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The story behind the Italian Civil War goes back to Italy's defeat in the Fourth Global War to the Byzantines, after which the Kingdom of Italy was overthrown in a quick revolution, and the Italian Republic was made in its place. Although the new state was strong, it was highly divided between the new democratic government, and an increasingly disgruntled military command. They were angered that the new government sought detente with the Byzantines, who most of them spent years fighting either in the last war or in trying to defend Abyssinia. The Italian government had brought much prosperity, and Italy was not as heavily damaged as many other Central Powers after the war had ended. The Italian economy was huge in all things related to ships, including shipping products in and out of their ports. After they made detente with the Byzantines in 1927 with the Treaty of Messina, they became known as the "Byzantine's Boatmakers." One thing the military couldn't argue with was the nations prosperity, but that only lasted so long.
In 1929 after the Russian Republic was unable to pay back German loans that they were given after reparations had been laid off. The global economy went into a panic, and inevitably, started what became known as the Great Depression. The depression hit hard for millions of people across the globe who were now jobless, homeless, and had almost no money to use. In Italy, their shipbuilding and shipping connections collapsed as many of the companies they worked with and the countries they sold to were going broke, sending Italy's unemployment rate skyrocketing to 58% by 1930. The Nationalists in the government and the military began planning a coup d'etat to take over the government and replace it with a Fascist, Nationalist system.
On July 17, 1936 the coup began and the military attacked Rome, the Italian capital, but the attack was repelled by soldier in the city loyal to the Republican government. After the two sides began open fighting across the country, the democratic governments of Britain, France, and Spain sent expeditionary forces under the League of Nations to defend the Republic. In turn, the Fascist governments of Russia and Argentina sent the Eagle Legion and the Corp de Las Tropas de Voluntarios, respectively. The war had begun and would drag on for three long and bloody years, but the winner would rule all of Italy.
Republican Victories in the North
With the war's beginning, the Fascists' first goal was to uproot the heavily-Republican Northern Italy, organized through the 2nd and 5th National Italian Field Armies. Their commander, Ugo Cavallero, planned for a campaign where the Nationalists would attack with a large-scale frontal offensive, swing around along the northern Adige River, surround Venice, and then attack the city by land and from the air. The Venice offensive began rather well for the Nationalists, they easily pushed up from northern Central Italy to the Po River, but failed when they came up to the beginning of the southern end of the Adige River. The Republicans had set up artillery and machine guns across the river, making it nearly impossible for infantry to cross the river. Not wanting to suffer the casualties of the last global war, the commanders stopped their soldiers along the river, telling them to await aerial reinforcements.Air power had been vital in the last global war, in just under two decades of flight, the world had already begun building fighters and bombers, and soldiers in the Fourth Global War felt their deadly effect. But those planes were fossils compared to the new planes used by the Nationalists had access to. The Nationalists used captured Savoia-Marchetti SM.81's, a bomber and transport plane the Nationalists used to bomb enemy artillery positions, but they only had a small radius they were allowed to fly in, as to avoid being attacked by Republican fighters. The Nationalists resumed their advance and were able to push again into northern Italy, but still faced heavy opposition. But when the Nationalists approached Treviso, they found themselves in deep trouble. Republican soldiers countered their movements, and somewhat pushed the Nationalists back as they approached the city. The Republicans also had at their disposal a large amount of fighters and bombers, which they used widely to punish the retreating Nationalists. They also received some supplies from across the Adriatic Sea from the Byzantines, who simply supplied them, but did not send direct Byzantine forces to attack. The Byzantines gave the Republicans tanks, which they used to push the Nationalists back even farther. But as the Nationalists were reinforced, the Republicans again withdrew, this time to defend Venice.
The Republicans defended Venice with 120,000 soldiers, 200 tanks, and 100 aircraft, of which all but two were fighters. The Nationalists numbered at around 140,000 soldiers, almost all of the Nationalists forces in Northeastern Italy, but had almost no tanks to use. Of the 20 tanks they did have, they were all of the Soviet's latest model, бронированный автомобиль II, meaning "armoured fighting vehicle" Model 2. The tanks were powerful, but not in the few numbers that the Nationalists were using, but still the Nationalists attacked on January 17, with their plan to take the Grand Canal first so that they could ships supplies down it as they spread out, and cut off the Republicans line of supply. Unfortunately for the Nationalists, the Canal was guarded by Republican gunboats, and their plan to concentrate their tanks on the front of the canal failed as the gunboats fired upon their tanks, and destroyed all but two of them. The Nationalists were left with no option they thought plausible besides simply launching a maneuver they called the dual-snake maneuver. They sent to main forces of infantry to drive along the water in Venice, then attack, and cut off, the canal from both sides, using artillery to then take care of the gunboats. But the attempts by the Nationalists to attack the city only ended in a massacre, and 15,000 Nationalists died in the first week of the battle. After seven weeks of fighting, the Nationalists had lost 35,000 soldiers, all of their tanks, and 32 aircraft to the Republicans 17,000 soldiers, 14 tanks, and nine planes. Seeing their advance going no where, the Nationalists withdrew from Venice, and Republicans pursued them back into Central Italy, but where not ordered to advance.
