The Facist Social Republic of Italy...

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
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PanzerKing
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The Facist Social Republic of Italy...

Post by PanzerKing » 26 Mar 2004 20:17

I have absolutly no knowledge of Italy's Army after the armistace. I'm aware that Mussolini still had Italians willing to fight the Allies, but I can't find any information about the "new" Italian Army. I would like to know the basics, you know, how large it was, effectiveness, combat experience, and bascially anything!

I would appreciate any info you could offer, thanks!

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 27 Mar 2004 01:42

This is quite a huge topic, there are some good books in Italian, while in English I've found only this good article: http://www.feldgrau.com/rsi.html. The OOB of the RSI was really a mess, with 5 armed forces (Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano, Marina Nazionale Repubblicana, Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana, Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana, Brigate Nere, plus the almost indipendent Xa MAS).
There were 7(+1) divisions:
ENR:
- 1st (later 4th) Apini Division "Monterosa" (Italian site: http://www.divisionealpinamonterosa.org)
- 2nd Grenadier Division "Littorio"
- 3rd Naval Infantry Division "San Marco"
- 4th (later 1st) Bersaglieri Division "Italia"

MNR
- Naval Infantry Division "Decima" (division made by the men of the Xa MAS; Italian/French site: http://www.decima-mas.net)
- [Naval Fusiliers Division "Atlantica"] (this was a Division only of name; it was composed only of a few companies in France)

ANR
- Anti-Parachutists Division "Aquila" (made of various detachments defending airports and other targets)

GNR
- Division "Enna" (made of various units of the GNR, usually listed as autonomous ones)

Most of these divisions weren't used as full units, but their regiments were often placed in different areas, sometimes in first line (Anzio, Gothic Line, Western Alps), but more often in anti-partizan duties.
To those divisions, as you'll see in the article of Feldgrau that I've linked, you have to add dozens of autonomous Regiments, Legions and even Battalions.

One of the major engagements fought on the front line by the RSI was operation "Wintergewitter" in Dec 1944 (see: http://www.comandosupremo.com/Winter.html).

There is a very complete site about the RSI, but it's all in Italian: http://www.italia-rsi.org/. This is the page about the Armed Forces of the RSI: http://www.italia-rsi.org/indexfarsi.htm (some pages have photos, but very few, except this page about the Armoured Group "Leonessa": http://www.italia-rsi.org/farsignr/farsileonessa/Data/album.htm).

This is a good site, again only in Italian, about the Brigate Nere (Black Brigades, anti-partizan units made of members of the Fascist Party): http://brigatenere.cjb.net/. This gallery is about their leader, Alessandro Pavolini, Secretary of the Partito Fascista Repubblicano: http://www.littorio.com/brigatenere/storia/fotopavo.htm. This is the OOB of the Brigate Nere: http://www.littorio.com/brigatenere/brigate/brigate-i.htm (there are photos in the links of this page).

This site, as usual in Italian only, is about the ANR: http://www.anrvirtual.com.

This site (in Italian, what a surprise!! :D... :() is about the uniforms and militaria of the RSI, there are often photos: http://web.tiscali.it/uniformirsi/.

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Post by PanzerKing » 29 Mar 2004 03:21

WOW! Thanks so much! There's almost no info out there for me to get access to about this, much appreciated!

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Post by Ostuf Charlemagne » 30 Mar 2004 03:06

THE GENESIS _ RSI ARMED FORCES :

