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Geofactor
Posted: Monday, March 31, 2008 9:07:35 PM
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The Second World War was a dramatic defeat for Italy and consequently for the Italian Navy. The reasons of the naval disaster are several:
a) Wrong attitudes of Supermarina (Naval Head Quarter) in conducting the war strategies - crews and Captains demonstrated every day an extraordinary courage and skill but their initiatives were always frustrated by Supermarina's too prudent policy;
b) absolutely poor coordination with the Air Force;
c) inadequate equipments in terms of radar lack and unsatisfactory precision of gun aiming systems;
d) fuel lack;
e) the enemy was the British Royal Navy, for centuries the most powerful armada of the world;
f) the Royal Navy was able to read for almost all conflict long the Italian encryipted message that should be kept secret.

Most of these reasons are the obvious consequences of the irresponsible political decision by the Mussolini's government to join the war, thinking it would be ended in few months with the victory of German ally on every front.
Submarine Ambra's crew

The Italian militaries had to obey to the orders of the government, and they went to a war well aware that there weren't chances of victory for them. They were successful in the '30s against Ethiopians and Spanish Republicans, but the enemy they were going to face was well different.
Anyway we will only analyse the military facts and not the political ones.

War began for Italy on June 10, 1940, with only only two battleships that were combat ready, the Conte di Cavour and Giulio Cesare, battleships Littorio and Vittorio Veneto were still under training.
Others would be ready in several months: Caio Duilio, Andrea Doria. The rest of the fleet included, 7 heavy cruisers, twelve light cruisers, about one hundred and twenty destroyers and torpedo boats and over one hundred submarines.

The British were slightly numerically inferior and were based in Alexandria (Mediterranean Fleet) and Gibraltar (Force H), two of the advantages the British had, were the availability of aircraft carriers and tactics based on the use of aircraft in reconnaissance and strike roles. Italians lacked totally from this point of view, all their airplanes were controlled by th Air Force which imposed to not build any carrier. Mussolini thought that all Italian peninsula was a huge aircraft carrier: this though will be tragically wrong.

During the first days of war Italians lost 5 submarines and the British lost cruiser Calypso sunk by submarine Bagnolini. On June 27, 1940 Italian destroyer Espero is sunk by 5 British cruisers.
The first clash between the two navies was at Point Stilo two squadrons escorting the respective convoys, Italian ships (under the command of Admiral Campioni) were Cesare, Cavour, 14 cruisers and numerous destroyers, British units were battleships Warspite, Malaya, and Royal Sovereign, aircraft carrier Eagle, five light cruisers, and 14 destroyers, commander was Admiral Cunningham.
The result of this match was that only Giulio Cesare was lightly damaged, but it demonstrated the inferiority of the Italian since they were in a more favorable position and they lost a good chance to beat the British more significantly. The battle was near the coasts of Italy and if the cooperation with the Air Force had work properly, Point Stilo would have been a great victory. In addition Veneto and Littorio were almost ready for combat, and his commander, Admiral Bergamini, asked the permission to join the battle, but it was denied by Supermarina. On July 18 a British formation sunk the cruiser Colleoni, while on July, 20 British planes attacked Tobruk harbour sinking destroyers Nembo and Ostro.

On the night of October 12, 1940 British cruisers Ajax, Orion , York and Sidney sunk Italian torpedo boats Airone , Ariel and Artigliere. During this battle the British rescued the Italian survivors, even this could endangered them for the upcoming of the rest of Italian fleet. Admiral Cunningham was blamed for that by his headquarter because those days London was suffering under the continuous attacks of Luftwaffe; Cunningham answered that Italians torpedo boats fought with courage a no-chance struggle, and for that reason they deserved to be helped.

The night of November 11, 1940, the "Night of Taranto", was the saddest in Italian Seamen's history and one of the most brilliant for the British. That night all of the six Italian battleships were in the Taranto harbour; the Royal Navy planned a daring action: two strikes of torpedo-carrying Swordfish aircraft took off from carrier Illustrious, that approached undetected to within 170 miles of Taranto. Battleships Conte di Cavour, Caio Duilio and Littorio were hit by torpedoes. And only two of the twenty-one British aircraft were shot down. Littorio and Duilio were moored to prevent their sinking. Cavour sank with only her superstructures above water. Littorio and Duilio were repaired in some months while Cavour was ready again only at the time of the armistice.

