Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

The Italian Navy during World War II

Discussion in 'Naval War in the Mediterrean, Malta & Crete' started by JCFalkenbergIII, Aug 15, 2008.

  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    426
  2. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    426
    From the Italian Carriers above,

    "The history of the Italian carriers during WW II cannot be completed without some final considerations. It was said that if the Regia Marina had had an aircraft carrier it would have been able to fight the Royal Navy on a plain level and that certain events (see Matapan), would have taken a different turn.
    It is opportune to consider a few things. First of all, the number of this fantasy carriers. Considering their cost of this kind of unit, and the shipbuilding capabilities of the Italian industries, it would not be logical to assume that Italy could have had more that one or two units (at the very best three). France, for instance, had only the Béarn plus two more planned. Similarly, it is plausible to assume that these ships would have not been large carriers of the class of the Saratoga or Akagi, but vessel with lesser characteristics as we so in the projects presented between the wars.
    With two carriers in service, means that beside some rare exceptions, only one unit would be available while the other is been refitted, worked on or upgraded. Also, considering that these units would have been the primary target of the British forces, it is safe to assume that at least one would have been sunk. So, what could have these few carriers do? Escort the fleet in its rare excursions in pursuit of enemy vessel? Escort convoy to North Africa, thus securing aerial coverage? Both? Antisubmarine patrol? As one can see these are many assignments which two carriers alone cannot accomplish. If they had been with the fleet, maybe at Matapan the three cruisers and the two destroyers would have not been lost. Maybe, the Italian could have destroyed a few British convoys, but the faith on the Italian ones would have not changed.
    If the carrier had escorted the convoys, Rommel would have received a greater quantity of supply, but the ultimate faith of the African campaign would have not changed and the fleet would have been left without the assuring eyes of naval aviation. If submarine hunting had been a priority, then it would have been only a fruitless effort not worth the risk of getting a torpedo up the hull.
    Ultimately, we are brought to conclude that these two or three carriers which Mussolini’s Italy could have afforded, would have not reasonably changed the course of the events of WW II. Surely, they would have been useful to the naval operations (no doubts here), and could have avoided horrendous episodes (horrendous for the final result, but not for the bravery demonstrated by the Italian sailors), but what would have really served Italy, perhaps more than carriers, would have been a strong naval aviation organized in bases distributed on the national territory and overseas allowing for good coverage of the Mediterranean and a good coordination with the operations of the fleet. This would have allowed an even better utilization of the carriers, thus giving it its maximum value."
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,223
    Likes Received:
    452
    I very much doubt the Regia Marina would have used it's carriers, if built, for anything else than providing fighter escort and possibly some strike capability to the battlefleet. And I do agree that the most likely designs would have had a 30-40 planes air group, nothing larger.
    This might still have changed the outcome of a couple of battles, Gaudo/Matapan and the pedestal convoy come to mind, in the latter the fleet did not intervene because the airforce decided to use all available fighters to escort the torpedo and dive bombers, looking at condition of the convoy by the time it reached the Sicily narrows a surface action had a good chance of completely destroyng it.
    But IMO the biggest handicaps of the Regia marina were not tactical, yes more fuel, carriers, radars and decent sonar and AA guns would have helped but as long as the British got advance notice of every move through ULTRA they stood no chance.
     
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,996
    Likes Received:
    805
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    As I've stated in general earlier, one of the greatest problems facing the Italian navy in WW 2 was fuel. In round numbers the Italian Navy started the war in April 1940 with 1.8 million tons of fuel stored for operations.
    They immediately lost upon declaration of war their primary source: British / US fields in the Middle East. As a result the Italians became almost entirely dependent on German largesse or oil from Romania. Neither proved a reliable or volumous source.
    By April 1941 the Italian Navy was down to 800,000 tons and falling fast. Clearly their first year's consumption of over 1 million tons of fuel could not be sustained. The result was that most operations by larger combatants were curtailed. The primary operational fleet units were escorts for convoys to Africa. The Italian navy really couldn't afford to do much more without running themselves dry.
     
