Battle of Genale Doria

Battle of Genale Doria

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict= Battle of Genale Doria
partof= the Second Italo-Abyssinian War


caption=
date= 12 January to 20 January 1936
place= Valley of the Genale Doria River, Ethiopia
result= Decisive Italian victory, destruction of Ras Desta's southern army
combatant1=
combatant2=
commander1=
commander2=
strength1=Approximately 20,000
strength2=Approximately 40,000
casualties1=Light
casualties2=Heavy
Almost entire army ultimately neutralized as a fighting force

The Battle of Genale Doria (also known as the Battle of Ganale Dorya or as the Battle of Genale Wenz [Nicolle, "The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1935-36", p. 10] ) was a battle on the southern front fought during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The battle consisted almost entirely of air attacks by the Italian Regia Aeronautica ("Royal Air Force") against an advancing and then withdrawing Ethiopian army under Ras Desta Damtu. The battle was primarily "fought" in the area along the Genale Doria River valley between Dolo and Negele Boran.

Background

On 3 October 1935, General Rodolfo Graziani advanced into Ethiopia from Italian Somaliland. His initial gains were modest. By November, after additional modest gains and a brief period of Italian inactivity, the initiative on the southern front passed to the Ethiopians. [Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 70]

Late in the year, Ras Desta started preparations to launch an offensive with his army of approximately 40,000 men. His goal was to advance from Negele Boran, take Dolo, and to then invade Italian Somaliland. This plan was not only ill-conceived and overly ambitious, it was the subject of talk at every market place. As soon as the advance was under way, Graziani was ready to unleash the 7th Bomber Wing of the Regia Aeronautica. [Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 71]

Graziani had formed up a force near the border in readiness for a counterattack. This force was organized into three columns: on the Italian right was the first column which was to advance up the valley of the Genale Doria: in the center was the second column which was to advance towards Filtu; on the left was the third column which was to advance up the valley of the Dawa. All three columns had better than average access to motor transport and equipped with a few tanks. They could realistically be thought of as "mechanized" by the standards of 1936. [Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 71]

Battle

On 12 January, the Regia Aeronautica started the Battle of Genale Doria by dropping two tons of mustard gas on the Ethiopians. For three days the advancing Ethiopians were attacked incessantly from the air. The force that ultimately reached the first Italian outposts already had the fire gone from its belly. The combination of air attacks, a long march through a pitiless desert, inadequate rations, dysentry, and malaria had shattered the morale of Ras Desta's army. [Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 71]

When the three Italian columns advanced on 15 January, there was little incentive left for Ras Desta's men to stand and fight; however, the Ethiopians did stand and attempted to hold their ground. The Italians responded with a series of out-flanking maneuvers, which quickly compelled the Ethiopians to withdraw and leave the field of battle. Unfortunately the weary army could not withdraw fast enough as it was again assaulted from the air. The Ethiopians could find no relief; their withdrawal quickly became a disorganized retreat. In this unequal chase, the Ethiopians were on foot and the Italians were generally in motor vehicles. The Italians blocked the few wells that lay along the way and closely pursued the parched Ethiopians. Under these conditions, Ras Desta's army soon ceased to be an army. [Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 77]

Aftermath

On 20 January, within five days of their start, all three of Graziani's columns on the ground had reached their objectives. As a testament to the thoroughness of the job that the Regia Aeronautica had done, no shots had to be fired when the Italians converged on, and entered, their ultimate objective, Negele Boran. [Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 77]

One detail did detract from Graziani's enjoyment of his triumph. About halfway through the battle, over nine hundred of his Eritrean troops deserted on the same day. Graziani's response was to order the corpses of the Eritrean dead left to rot on the field where they fell. It is understood that over 1,000 Eritrean deserters were said to have fought on the Ethiopian side at the Battle of Maychew. [Barker, A. J., "The Rape of Ethiopia 1936", p. 77]

See also

* Ethiopian Order of Battle Second Italo-Abyssinian War
* Army of the Ethiopian Empire
* Italian Order of Battle Second Italo-Abyssinian War
* Royal Italian Army

Sources

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References


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