On November 27, the Italian and British Fleets met again at the southwest of Sardinia for that the will have been called Battle of Capo Teulada. Italians fired first and the cruiser, Berwick , was hit almost immediately, in return the Italian destroyer Lanciere was damaged. After that both began inconsequential actions and then broke off the encounter. Italians could have had, once again, better results if Admiral Campioni and Supermarina had not so prudent and first of all if had been air support.

Cruiser Zara's guns firing (Mondadori)

On February 9, 1941, there was another British daring action: Force H consisting of the battleship Malaya, battlecruiser Renown, carrier Ark Royal, a cruiser and ten destroyers, bombarded Genoa for half an hour totally undisturbed. After that, due to an incredible series of misunderstandings and to the poor communication, Italians did not intercept the British force.
HMS Ark Royal

On February 25, 1941 British submarine Upright sunk Italian cruiser Diaz.

On March 28, 1941, an Italian force, under Admiral Iachino, made up of Veneto, 8 cruisers and 13 destroyers neared Cape of Matapan, in order to interdict convoy traffic between Egypt and Greece, contacted four British light cruisers and 8 destroyers. But it was a trap of Admiral Cunningham: these ships were only the scouts for the Mediterranean fleet, made up of the battleships Warspite, Valiant, and Barham, Formidable, and nine destroyers.
Battleship HMS Warspite

After a quite long pursuing of the British scout force, the Italians were attacked by air strikes: Admiral Iachino decided to return home. Those air strike managed to slow down the Italians that waited in vain throughout the day for German air support. At sunset, the heavy cruiser Pola was hit by a torpedo and stopped.
Admiral Iachino ordered the heavy cruisers Zara and Fiume and four destroyers to stand by and assist Pola, being unaware of the close proximity of the heavy British ships (once again the lack of reconnaissance!).
The British ships, radar equipped, unlike their foe, attacked the Italian forces, completely unaware of the enemy's presence, while aiding Pola. The result was: Fiume, Pola, Zara and two destroyers, Alfieri and Carducci were sunk. 2303 Seamen died. The only British loss was the cruiser Bonaventure sunk by Italian submarine Ambra but during an action independent from this clash.
It must be said that while the Royal Navy was fair and human, attempting to rescue the Italian survivors (this aid failed because only at that moment arrived the German planes!!! They anyway gave the exact position of the survivors to the Italian Hospital ships) British propaganda lied having reported that Pola's sailors were drunk and panicked. It was demonstrated that it was not true.
There is a touching epilogue of the Matapan battle: on August 1952, on a beach near Cagliari it was found a bottle with a message "Royal Ship Fiume - I beg you Sir, to inform my dear Mother that I die for the Country. Seamen Chirico Francesco from Futani - Salerno. Thank you Sir - Italy!" The mother was informed and her son received the Bronze Medal for Military Valour.

Cruiser Fiume

In 1941 the German ally began to send planes and submarines to help the Italian Navy to face the British and the things for Axis improved.

On April 14, 1941 while escorting a convoy to Africa Italian destroyers Tarigo, Lampo and Baleno were surprised by 4 British destroyers. Tarigo's Captain, Pietro de Cristofaro had a leg riped off but continued to lead his men under the British fire. Tarigo was almost destroyed when Tenente di Vascello Ettore Besagno and Sottocapo Marchetti managed to launch three torpedoes before sinking. One of these torpedoes sunk destroyer Mohawk. Lampo and Baleno were seriously damaged.

