Italian Division in Normandy

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panzertruppe2001
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Italian Division in Normandy

Post by panzertruppe2001 » 03 May 2004 00:26

Some year ago i had read in a Mussolinni biography that an Italian Division was based in Normandy in 1944. I do not remember the name, but i think is something like Monterossa.
Could anybody help me with information?

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 03 May 2004 01:06

In France there was the Division Atlantica, but it wasn't complete and it was in Bordeaux. In whole France (included Normandy) there were 35,000/40,000 Italians among many fighting and auxiliary units.

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panzertruppe2001
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Post by panzertruppe2001 » 03 May 2004 17:43

Thanks DrG. Do you know if this Italian troops fight or what happen with them?

Thanks

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Post by DrG » 03 May 2004 18:10

Those Italians in Normandy were always in German units, thus sharing their fate. In my source (Nino Arena's "Forze Armate della RSI - 1944") there is a list of German units with Italian soldiers in France, many units are of fortress, coastal and AA artillery regiments. Only of a few of them is written their place, the following were in Normandy:
- 645. Kust.Art.Rgt.
- 651. Fest.Art.Rgt.
- 855. Fest.Art.Rgt.
There were Italians also in the coastal artillery in Cherbourg and many other French towns not in Normandy (Le Havre, Calais, Brest, Lorient, etc.).

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DrG
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Post by DrG » 30 May 2004 23:30

On the newspaper "Corriere della Sera" of 31 May 2004 there is an interesting article about the Italians in Normandy.
The info provided are different from those of Nino Arena, in fact the article mentions these units:
- 736. Grenadier Regiment: Italian bersaglieri fought bravely
- 716. Division: Italian truck-drivers from Piedmont, formerly interned in Germany, deserted at the beginning of the attack
- 1261. Artillery Regiment: Italians manned the guns of the 4th battery, in a wood behind the fort of Marcouf in the Utah beach, sank an enemy destroyer
- 1261., 1262., 1709. Artillery Regiments: a third of their soldiers was Italian; they were destroyed fighting against British tanks in Montebourg between 19 and 27 June 1944
- 24 artillery batteries were manned by Italians in first line in Normandy
- there were Italians in the garrison of the island-fortress of Cézembre, near St. Malo. It was terribly bombed, and surrendered on 1st Sept. 1944; among the survivors there were 69 Italians.

This is the full text of the article:
Quegli irriducibili nell’isola-bunker che non volevano cedere agli Alleati

di Gianluca Di Feo


Quella mattina sulle coste della Normandia c’erano anche loro. Una piccola armata di italiani che per scelta, per convenienza o per obbligo era schierata dalla parte dei tedeschi. Migliaia di uomini impegnati lungo il «vallo atlantico»: ventimila secondo alcune stime, addirittura 40 mila secondo altre. Basta guardare alle spiagge del primo sbarco: all’alba del D-Day negli scacchieri di Omaha, Utah, Juno e Gold c’erano almeno cinque unità italiane in armi. Invece gli alpini della «Trento», costretti a lavorare per l’organizzazione Todt, approfittarono del caos e fuggirono verso casa. «E’ stato un inferno - ricorda Antonio Cipriani -. A mezzanotte sembrava di essere in pieno giorno tante le bombe che cadevano: i morti non si contavano. Nella confusione dell’attacco, io e tre miei compaesani siano scappati». Durante i raid si diedero alla macchia anche i camionisti piemontesi che per uscire dal lager avevano accettato di servire con la colonna mobile della 716ma divisione. Invece i mitraglieri aggregati al 736mo granatieri, quasi tutti bersaglieri, tentarono un disperato contrattacco. E gli artiglieri del 1261mo restarono ai pezzi, sparando contro la più grande flotta di tutti i tempi. Nel settore Utah, in un bosco dietro al forte di Marcouf, la quarta batteria - personale italiano e comando tedesco - distrusse un cacciatorpediniere: «Centrammo un colpo dopo l’altro - ha scritto il colonnello Triepel -. Uno spezzò il timone, perché la nave cominciò a sbandare. Poi sprofondò di prua».