By september 9th 1943 ,second day of the badoglian arimistice which switched side, Lt. Vincenzo Colacino ,with several Blackshirts and sailors who were garrisonned in Toulon harbour (southeast France) formed the “M-September 9th “ Battalion ( M stands for Mussolinian ) who denied to switch side .I will comeback tomorrow about this very special unit which became later the Special Forces of the RSI and was integrated within the german Brandenburg division ...By day 10th ,in Roma ,Blackshirts general Italo Romegialli ,commander of the Milizia Confinaria ,reactivate his border-guards units ,with the agreement of the germans .Meanwhile ,general Alberto Galamini reactivate his Blackshirts Air Defense militia .Indeed ,during the night of September 8th to 9th , as soon as it was known that Badoglio and the King switched side , the “Monte” battery under command of “centurione” (Blackshirts captain ) Alfonso Armerio opened fire against british aircrafts who believed to fly over an “allied” territory.This deed may be considered as the first combat action of the RSI armed forces . In the city of Ljubljana ,the “April XXI” Blackshirts division ,under command of general Niccolo Nicchiarelli ,proclaimed his will to keep fighting for Axis.In Ragusa ,Dalmatia ,it was the 49th Blacksh. Assault Legion ,in Plevja the 10th Blacksh.Group (colonel Palmieri) did the same .Always in the Balkans ,in Montenegro, regular army general Oxilia ,a monarchist one ,ordered his “Venezia”division to defect and rally the titists partisans . He just forgot the presence of the 31st regular army tank battalion and the 72nd Blacksh.Assault legion of colonel Bruno Calzolari which stand fighting against badoglians and titists .After that they would join the SS Nordland division and will be incorpored with their tanks into the Waffen-SS...when the Nordland will be sent to the russian front in 1944 ,those volunteers will be sent back to the italian SS Brigade .
At the same time the defection of the italian royal army made possibel for the titists to attack many istrian and dalmatian cities ...In Fiume the Blackshirts border-guards of the “Monte-Nevoso” and “Carnaro” legions would defend victoriously the city (the titists will enter in Fiume only by May 1945 ,at the end of the war ...)
In Sardinia island ,by september 9th 1943 ,it was the MILMART (Maritime Artillery Militia) of La Maddalena along with 12th Parachute battalion of major Rizzati,who denied the armistice and joined the 90th Panzergrenadier division ...These paratroopers will be later transferred to the RSI’s “Folgore” parachute regiment and major Rizzati will be killed in action at Anzio-Nettuno in defense of Roma ,in June 44.( In Sardinia ,fasscist guerrillas will be active in the moutains against the anglo-americans after the “liberation” of the Island . I will comeback further on that .) In the Egean islands ,the 7th infantry regiment “Cuneo” kept fighting at german side . To stay within regular army units which denied the armistice ,we have to mentionate the 3rd grenadier –regiment which was sent as representation of the king of Italy at the burial of king Boris in Bulgaria at the same period . This regiment joined the RSI . A regular army transport company of captain Paolo Paris joined the german 2nd parachute division and followed them in the russian front . More than 1000 italian soldiers in France joined the the SS Hitler-Jugend division as hiwis . The marines and seals of the famous X MAS stayed loyals to Axis . For the mountain troops ,the batallions “Exilles e Fenestrelle”, “Valle Isonzo”, “Val Pescara” and “Val Leogra” denied the armistice ...

The first infantery unit to see combat against the foreign invasor was the “Mussolini “ battalion formed even before the RSI was formed ,by young Balckshirt lieutenant Rino Cozzarini who regrouped a group of 400 royal army’s disbanded soldiers and was incorporated by the germans on the front ,holding a line front from Falciano to Mondragone against americans troops .In a very fierce battle the soldiers of Corrazini stopped an attack by US tanks ,armed only with coktails Molotov gas-bottles . They captured 300 US soldiers and 4 Sherman tanks . In November 43 this battalion would be detsroyed by units of the VIII british army and Cozzarini ,by than a captain ,killed in action . The name “Mussolini” will be recupered by a bersaglieri battalion formed by Blacksh.colonel Facchini in Milan with captured italian soldiers about to be send by the germans as POWs in Poland . Accompgnied by some germans officers Facchini went to the railroad station ,and says to the soldiers in the POWs train : - What do you prefers ,to follow me or to be prisonners ?
This battalion after a short training would be employed on the Venezia Giulia front against the titists and remains there up till the end of the war ,being one of the bravest RSI units . Those were the first italian units to pursue the fight ...But Mussolini was by than liberated and started to reforms a full army .


As soon as he was liberated from the Gran Sasso by the germans , Mussolini ordered the reconstitution of the Blackshirts Volunteer Militia For National Security (MVSN) and her specialized units ; Forrest Militia , Harbour Militia , Road Militia , Railroad Militia , Postal Militia ,Maritime Artillery Militia, Air Defense Militia ,Border-Guard Militia etc..... under general Ricci . These Blackshirts were forming ,along with the Carabinieri (military –rural police) and the survivors of the Colonial police , the Republican National Guard (GNR – again under general Ricci ... GNR chief of staff was Carabinieri general Mosca .)
The GNR answered to the Ministry of Security ( minister Buffarini) like the police . It is to be noted that the RSI’s police disponed of two special assault forces ,the Blackshirts “Ettore Muti” Legion ( an autonomous specialized antipartisans force,around 1.000 men under Blackshirts Colonel Colombo ) and the “Pietro Caruso “ Legion ,this one manned by policemen ,like a today SWAT.
In 1945 the strenght of the GNR was 72.000 men .