  5. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    426
    This from the "THE CONFERENCE OF MERANO" February 13th and 14th, 1941by Cristiano D'Adamo. It speaks about the fuel shortage also.


    "Next, the two groups discussed the fuel situation and the Italians made their allies aware of the possibility of an imminent paralysis of most naval activities due to fuel shortage. The Italian position was that by June the surface forces would have run out of oil fuel, and that the submarine forces would have a few more months, but not many. The German admiral promised to support the Italian demands with the Fuehrer, but he also reminded all attendees of the general fuel crisis throughout Europe.

    The conference concluded with the usual expressions of mutual support and commitments to the war effort, but what did the conference change? Much significance has been given to these two days of talks in Merano, probably due to the fact that within a few weeks the Italians lost three heavy cruisers and two destroyers in a devastating naval encounter with the Mediterranean Fleet. It should be agreed that the Germans did not particularly influence these events. Although Enigma intercepted Luftwaffe signals, the same can be said about orders issued by the Italians to their command in the Aegean Islands.

    The true significance of Merano is that only within nine months from Italy’s entry into the war, the three basic strategic failures which will bring about her defeat had already been clearly identified. Malta was left in British hands, fuel was only available in small quantities, and Italian naval strategies were outdated. The issue of Malta could be easily pushed back to the Germans, and Rommel’s insistence that occupying Egypt had a greater priority. Still, the Italian forces had the means to conduct the operation on their own. Training of special troops and the construction of landing crafts show that, at one point, there was a will. The fuel situation is more complicated, especially because some historians have noticed discrepancies in the consumption and storage reports. Ultimately, one can say that, in September 1943, the Italian fleet did have enough fuel to steam all the way to Malta. Strategy was probably the greatest failure, but also the most difficult to criticize. Would the German battleship approach have worked? Considering that naval reconnaissance and aerial coverage of the fleet’s operation was always lacking, one might have much to ponder."

    The Conference of Merano
     
  6. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,223
    Likes Received:
    452
    I think you are grossly overestimating the role of Malta, without ULTRA it would have been marginal as the forces based there did not have the capability, at leas until 1942, to patrol the convoy routes without probably unacceptable attrition. Being able to sortie when they already knew a convoy was at sea competely changed the operational picture.

    The main strategic failures of WW2 Italy were elsewhere, and the navy had to suffer from most of them. In no particular order:
    - Lack of industrial base and bad quality control on production.
    - Fundamentally incompetent high level leadership and an officer corps that acted as a caste.
    - Lack of war preparation both long and short term, a lot could have been done and was not (merchant ships not recalled before DOW, no stockpiles in Africa, etc.)
    - Lack of plans. A plan to attack Malta should have been in place, same for a mobilization plan for a possible war with France and offensives agaist Yougoslavia, Greece, Egypt , etc. this is what a general staff should be doing in peacetime.
    - Technological obsolescence in some key areas (radars, sonars, aircraft engines, field artillery).
    - Lack of realistic training before the war, had any taken place, and looking just at rthe navy , the deficiencies in sonar, night fighting equipment and quality control on ammo could probably have been partly rectified. Also the loss of several submarines, within a few days of the DOW, due to battery leakage is suspect.
    - The army and airforce also suffered equipment shortages due to the Spannish and Ethiopan wars that were still not made good by 1940, but that was not a navy issue.
    - Interservice rivalry, but that affected most combattants in greater or lesser degrees so, while a problem, it's not a handicap.

    There was also a trend to accept inferior locally designed equipment in the name of "autarchia" (economic independence), many deficiences (starshells and AA guns for example) could have been solved had the industry acceped to do licence production as good desings were available. If even the US, despite all it's industrial efficiency, adopted foreign designs for it's light AA (bofors and oerlikon) why could'nt Italy replace it's poor 37mm and nearly useless 100mm AAs?.
     