STORIA DIMENTICATA - La storia di questi soldati si è dissolta, persa nel grande caos seguito all’armistizio. Esiste un’unica traccia certa: gli archivi della Feldpost, il servizio postale germanico che permettono di ricostruire movimenti e composizione delle forze armate hitleriane. Uno storico - Gianni Giannoccolo - è riuscito a selezionare un elenco di unità tedesche composte anche da militari italiani. Evidenzia almeno 60 reparti attivi sul fronte atlantico. Berlino dopo l’8 settembre aveva inquadrato gli «alleati» in piccoli nuclei, compagnie o al massimo battaglioni. I compiti erano scelti in base all’affidabilità. In prima linea chi si era immediatamente mostrato fedele al Reich: in Normandia armavano ben 24 batterie di artiglieria pesante. Chi invece aveva «aderito» alla Rsi dopo la cattura, andava nella contraerea o nei trasporti. I prigionieri leali ai Savoia invece finivano nei cantieri della Todt: furono loro a costruire la fortezza di Longues sur Mer - oggi trasformata in museo - che tenne sotto tiro Omaha e Gold. Parecchi autisti italiani guidavano le colonne dei rifornimenti. Persino le tre divisioni corazzate delle SS mandate da Hitler per «ricacciare in mare» l’armata anglobritannica avevano dei contingenti di volontari di Salò. E in tanti non tornarono. Tra il 19 e il 27 giugno a Montebourg tre reggimenti di artiglieria (1261, 1262 e 1709) furono distrutti nel tentativo di fermare i tank inglesi: un terzo dei soldati erano italiani.

IL COMANDO DI BETASOM - Dopo l’8 settembre l’unica eccezione alla dispersione dei «collaborazionisti» riguardò la base sottomarini di Bordeaux, in codice Betasom. Diecimila uomini guidati da Enzo Grossi - con una discussa fama di asso dei sommergibili - che si erano guadagnati la stima dell’ammiraglio Doenitz. Gli fu concesso di arruolare altri volontari: 4.000 figli di immigrati, giovani cresciuti in Francia che del fascismo avevano conosciuto solo la propaganda. Già dall’autunno del ’43 crearono la «Divisione atlantica» e il battaglione «Longobardo» di fanteria di marina. Le foto mostrano file di ragazzi con divise improvvisate e sguardi poco marziali. Ma nelle settimane successive allo sbarco anche la «Divisione atlantica» - come ha ricostruito Marino Perissinotto su «Storia e Battaglie» - venne smembrata.

L’ISOLA DI FUOCO - La battaglia più sanguinosa fu combattuta a Cézembre, l’isoletta-bunker che «copriva le spalle» alla cittadella di St. Malo: una Maginot in miniatura, con tre livelli di sotterranei. Lunga 500 metri e larga poco più di 250, ha conquistato il terribile primato di «terra più bombardata della storia»: in un mese 120 mila tonnellate di ordigni. Nonostante questo inferno, l’isola difesa da tedeschi e marinai di Salò ha continuato a fare fuoco sugli americani.
L’assedio cominciò ai primi di agosto: navi, obici semoventi, bombardieri la bersagliano senza sosta. Il 17 agosto Saint Malo alza la bandiera bianca, ma l’isola resiste ancora. È a questo punto che gli alleati decidono di usare un’arma mai sperimentata prima: il napalm. Molti italiani sono terrorizzati: il 20 agosto tre marò disertano e raggiungono la costa a nuoto. Descrivono agli americani le condizioni della guarnigione: nei rifugi ci sono 277 feriti, tra cui 17 repubblichini, manca l’acqua potabile e scarseggia il cibo. Eppure, il 28 i bunker rispondono con l’artiglieria a una nuova richiesta di cedere le armi. Dicono che Patton fosse infuriato: il generale ordina di spazzare via Cézembre. Due giorni dopo, l’apocalisse: 265 bombardieri sganciano migliaia di bombe perforanti e barili di napalm. Dall’isola si leva una nuvola di fuoco, simile al fungo di un’atomica: il calore piega persino le canne dei cannoni, cancella ogni forma di vita dalla superficie. Il 1° settembre l’ammiragliato germanico dà il permesso di resa al presidio. Dalle caverne escono anche 69 italiani: «Camminavano a testa bassa come gente che viene dall’altro mondo, parevano degli zombie». Appena arrivati sulla spiaggia, gli americani rendono l’onore delle armi a questi «uomini che sembravano delle ombre». Molti dei loro commilitoni rimasero nei cunicoli devastati. E mai più esplorati: ancora oggi Cézembre è «una terra desolata», vietata a tutti per la presenza di mine e ordigni inesplosi.
In uno dei fortini crollati, sotto una croce incisa nel cemento - riporta uno speleologo francese - c’è una scritta spezzata da una granata: «Giovanni F...». Poi un numero e la parola «Nap...». Forse l’ultimo saluto a uno di quei marinai senza nome.