HMS Mohawk

On night of March 25, 1941, there was one of the many intrepid assault of Italian commandoes in British harbours thought as a diversion for the fact of Matapan. Two destroyers Crispi and Sella approached 10 miles the Suda bay and lowered 6 small "Barchini" ( they were tiny speedboats, very fast, full of explosive and driven by one man who had to aim the target ship and jump off the boat at the very last moment; it required of course an enormous amount of courage). These "Barchini" were lead by Tenente di Vascello Luigi Faggioni.
They entered the harbour, where were 4 cruisers and many merchant ships. The result was cruiser York severely damaged (it would be totally destroyed later by German Stukas), one petrol ship damaged. The six braves were captured, and sat free by Germans later.

HMS York

In June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and the balance of force in the Mediterranean changed. The pressure on Malta was reduced and the British were free to intercept Italian convoys to Lybia. In that period the losses of these convoys grew up to 63%.

On July 25, 1941 there was the attempted assault of Malta harbour by commandoes of X Flottiglia Mas, there died Teseo Tesei.

On september 19, 1941 Gibraltar harbour is forced by X Flottiglia Mas "Maiali" and 4 cargoes were sunk by Tenenti di Vascello Catalano, Vesco, Visentini.

Destroyers Dardo and Camicia Nera

On November 9, 1941 an Italian convoy to Lybia escorted by several destroyers is intercepted during night by radar-equipped Force K under the command of Admiral Agnew (Cruisers Aurora and Penelope and destroyers Lance and Lively): Destroyer Fulmine was sunk immediately, Grecale was damaged and there was a slaughter of Italian cargoes; destroyer Libeccio was sunk instead by submarine Upholder.
Destroyer Libeccio


The night of December 1, 1941, Force K again attacked a convoy escorted by destroyer Da Mosto that was sunk after an epic struggle attempting to save the cargoes from British ships and planes.

In mid-December 1941 took place the first battle of Sirte.
A huge convoy was sent to supply axis forces in Africa. A force with Duilio, three cruisers and four destroyers was provided, with support based on Littorio, Doria, Cesare, two heavy cruisers and ten destroyers. This force met a British one escorting their own convoy to Malta.
Admiral Angelo Iachino, commander of the Italians, decided to retreat to protect better the Italian convoy and to avoid to engage in a night the radar-equipped opponents. But few hours later he attacked the British surprising them while they were under air attack. But it was too late, the night arrived.
Iachino kept his forces between the British and the Italian convoy, which reached its destination safely. Supermarina claimed this non-battle a victory for propaganda reasons.

The next night, the Alexandria port were raided again by commandoes and battleship Valiant and Queen Elizabeth were sunk with a tanker as well. To know in detail this epic feat read the story of Luigi Durand de la Penne.

Royal Navy battleship Hms Queen Elizabeth (Mondadori)

The British managed those days to sink cruisers Da Giussano and Da Barbiano but the loss of the 2 battleship with the many successes of German U-Boats in the Mediterranean swung the naval balance to the Italians and reduced losses of Axis convoy . The Royal Navy lost also, due to mines, cruiser Neptune and destroyer Kandahar, while cruisers Aurora and Penelope were seriously damaged.
At the beginning of 1942 the British decided to resupply Malta by a convoy from Alexandria. 4 ships, an anti-aircraft cruiser and six destroyers departed from Alexandria. There were also 3 light cruisers and 4 destroyers, as well as another force of destroyers supporting the convoy. A cruiser also sorted to provide assistance from Malta. Italians sent 2 heavy and one light cruiser with 8 destroyers leaded by battleship Littorio to intercept the British.
Weather was rough but the Italian cruisers found the British, who escaped away, smoking all around. Admiral Iachino kept his ships between the convoy and Malta, waiting the right moment to attack, but once again it was too late: darkness closed in, and the night (Italian's second enemy) saved the British fleet. That night the Italians lost two destroyers due to the worsening of the storm. But the British convoy was delayed and the next morning was attacked by German planes, and only few material could reach Malta. on the way home. This was named the second Sirte's Battle.