  7. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    426
    LOL Im not grossly overestimating the role of Malta or anything else. I posted the info by Cristiano D'Adamo as another example of the mention ,at the conference,of FUEL shortages that the Italian Navy suffered during the war. It was not intended to address the role of Malta. In the quotes I have provided above in the other posts most have stated what the defects were of the Italian Navy also. And I agree with them.But the shortage of fuel should actually be the #1 reason as without fuel the Navy could not operate. No matter what equipment or leadership or strategy without fuel the ships are totally worthless.
     
  8. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,223
    Likes Received:
    452
    I would agree with ranking fuel as #1 if a complete lack of fuel had happened but the issue was more complex than that. Operations on the scale of the early months were unsustainable due to lack of fuel but there was really no need of them in late 41/42, the Royal Navy did not show itself in strength in the central med all that often after those same initial months.
    Some fuel was available until the end, witness the run to Malta by the whole fleet. The partial decommissioning of the older battleships in 1942 was due to fuel but also to their limited usefulness at the time, with no British BBs in the East Med Littorio and Veneto were more than enough of a "fleet in being". Most times fuel was available and other factors prevented the Regia from putting up a good show, the worst case was probably the Duisburg convoy that was wiped out despite a pretty heavy escort. Had they had unlimited fuel they may certainly have put up some more "battleship convoys" but simple wear and tear would still have prevented that heavy an escort of all convoys, and anyway battleships are little use against subs and air attacks that were the main cause of loss.
     
  9. Firefoxy

    Firefoxy Dishonorably Discharged

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2008
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    3
    I'M clueless about most seawars that accurred during ww2.
    Does any body know why, if Italy were on the Axis side right, woulde't you think the that Germans would of fitted all countries ships that are on there axis side with the same equitment which the axis had on there ships, like FUEL and RADAR. Why German did not supplie them what they needed?
     
  10. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    426
    Logistics. Simple as that. The Germans were having a hard enough time supplying themselves. They did not have enough to spare to share with Italy. Do you think that they could have supplied a whole fleet of ships in addition to thier own?? And with the size of the Italian military overall it would have been too much of a draw on the limited resources that the Germans had. They shared with the Italians what was reasonably available.
     
  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,996
    Likes Received:
    805
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    There are several reasons for this. First, the Italians refused to integrate their command structure into that of the Germans. Mussolini prefered to wage a "parallel" war rather than an integrated one with the Germans. German naval officers assigned to the Italian Supermarina were little more than unwanted observers.

    As for supplies, the Germans were short of the same things the Italians were. Germany could not produce enough electronics for their own use let alone that of the Italians. In aircraft for example the Italians made good use of the relatively few DB 601 engines supplied from Germany. Most of the best Italian aircraft had a German engine.
    But, there were never enough to meet demand so the Italians were forced to labor on with lower powered aircraft that were obsolesent in many cases.
     
  12. Firefoxy

    Firefoxy Dishonorably Discharged

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2008
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    3
    I knew that the Germans were short of equitment at the end of ww2,but i
    thought the Germans were well stock at the start of the ww2 and i didn't understand why they could not supply the italians. Now i no why.:)
     
  13. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    426
    Exactly. Just one of the myths of the German superiority.
     
  14. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    8,809
    Likes Received:
    372
    Location:
    Portugal
    That is another problem. In general terms Germany started the war with very limited stocks of everything because of lack of resources, lack of industrial capacity and lack of planning. The German conquests became state plundering expeditions, whereby the resources and capabilities of the conquered countries (Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Low Countries, etc etc) were taken over entirely or converted to work for the Reich economical and military needs. The initial conquered stocks of minerals and oil were a big boon to German economy.

    It also has to be said that the mineral and foodstuffs wealth the Germans obtained in their Russian conquest were not really very worthwhile in comparison to what they were getting with their very favourable trade treaty with the Soviets, but Adolf had to have that itch...
     
