1947 after 46 years of distinguished service.

Life after the army

His later life was not uneventful. Following the conclusion of the war, he wrote a book about his experiences, entitled Come finì la guerra in Africa. La "Prima Armata" italiana in Tunisia (How the war in Africa ended. The "First Army" of Italy in Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

). His military popularity remained with him in civilian life and from 1953 to 1955, Messe was a democratically elected representative in the Italian Senate. He was also President of the Italian Veterans Association, a post which he held until his death. His life was profiled in a biography written by Luigi Argentieri titled Messe—soggetto di un'altra storia (Messe—subject of another history) published in 1997.

Giovanni Messe died on December 19, 1968, at the age of eighty-five.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.