Book Review
Italian Navy & Air Force Elite
Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940–45
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

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Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940–45
Series and number: Elite 191
Authors: Pier Paolo Battistelli, Piero Crociani
Illustrator: Mark Stacey
Formats: Paperback; PDF and ePub eBooks
Length: 64 pages
ISBN: 9781849088572

This volume assesses the formidable Special Forces fielded by Italy’s navy and air force in World War II. Italian Navy Special Forces were particularly active and respected in the Mediterranean, where 10th Motor-Torpedo Boat Flotilla used frogmen, ‘two-man torpedoes’ and explosive ram-boats. The Italian Air Force formed a special commando unit, ADRA, before the 1943 surrender; it was tasked with attacking Allied airfields and communications in North Africa. Men from ADRA and Army paratroopers formed the new ‘Folgore’ Regiment, which also continued to fight alongside German forces until 1945. In both cases, the pro-Allied Italian forces also formed ‘mirror’ units to fight alongside US and British forces, including the Recce Squadron ‘F’. Featuring rare photographs and specially commissioned artwork, this book tells the story of the little-known elite forces fielded by Italy’s navy and air force in World War II, some of whose successors remain in service with today’s Italian armed forces. - Osprey Publishing

This book explores Italian ‘elite’ forces and special-purpose units, comparing them with units so classified in other nationalities. Modelers and historians should find a great deal of information and inspiration in these pages.

Italy’s naval landing forces and parachute forces were small and formed from scratch for the purpose of attacking Malta. They had very little special training and few exercises to hone their skills and doctrine.

Italy’s lOTH MAS Flotilla was composed of specially trained and equipped naval personnel. They were demolition frogmen, demolition ram-boat pilots, and torpedo riders who, despite their small numbers, accounted for an overwhelming tonnage of enemy warships. So successful were those ‘special-attack’ forces that both German and Japan adopted similar weapons and practices.

Despite the stereotype of Italy’s warriors of WWII, many fought expertly and earned the respect of their enemies. At El Alamein the British found Folgore Division to be a tough nut to crack. Had Italy not surrendered and then plunged into civil war in 1943, one can speculate what Italian air- and sea-borne units might have achieved. However, following Italy’s surrender, units fragmented to both the Allies and Nazis. Germany did not trust many Italians and disarmed them, yet utilized remaining trusted Italian fascists for anti-partisan duties. The resulting legacy of most of the Italian ‘elite’ and special units is followed until the end of the war.

Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940–45 recounts the triumphs and tragedies of those units through 64 pages in 10 sections:


      • Origins
      • Organization, 1941
      • Craft and equipment
      • Operations



      • Origins
      • Italian landing forces
      • 'San Marco' Regiment: operations 'P','N' & 'NP' special forces


      • 1st Air Force Paratroop Unit
      • 'Loreto' Battalion
      • 1st Air Force Assault Regiment 'Amedeo d'Aosta'
      • Air Force Assault Engineer Battalion (ADRA)


      • The Italian surrender
      • The RSI Navy special assault forces
      • Operations The Xa MAS naval infantry
      • Early operations
      • The 'Divisione Decima' A 'flotilla' swallows a navy
      • Operations, December 1944-April 1945





Please note that the content page of this book, like almost every Osprey title I have seen, differs between the United Kingdom and United States editions, as often do the book covers.

Aside from a few typos the book is easy to read thanks to good organization and layout. Messer’s Crociani and Battistelli tell the story with a good mix of technical description and archival information. Sidebars clarify topics and illustrations. Most topics include brief overviews of combat results and losses.

Art and photographs
Artists, illustrators and modelers, you will be happy! Dozens of black and white photographs support the text. They vary in quality yet they all are relevant to the page they support. Most are obviously amateur shots in candid settings. I do not consider any as ‘space fillers.

Artist Mark Stacey created many full-color detailed profiles of the men who staffed those units. There is no distinct color information given for artists and modelers; presumably the artist intends one to interpret the paint color from his color artwork.

The paintings are of men, insignia, and equipment:
    I. 10th MAS Flotilla; Italy, 1941-42

      A. Manned torpedo crewman, 1941
      B. Frogman, Gamma group, 1942
      C. Maiali crewed torpedo
      D. Tenente di vascello, service dress, 1940
    II. 10th MAS Flotilla & Midget Submarines, 1940-42

      A. Sottotenente di vascello, ‘barchino’ pilot; Italy, 1942
      B. Marinaio, fatigue dress; Italy, 1940
      C. Submariner’s dolphin badge
      D. Tenente di vascello, 1st ‘CB’ Submarine Squadron; Yalta, Crimea, summer 1942
    III. ‘San Marco’ Naval Infantry Regiment, 1940-42

      A. Capitano di Corvetta; Italy, 1940
      B. Maro’ guastatore; Libya, 1942
      C. Vice capo squadra attached from Blackshirt MILMART unit; Italy, 1942
      D. Lion of St Mark insignia
    IV. ‘San Marco’ Naval Infantry Regiment, 1941-42

      A. Sottocapo, base defense company; Bordeaux, 1941
      B. Tenente di vascello, III Battalion; Tobruk, 1942
      C. Maro’, Swimmer-Parachutist Battalion; Italy, 1943
      D. Qualification badge of the nuatatori-paracadutisti
    V. Air Force Special Units; Italy, 1942

      A. Tenente, Air Force Assault Engineer Battalion (ADRA)
      B. Paracadutista, 1st Air Force Battalion
      C. Primo aviere, ‘Loreto’ Battalion
      D. Badge of the Arditi Distruttori Regia Aeronautica (ADRA)
    VI. X ͣ MAS Flotilla; Italy, 1944

      A. Guardiamarina, ‘Barbarigo’ Battalion; Anzio, early 1944
      B. Sottotenente, assault craft squadron; San Remo, summer 1944
      C. Maro’, Divsione Decima; Piedmont, autumn 1944
      D. X ͣ MAS ‘Divisione’ sleeve shield
    VII. X ͣMAS Flotilla; Italy, 1944-45

      A. Guardiamarina, MAS squadron; San Remo, summer 1944
      B. Capitano di fregata Junio Valerio Borghese, 1944
      C. Maro’, ‘Lupo’ Battalion; Senio river, January 1945
      D. X ͣ MAS Honour Badge
    VIII. ‘Folgore’ Parachute Regiment; Italy, 1944-45

      A. Paracadutista, ’Nembo’ Battalion; Anzio, early 1945
      B. Sottotenente; Rome front, June 1944
      C. Paracadutista; Western Alps, February 1945
      D. RSI Parachute qualification badge

This is a very informative and interesting title. It compliments Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces 1940–43. Despite their élan and panache Italy’s fighting forces of World War Two are frequently overlooked in history and modeling. Regardless of their war record they deserve to be recognized. This book presents Italian units in great color illustrations, excellent photographic support, and authoritative text. It fills in a gap that I have wanted closed for decades.

I am enthusiastic about this book and very happy to add it to my library. I happily recommend it to modelers, military historians and enthusiasts of the Italian fascist era; the North African campaign; the Mediterranean theater.

Please tell vendors and retailers that you saw this book here - on Armorama.
Highs: Comprehensive history within the 64-page format. Excellent artwork that should thrill modelers and artists, plus many unique photographs.
Lows: Minor and nitpicky.
Verdict: We now have an advanced reference of WW II Italian elite and special forces, suitable for historians, authors, and modelers.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781849088572
  Suggested Retail: $18.95 - £11.99
  Related Link: Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces 1940–43
  PUBLISHED: Mar 06, 2013

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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