In 1940, the Italian army had more than 8,000 artillery pieces, which were classified as divisional (field), corps (medium), and army (heavy). Much of the artillery was left over from World War I, and some guns were modernized World War I prizes, such as pieces manufactured at Skoda. In 1940, Italy had more than 1,200 tanks, but most were only two-man light “tankettes.” Many of the larger models were too thinly armored to stop armor-piercing bullets, let alone stand up to northern European armor.
Despite problems, Italian industry managed to produce 7,000 artillery pieces, although half these were of 47 mm or smaller caliber; 10,545 aircraft; and some 60,000 trucks of rather high quality. This last figure may be compared with a total of 71,000 private and commercial vehicles produced in 1939. Much of this military equipment, however, was obsolescent. Industry emphasized quantity and older designs rather than switching to newer designs with potential dips in production. Thus, in 1943, Italy continued to produce biplanes at the expense of modern aircraft designs. The same approach was followed in Italy’s rather small production run of some 2,500 tanks. The country never attempted to produce under license the far better German models. In sum, Italy’s war industry was less effective than it had been in World War I.
Italy suffered heavy losses in the war. Eight percent of its industrial plants was destroyed, along with 2 million rooms of civilian housing out of a total of 36 million. Sixty percent of its locomotives were destroyed and 90 percent of its trucks. Five thousand bridges were blown up. Agricultural production fell by 60 percent.
The human cost was excessive, too. At peak strength the Italian Army had about 2 million men, the Navy 260,000, and the Air Force several hundred thousand. While fighting on the Axis side, 200,000 Italian servicemen were killed (including 80,000 on the eastern front and 50,000 in the Balkans), an unknown but larger number wounded, and 600,000 made Allied prisoners.
After September 8, 1943, when Italy surrendered, its forces were disarmed by the Germans. Italian units sustained another 19,000 casualties when they attempted to resist. After being disarmed, 600,000 uniformed Italians were sent to Germany as slave laborers. While the civilian losses can only be estimated, perhaps 300,000 were killed in bombing raids; others died while fighting as partisans or as workers in Germany.