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 very impressed with this work and heartily recommend it to fans of Italian armed forces, the North African campaign, and modelers.Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces 1940–43 Series: Elite 99 Authors: Piero Crociani & Pier Paolo Battistelli Illustrator: Johnny Shumate 64 pages ISBN: 9781849085953
It is always fun to try to debate what makes an elite unit an elite unit. Definitions are not always agreed on or get lost in the translation. Authors Piero Crociani and Dr. Pier Paolo Battistelli examine the Italian Army of World War II and determine that Italy did not have “elite” units in the context that other combatants did. Specialized Italian units lacked the specialized training, recruitment, and equipment of foreign militaries, although Italian Alpine formations are considered elite due to their regional recruiting and deployment. Ariete actually did become a genuinely elite division after rest and refitting in 1941.
Working against specialized units was that throughout the war Italy’s industrial output could not keep up with weapons demand. While Italy produced some competitive ships and aircraft, their ground forces generally lacked sufficient weapons; their main battle tanks, the M13/40 and M14/41, were, in the words of another writer, ‘Despised by their crews and not feared by the enemy’. Motor transport was almost nonexistent beyond company capacity.
Another factor against true elite formations was the definite top-down mindset of the Italian high command. Innovation was suppressed. In fact, despite favorable reports from observing Soviet parachute exercises in 1935, High Command showed no interest in Paracadutisti formations; the first airborne unit was created ‘below the radar’ by Air Marshal Italo Balbo in Libya. He pulled it off on account of his rank and role of Governor of the Libyan colony!
Despite the stereotype of Italy’s warriors of WWII, many fought expertly and earned the respect of their enemies. Armored divisions Ariete and Trieste fought well in the Gazala battles and the final battles for Tobruk. The Alamein battles found Folgore Division to be a tough nut to crack.
Ultimately poor C³ (Command, Control, Communications) failed many Italian units. Lacking manpower and industrial capacity almost every unit was eventually disbanded following losses.
Italy even recruited colonial and foreign forces. As a whole, these ‘elite’ units fought as well as could be expected from the mountains of Greece, across the desert of North Africa, and over the frozen steppes of Russia.
Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces 1940–43 is 64 pages long, divided into 11 sections and chapters:
1. INTRODUCTION 2. ELITE FORMATIONS & UNIT: ARMOURED & MOTORIZED DIVISIONS o 132º Divisione Corazzata Ariete: organization, spring 1941 o Corpo d’Armata Di Manovra, summer-autumn 1941: Ariete Divison * 101º Divizione Motorizzata Trieste - Raggruppamento Esploranta di CAM – the Crusader battles, November-December 1941 o XX Corpo d’Armata, 1942: the Gazala Line battles, may-June 1942 – ‘first Alamein’ and Alam Halfa, July-August 1942 – ‘second Alamein’, October-November 1942 o Trieste Division in Tunisia, February-May 1943 o ‘Giovani Fascisti’ Regiment o ‘Romolo Gessi’ Battalion 3. PARACADUTISTI o Fanti dell’Aria o Battaglioni Paracadutisti o Divisioni Paracadutisti: 1º/185º Folgore, 1941-43 * 184º Nembo, 1942-43 * 183º Cicione o Operations: Cefalonia, April 1941 * Djebel Akhbar, December 1941 * North Africa, July-November 1942 * Tunisia, 1943
4. GUASTATORI o Organization and tactics * Selection and training * Operations, North Africa: Battaglione Guastatori di Formazione/XXXII Battaglione, January-August 1941 * XXXI Battaglione, April-September 1941 * XXXI and XXXII Battaglione in the Crusader battles, November-December 1941 * At Tobruk, June 1942 * XXXII Battaglione at ‘first Alamein’, July-August 1942 * XXXI Battaglione at ‘second Alamein’, October-November 1942 * Tunisia, 1943 o Operations, eastern front: XXX Battaglione, September 1942-January 1943 5. BATTAGLIONE SCIATORI MONTE CERVINO o Albania, January-May 1941 o Eastern Front, February 1942-January 1943 6. SPECIAL FORCES: X REGGIMENTO ARDITI o Organization o Training and equipment o Operations: North Africa 1943 – Sicily 1943 7. FOREIGN VOLUNTEER UNITS o Raggruppamento Frecce Rosse o Gruppo Formazioni ‘A’ o Battaglione Azad Hindoustan o Battaglione d’Assalto ‘T’ o Reggimento Volontari Tunisini 8. BLACKSHIRTS SEA-LANDING & ARMOURED UNITS o Gruppo Battaglioni ‘M’ da Sbarco o 1º Divisione Corazzata Camicie Nere ‘M’ 9. UNIFORMS & PERSONAL EQUIPMENT o Standard issue items o Branch-specific items 10. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 11. INDEX
Mr. Crociani and Dr. Battistelli examine and explain the story of Italy’s elite units in good detail. The text is easy to follow and flows nicely. Sidebars clarify topics and illustrations. Most topics include brief overviews of combat results and losses.
Osprey also offers this book as an eBook and PDF. Photographic Support and Illustrations Osprey does not disappoint with graphic support of the text. Many photos are rare. Many are grainy and obviously taken by amateurs, or seem reproduced from newspapers, yet many are studio-quality. Many of the photos are excellent inspiration for diorama subjects.
The artwork of Mr. Shumate is quite smooth and clear. He puts a great deal of detail into his work. Poses and expressions bring life to the figures, enriching the main subject of the uniforms and equipment.
Topics of the 8 pages of full color artwork are:
A. ARMOURED VEHICLE CREWS
B. CORPO D’ARMATA DI MANOVRA & XX CORPS D’ARMATA, 1941-42
C. PARATROOPERS, 1939-41
D. PARATROOPERS, 1941-42
E. ASSAULT ENGINEERS, EGYPT, 1942
F. ASSAULT ENGINEERS, SKI BATTALION & ARDITI
G. FOREIGN VOLUNTEER UNITS
H. BLACKSHIRTS ‘MUSSOLINI’ UNITS
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 very impressed with this work and heartily recommend it to fans of Italian armed forces, the North African Campaign, and modelers.
Highs: Great color illustrations, excellent photographic support, and authoritative text.Lows:Verdict: I am very impressed with this work and heartily recommend it to fans of Italian armed forces, the North African campaign, and modelers.
About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR) FROM: TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES
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...