Malaria in WWII Italy

By Rob Morgan

I’m grateful to my colleague Marco Galandra of Pavia for this little snippet. Now, chemical and biological weapons rarely crop up on the wargames table, and certainly I’ve never resorted to them in any modern campaign at least! However, in a book published in 2006, by Professor Frank Snowden (“The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900-1962”) there’s an account of a well-planned Wehrmacht biological attack in the Autumn of 1943. The Germans were in difficulties, obviously, and so the High Command ordered the flooding of the low-lying landscape, and the release of millions of the anopheles species of insect. The intention was to infect the Allied troops and slow their advance. It failed because the Allies had access to DDT and the drugs such as Atabrine which were effective against malaria and the insects carrying it. What then happened was that the civilian population being unprotected, and indeed some Axis troops, suffered seriously.

Italy had suffered from malaria for centuries, of course, and the sickness wasn’t eradicated in the marshes until around 1962. Snowden’s book doesn’t give any other example of biological attacks during the Italian campaign.

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