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Italo-Ethiopian War

Years: 1935-1936
Battle deaths: 20,000 [1]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]
Ethiopia, Italy

Published prior to 2013 | Updated: 2014-03-17 16:23:50
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.


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.

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.

An excerpt from an article in the open dictionary database Wikipedia: Read Article


Notes on fatalities

[1] Battle deaths: Correlates of War, Inter-State War Data v4.0

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.



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