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Initially, the Italian offensive enjoyed some level of success. The French defensive lines were weakened due to the French high command shuffling forces north to fight the Germans. After that, they were to advance on to Beaufort and Albertville. On 21 June, the right column of the Alpine Corps took the Seigne Pass and advanced several kilometres across a glacier, but were met with heavy fire from Seloge.
They quickly outflanked it and on 24 June charged up the Cormet de Roselend , but they were still in the process of completing their encirclement when the armistice was signed. They then forded a river under heavy machine gun fire, while Italian engineers repaired the demolished bridge, suffering heavy losses in the process. On 22 June, the Trieste 's tank battalion passed the motorcycles and was stopped at a minefield.
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At the armistice they let the Redoute 's garrison march out with honours of war. The main attack of the I Army Corps was a three-pronged drive by the Division Cagliari , involving the capture of Bessans and Bramans, followed by a concerted advance along the river Arc toward Modane. The central column consisted of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 64th Infantry Regiment and the 3rd Battalion of the 62nd Regiment. They advanced through the Col des Lacs Giaset and advanced down the valley of the Ambin. The 2nd Battalion of the 63rd Infantry Regiment crossed the Little Mont Cenis towards the village of Le Planay, where it joined the central column, while the 1st Battalion crossed the Pas de Bellecombe and augmented the central column at the village of La Villette.
It was supposed to synchronise its attack on the flank of Modane with the arrival of the central column. The Susa under Major Boccalatte formed the right column and crossed the Pas du Chapeau and the Novalesa pass and followed the river Ribon towards Bessans.
The French garrisons these forces faced were 4,strong, backed by two divisions with sixty tanks behind them. The central column began its descent through the Col des Lacs Giaset shortly after noon on 21 June. As it approached the river Ambin it met strong resistance. The 2nd Battalion coming down the Little Mont Cenis had overcome weak resistance and met the central column. Some small groups were left behind for mopping up operations while the bulk of the column continued its advance towards Bramans.
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All the Cagliari battalions coalesced around a chapel outside Bramans, and, after eliminating the French field fortifications with artillery fire, they took the city by the end of the first day. The Italians attempted to flank them from the south, and their artillery engaged the forts' guns. The forts were not reduced by the time the armistice came into effect, although the advance units of the Cagliari were with three kilometres five miles of Modane.
While the Susa had occupied Lanslebourg and moved on to Termignon, the 3rd Battalion of the 64th Infantry had been held up. Its route was heavily mined and strewn with anti-infantry and anti-tank obstacles. A battalion of the st Avellino Infantry Regiment and a tank battalion from the Division Brennero were sent up to assist it. The First Army had been spared responsibility for the main attack—which fell to the Fourth Army in the north—because of the appeals of its commander, General Pietro Pintor , on 20 June.
On 21 June, the units advancing through the Val Roia successfully occupied Fontan. The amphibious assault had to be called off for logistical reasons—engine failures, overloaded boats, rough seas. Lacking sufficient landing craft, the Regia Marina had commandeered fishing boats and pleasure boats. The Italian navy attempted some landings, but after several craft grounded the whole operation was called off.
Mussolini then gave the order that the Cosseria were to advance at all costs. The bypassed French troops continued to fight, firing the fort's armament at Italian coastal shipping, until the armistice. Italian aircraft then bombed the French barracks there. That day the fort of Pont Saint-Louis engaged in its last artillery duel with the Italians. No vehicles managed to cross the bridge before the armistice. It also had 3, mules on which its artillery was carried and horses, 68 motor vehicles, 71 motorcycles and bicycles. The Acqui Division did not reach the French fortification until late on the 24th, by which time the armistice had been signed.
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They lost 32 dead and counted 90 wounded, frostbitten and 15 missing. Because of a lack of artillery in the Ubaye Valley, they had not fired upon the French forts. It also requests that he convey to the Italian government its desire to find together the basis of a lasting peace between the two countries. According to Ciano, "under these [mild] conditions, Mussolini is not prepared to make territorial demands At hours on 23 June, the French delegation, headed by General Charles Huntziger , who had signed the German armistice the previous day, landed in Rome aboard three German aircraft.