On April 1, 1942 submarine Urge sunk Italian cruiser Bande Nere.
On April 14th, 1942, Italian torpedo-boat Pegaso sunk the most glorious British submarine of WW2, the terrible Upholder, his brave captain, David Wanklyn died with his ship.
Cruiser Giovanni dalle Bande Nere

The months after the British managed to reinforce Malta anyway sending there a large number of Spitfires many of them from US carrier Wasp. In fact with US in the war, the balance was shifting. Malta became a bastion from which offensives could be launched anytime.
The most proper strategic move for the Axis was to occupy Malta at that moment, but Hitler preferred to push further in Egypt.
In mid june 1942 there were a series of battles involving British and Axis convoys to Malta and to Lybia respectively.
One from Alexandria consisted of 9 merchant ships and a tanker, with 8 cruisers and 22 destroyers. Littorio, Veneto, and 6 destroyers in one group and 4 cruisers and 4 destroyers in a second group sailed to intercept the convoy. The next morning, the heavy cruiser Trento was hit by a torpedo and sank the day after; battleship Littorio took a bomb hit from an American B-24 with no damage. The British convoy was assaulted by submarines and torpedo-boats and turned back to Alexandria.

Another convoy from Gibraltar sailed to Malta and with 6 merchant with a close escort and a covering force of a battleship, 2 carriers, and 8 destroyers. Italians countered the convoy with light units from Sicily, supported by air attacks and a cruiser division, near the island of Pantelleria with success this time: just 2 freighters survived of attacks and delivered their supplies to Malta.

On june 15, 1942, in the Black Sea one Italian Mas and 2 minisubmarines CB3, under the command of C.Castagnacci, sank 3 Soviet submarines.

On july, 14, 1942, again the X Flottiglia Mas assaulted, with a commando, Gibraltar's Bay sinking 4 cargoes.

On August 4, 1942, Submarine Scirè, one of the most glorious Italian units, was sunk while attempting an assault at Haifa.

On August 12, 1942, again attempting to supply Malta, the British lost cruiser Cairo (by submarine Axum) and Manchester (by torpedo boats); British ships Nigeria, Kenya, Ohio and Italian ships Attendolo and Bolzano were also damaged.

After a long chase, Italian torpedo boat Circe sunk British submarine P38, one of the most feared units in the Mediterranean Sea. torpedo boats Circe and Lupo were sunk in the same period.

On December 4, 1942 American B24s sunk cruiser Attendolo.
On December 12, 1942, Algeri port was forced by X-Flottiglia Mas ("Maiali" and Gamma men) and 4 cargoes were sunk.
Again on December 1942, Italian submarines Dessiè, Porfido, Uarsciek, Granito and Emo were sunk.

Finally the latest battleship, Roma, was ready to combat but the Italian lack of fuel grew more and more. The British took advantage of this and organized a massive series of convoys the Italians could not intercept with their heavy units because of fuel lack. Malta once again had offensive capability, and failure in taking Malta was now heavily felt. Sending anything in Africa was almost a suicide in that situation, the Italian Navy managed anyway to send in Africa 86% of material and 92% of men.
Between the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943, were sunk destroyer Folgore, Aviere, Pancaldo, Lampo, Malocello, Ascari, Corsaro, Bombardiere, Saetta; same fate for torpedo boats Animoso, Perseo, Climene, Ciclone, Cigno, Uragano and Procellaria. While Italian torpedo boats sunk British submarine Sahib and Thunderbolt.

During the first 6 months of 1943 Italian submarines performed with discipline 129 no-chance missions against a much better equipped and numerically superior enemy: 18 subs were utilised, 11 were lost.
On April 10, 1943 American B24s sunk cruiser Trieste.
On April 16, 1943 2 Italian torpedo boats Cigno and Cassiopea engaged with 2 British destroyers: Italian Cigno and British Packenham were sunk.

British counterattacked at El Alamein and began the reconquest of Northern Africa ended in May 1943. San Marco Marines lowered last Italian Flag in Africa on May, 9, 1943.

