OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

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Carl Schwamberger
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OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Mar 2023 10:36

Trying to track down references for a possible OSS operation in or near Naples Italy March & April 1943. Specifically a radio team transmitting information about Axis air operations on airfields near Naples. Referals to reliable sources that mention such a operation are most appreciated.


Thanks & Grazie

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 15 Mar 2023 18:55

Hi Carl,

I had a look in the British Intelligence OH Vol 2 which covers this period. Nothing to report in there, although it focusses on intelligence assistance to anti-shipping operations as the Tunisian campaign came to an end rather than the air campaign. It does mention SIS reports on that though, so it might be that SIS and OSS were working together at that point. If I come across anything else I'll post it up here.

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 15 Mar 2023 19:03

Carl,

My interest tickled, I did a quick search and found this:

https://www.nps.gov/articles/oss-in-act ... eaters.htm

which includes the following quotes,
Under an inter-Allied agreement, British SOE continued to have overall responsibility for the special operations in the Mediterranean Theater, including those of the American OSS. The first unit of Italian SI recruits, three officers and nine enlisted men, arrived in March 1943, a second contingent in June. From the United States, representatives of MO, R&A, and X-2 arrived in mid-1943.

[...]

OSS agents went ashore soon after the U.S. Fifth Army’s initial landing at Salerno, south of Naples, on 9 September 1943.
Which suggests it is unlikely that there were OSS agents in Naples that early, but perhaps they were Italians working for SOE?

Regards

Tom

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Mar 2023 19:19

That was my first thought, but the note I kept was a list of OSS ops. That group was active wi II Corps in Tunisia.

I need to track down the item I got the note from.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 15 Mar 2023 23:27

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Mar 2023 19:19
That was my first thought, but the note I kept was a list of OSS ops. That group was active wi II Corps in Tunisia.

I need to track down the item I got the note from.
I’ll have a look at the SOE files on the UK archives search engine and see if there is anything that springs out.

I think there are a couple of relatively recent books on SOE operations in Italy as well. I’ll check my library and see if I can get them.

Regards

Tom

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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 16 Mar 2023 12:59

Thanks. This touches on the final air battles for Tunisia March April 1943 in a minor way.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 16 Mar 2023 17:40

Hi Carl,

I found this on-line in UK Foreign Office papers:
FO954-24A-145 - Feb 43.jpg
It was dated 7 February 1943.

It's not quite what you are looking for, but suggests at least some SOE links to Italian opposition groups in the Naples area. Whether that extended to information about air operations I couldn't say. It might be useful to look at the Sigint files though, as the British Intelligence history does describe that playing an important role during this period. Could the OSS story have been an early cover-story for intercepts?

Regards

Tom
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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 16 Mar 2023 17:57

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
16 Mar 2023 17:40
. Whether that extended to information about air operations I couldn't say. It might be useful to look at the Sigint files though, as the British Intelligence history does describe that playing an important role during this period. Could the OSS story have been an early cover-story for intercepts?
That fits too. There are references to the NAAF using signals intel to study the assembly of the cargo & air transport for the massed air transport missions in late March and April 1943. Elsewhere the organization & operating scheme for intercepting the cargo transports described is not a simple BoB style intercept. As things evolve in March it is multilayered with considerable coordination and timing in the sortie of fighter groups/wings. It appeared to require more notice than long range radar identification would allow.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 18 May 2023 13:59

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Mar 2023 10:36
Trying to track down references for a possible OSS operation in or near Naples Italy March & April 1943. Specifically a radio team transmitting information about Axis air operations on airfields near Naples. Referals to reliable sources that mention such a operation are most appreciated.


Thanks & Grazie
Hi Carl,

I’ve been looking in “Target Italy: The Secret war against Mussolini, 1940-1943” which is a well-referenced official history of SOE in Italy published in 2014 and author was Roderick Bailey.

Basically British attempts to infiltrate SOE and apparently MI6 operatives into Fascist Italy were few and almost entirely unsuccessful. He discusses some OSS operations but doesn’t mention any in or near Naples in early 1943. I would suggest it highly likely that he would have mentioned such an operation if it was anything more than a cover story for Ultra information. It would also appear that SOE were making some exaggerated claims about the extent to which they were contributing to anti-Italian operations.

