Fiat G.55 Centauro

The participation of Italy in World War II was quite controversial, since at the beginning of the world conflict Italy joined its destiny to the German Reich when sealing its entrance in the Axis; in the middle of 1943 when the Allies began the invasion of Italy, Italians “moved” to the Allied side.

At the outbreak of World War II, Italy had the smallest air force among the Axis powers, despite having a large aeronautical park, although this theoretical advantage could not be exploited by technical characteristics (as we shall see later), nor by the limited capacity that presented the Italian war industry before the imminence of a conflict of the characteristics that possessed the Second World War.
The Regia Aeronautica (RA) as the Italian Air Force was called (Royal Aeronautic), presented a great precariousness in terms of modern combat aircraft, being the spearhead of them, the fighters MC200 and Fiat G.50. Accompanying these, were the CR.32 biplanes and above all CR.42, which were available in greater quantity. The main limitation of some and other models of aircraft, was that they had markedly worse performance both technical (less powerful and less aerodynamic engines, lower service ceiling, lack of radio in a large number of cases, etc) and weapons (the prototype armament in the RA consisted of two machine guns in the fighters, which would have been useful during the World War I, but during the World War II, any of its opponents had a greater number of machine guns or combinations of guns and machine guns, which caused an upper devastating effect).
It is undeniable the effort and good management that the Italians gave to their machines, apart from the value they showed when using them in combat on multiple battle fronts such as the Italian-French Alpine front, the Mediterranean, North Africa, Great Britain, the Balkans or the Soviet Union. Although they were successful on many occasions, the fact is that the RA always remained in the shadow of the powerful Luftwaffe. His last front was the Italic Peninsula itself and the defense of Sicily, although they represented the last actions of the RA, which after the Armistice ceased to exist as such. But soon a new Italian Air Force was born from the Regia Aeronautica: the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR).
As the war progressed, a new series of Italian aircraft emerged, which were characterized by improvements in the engine group, such as the Re 2000 and the Re 2002, but what really raised the level of the RA was the use of German engines or Italians under German patent as in the Re 2001 or especially the prototype fighter of the RA that was MC.202; although they still hadn´t enough “punch” in their armament because their main weapons still were machine guns not cannons. At the end of its existence in 1943, the RA had better German engines that allowed it to create the fighter aircraft 5 series, integrated by the excellent MC.205 “Veltro”, the Fiat G.55 “Centauro” or the Reggiane Re 2005 “Saggitario”, although due to the war events, they were manufactured in insufficient quantities and out of time for what the need of the Italian air defense required; so Italians used aircraft from several origins as German or French. This text is about one of these three fighters, the Fiat G.55 that soldiered both in the Regia Aeronautica and the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana.

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ITALY AT WAR DURING 1943-1945

The situation of Italy in the World War was deteriorating, reaching a critical moment in the summer of 1943. And that on July 25, after some political maneuvers, Mussolini was dismissed on July 25, becoming in new Head of Government, Pietro Badoglio. From that moment the German Government stopped trusting the Italian and more when the first plan of the new Government was discovered, which was no other than to sign the capitulation before the Allies and to get Italy out of the war. Before this situation Hitler began a plan to keep Italy (or whatever it was from her) within the Axis.
The official announcement of the Italian surrender or Armistice was on September 8, although the signing of the capitulation act had occurred five days before. The German troops did not wait for a moment, taking their army by surprise, since they were going to lose total control of the country. Both King Victor Emmanuel II and Badoglio fled Rome, leaving much of the country to the fate of German control. At the same time, US troops landed in Salerno and British in Calabria and the Gulf of Taranto.
The news of the Armistice left out of place many of the Italian military that were in many parts of Europe at that time (Greece, Balkans, France, etc), which were completely abandoned to their fate. Some decided to “join” the Allied side and confront the Germans, others were simply taken prisoner by the Germans (as was the case of those who were far from Italy) or those who decided to continue alongside the Germans.

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