This article, based on unpublished archival sources, analyzes the development of the Italian anti-aircraft defence, the ‘active’ side of the anti-aircraft protection organized by the Fascist regime during the Second World War. The system structure revealed marked contradictions: the role of the Ministry of War was crucial, but the overall direction was to remain in the hands of the Home Ministry; the Deputy chief of staff for territorial defence was a military man, eager indeed in trying to reform the organization of air defence, but his powers were limited. In the first year of the war, 1940-1941, the fascist anti-aircraft defence did not have to deal with attacks similar to those faced by nazi Germany. In the second year, 1941-1942, some reforms were introduced into the organization of air defence and the relationship between Italy and Germany came to be perceived as important by the fascist regime. Towards the end of the fascist war, between 1942 and 1943, Italy suffered major aerial bombings and anti-aircraft defence proved altogether insufficient. In the game between reform and structure of the system, despite the activism of the Deputy chief, the challenge proved too strong for the means the regime could resort to.
Keywords: Italian anti-aircraft defence, anti-aircraft protection, Fascism, Second World War, aerial bombings, Deputy chief of staff for territorial defence