  15. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    426
  16. mikebatzel

    mikebatzel Dreadnaught

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    Messages:
    3,185
    Likes Received:
    406
  17. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    10,480
    Likes Received:
    426
    Thanks for that Mike. Ill have to check them out :).
     
  18. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    1,640
    Likes Received:
    154
    While my own admiration for the Regia Marina is expressed elsewhere on this site, (*see "Rommel Demythologized"), it does not blind me to the more ludicrous aspects of the Italian war effort at sea in the "Med".

    Case in point....Captain ENZO GROSSI of the Marcello class submarine "BARBARIGO" claimed to have sunk "an American battleship" not once but TWICE, in May 1942 AND October 1942. "Barbarigo" and Grossi were particularly "well known" due to these ludicrous claims...one might say that Cpt. Grossi was the laughing stock of the Regia Marina because of it.....

    I could give you more examples, but as I've already explained, I do have a soft spot for the Regia Marina, and generally feel that, had they been properly supported by their "allies" early in the conflict, they may well have been able to make a much bigger impact on the Southern front, and on the war as a whole.

    AND, Benito Mussolini, post Italian armistace, was nothing more than a puppet for his German backers. Italy may well have been far better off as a contributor to the Axis cause as a NEUTRAL, rather than the comic opera declarations made by Mussolini concerning "Mare Nostrum", and needing 1,000 Italian war dead to be able to "sit at the conference table".

    Germany trusted their axis partner so much that they felt REOCCUPATION was necessary for Italy, an amazing position for an 'ally' to be in.....
     
  19. jwilkerson

    jwilkerson recruit

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2010
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Does anyone know where there is any data regarding the TRAINING of the Italian Navy during the interwar period?

    One key element of any navy is the humanware - and training is a key determinant of the capability of that element.
     
  20. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,223
    Likes Received:
    452
    Must admit I don't have a lot of info on training but, I got a general feeling it was not on a par with other countries especially where realistic combat training, that would have made apparent some critical equipment deficiencies, was concerned.

    The comments below are what I recall from both reading officer memoirs and talks with veterans so is most likely at least partially incorrect, it would be probably possible to contact the Ufficio Storico to get more precise info.

    Officer training was performed by the Accademia Navale and I believe lasted 3 to 5 years, it included engineering training for all but the split between command and technical branch was very marked (a "brown jacket" (technical) could never hold command positions that were reserved for "white jackets" (command track). This led to the higher ranks not being particularly thecnology savvy and can partly explain why some key technologies were ignored.

    Enlisted men where concripts, in priciple levied from the more coastal areas where the leva di mare percentage was higher than the leva di terra, so had in theory some familiarity with the sea, all underwent some months of basic training before being assigned to ships or other duties. I believe in peacetime service time lasted 18 months.

    NCO (or whatever they are called in the navy) were volunteers, I have no info on their training process.

    The class distinction between officers and me was less marked in the navy than in the army, especially aboard small ships, but one still gets the impression the officer corps acted as a caste and ineffective officers where very seldom if ever replaced.

    BTW Volga do not be too hard on Grossi, U-Boat commanders claimed to have sunk Ark Royal many times before actually achieving the feat but I wouldn't call them a "laughing stock" for that. I believe Grossi fired on a couple of ships he believed where battleships (one actually was a cruiser he did probably hit, no confirmation came up about the other), dived, heard a bang, and reported a sinking, that was fairly common for submariners. The truth came up after the war when access to US records was available so he was considered a hero in wartime, I have a 1966 pubblication that still reports the episodes though it gives the BBs as "damaged" not "sunk". A better example could be Da Zara that mistook Cairo (8 x 4" guns) for a Southampton (12 x 6" guns and a better ROF than the Italian single craddle guns) in full daylight and so failed to close in with his two 8 x 6" cruisers.
     

Share This Page