10 February 1947: the price of defeat

(To Matteo Acciaccarelli)

The 10 February 1947, exactly 70 years ago, for Italy the transition period between the end of the second world war and the reintegration in the western context was definitively closed. The signing of the Treaty of Peace, affixed to Paris, fell to Roberto Lupi di Soragna, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, without calling into question the high national offices. The signing of the treaty brought an air of discouragement to the Peninsula, where discouragement was the master. A tragic moment, even if this was seen, with farsightedness, as the only way to be included in the post-war system born of the ashes of war.

A harsh treaty that gave Italy the responsibility of having started a war of aggression, being the main ally of Nazi Germany, but also acknowledging the co-belligerence that followed the 8 Armistice of September 1943. This recognition did not soften the conditions of the Treaty of Peace, but served to be able to lay the foundations of friendly relations with the signatory countries. In addition to strictly military issues, territorial issues were also "resolved", which provided that Italy lost all the colonies obtained during the fascist regime, the Dodecanese, some small portions of territory in favor of France and, above all, lost the sovereignty over Istria, Dalmatia and Trieste, with the latter becoming the Free Territory of Trieste, under the administration of Yugoslavia and the United Kingdom.

The other, great, question that was addressed during the drafting of the Treaty of Peace was the Italian military apparatus. The basic question, especially of the British delegates, was: how to avoid new possible expansionist ambitions of Italy? For the United States it would have been impossible for Italy to have become a great military power, especially in light of the great defeat suffered in the recently ended war. In the end, however, a middle line prevailed between the US and the UK, which was pressing for Italy to be secured. A limited disarmament was decided to the Italian Armed Forces, of which the most penalized turned out to be the Navy. This is because for the Army a reduction in the number of staff was decided, a limit set for 185.000 men plus 65.000 carabinieri, in addition to a limitation in weapons and detainable means. The Air Force was subjected to even minor restrictions because it was decided to fix the number of aircraft that could be detained at 200, for reconnaissance and hunting, and at 150, for those for transport, but in addition to this there were no major limitations.

The Navy suffered the greatest limitations, also in virtue of the importance it could have had in the case of reconstructing an expansionist policy in the Mediterranean, a fear that in reality was unfounded given the destruction suffered by the fleet and by Italy itself during the war. A "blow" that Italy would never have wanted to suffer and this was demonstrated by the stubbornness both of De Gasperi (photo), president of the Italian council, and of Ernesto Giurati, military delegate to the military commission of Paris. Both put the accent on the co-belligerency of the Navy during the second part of the war, a co-belligerency that had to be rewarded. The proposal advanced by Giurati was to form a very streamlined but well-equipped fleet of ships, remaining also under the maximum tonnage that will be imposed with the Peace Treaty. All this to object to the willingness, shared by the winners, to split the Navy in two: one part to Italy, the other divided between the four winning powers.

The decision was taken without taking into consideration the Italian proposals, making the Navy come out of the Peace Treaty almost totally dismantled and with little heavy shipping available. The main battleships, Vittorio Veneto, Italy (formerly Littorio) and the Julius Caesar, were divided between the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union, although it must be remembered that the two countries, which will become Italy's great allies in NATO, did not require the delivery of the ships assigned to them in exchange for their demolition. France instead took part in the division of the cruisers receiving 3, theAttilio Regolo, Pompeo Magno and Scipione Africano. Another part of the cruisers and destroyers instead was divided between Greece, the Soviet Union and, the aforementioned, France. The ships that were unusable due to damage and those sunk in the ports also had a very similar fate, for these it was decided that they would be dismantled and the wreckage used partly by Italy and partly by the winners of the war. The Navy came out of the peace treaty with 46 ships against the 105 remained at the end of the war, for a total tonnage of 106 thousand tons against the 268mila at the 1945.

The Treaty of Peace was very harsh compared to what the Italian expectations were, especially as regards the Navy, useful for the defense of the sea borders as well as for maintaining the connections with the pre-Fascist colonies. But the world had changed and, while the civil war was raging in Greece, Truman had worked out the doctrine of containment, Italy could not remain unarmed in the face of a possible attack by the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia. Thus it was not, thanks to the birth of NATO and the Italian integration among the founding countries.

(in the opening photo the Vittorio Veneto and Giulio Cesere during the battle of Capo Spartivento, in the photo below the Vittorio Veneto and Littorio)