The regular army was rebuild in base at the men of the former Royal Army ,disarmed and sent as POWs in german camps in Germany and Poland . Of those 600.000 prisonners ,Mussolini hoped that at last 10% would volunteer for the fight ... but this number won’t be reached .So Mussolini had no choice but to order a mandatory military service ,which was a mistake since many young italians preferred to join the partisans for not to be enrolled within the army .(Just like in France the german –instaured Mandatory Work Service provocate many young men to join the partisans...)
Even so ,four divisions were forming and sent to training in Germany and came back to Italy only by November 1944 :

1st division “Italia” ( Bersaglieri – Light Infantry)
2nd division “Littorio” ( Infantry )
3rd division “San Marco“ ( Marines Infantry)
4th division “Monterosa” (Mountain)

Also some autonomous non-endivisionned small units who stayed in Italy ,engaged against the allies ,either anglo-americans or yugoslavians , like the “Apeninne Hunters “ regiment of colonel Languasco ,the 3rd and 8th Bersaglieri regiments ,the Mountain regiment “Tagliamento” (not to be confused with the GNR Blackshirts legion of same name) and some small units in the islands of the Agean Sea. In total about 55 - 60.000 men ,who depended of the Ministry of Defense ( minister : Marshall Rodolfo Graziani).
Also a Blackshirts division, the “Etna” antitank/antiaircraft artillery division(General Volante.Formed by the regrouping of all Air Defense Militia units – The “Etna“ didn’t fought as a division ,but some of his battalions were attached as support of other army or Blackshirts units ,as needed .), was allowed to the regular army.
It existed also an italian SS division ,but this one was under german high command.Most of the volunteers of the italian SS division were Blackshirts ,as most of officers .( It must be noted that after the armistice many italian soldiers had joined SS units ,not only the Nordland ,but also the 4th SS Polizei-division ,the 7th SS Prinz Eugen and the Goetz Von Berlinchingen. Nearly most of them were sent back to the italian brigade which became division at the end of the war . In the north of italy ,during the permanence of the LSSAH near Milan , 300 italians volunteered within the Leibstandarte. In 1944 ,only 50 were sent back to the italian SS brigade ,the others were either deads or didn’t want to left the Leibstandarte .... Those 50 men were the only ones of the italian brigade to have the SS tatoo .It must be noted too that during the jump of the SS parachute battalion at Drvar ,some were flew in italian SM-81 planes – with german markings – and italian pilots ,later to be incorporated within the RSI’s air force .)


The Air Force was about 34.000 strong ,incluiding the paratroopers of the “Folgore” regiment ( major Edoardo Sala). More than 700 aircrafts under Air Minister general Carlo Botto. Also a special Assault battalion for anti-parachutists task.

The Navy had some small ships under Naval Secretary ,Admiral Legnani .In fact the navy was present mostly thanks to the 4800 naval commandos of the X MAS of Prince Valerio Borghese .Some months later the X Mas became the 10th MAS Division ,an army within the army ,with her own PT and MTM launchs ,small biplace submarines ,a parachute /combat swimmers battalion , and some marines battalions specialized in antipartisans fight. In fact Borghese refused to obey anyone’s orders but his own (which would put him in some troubles with no less than Mussolini ...)

But in the mountains the GNR which had no choices but to cover the remote places by the way of small posts ,manned by only 10 or 20 men , is overred by the partisans who sometimes attack the post with 200 men , a far superior strenght .Slowly ,the insecurity reigns on the fascist rear-guard ...some instances between hundreds :

- May 3rd 1944 ,the partisans disguised as Blackshirts and entered the GNR post of Cerredolo, capturing the small garrison and tortured the 12 Blackshirts before to decapite them .....
- June 21st about 100 partisans assaulted the GNR post of Zocca Village ,capturing the small garrison and executing them the next day ....

Isolated Blackshirts were also good preys :

- June 9th 1944 ,GNR NCO Remo Nocentini is kidnapped by partisans and never to be seen again ...
- GNR militiaman Vasco Nardini is disarmed by five partisans and taken away ...
- GNR carabinieri Marcello battaglia is kidnapped in Sestola village ...
- GNR militiaman Tonino Cantergiani ,on leave ,is kidnapped in his own home ...
All these men are missing since then . Undefense civilians are easy victims ,too :
By April 15th 1944 the old Giovanni Gentile , a famous fascist philosopher , is murdered at Firenze . In the night of August 28th 1944 ,the Ugazio family is kidnapped at Galliate .The father Giuseppe Ugazio ,43 old ,is the secretary of the local Fascio (Fascist Party ‘s House), along with his two daughters , Cornelia 21 old and Mirka 13 old .... During an all night long orgy ,the father is finally killed by kicks in the groin while the two daughters are raped many times before to had their skulls broken by buttstrokes .

The command of the GNR ordered his troops to regroup near the cities, leaving the mountains in the hands of the partisans who proclaimed “liberated territories”...( In Montefiorino they declared a “Bolshevik Italian Republic” , a very short –lived one ,
where the communists partisans attacked three german trucks before to be hunted down by 200 german feldgendarmen .)