On June 10, 1943, Allied invaded Sicily. The last Italian ship sunk by the Allies was destroyer Gioberti on August 9, 1943. Italians decided to preserve the remaining fleet, because of the total lack of fuel, for a final, huge and hopeless battle against the coming Allied forces in order to save at least the honour before being defeated. But the armistice arrived on September 8, 1943 and the Allied were no more enemies: the foe was the German.
A total confusion was among Italian militaries, in certain cases it was attempted to save equipment from the German carrying them to the Allies, in other cases some did not accept the surrender and continued to fight the Allies.
Admiral Bergamini disciplinatelly tried to save from La Spezia his division sailing to reach the Allies: with him were battleship Roma (his flagship), Vittorio Veneto, Italia (former Littorio), cruisers Avoia, D'Acosta, Abruzzi, Garibaldi, Regolo, and Montecuccoli, a destroyer escort, and many other minor ships. The group was attacked by Luftwaffe and a terrible bad luck was waiting Bergamini. One radio-guided bomb fell just into the chimney of Roma and the battleship exploded, killing Bergamini and all the crew. Italians erroneously thought that the approaching aircrafts were British so there was no air cover at all.
The convoy finally arrived in Malta.

The sad end of battleship Roma. (Mondadori)

The Italian wish to continue to fight will be satisfied on September, 23, 1943, with an agreement of cooperation with the Allies, except for the battleships, signed by Admirals Cunningham and De Courten. Italians Seamen who continued to fight, gained the Allies admiration and gave a significative contribution to the liberation of Italy, starting on October 19, 1943. The San Marco Marines were the first Allied troops to enter in Venice.

After the end of the war the Italian Navy had to face a sad fate: the winner nations claimed the best of the remaining Italian ships and the treaty imposed the Italians very hard restrictions on possessing and building ships.

During the tragedy of Second World War 33.000 Italian Seamen lost their lives and were lost 270.000 tons of warships. 412.000 tons of enemy warships were sunk (with the ones sunk by Air Force and by German U Boats) .
The Italian merchant Navy lost 2.513 ships (522.120 tons).

BACK 1

""The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.".....Thomas Jefferson"
anonymous....we are legion...we dont forgive....we dont forget....expect us...
M&M
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 6:26:11 AM
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So why exactly did you start this topic ?
sonofliberty
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 6:38:46 AM
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Yes. Did you want to start a history discussion of some sort?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

There is a new game on the way Project Blitzkrieg
Gen.Schuermann
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 6:33:25 PM
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...also thanks to Geo for this specific entry...

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Geofactor
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 7:06:06 PM
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you can discuss this if you like, but i really just found it very interesting and thought most of you would also!

""The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.".....Thomas Jefferson"
anonymous....we are legion...we dont forgive....we dont forget....expect us...
sonofliberty
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 7:12:57 PM
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Geofactor wrote:
you can discuss this if you like, but i really just found it very interesting and thought most of you would also!
It was interesting reading. Where did you find the specifics?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

There is a new game on the way Project Blitzkrieg
Ederon
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 9:01:56 PM
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I'm subscribed. Anything else coming? :-)
Geofactor
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 10:41:54 PM
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sonofliberty wrote:
It was interesting reading. Where did you find the specifics?

i just googled italian navy ww2......it really is an impressive AAR.......i wish i could write one half as good........and in the end, except for the lack of air coordination....the italian navy did pretty good i thinkPirate

""The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.".....Thomas Jefferson"
anonymous....we are legion...we dont forgive....we dont forget....expect us...
sonofliberty
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 10:50:38 PM
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So now do one for the kreigsmarine Cool

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

There is a new game on the way Project Blitzkrieg
Anders
Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 11:24:49 PM
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Indeed, do a copypasta of the Kriegsmarine!

"Hvor fattige var de ikke, disse fiskere som levde av havets nåde! De slet sig gjennom livet uten å se sig om til høire eller til venstre. Deres gleder var få, deres bekymringer mange. Men de hadde allikevel et gemyttlig smil til den fremmede, en munter vise og en lun historie. For sånn er de, disse Sørlandets barn."

King of Men wrote:
Anders is correct.

Fivoin wrote:
Yeah, Anders is right.

baronbowden wrote:
I would tend to agree with Anders.

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hiensen
Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 1:12:26 PM
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Geofactor wrote:
you can discuss this if you like, but i really just found it very interesting and thought most of you would also!


Thanks Geofactor Thumbs Up
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