World War I
During World War I, the First Army bore the responsibility of a long front from Stelvio Pass on the Swiss-Austrian Italian tri-border to the Asiago plateau. It successfully resisted the Austro-Hungarian Strafexpedition. Its sector was later reduced, limiting its role to the defense of the Trentino borders and the Verona area.
World War II
At the beginning of World War II, the Italian First Army was one of three armies that made up Army Group West commanded by Prince General Umberto di Savoia. Together with the Italian Fourth Army and the Italian Seventh Army (kept in reserve), the First Army attacked French forces during the Italian invasion of France. At this time, the First Army was commanded by General Pietro Pintor and included three army corps: the 2nd Corps commanded by General Francesco Bettini, the 3rd Corps - General Mario Arisio, and the 15th Corps commanded by General Gastone Gambara. (See order of battle, below.)
By 1942, after the defeat of Panzer Army Africa (Panzerarmee Afrika) at the Second Battle of El Alamein and after the Operation Torch landings, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was forced to make one of the longest retreats in history. He withdrew from the "Western Desert" of Egypt and Libya and established a defence on the French-built Mareth Line in southern Tunisia. After occupyinging the Mareth Line, Rommel took command of the newly created Army Group Africa and turned over the "German-Italian Panzer Army" (formerly "Panzer Army Africa") to Italian General Giovanni Messe. The army was once again renamed and on February 23, 1943, Messe took command of the "Italian First Army."
The First Army, with Messe in command, took part in Rommel's attempt to break through the Kasserine Pass. As part of Army Group Africa commanded by General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim, the First Army attacked Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's British Eighth Army at Medenine, just west of the Mareth Line. However, the First Army was crushingly defeated. In addition, the attempt by Rommel and Arnim to breakthrough in Tunisia failed. By the end of May, Allied troops had captured all of North Africa, and the First Army was part of the 270,000 Axis troops taken prisoner.
Order of Battle at 10th June 1940
Commanded by General Francesco Bettini
- 4th Infantry Division, "Livorno" (Gen. Benvenuto Gioda)
- 33rd Infantry Division, "Acqui" (Gen. Francesco Sartoris)
- 36th Infantry Division, "Forlì " (Gen. Giulio Perugi)
- 4th Alpine Division, "Cuneense" (Gen. Alberto Ferrero)
- 3rd Guardia alla Frontiera (Frontier Guards) Sector
- 2nd Corps Artillery Group
- 2nd Engineer Group
- 7th Guardia alla Frontiera Artillery Group
- 14th Guardia alla Frontiera Artillery Group
- 22nd Guardia alla Frontiera Artillery Group
- "Valle Stura" Alpini Btl.
- "Val Maira" Alpini Btl.
- 6th MMG. Btl.
- 102nd MMG. Btl.
- 109th Positional MMG. Btl.
- 114th Positional MMG. Btl.
- 5th "Artieri" (Construction Engineers) Btl.
- 2nd Tank Company
- 84th Telegraph Company
- 152nd Workers Company
- 1st Chemical Company
- 72nd Searchlights Section
- 6th Mobile Pigeon-Messengers Unit
Commanded by General Mario Arisio
- 3rd Infantry Division, "Ravenna" (Gen. Edoardo Nebbia)
- 6th Infantry Division "Cuneo" (Gen. Carlo Melotti)
Corps Reserves :
- 2nd Guardia alla Frontiera Sector
- 3rd Corps Art.Grp.
- 3rd Eng Grp.
- 16th Guardia alla Frontiera Art.Grp.
- "Val Venosta" Alpini Btl.
- 3rd MMG. Btl.
- 103rd MMG. Btl.
- 112th Positional MMG. Btl.
- 10th "Artieri" (Construction Eng) Btl.
- 7th Telegraph Coy.
- 72nd Telegraph Coy.
- 3rd Blackshirts Btl.
- 4th Blackshirts Btl.
- 8th Mobile Pigeon-Messengers Unit
Commanded by General Gastone Gambara
- 5th Infantry Division, "Cosseria" (Gen. Alberto Vassari)
- Italian 37th Infantry Division, "Modena" (Gen. Alessandro Gloria)
- Italian 44th Infantry Division, "Cremona" (Gen. Umberto Mondino)
- Alpini Grp. (4 x Alpini Btl.s - 2 x Alpini Art. Btl.s - 1 x Blackshirts Btl.)
- 1st Guardia alla Frontiera Sector
- 5th Guardia alla Frontiera Sector
- 15th Corps Art.Grp.
- 11th Guardia alla Frontiera Art.Grp.
- 24th Guardia alla Frontiera Art.Grp.
- 15th MMG. Btl.
- 108th Positional MMG. Btl.
- 111th Positional MMG. Btl.
- 9th "Artieri" (Construction Eng) Btl.
- 71st Telegraph Coy.
- 76th Telegraph Coy.
- 100th Radio Coy.
- 33rd Blackshirts Btl.
- 34th Blackshirts Btl.
- 4th AA Art. Rgt
- 2nd Army Art.Grp.
- 4th Army Art.Grp.
- 7th Army Art.Grp.
- 8th Army Art.Grp.
- 1st Signal Btl.
- 2nd Cableways Btl.
- 2nd Miners (Mountain Eng) Btl.
- 5th Miners Btl.
- 69th Air Force Sqn. (recon)
- 7th Infantry Division, "Lupi di Toscana" (Gen. Ottavio Priore)
- 16th Infantry Division, "Pistoia" (Gen. Mario Priore)
- 22nd Infantry Division, "Cacciatori delle Alpi" (Gen. Dante Lorenzelli)
- 5th Alpine Division, "Pusteria" (Gen. Amedeo de Cia)
- "Celere" (fast - motor) Grp.
- 1st Bersaglieri Rgt
- 3rd Tank Rgt
- "Cavalleggeri di Monferrato" Cav. Rgt
- General Pietro Pintor - June 10, 1940 - June 24, 1940
- General Giovanni Messe - February 23, 1943 - May 13, 1943
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