So the RSI’s government had to react ; In July 1944 ,Mussolini decreted the mobilization of the Republican Fascist Party whose members (the ones who did not belong already to the armed forces or GNR) would be organized within the Black Brigades . The missions of these brigades were to restaure the RSI’s authority in the remote zones ,to work on the civilian affairs ,to distribute food to the populations damged by allies bombings ,to assure the ambulances and mail services ,disrupted by the partisans ....
But for that they had to get rid of the partisans ,looking for them where they were
; in the mountains . As will says after the war Pino Romualdi – who was than Subsecretary of the Fascist Republican Party (*1) - :

“ Without the Black Brigades the italian life from summer 1944 to April 1945 would have been definitely detrimentalized . If the german commanders didn’t took control of the administration of the provinces ,it was thanks to the activities of the Black Brigades .” ...... A statement even more important when we know that Romualdi was ,during the war ,against the idea to mobilize the fascist party ! .The Black Brigades are inspired by the german counterinsurgency Jagdkommandos and committed to fight but didn’t enjoy police authority (unlike the GNR) ; they can’t arrest people in their homes ,at last in the cities .... It will be one Black Brigade ( two or three battalions each )in each italian province , a total of 44 Black Brigades plus 8 Mobile Black Brigades and the assault battalion “Forli” . (Unlike the GNR,the Black Brigadist wears a black model 43 style cap with a silvered death’s head .)Each Black Brigade is named after a fascist martyr .
The mobiles Black Brigades having the duty to reforce the local Brigade when a huge force of partisans was spotted ....But by 1945 most of the mobiles brigades were integrated within german army divisions and fought against the anglo-american invasors. (For instance the german 148th ID has the “Tulio Bertoni” Black Brigade.)The chief of each brigade was the local fascist “Federale” while the commander in chief was Fascist Party secretary Pavolini (which commanded personally the 1st Mobile Brigade ,being wounded in combat with this unit and awarded the Verwundetenabzeichen by the germans.)
With that ,the fascist were able to launch a sery of counteroffensives in the mountains

*1- Pino Romualdi : Deputy of the European Parliament for the MSI Party in the 80’s.Died in 1989.
_________________________________________________________________________

during the autumn ,which disarticulated the partisan movement ( Cleaning of the Ossola valley in the Alps,(B.Brigades along with many GNR battalions ),where it was colonel Vezzalini who announced the victory to Mussolini .... also the operations of the “Tagliamento” GNR Legion in Schio and the Grappa, also near Turin where the “Leonessa” Blackshirts armoured battalion captured 100 partisans ,killing 400 in combat during a lone battle ,which destroyed the partisan “Mulatero” communist brigade... also in the Sesia valley where the Blackshirts “Ettore Muti” Legion of the police destroyed the forces of communist commander Cino Moscatelli .The autumn 1944 was the “darkest hours “ of the partisan movement.)

In the meanwhile ,in Bologna city ,the fascists discovered that the communists had a secret base inside the city ! Indeed within the ruines of the old Major Hospital ,where 200 partisans were hidding .An assault force of 150 Blackshirts of the local “Facchini” Black Brigade , 50 policemen and 50 german feldgendarmen ended the situation after a brieve fight ...Most of the partisans prefered to escape by a secret tunnel . Inside the basement the fascists discovered a reserve of food ,weapons and most importantly ,german and fascist uniforms which were used by the partisans to commit kidnappings.In fact ,during some months ago, many women and fascists had misteriously disappeared from the city ... In the hospital’s gardens ,the Black Brigadists discovered mass graves and the naked remains of men and women ,these last ones serving for the “fun” of the communist partisans before to be tortured and murdered.

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Post by Ostuf Charlemagne » 30 Mar 2004 03:15

The “ Servizi Speciali “ agents :

In the allies –occupied South Italy , some fascist guerrillas groups had ben forming with Blackshirts and youngsters to young to fight before . They were in contact with the RSI’s staff who parachuted them some agents of the “Servizi Speciali” who were sent for training of these groups or ,simply, as saboteurs and spies...
Many of these Blackshirts secret agents would be captured and executed by allies firing sqauds..... For instance ; by January 21st , April 16th and April 30th of 1944 , it was 7 executions at Caserta .
By May 6th 1944 , six executions at the cemetery of Santa Maria Capua Vetere – it is also in this locality’s jail that would die under torture by the US Military Police , the agent Paolo Paoletti .... ( and it will be remembered that at the Nuremberg trials ,the americans judges sentenced to death as war criminals the policemen of the german Gestapo who had tortured allies agents...)

The day May 31st 1944 ,at Nisida island ( in the bay of Naples) : 3 executions .

