I found this article very interesting. I had never heard much, if anything about the Italian Airborne, during WW II or after. Like most, all I saw about the Italians, were the jokes and other crap about how poorly the fought.

The only good thing, I heard was about their UW adventures with, sinking Brit ships using their frogmen, riding torpedoes to hook up to ships. As I recall there was even a movie about them.

BTW, not my Quote:


Subject: Battaglione PARACADUTISTI NEMBO

 Unit History
It’s a little known fact that Italy pioneered parachuting and the airborne soldier (1st combat jump 1918). By 1938 there were both national and Libyan paratroopers trained at Castel Benito, the first Italian parachute school located near Tripoli. When war broke out in 1940, 3 additional national battalions were formed two of which with the task of training and raising a parachute division by 1942.
The first paracadutisti to see action were the national and Libyan battalions during "Operation Compass" which were tasked with contesting the British advance in Cyrenaica during the withdrawal of the 10th Army. They successfully accomplished this, helping to slow and then arrest the British thrust into Tripolitania.
One of the most epic pages of military history, however, according to both British and German accounts, was written by the Folgore Division at El Alamein in North Africa. They had been trained and readied for the occupation of Malta planned for late Spring of 1942. Operation C3 (Italian code name) which was also supposed to see some of the first air-borne troops of this period in history, the (Aviotrasportabile) La Spezia Infantry Division, was cancelled however, when an overbearing Rommel jumped chain of command, asking Hitler to persuade Mussolini to give him carte blanche so that he could push on to the Nile and to glory.
Unfortunately, on November 3, 1942, the Folgore Div. was essentially destroyed as a large unit after yet another panicked Rommel withdrawal (once again achieved thanks to his disregard for logistics, and the strength of the Commonwealth forces). This caused the rout of the Italo-German Army, during which, Italian and German units who could not be autotransported (mostly the Italian divisions) fell prey, in a slow withdrawal march through the desert, to the pursuing Commonwealth units.
But before the final days, the Folgore Division was to cover itself in the "against all odds" glory reminiscent of Balaclava, Picket’s Charge, Vittorio Veneto and Omaha Beach:
Operation Lightfoot launched on October 24, 1942, was designed to break through the supposed "weak" Italian-held southern sector of the Alamein line where the Bologna, Brescia, Folgore and Pavia Divisions anchored the right flank. The British attack began with a devastating artillery barrage, followed by an all out assault by the 7th Armored and 44th Infantry divisions. However, all that was achieved by the Commonwealth at a high cost of life and equipment was a small lodgment, which was soon to be regained. In the following assaults between October 25 and November 4, 1942 units such as the 50th, 7th, 44th divisions, 1st and 2nd Free French and the Royal Hellenic Brigades, supported by artillery and armor, had not broken nor would they break through the southern sector. The Folgore used all the means at their disposal including the tactic of letting the enemy advance into a "cul-de-sac" and then counterattacking from all sides. They also used their 47mm AT guns from enfilade positions and Molotov cocktails to knock out even Matildas and Grants. In the initial British assault alone the Folgore had managed to destroy over 120 armored vehicles, inflicting over 600 casualties.
 In the end, during the Rommel-imposed retreat, the Folgore led several bayonet charges rather than surrender. The Folgore's fate was similar to that of the Bologna Inf.Div. which marched in the desert fifty hours without water, during the withdrawal from Alamein, chose to form a square against armor, holding the enemy off for many hours in the open, before surrendering exhausted and dying from dehydration. This, however, only after having beaten off three different assaults by infantry and armor in three days. Colonel Dall'Olio, commanding the Bologna, surrendered saying, "We are not firing because we haven't the desire but because we have spent every round." In a symbolic act of final defiance no one in the Bologna raised their hands. The Folgore's fate, abandoned by the motorized Germans, was shared by the Bologna, Pavia, Trento, and the Brescia divisions. General Hughes of the 44th Infantry Division offered what was perhaps a simple and fitting eulogy for those truly extraordinary men, "I wish to say that in all my life I have never encountered soldiers like those of the Folgore."
All that remained of the Folgore was about a small battalion, which fought on in Tunisia and made of Takruna another epic battle. The rest of the division: either casualties or captured in the desert.
Back on the mainland, a new paratrooper division was created by late 1942: the Nembo Parachute Division formed around the core of the 185th Folgore Regiment, which trained and raised the new division. First demployed in the Spring of 1943 against Yugoslav guerrilla near Gorizia, Italy, they used their commando tactics to completely pacify the area. Following this, in June 1943, the 184th and 183rd regiments were sent to Sardinia where the main Allied landing was expected while the 185th was deployed to Calabria.
When the Allies landed in Sicily in July 1943, the 185th was dispatched to fight the invaders but it was too late to affect the flood of men and materiel that washed over the island. It's most important task now became that of protecting the withdrawal of the Italo-German forces to the mainland. But once in Calabria there was no rest for the weary, they continued to engage in furious fighting in the Aspromonte massif in order to delay the 8th Army’s advance. The bitterest battle was being fought against Canadian troops right as news of the so-called "armistice" of September 8 reached them. The "armistice" had in fact been conspired by Badoglio's handful of rogue generals who alone knew of the plans to hand Italy over to the enemy.
The battalions of the Nembo chose sides, according to the personal loyalty of the commanding officer and/or the leadership the men recognized, which was either the King or Mussolini. Most of the 3rd Battalion decided to keep fighting with the Germans as did the 12th, both eventually joining with the 1st Fallschirmjäger Corps deployed around Rome. Other Para units of the Regio Esercito (Royal Army) such as Ciclone and X° Arditi, and para units of the Regia Marina and Aeronautica (Royal Navy and Air Force) such as San Marco’s NPs (Nuotatori Paracadutisti) and ADRA also remained with the Germans "per l’onore d’Italia" (for Italian honor).
By the time the landing at Anzio was two weeks old (Jan. 1944) a battalion of the Nembo Parachute Group training at Spoleto was rushed to help seal the beach-head, fighting alongside the 4th Fallschirmjäger. Between Jan. and June ‘44 Nembo Battalion won the admiration of their German comrades in the no quarter fighting at Anzio and for the defense of Rome.