Meanwhile, the Nationalists had also advanced on Milan in the north on February 1, 1937, where they found a fortress, defended by 100,000 Republican troops. The Nationalists sent 200,000 soldiers to take the city, but even their numbers where unable to up-heave the Republicans defending the city. When news of the victory in Venice came, the Republicans, who owned about half of the city a month into the conflict, they counterattacked, but only won about a quarter of the city back, leaving a heavily bloodied stalemate. The Nationalists themselves soon counterattacked, but only won a small part of the city back, splitting the city at 2/3 Republican, 1/3 Nationalists. With the reinforcements brought in by spring's arrival, the Republican's numbers went up to 220,000 soldiers and the Nationalists went up to 300,000 soldiers, beginning a long, difficult stalemate.
With their defeat at Venice, and Milan in a deep stalemate, the Nationalists' uprising was under dire threat of breaking down, and they needed a victory to keep their revolution alive, which would come to them at the city of Bologna. The Republicans sent a force of 50,000 soldiers to take the city of Bologna, an important center in Northern Italy's road system, which was only lightly defended by 8,000 Nationalists. But the day the attack began, the Nationalists' numbers rose to 20,000, giving the Republicans a harsh fight. In the end, the 20,000 Nationalists, losing 4,000 soldiers, defeated 50,000 Republicans, and killed 8,000 of them before they retreated. The Nationalist victory won them the full support of the Greater Russian Republic, and its system of allies, the National Socialist Conference (often abbreviated "Nasocon"). Their combined allied force, the Eagle Corp, numbering at around 200,000 soldiers, was sent to assist the Nationalist uprising.
First Battle of Rome
The Nationalists, wishing to take control of Central Italy, sent a force of 400,000 soldiers to seize the Italian capital. The approximately 10,000 Nationalist partisans within the city had been unsuccessful in breaking the Republican's control of the city. The Republicans still remained in power, and received continuous support from Britain, France, and Spain, who began to send their own soldiers to Italy when Nasocon sent its Eagle Corp to fight there. The new Allied force was called the Democratic Brigade, and began when 4,000 Allied soldiers arrived in Rome on April 28, 1937. The size of the Brigade soon increased to 75,000 soldiers, and continued to increase as the civil war dragged on. But even though they did not have the numbers their enemy had, they had a superior number of planes they imported into the country.On May 20, 1937 the Nationalists arrived in the outskirts of Rome, and began bombarding the city, although they made sure they avoided hitting any major landmarks, and made sure that purely military and political targets were hit. Next, Nationalists fighters and bombers dropped bombs on even more enemy positions, but soon afterwards, 200 British fighters, the newest fighter of the Royal Air Force, the Hawker Hurricane. This new fighter easily beat any Italian fighter the enemy had, and a majority of the bombers were shot out of the sky. But when the new Russian planes began arriving, the Polikarpov I-16, although not faster, it had a higher rate of climb, which allowed them to attack from underneath.
Their new air superiority allowed the Italian bombers to attack deeper into the city. But as they continued to advance into the city, the Nationalists found heavy resistance from the Republican partisans hidden within the city. The Nationalists resorted to a strategy that became known as terror bombing when they bombed civilian targets to demoralize the enemy partisans. The British, however, were soon able to counterattack from the air, by simply telling their fighters to stay low, and the Russian fighters could not pounce on them. Eventually, Nationalist bombers were again shot out of the sky, and they were subsequently counterattacked by British and French bombers.
The Nationalists soon retreated out of the city, and they were forced to regroup in the east, even being forced to retreat from Eastern Italy, and establishing a definite front line between the two forces, with the south of Italy remaining a Nationalist stronghold. The Nationalists in Milan were able to hold-out, but the government in the south new they needed to keep their forces in the north supplied if they were to break the Republican's hold of the region.
Nationalist Advance in the East
With their regrouping in the south, the Nationalists received more supplies from the Russians, and they began planning a new offensive. Operation Umberto, named after the second King of Italy, was launched to take back control of Eastern Italy, using 500,000 of their soldiers, and 400,000 of their allied soldiers. The combined National Socialist forces advanced on eastern Italy, they were able to take back all of the land up to Macerata, and their forces ended up advancing west in a second attempt to take Rome, but they were stopped by a new force of Republican soldiers about just a few km west of the road in the area. But the Nationalists had captured the road, and they began pushing up even farther until they reached Rimini in the north. They had gained land in the North, but failed to establish a line of supply into Milan.