It was also a feminile squad within the Servizi Speciali ,the “Silver She-Wolves” ,formed by fascist young girls less than 18 years old ( this way ,it was hoped that the allies wouldn’t execute them if captured ....but it was not always to be so since some died under torture.) This group was directed by Princess Maria Pignatelli who was herself active behind allies lines .The Servizi Speciali was commanded by naval captain De Santis .
THE X MAS :
Prince Valerio Borghese was commander of the X MAS . This extraordinary soldier was the founder of the elite combat swimmers who had stormed the british ships in Malta ,Suda ,Gibraltar and Alexandry (Egypt)...they were about to launch a raid into New York harbour, a plan aborted because of the badoglian armistice . During the 600 days of the RSI ,his commandos would receive orders only from him...and after a disagreement with Mussolini ,Borghese declared himself autonomous and concluded a special pact with the III Reich ,becoming a “personal ally” of nazi Germany ... Which infuriated Mussolini who ordered his arrest . But his men ,an army within the army ,where not about to let him be arrested and Mussolini revocated his order ,Borghese being just too prestigious. This authentic Prince was not a nazi ,not even a fascist ; he was a monarchist ! Even if his personal sympathies were for the king of Italy ,Borghese considered the badoglian armistice of 1943 as a betrayal so he joined the Social Republic of Mussolini .
At the end of the war ,the germans had annexed the italian territories which had belonged to the Austro-hungarian empire ; the Friul ,the High Adige,the Trentin and part of the Istria . As would write Borghese in his memories after the war :- “It was nothing the government of Mussolini could do about this severe threat ,even if the future of those territories ,which costed Italy 600.000 deads during three years of fight ( in WW1...), was in danger .”
So the X MAS (*2) rebelled against the germans. During the spring of 1944 ,the marines of the MAS took position inside those territories , flashing italian banners .


*2 – MAS stands for “ Mezzi d’Asalto Subacquai” - Means of Underwater Assault
and for “Memento Audace Semper” - Remember to Dare Always – the latin
motto of the unit. “X” stands for “10th ” in souvenir of the epic Tenth Legion of
Roman times.

Gauleiter Reiner ,the german governor of High-Adige, ordered the arrest of Borghese ...Now a war between fascists and germans was about to raise . To the germans officer who came , in a very uneasy fashion ,to arrest him ,Borghese looked proud ,telling them that he was a personal ally of Adolf Hitler so they had better to go before his men
would open fire . Meanwhile ,in Berlin , the admiral Doenitz , high – commander of the german navy ,interceded with Hitler at Borghese’s behalf . And his men stayed on these positions .
THE FOLGORE PARACHUTE RGT :
Major Edoardo Sala was commander of the parachute regiment “Folgore” ,another very famous elite unit of the RSI . (Wounded twice during the Spanish Civil War , being raised to officer for “ merit of War” ,he fought in the alpine front as a lieutenant of mountain troops in 1940 and volunteered for the paratroopers in 1941. In 1943 fought in Sicily as commander of 3rd battalion of the “Nembo” parachute regiment . By September 9th 1943 ,when the badoglians switched side officially ,he announced in writen his chiefs ,that his unit would keep fighting the allies “ for the Honour of Italy “.) The parachute regiment Folgore sent his “Nembo” battalion to the battle of Anzio ( where ,interestingly ,they had captured about 50 Thompson smgs ,and since those are heavy ,they employed them as squad light machine guns ...) were the paratroopers will fight very bravely . ( after that the Folgore regiment will fight partisans and french alpine troops during the battle of the Alps,up in the north .) Also at the Anzio battle was a Blackshirts battalion , the X MAS battalion “Barbarigo”, the “San Giorgio” artillery group and the 2nd battalion of the 1st italian SS regiment under command of Ostubaf.Deggli Oddi ,former Blackshirts colonel. The italians SS will fight so bravely that even Himmler will be impressed and will authorize the italians SS to wears black SS spiegeln instead of the red spiegeln .(The SS battalion went to combat with a strenght of 650 men by March 17th 1944 .It will be only 146 survivors by June 5th 1944. 29 men will be awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class , 16 men the KVK II and 10 will receive the italian silver medal to the military valour ,RSI equivalent of the EK I. Plus 57 men will be promoted for bravery .)
At Anzio the RSI’s troops were supported from the sky by the “Buscaglia” Group of aerosiluranti (torpedoes-aircrafts on SM-79 planes). More to follows tomorrow ...

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Post by Ostuf Charlemagne » 30 Mar 2004 03:24

Alessandro Pavolini ,general secretary of Fascist Republican Party and commander of the Black Brigades during a speech with an SS officer ...

Major Visconti ,ace of RSI's air force (26 victories)

Santa Lucia d'Isonzo,1944,soldiers of the bersaglieri "Mussolini" battalion listens to the speech of an SS Sturmbannfuehrer.
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Post by Ostuf Charlemagne » 30 Mar 2004 03:33

A Black Brigade volunteer (with Beretta 9mm smg) and a GNR captain.

A member of the "Ettore Muti" mobile autonomous police legion,with a captured sten smg .