On May 4, 1945, Nembo was one of the last Italo-German units to surrender. The unit had been part of an overwhelming majority who continued to defend Italy as part of the RSI government. The RSI (Repubblica Sociale Italiana) while dealing with invasion on three fronts and a civil war managed to arm over 800 thousand Italian troops, fighting beside the Germans on all fronts, in and outside Italy, as opposed to the 28 thousand ("co-belligerent" Royal Army troops) which supported the Allies in Italy, mostly in non-combat roles.


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Oh dear, another 'Airborne Uber Alles' thread :cry:
It is true, however, that many Italian units/ formations fought with great doggedness during WW2. The myth of the "cowardly Italian" is just that - a myth. Generally, the Italian Army of WW2 suffered very badly from the fact that it had been re-equipped quite rapidly post 1918 with "state of the art" kit for the time, and thus went to war in 1939/40 with grossly antiquated gear. Also, of course, they were saddled with the monstrously inept Mussolini regime which, amongst other things, preferred macho posturing to the, generally, sensible and cautious advice of its military commanders: some would say, a not unfamiliar scenario in more recent times!

Yes, the Italians were pioneers (with the Soviets) of airborne warfare, plus their air force was the first (in the 1920s - can't recall exact date) to fly an entire squadron of aircraft over the Atlantic; a feat for which they received a "tickertape" welcoming parade in NYC.

They were also great exponents of naval special ops/ underwater warfare, and conducted some very daring attacks in the Med. I thought, however, that these "frogman"/ mini-sub/ attack boat units were known as "Decima Mas", although these may well, of course, have been sub-units of the Folgore Div & other formations.

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