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The French negotiators were the same who had met with the Germans. The first meeting of the two delegations took place at hours at the Villa Incisa all'Olgiata on the Via Cassia. It lasted only twenty-five minutes, during which Roatta read out loud the Italy's proposed terms, Huntziger requested a recess to confer with his government and Ciano adjourned the meeting until the next day.
During the adjournment, Hitler informed Mussolini that he thought the Italian demands too light, and he proposed linking up the German and Italian occupation zones. Roatta ultimately convinced Mussolini that it was too late to change the demands. At hours on 24 June, at the Villa Incisa, after receiving his government's permission, General Huntziger signed the armistice on behalf of the French, and Marshal Badoglio did so for the Italians.
Both armistices came into effect at thirty-five minutes past midnight hours [x] on 25 June. Badoglio consulted Mussolini, who agreed.
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The actual Italian occupation zone was no more than what had been occupied up to the armistice. Italy was granted the right to use the port of Djibouti in Somaliland with all its equipment, along with the French section of the Addis Ababa—Djibouti railway. More importantly, the naval bases of Toulon, Bizerte, Ajaccio and Oran were also to be demilitarized within fifteen days.
Reported French army casualties vary: 32, 37 or 40 killed; 42, 62 or wounded; and or prisoners. A further 2, men suffered from frostbite during the campaign.
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It is probable that most of the Italian missing were dead. Units operating in more difficult terrain had higher ratios of missing to killed, but probably most of the missing had died. Although treated in accordance with the laws of war by the Italians, they probably fell into German hands after Italy's surrender in September The limited demands of the Italian Government at the armistice led to speculation in contemporary Italian sources.
General Roatta believed that Mussolini curbed his intentions because the military had failed to break the French front line and Mussolini was thus "demonstrating his sportsmanship". Dino Alfieri advanced the popular but controversial argument that Mussolini weakened his armistice demands to "maintain some semblance of a continental balance of power".
Knox wrote that Ciano's diary and Mussolini's comments to Hitler "quite adequately explain" the Italian position given the "strategic situation". The army had failed to break through the Alps and the French were willing to fight on—as Huntziger had made clear to the Germans. Samuel W.
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Mitcham wrote that Mussolini was forced to abandon most of what he wanted at the behest of Hitler, who did not wish to see the arrival of the Italians to be greatly rewarded. The historians' consensus is that the Italian military fared poorly during the invasion. On 21 June , Ciano recorded in his diary that Mussolini felt humiliated by the invasion of France as "our troops have not made a step forward. Even today, they were unable to pass, and stopped in front of the first French strong point that resisted.
Knox called the Italian attacks into the Alps a "fiasco", which had morale implications for the Italian generals and noted that the campaign was a humiliation for Mussolini. The Italian military requested aid from the Germans to outflank the French positions. The initial German attack was checked and the "French soldiers of the Alps A German officer who visited the Alpine battle sites after the armistice remarked that the Blitzkrieg tactics that had served Germany well in northern France would have been difficult in the Alpine terrain, which has been called "perhaps the most unsuitable of all conceivable theatres of operation".
The snow also hampered the movement of artillery, food and ammunition to the summits. In some cases, the Italians wore their gas masks because of the difficulty of breathing in the driving snow. For example, on 23 June, the front-line commander of the 4th Alpine Division Cuneense complained to his superior of the 2nd Army that he was unable to keep in touch with the troops at the front because he could not move his headquarters up the mountain due to the weather.
At the front, near the border, the mission of the French forts was to delay the Italian army from reaching the line of defense, made up of steel and concrete fortifications. Our infantry had to advance in the open against well-protected troops through a field under French artillery fire. And all this was to happen in three to four days.
In these conditions, greater Italian manpower has no advantage.