The inferiority of the Italian to the German Army is apt to obscure certain
Italian qualities which it would be unwise to ignore. Among these is the
skill and promptitude of Italian small-scale counterattack from prepared
positions. During the battle of Keren in Eritrea, for example, the
Italians, through this tactic, succeeded more than once in dislodging
the British from newly taken positions.
Since many junior Italian officers have not been sufficiently trained, these
counterattacks do not always materialize. But, whenever the junior officer
happens to be well trained and keen, he may prove to be a formidable
opponent, and preparation to meet such action should be taken whenever
fighting against the Italians.
In this type of operations, the excellent Italian 81-mm mortar (see
Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 11, p. 44) plays an
important role. It is significant that the 81-mm mortar allowance of
the Italian infantry division in Italy has recently been increased
from 24 mortars to 36, and to 45 in the latest type of motorized
division. However, it remains at 18 in the North African theater.
Since July 1942, there have been three separate occasions when Italian
resistance in Egypt has been an unpleasant surprise. In all of these, they were
dug in and deployed in very favorable positions. At least once
the 81-mm mortar was identified, and caused considerable damage.