The 8th "Aldo Resega" Black Brigade desfiling in Milan .
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Post by Ostuf Charlemagne » 30 Mar 2004 03:36

Member card of a Black Brigade man , in italian/german .It have to bear the signature of the local HSSPF....
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Post by DrG » 30 Mar 2004 15:06

Thank you very much for your very detailed info! :)
But I want to add just a comment about this passage:
Ostuf Charlemagne wrote:By september 9th 1943 ,second day of the badoglian arimistice which switched side

Although I'm far from being a fan of Badoglio, an armistice is only an armistice, not a switch of sides. Almost always the first who attacked the former ally were the Germans (even in lands belonging to Italy), without a declaration of war, and sometimes killing the officers of the units that had resisted.
There is a thread that is related to this topic:
Fate of Italian Army units 9/43.

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Post by DrG » 30 Mar 2004 15:40

Ostuf Charlemagne wrote:It was also a feminile squad within the Servizi Speciali ,the “Silver She-Wolves” ,formed by fascist young girls less than 18 years old ( this way ,it was hoped that the allies wouldn’t execute them if captured ....but it was not always to be so since some died under torture.) This group was directed by Princess Maria Pignatelli who was herself active behind allies lines .The Servizi Speciali was commanded by naval captain De Santis.

The translation of their name is wrong: they were the "Volpi Argentate" ("Silver Foxes"). Some, like Carla Costa (I've seen a photo of her, really a beautiful girl) and Carla Saglietti, were only 17-years-old, but it wasn't so common. The commander was Tommaso David, whose false name used for reasons of secrecy was De Santis.
The commander of Fascist resistance in Southern Italy was Valerio Pignatelli dei principi di Cerchiara, a war hero (decorated for military valour, 7 times wounded), but an important role was also of his wife Maria, who was able to reach Mussolini twice passing through the Gothic Line.

By the way, for the first time in Italian history, also women were allowed to become members of the Armed Forces. The SAF (Servizio Ausiliario Femminile), commanded by Brigadier General countess Piera Gatteschi Fondelli had a total of 4,500 women (300 KIA and 330 WIA and MIA).

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Post by DrG » 30 Mar 2004 15:51

Ostuf Charlemagne wrote:THE X MAS:
Prince Valerio Borghese was commander of the X MAS . This extraordinary soldier was the founder of the elite combat swimmers who had stormed the british ships in Malta ,Suda ,Gibraltar and Alexandry (Egypt)...they were about to launch a raid into New York harbour, a plan aborted because of the badoglian armistice . During the 600 days of the RSI ,his commandos would receive orders only from him...and after a disagreement with Mussolini ,Borghese declared himself autonomous and concluded a special pact with the III Reich ,becoming a “personal ally” of nazi Germany ... Which infuriated Mussolini who ordered his arrest.

Borghese wasn't the founder of the Xa MAS of the Regia Marina, he was "only" its last and most successfull commander. About his personal alliance with Germany, it was based on a treaty signed with the Germans a few days after the Armistice, while his arrest and following liberation happened later.
At the end of the war ,the germans had annexed the italian territories which had belonged to the Austro-hungarian empire ; the Friul ,the High Adige,the Trentin and part of the Istria.

Those areas formed the Operations Zones Alpenvorland and Adriatisches Künstland, not exactly annexed although pratically under German control.
Gauleiter Reiner ,the german governor of High-Adige, ordered the arrest of Borghese ...Now a war between fascists and germans was about to raise . To the germans officer who came , in a very uneasy fashion ,to arrest him ,Borghese looked proud ,telling them that he was a personal ally of Adolf Hitler so they had better to go before his men
would open fire . Meanwhile ,in Berlin , the admiral Doenitz , high – commander of the german navy ,interceded with Hitler at Borghese’s behalf . And his men stayed on these positions .
I've read a funny account of the incident between Borghese and the Germans: when the German officer, in the office of Borghese, told him that the building was encircled by German soldiers and that he should look them from the window, Borghese told him that the German instead had to watch outside of the window. The officer was extremely surprised to discover that his soldiers had been encircled by those of the Xa MAS! :D

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 30 Mar 2004 16:09

The Duce Benito Mussolini with Marshal of Italy Rodolfo Graziani, Minister of War of the RSI and commander of the Army "Liguria" (Ligurien AOK):
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Prince Junio Valerio Borghese, commander of the Xa MAS and vice-Chief of Staff of the Marina Nazionale Repubblicana:
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Gen. Arrigo Tessari, Chief of Staff of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (7 March - 26 July 1944), while decorating the son of major Mario Rizzatti (KIA defending Rome on 4 June 1944):
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Gen. Ruggero Bonomi (since 26 Nov. 1944), Chief of Staff of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana:
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Gen. Renato Ricci, commander of the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana:
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Alessandro Pavolini, Secretary of the Partito Fascista Repubblicano and commnader of the Brigate Nere:
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Post by Ostuf Charlemagne » 31 Mar 2004 03:55

Ave,Camerata DrG !