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GLADIVM
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Post by GLADIVM » 03 Jun 2004 05:12

Dear Dr G. ,

the article you posted from Corriere della Sera is interesting but is it 100% reliable ?

There is a factual mistake that an historian , as Gianluca Di Feo I suppose is , should not make . There was not a " Trento " Alpine division as the Italian text clearly shows saying " gli Alpini della Trento " as Trento was a Motorized Infantry Division n. 102 destroyed at El Alamein at end October / early nov 1942 .

There was instead an Alpine battalion called " Trento " in the 11 Reg of the Alpine Division n.5 Pusteria , this regiment in sept 43 was stationed in France near Gap and was almost totally captured by the Germans and interned , so probably the Alpini mentioned in the article were soldiers belonging to this battalion and in Italian should have been referred as " Gli Alpini del battaglione Trento " o " gli Alpini del Trento " and not " GLI ALPINI DELLA TRENTO " which is clearly not correct and can mislead the reader to believe that there was an alpine divsion called TRENTO

I know it is just a small detail and does not mean that these soldiers where not there present in Normandy on D-DAY but an historian should not make such mistakes which cast doubts about all his work .

Unfortunately many history books & articles have these kind of errors that are easily spotted even by amateurs like myself .

Btw I noticed that in the english message you did not mention alpini from the Trento , perhaps you had the same doubts as I have , pls let me know

Would you know if Di feo has written any other book or articles and what is his standing in the history circles .

Yours

GLADIVM

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Post by DrG » 03 Jun 2004 11:18

Thank you for your remarks, I didn't think about the matter of Trento (that, by the way, can be simply a typo mistake) because its former soldiers were only workers of the Todt organization, not in fighting units (I've listed only them, since this topic is not about Italian workers).
Of course Di Feo is not an historian, he is only a journalist, but the info given in that article are probably from the book about the Italians in the Wehrmacht "I Militari italiani nelle formazioni germaniche 1943-1945" by the historian Gianni Giannoccolo, who is mentioned in the text (the article seems to be based on that book and, only for the paragraph "Il comando Betasom", on an article by Marino Perissinotto in "Storia e Battaglie" about the Division Atlantica).
Last edited by DrG on 03 Jun 2004 12:55, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by DrG » 03 Jun 2004 12:54

In this map is shwon the position of the 716th Division (included the 736th Regiment) on 5 June 1944: http://chrito.users1.50megs.com/karten/1944/7armee5juni44a.jpg
And in this there are the positions of the artillery regiments 1261 and 1709:
http://chrito.users1.50megs.com/karten/1944/7armee5juni44b.jpg
(from: http://chrito.users1.50megs.com/, see this topic: German map of OB West positions)

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Italian division in normandy

Post by gianluca » 11 Jun 2004 23:05

Hi, I'm the author of Corriere della Sera article. I'm not an historian but I verify all the informations I wrote. And it seems that the story of italian soldiers in France between '43-45 is still unwritten. After the article, some people sent me more data. For an example, gunners in Cezembre were part of a <second battalion Longobardo>, created by comandante Enzo Grossi at the beginning of '44. Many of these soldiers were veterans from Regia Marina, captured in Venice and Trieste after armistice, who chose to fight with germans and not young recruits. And the italian in Cezembre - still wearing Regia Marina uniforms - considered themselves not as <X mas> but just <San Marco>.
I've found many informations about italians soldiers in Channel Islands and Oleron, but I'm still looking for something more about italian garrison in St Nazaire: can anybody help me?
Thanks
Gdf
Ps I'm sorry for the mistake about Trento division, but that prisoner from Trento called himself <alpino> in his memory.

