The Second Italo-Abyssinian War was Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia, a process it began after the 1885 Partition of Africa. Italy was defeated in its first attempt at conquest at the battle of Adwa in 1896, allowing Ethiopia to become the only African nation to remain free of European control. Italian colonial forces however still remained in neighboring Eritrea and Somalia, and it was only a matter of time before the two nations would clash again.
The prospect of war increased dramatically after the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, took control of Italy in 1922. He sought Ethiopia for its resources but also to salvage the pride of the only European nation defeated by an African country. Taking Ethiopia would have also completed the Italian domination over the Horn of Africa.
The initial conflict that sparked the war took place at Wal Wal, an oasis in the Ogaden Desert in 1934. On November 22, 1934, Italian forces marched fifty miles into Ethiopia and clashed with Ethiopian troops at Wal Wal, leaving one hundred and fifty Ethiopians and two Italians dead. The League of Nations evaluated the conflict and exonerated both nations, although Italy was the clear aggressor. Great Britain and France, which dominated the League, hoped to prevent Italy from becoming an ally of Nazi Germany. Taking advantage of this situation, Mussolini signed agreements with France and the United Kingdom, thus isolating Ethiopia and forcing it to face Italy alone.
The impending attack from the Italians prompted Emperor Haile Selassie I to recruit and mobilize the Army of the Ethiopian Empire. His approximately half-million-man legion was armed with mostly bows and spears, with the exception of those who owned outdated rifles, some of which remained from the conflict forty years earlier. Only a quarter of the army had any combat training. With a miniscule arsenal of outdated artillery and anti-tank or aircraft guns, and a handful of planes including some piloted by African Americans and other volunteers, the Ethiopian nation was