Thanks for the corrections ,but you are mistaken in one thing ; yes the armistice was a switching of things . When the badoglians signed the armistice ,they did it notifying the switching of side ,but they signed with the condition that the allies wouldn't mentionate it so to give time to Badoglio to be able to attack better the germans at the back . The allies agreed .But Churchill wasn't really sure about thje game of badoglio and the King ,so he ordered actually the british Broadcast to announce publicly the switching of side of the royal italian government so to "wet them " (as we say in spanish and in french ) , after that ,evern if the king and Badoglio were pissed-off ,they had no more choice ( a coice they already made ,anyway ...) The germans learned about the switch of side by the british broadcast ,so they attacked the badoglians - which were not expecting the german assault by this time ,of course .

A NOI !

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Post by Ostuf Charlemagne » 31 Mar 2004 04:07

Here what I have about the SAF :

It existed also women and girls within RSI’s armed forces .They were the volunteers of the SAF (Feminine Auxiliary Service ) whose duties were as cooks ,secretaries or paramedics / nurses.
Feminine auxiliaries were within all branches of the armed forces and also within the Blackshirts ,GNR and Black Brigades .The SAF was formed by decret #447 of Mussolini ,April 18th 1944 and around 5.000 women served within ,under command of general commander Piera Gatteschi.
The most famous auxiliary was ,without doubts ,Franca Barbier , auxiliary of the famous X MAS . Captured after a fight ,the partisans were impressed by her beauty and they offered her to spare her life if she had pass on their side .Franca Barbier denied to betray and was shot by firing squad by July 1944 (The first war crime against feminine auxiliaries).She died saying “Long life to the Duce !!” After that ,the RSI’s government allowed her posthumely the Golden Medal to Military Valour ,italian equivalent of the german Ritterkreuz ,being the only one feminine auxiliary to reach so high an award . ( Five others auxiliaries would receive the Silver Medal –equivalent to the Iron Cross 1st class – and 47 would receive the War Cross ...)
Some of these auxiliaries served within the italian SS division (but with RSI’s army SAF uniforms , not female SS uniforms ).
In war actions ,the women and girls of the SAF had the following losses :
25 killed in action . 8 woundeds in action . 7 missing .
After the war and as POWs of partisans and badoglians ,the losse would rise higher :
274 executed or slaughtered , 301 woundeds as result of ill treatment , 21 missing.
For a total of : 299 deads , 309 woundeds , 28 missing ...

During the fight for Milan ,at the end of the war ,many fascists fought as roof –shooters .We don’t know their exact number because there ,it was a spontaneous action ,not organized by the fascists chiefs .Indeed it was about one week fight between partisans and fascists ,April 1945 .
Among these roof-shooters , some women ,figuring the fate which awaited them by the partisans, choised to fight up till the end . In Giason del Maino street , three feminine auxiliaries fought hopelessly during 3 hours – wounding an armed partisan - before to be captureds . The three were summary executed on the spot.
Pics : Franca Barbier .
The auxiliaries of 8th Black Brigade "Aldo Resega" of Milan with their commander ,the blond Rina Pozzi .

PS : DrG .... Do you have some infos about Marchioness Wally Sandoninno ,commander of the auxiliaries of the italian SS division ? What happened to her at the end of the war ??
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Post by Ostuf Charlemagne » 31 Mar 2004 04:09

THE ASSAULT BTL “VENEZIA GIULIA” :

By the armistice ,in Zara in 1943 ,(today Zadar ,in Croatia .At this time it was italian territory.) some schools students recupered some weapons abandoned by the italian 2nd Army (which fled to the titists partisans ) and formed a volunteer company named “Vukasina” – after the name of a Zara born ustachi croat ,killed in action who was awarded posthumely ,by the italians ,the Golden medal to military valour ,italian equivalent of the Ritterkreuz.- .... The oldest of these volunteers is 22 old .They recieve the help of two regular army lieutenants of the 2nd Army ,who denied to switch side , Renato Milardi and Francesco Vigiak .These officers gave these kids a quick and dirty training (titists are coming close.) Those youngsters are the only ones to defend the city in action against a huge titist offensive ,along with an Arditi (commandos) Blackshirts company under command of Lt. Ajmone Finestra ,which denied armistice too and went to help the kids of the “Vukasina”. After the victorious defense of the city ,some frictions between the italians and the croatians ustachis motivate the calling off of the two companies . These become the nucleus of a full Blackshirts battalion with 4 companies ( the Arditi Co being the first one and the Vukasina the second one .) under command of Ajmone Finestra (always alive today...) . This unit is named “ Assault battalion M – Venezia Giulia “ and is incorpored within the GNR as soon as the Duce reforms his army .
In the autumn of 1944 ,for the fascists the biggest problem is the Ossola Valley ,in the Alps ,where the communists ans monarchists partisans have regrouped a force of 5 divisions plus one brigade . ( Partisan’s divisions are at regiment strenght ; 2000 men .They brigades are ,in fact ,at battalion strenght .) Near this zone ,another partisan communist division ,the 1st Garibaldian , his holding two more valleys , Grande and Cannobina .The partisans converted these places as fortresses ,using the abandonned bunkers of the old defense line against France (the famous Valle Alpino) ,there is even a long antitank moat which would preclude the fascists to use their vehicles .So far the partisans take great pride in their invicible fortress .They are heavily armed thanks to allies air drops .
But by october 1944 ,the fascists have regrouped their best units for an offensive :