A regrouped group of Nationalist armies began the second phase of Operation Umberto with their attack to the Tiber River. The Nationalists attack the Republicans at two points, the cities of Perugia and L'Aquila, where they found massive enemy armies, each numbering at around 400,000. The battles stopped the Nationalists' advance to Rome, the battles end up giving the Republicans the perfect chance to counterattack, which threatens everything that the Nationalists have fought months to gain. But finally, just 30 km east of Perguia and L'Aquila, the a new front line formed, although it showed little sign of a maximum advance by either side. A powerful threat to the Nationalists approached as the threat of their lines in the north threatened to be cut off, and they were threatened with being outmaneuvered. But the Republicans don't have the supplies or the troops necessary to attack on the scale required to defeat the Nationalists, and only minor gains are made in the offensive.
But with the new rounds of supplies and reinforcements coming from Nasocon, the Nationalists gear up for a new advance and their goal is Milan.
End of the Siege of Milan and Second Battle of Rome
With their armies reinforced by November 1937, the Nationalists launched a new offensive against the Republicans in the North. They send hundreds of thousands of soldiers to attack the enemy, and gradually push, bit by bit, until they reach Milan. With the Nationalist reinforcements finally arriving, the 50,000 Nationalist soldiers still remaining in the city were excited by this new energy and they began a new offensive within the city, and their bombers were easily able to assist them, as support from Allied fighters didn't exist much in the north. The Nationalists push deep into Republican-held Milan, and by January 1938, they had captured the entire city, ending the 11-month long siege. This high sense of morale, allowed the Nationalists an easy advance in Northwestern Italy, and gave them a solid control of the region by spring.
With the Republicans in Central Italy now the ones under threat of being surrounded, the Nationalists began a second advance for Rome. City after city fell to the Nationalist's new advance, and began to slowly break the will of the Republicans to continue their fight. The Second Battle of Rome finally began on May 2, 1938, and put the Republicans and their allies in a deep threat of defeat. The Vatican was spared the threat of enemy destruction after it was declared an open city by a joint Republican-Papal decree, and was swiftly taken over by the Nationalists, who saw this as a sign from god. But their attack on Rome itself, would prove one of the most ungodly offensives in history. The shear weight of Russian fighters defeats the British fighters more and more, until Nationalist bombers flew openly over the city, resulting in thousands dying from the Nationalist's terror bombing, breaking the will even more of the civilians and soldiers fighting in the city.
One last final push in mid-June of 1938 broke the little will the Republicans in the city had left, and it fell on June 20, 1938, by most means, ending the Italian Republic, as it was. The last remnants of the Republican force, however, still remained held up in Venice, leaving one last challenge for the Nationalists to defeat. The Nationalists began their final push to the Northeast of Italy, in one last push to end the war.
Nationalists Capture Sardinia and the Fall of Venice
Sardinia had held out against the Nationalists for the entirety of the war, and it become a vocal point for hundreds of thousands of Republican refugees, who had left Rome just before the Nationalists had left. The vast majority of the Italian fleet was still stationed back east which meant the soldiers and partisans had to depend on coastal artillery to defend the island against the Nationalists attacking. The battle began on July 17, 1938 when hundreds of ships crossed the sea to take the island, or at the least, its defenses. The Republican's artillery bombarded on top of the ships, but only a small fraction of them were hit or destroyed, allowing around 89,000 Nationalist soldiers to land on the island, and take most of its defenses along the coast, severely decreasing the defenses of the island. With a second push, much of the eastern portion of the island fell to Nationalist soldiers.
But with the defeat of a naval assault of Cagliari, the Republicans were able to keep the Nationalist advance only on the eastern coast of the island. The leaders of the Republicans knew that they couldn't retake the entirety of Italy, but simply were wishing to keep the island as a rump state and garner a ceasefire with the Nationalists on the mainland. But with a second Nationalist assault, this time on the northern side of the island, which pushed the Republicans to disaster. Their defenses in the north fell apart, reinforcements from the mainland helped them break through, and a second assault on Cagliari destroyed most of the cities defenses, allowing a third assault to easily take the city. Sardinia finally fell on October 3, 1938.
Meanwhile, in September of 1938, with the situation on Sardinia going smoothly, the Nationalists along the border with northeastern Italy, made for their final push against the last stronghold of the Republicans. But their enemy's will was strong, and they held out the enemy's advance for about three weeks, giving the Republicans a rise in hope. But with news of Sardinia's falling, the Nationalists renewed their advance, and pushed forward for Venice. And by December of 1938, the city of Venice was under a direct siege by the forces of the Nationalist Army. A huge battle incurred with thousands of casualties on both sides in just a short matter of weeks, and this devolved into a large struggle that lead to street-to-street fighting. The Nationalist began rolling in their tanks and aircraft that only made the city's defense even harder for the Republicans.
On February 7, 1939 the city ultimately fell, and the remaining Republicans escaped into the Alps, where they were pursued by the Nationalists. But against their best efforts, the last remnants of the Italian Republic surrendered on April 1, 1939, ending the Italian Civil War.
The end of the war brought new unity to Italy, which had been deeply divided by the civil war, and only further showed the new presence of Fascism in the world. The new Italy began a rapid approach to rebuilding, and still kept a large army, rearing its head, facing towards their age-old enemy, the Byzantine Empire.