Armies of the Italian-Turkish War
Conquest of Libya, 1911–1912
In the early 1900s, the decaying Ottoman Turkish Empire had lost some of its Balkan territories, but still nominally ruled all of North Africa between British Egypt in the east and French Algeria in the west. Libya had fertile coastal territory, and was the last North African (almost, the last African) region not yet conquered by a European colonialist power. Italy was a young country, ambitious for colonies, but had been defeated in Ethiopia in the 1890s. The Italian government of Giovanni Giolitti was keen to overwrite the memory of that failure, and to gain a strategic grip over the central Mediterranean by seizing Libya, just across the narrows from Sicily.
The Italian expeditionary force that landed in October 1911 easily defeated the Ottoman division based in the coastal cities, incurring few losses. However, the Libyan inland tribes reacted furiously to the Italian conquest, and their insurgency cost the Italians thousands of casualties, locking them into the coastal enclaves during a winter stalemate which diminished Italian public enthusiasm for the war. To retrieve Italian prestige the government launched a naval campaign in the Dardanelles and the Dodecanese - the last Turkish held archipelago in the Aegean - in April-May 1912, and landed troops to capture Rhodes. The army finally pushed inland in Libya in July- October (using systematic air reconnaissance, for the first time), and after brutal fighting the war ended in a treaty that brought Italy all it wanted, although though the Libyan tribes would not finally be quelled until after World War I.