Regards

Tom

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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 May 2023 14:50

Thanks Tom. The volume I think I got the item from is missing from my shelf. Another borrowed and not returned? Cover for ULTRA or signals intel in general is possible. The earliest example of OSS ops in Italy I've found so far is in Sicilly.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 20 May 2023 19:54

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
18 May 2023 14:50
Thanks Tom. The volume I think I got the item from is missing from my shelf. Another borrowed and not returned? Cover for ULTRA or signals intel in general is possible. The earliest example of OSS ops in Italy I've found so far is in Sicilly.
Hi Carl,

It is also interesting to note that according to the Foreign Office document I posted above the SOE looked pretty successful in setting up saboteurs all over Italy whereas in fact, and as the Official History reveals, they were being very successfully deceived by the Italian security services (OVRA and SIM). By reporting all accidents (train crashes, factory fires, etc) as acts of sabotage, the Italians persuaded the British that there was a team of operatives who were worthy of increasing support - all of which landed straight into the hands of the Italian services!

I would love to hear what Churchill said when they told him that it was all a sham!

Regards

Tom

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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 May 2023 05:42

Sounds like the SOE operation in the Netherlands. Was compromised by the Abwehr in 1941 & the Brits were played for months. They finally accepted their entire Netherlands operation was countered and shut it down in the winter/spring of 1942. It appears the intelligence service had trouble accepting anything from the Netherlands after that.

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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Platon Alexiades » 25 May 2023 21:38

Hi Carl and Tom,

AFAIK, there were no OSS operations in the Naples area in the Spring of 1943. I would suggest the book "OSS in Italy 1942-1945" by Max Corvo who was in charge of operations. One problem would have been transportation as agents would have had to be either parachuted or brought by submarine. I can unequivocally state that no one was landed by submarine as I have all the patrol reports of Allied submarines in the Mediterranean. As for parachuting, this would have been very difficult; Naples was well defended by the Italian Air Force and also units of the GAF and parachuting agents in a densely populated area would not have been recommended. The first OSS operations appear to have occurred in Sicily with agents landed by US PT boats from 15 Squadron. Corvo considered landing agents in Sardinia but this proved to be beyond the normal range of PT boats. However, a mission was successfully accomplished on 28 June 1943. As Roderick Bailey wrote, most agents infiltrated in Italy before the Italian Armistice were usually caught within a short time. The war diaries of General Cesare Amé (head of the Italian Secret Service) makes no mention of such an operation during this period although he was aware that attempts were being made to infiltrate agents through Switzerland.

The only operation in the Naples area that I know of was operation BLACKBIRD with two SIS agents landed by the submarine HMS Utmost on 9 October 1942 near Lido di Nicola (a few miles north of Naples). They were Italian anti-fascists and were caught almost immediately and executed in November 1942.

Best regards,

Platon Alexiades

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: OSS Operation @ Naples Italy 1943

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 28 May 2023 20:15

Platon Alexiades wrote:
25 May 2023 21:38
I would suggest the book "OSS in Italy 1942-1945" by Max Corvo who was in charge of operations.
Hi Platon,

Thanks, I'll see if I can get hold of that one.
Platon Alexiades wrote:
25 May 2023 21:38
I can unequivocally state that no one was landed by submarine as I have all the patrol reports of Allied submarines in the Mediterranean.
Thanks. Good point.
Platon Alexiades wrote:
25 May 2023 21:38
The only operation in the Naples area that I know of was operation BLACKBIRD with two SIS agents landed by the submarine HMS Utmost on 9 October 1942 near Lido di Nicola (a few miles north of Naples). They were Italian anti-fascists and were caught almost immediately and executed in November 1942.
Yes, and Bailey suggests that their capture might have been due to the capture of a previous submarine-landed MI6 agent on Sicily.

All in all, the security services of Fascist Italy seem to have very successfully defended against attempts to infiltrate agents and saboteurs by the Allies. I'd not realised how successful previously, so thanks to Carl and yourself for stirring my interest.

Regards

Tom

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