- the crack parachute regiment “Folgore”,
- the marines of the “Castagnacci” battalion of the X MAS ( both units have the task to clean the Grande and Cannobina valleys of the 1st communist division .)

The biggest piece ,the Ossola ,is the task of the Blackshirts with :

- GNR assault battalion “M- Venezia Giulia”,starting from Gravellona Toce village ,
- GNR battalion “Debizza” ,covering the right flank of the “Venzia Giulia”,
- one GNR cadet/school battalion,in the Strona valley ,
- the “Cristina” Black Brigade as a reserve at Intra ,
- the autonomous movil “Ettore Muti” Blackshirts police legion ,
- plus some units of the border-guards Milizia Confinaria (up in the North near the swiss border to cut the route of escape of the partisans .)


Their mission is the complete cleansing of the Ossola valley and to conquist Domodossola city where the partisans had their headquarters . The attack begins by october 10th with a frontal assault against the partisan’s first line which breaks by day 11th ,under the preissure of the “Venezia Giulia” btl .
The partisans retreat behind the antitank moat which ends at the Toce river .The Blackshirts assaults are –this time –deterred , so commander Ajmone Finestra order to go by the mount Massone and fall on the back of the partisans , which provokes the collapse of the partisan’s front . The partisans begins a tactical retreat which soon converts into an escape and the “Venezia Giulia “ enters victoriously in Domodossola ,allowing Blackshirts colonel Vezzalini – which commands the cleansing operation – to send a telegramm to Mussolini ,”We entered Domodossola at 17 hrs.”
Meanwhile ,the San Giacomo Pass have been secured by Confinaria ‘s border-guards after heavy fighting . Now the “Venezia Giulia” seizes the border post of Isella .They set up road blocks and check points because they know that some partisans managed to refuge in Switzerland and the battalion is tasked to avoide more crossings .
From there the battalion send some companies to Valescio ,at 2500 meters high ,to pursue the partisan battalion “Fanfulla” ,indeed ,the enemy rear-guard . Blackshirts and partisans must to adapt as alpinists ,by now ... At the same time ,in a near snowy rocky mountains ,the Ski platoon of the “Ettore Muti “ Legion reveals as a valuable asset too . The reign of the partisans in the Ossola valley had lasted 34 days .

But six months later , the situation has worsened for the RSI and Mussolini think to fight the last stand in the fascist Alpine Reduct of the Valtellina . Ironically ,the “Venezia Giulia” will fight in the same theater of operations . The partisans have reformed and received reforcements previously hidden in Switzerland ...
( end of April 1945 ) . The Blackshirts GNR battalion “Veneza Giulia” failed to pass on his way to the Valtellina . Encircled ,the battalion manage to get out thanks to the power of fire of some old tanks of the Blackshirts GNR armoured battalion “Leonessa” ( the only armoured unit of the RSI ) . In their retreat ,the commander Ajmone Finestra find a company of 200 german feldgendarmen under command of a captain Stamm ,who denied to cease the fight as ordered by SS general Wolff.The feldgendarmen have two armoured cars . Neither Finestra nor Stamm wanted to surrender to the partisans . They decided to go south to surrender to the americans .For that ,the battalion assaulted the city of Arona ,on his way south ,where many partisan’s units concentred to block his way ... There the Blackshirts disguised as partisans with civilians clothes and red handkerchiefs at the neck .This way they closed on the communists . A quick ,silent ,close quarter battle with knives . At the same time the two german armoured cars appeared at high velocity ,shooting their machine guns and 20 mm cannons .Not only would the Blackshirts pass ,but they also captured the complete staff of the communist “Val Grande Martire” division . When the Blackshirts had left Arona , in reprisals the communists shot , under the statute of San Carlo Borromeo in this city , 35 POWs belonging to the “Cristina” Black Brigade ...
The “Venezia Giulia” battalion will surrender to the US troops – which granted them the Honours of War – by May 9th 1945 , after having sustained a siege (the unit had entrenched inside an old army quarters ,fighting the partisans up till the americans appeared.) and after having spend all the ammunition . When they surrended ,the Blackshirts delivered the captured partisans of the communist division . All were unarmeds . The “Venezia Giulia” troopers and the feldgendarmen went to an american POWs camp.This way commander Finestra has saved the lifes of his men .

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