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Re: Italian division in normandy

Post by DrG » 12 Jun 2004 01:46

Mr. Di Feo, I wish to thank you for you article, it was very interesting.
It is being commented also in the newsgroup it.cultura.storia.militare in the discussion "Italiani in Normandia (la battaglia di Cézembre)" started on 5 June 2004. In that discussion had been questioned the sinking of a destroyer: according to the sources provided by the member Koll Kurtz it seems not possible.
gianluca wrote:I've found many informations about Italians soldiers in Channel Islands and Oleron, but I'm still looking for something more about italian garrison in St Nazaire: can anybody help me?

I've only these few info:
In chapter 10, page 374 of "R.S.I. Forze Armate della Repubblica Sociale Volume II- 1944" by Nino Arena is mentioned the presence of Italian soldiers in the detachment of coastal artillery 280 - Lorient/St. Nazaire Rep. 703/705 AA. Arena often translates the names of German units, and this time I don't understand about what units he is talking: 280 is the number of a regiment? Or of a "detachment"? It's rather unclear.
Again according to Arena (page 376) there were also 111 Italians from the Atlantica Division in St. Nazaire.

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ITALIAN DIVISION IN NORMANDY

Post by gianluca » 12 Jun 2004 12:59

Thank again. I've got Nino Arena but information about soldiers in Channel Islands are not so realible. I think I've got all the books written in Italy. The story of the sunken destroyer is from Paul Carell "Sie Kommen", a book that I ever thought highly reliable: but everything can change.
Gdf

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the italian forces in Normandy 1944

Post by Lodieu Didier » 09 Nov 2005 00:02

I spend more than 30 years to study the battlefield of Normandy but I don't pretend to know everything. I found the reinforcement of a unity of Italians some days before the 6th Juni 44 neraz Cherbourg. I met an veteran offizier from the Art. Rgt. 344 which commanded a battery with Italians, feather at the hat etc. Incredible. His battery was destroyed in the area of le Neubourg 23 aug. 44. I relate this in my next book Combats sur la Seine. At last, when I was a Kid I spent some hours in the Falaise Gap to refind material. One time, I found the rest of a Italian helmet which had still the Death head painted in white. Do you have an idee what unity it could belonged ? Sincerelly yours.
Didier Lodieu

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Re: Italian Division in Normandy

Post by Manuferey » 08 Aug 2010 20:15

Looking at a picture of German POWs in Cherbourg at the end of June 1944 (US Signal Corps – Archives de la Manche), I’ve noticed the soldier on the 2nd row, last on the right. His cap and uniform look Italian.

Image

Image

What do you think?

The uniform looks indeed similar to one below taken at Pointe du Hoc (see the soldier on the left with a cap, and his hands up):
http://www.archivesnormandie39-45.org/P ... 012942.jpg

Emmanuel

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Re: Italian Division in Normandy

Post by panzerIV » 18 Aug 2010 16:28

Yep that's an italian uniform for sure!
The soldier is wearing the regular bustina along with the continental M40 jacket!

And thank you for that other photo! Very interesting! Looks like the majority of the men are wearing italian uniforms(M40 jackets, bustinas, greatcoats). They could either be italian workers from Org. Todt or individual volunteers.

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Re: Italian Division in Normandy

Post by nuyt » 18 Aug 2010 17:36

I hope this is of help:
A certain Captain Bertorelli was posted with the small German garrison in the French town of Nouvion, where he served together with Leutnant Gruber.
Nouvion however is not in Normany, but close to the Channel coast in northern France. Postwar I believe the town of Nouvion twinned with Walmington on Sea on the other side of the Channel.
:milwink:

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