Second Italo-Abyssinian War

From Academic Kids

Lasting seven months from 1935-1936, the Second Italo-Abyssinian War is often seen as a precursor to World War II and a demonstration of the inefficiency of the League of Nations. It is also called the Italo-Ethiopian War.

Military History of Italy
Military History of Ethiopia
ConflictSecond Italo-Abyssinian War
ResultSuccessful Italian annexation of Ethiopia
Battles of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War
Italy Ethiopia
800,000 Soldiers of which only about 330,000 could be mobilized 100,000 Soldiers
Killed or Wounded
Killed or Wounded


Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy, had long held a desire for an Italian Empire to rule over the Mediterranean, and often talked of building a new Roman Empire. Britain and France both had large empires at the time and most other European countries had colonial possessions.

Abyssinia was a prime candidate of this expansionist goal for several reasons. It was one of the few African nations not currently belonging to a European power, and it would serve to unify the Italian held Eritrea in the North-West and Italian Somaliland in the East. It was also considered to be militarily weak, and rich in resources. It has been suggested that the Italians also attacked Abyssinia to "reclaim" the country and to avenge their defeat during the First Italo-Abyssinian War.

Missing image
Italian troops fortify a position in Abyssinia on November 8, 1935

Italian incursion

The treaty which separated Italian Somaliland and Abyssinia stated the border was 21 leagues parallel to the Benadir coast. The Italians re-interpreted this to mean 21 nautical leagues, as opposed to 21 standard leagues, which would then give them greater territory. Acting on this, they built a fort at the Walwal oasis in the Ogaden desert in 1930, regardless of the Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928. By 1932 advance from Italian Somaliland was noticeable, as roads began to be built well within what was considered Abyssinian territory.

In November of 1934, Abyssinian territorial troops, accompanied by the Anglo-Ethiopian boundary commission protested Italy's incursion. The British members of the commission soon withdrew to avoid an international incident. In early December the tensions mounted to a clash which left 150 Abyssinian and 50 Italian casualties. This resulted in the Abyssinia Crisis at the League of Nations.

The League of Nations exonerated both parties for the Wal Wal incident in September 1935. Italy soon began to build its forces on the borders of Abyssinia from Eritrea and Italian Somiland.

With an attack looking inevitable, the Emperor Haile Selassie ordered a general mobilization. His new recruits consisted of around 500,000 men, many of whom were armed with primitive weapons such as spears and bows.

Italian invasion

On October 3 100,000 Italian soldiers, along with a sizable number of Askari, commanded by Marshal Emilio De Bono attacked from Eritrea without declaration of War. A smaller contingent, commanded by General Rodolfo Graziani attacked from Italian Somaliland. By October 6th, Adowa, the site of Italian defeat in the first war, was captured. By October 15th the holy capital of Axum followed.

The League of Nations declared Italy the aggressor on October 7th and started the slow process of imposing sanctions. These did not extend to several vital materials, such as oil. The argument put forth by the British and French for not barring oil from the Italians was that they would then simply get it from the United States, which was not a member of the league. In an effort to find compromise, the Hoare-Laval Plan was drafted, but it was highly favourable to the Italians and therefore rejected by the Abyssinians.

By mid-December, De Bono was replaced by General Pietro Badoglio due to the slow, cautious nature of his advance. Haile Sellassie decided to test this new general with an attack, but his forces were repulsed when Badoglio started to use poison gas.

On March 29th, 1936, Graziani's forces firebombed the city of Harar. Two days later the last major battle of the war, the Battle of Maychew, was fought with the Italians victorious. Haile Selassie then fled into exile on May 2 and Badoglio's forces took the capital, Addis Ababa on May 5th.

Italy annexed the country on May 7th and the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III was proclaimed Emperor on May 9th. Italy then merged Eritrea, Abyssinia and Somaliland into a single state known as Italian East Africa.


This was a short lived state however, as Abyssinia was liberated in the subsequent East African Campaign.

See also

External links

nl:Inval in Abessini ja:第二次エチオピア戦争 sl:Druga italijansko-abesinska vojna


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