Let's Build: Folgore Division (Italy)

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
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Marcus
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Let's Build: Folgore Division (Italy)

Post by Marcus » 14 Sep 2003 12:36

In an effort to improve and expand the unit histories on the site, we will be launching a new series of "Let's Build" threads.
The object is to pool our collective knowledge and reconstruct these units. No contribution is too small, no fact too obscure, order-of-Battles, equipment, manpower strength, high award holders, biographical information, photographs or combat reports, everything is welcome, just remember to mention the source of your information.

This thread is dedicated to information on the Italian Folgore Division.

/Marcus
Last edited by Marcus on 07 May 2004 18:11, edited 1 time in total.

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Lupo Solitario
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Post by Lupo Solitario » 14 Sep 2003 13:52

I attach here part of a work I'm preparing for an article (partially just published):

The first para battalions were assembled in 1940. They were three units which were designed simply as I, II, III para battalion. One was assembled with personnel coming from Carabinieri (the known Italian gendarmery-MP Corp) which called for a particular distinction, so the battalions were renamed as:
I Carabinieri Para Battalion
II Infantry Para Battalion
III Infantry Para Battalion
They were followed in 1941 by formation of Infantry Para Battalions IV, V, VI. Meanwhile it was given the start to build support para units (artillery, engineer, etc.). In spring 1941, it was decided to do a first operative airdrop. Occasion was offered by the final offensive in Greece (April 1941). April 30th, 1941 the 5th Company/II Para Battalion was launched over the Greek island of Cefalonia without finding resistance. Despite para’s hopes, this will rest the only assault airdrop of Italian airborne in 1940-43. The I Carabinieri battalion was sent in Libya in July 1941 and completely destroyed on Jebel Akbar mountains between 18-20th December, 1941.

The 1st Para Division and the Operation C3

Meanwhile, the growing of para units and their upgrading towards bigger organisation leaded finally to the birth of an airborne Great Unit which was denominated 1st Parachute Division, September 1st, 1941. In the same moment were created the regimental commands of 1st and 2nd Para Infantry Regiment and of the 1st Para Artillery Regiment.
In the second half of 1941, the British menace against Italian convoys for North Africa grew so high to push Italian High Command to decide finally the invasion of the island of Malta. The plan started to be formed in December 1941 and included a large employment of airborne troops. In the first months of 1942, Germans were involved in the operation (which received also the German name “Herkules”). It was decided to from an italo-german airborne corps which had to include two Italian divisions, the German 7th FJ Division and some little airborne commandos. The Corps had to be leaded by the most experimented Axis airborne leader, Kurt Student. For this reason it was decided to couple training of Italian and German paras. This generated close relations between airborne units.
BTW, the 1st Para Div. (leaded by its historical leader, Gen. Frattini) continued to grow. Between 1941 and 1942 were formed the following para battalions: VII, IX, X Infantry; I, II, III Artillery; VIII Guastatori (assault) and a new para regimental commands: 3rd Infantry. Training was hard and long , cause also the lack of experience and requests to anticipate operation in spring 1942 were rejected for insufficient preparation.
At last, C3 was ordered for July 1942; the 1st Para had to participate on this OOB (supposed)

HQ

1st Para Infantry Regiment: battalions II, III, IV
2nd Para Infantry Regiment: battalions V, VI, VII
3rd Para Infantry Regiment: battalions IX, X

1st Para Artillery Regiment: battalions I, II, III

VIII Para Assault Battalion(Guastatori)

81mm Para Mortar Battery

A Para Infantry Battalion was on three companies; an artillery battalion was on two battery of 4x47/32mm cannons each; the assault battalion on three assault companies.
At last, all this work was useless. At the end of June 1942, C3 was suspended (and definitely cancelled one month after) to give resources to Rommel and the paras were left waiting for a new mission.

The Folgore in North Africa

July 1942 was a month full of facts for Italian Paras. In few days, they passed all the following changes:
- On a request of Rommel for good quality infantries, it was decided to send in Egypt the Para Division
- Many infantry battalions were exchanged between regiments
- It was decided to keep anyway one para regiment in Italy
- As a cover, it was also decided to change code names and numbers for all the units over battalions (probably to confuse British intelligence).
This late point caused a bit of discussion: for a while it seemed that the division had to be called “Cacciatori d’Africa” but, finally, it received the definitive code of Infantry Division “Folgore” (185th) and the regiments 1st, 2nd, 3rd Infantry and 1st Artillery became 185th, 186th, 187th Infantry and 185th Artillery; all the units received the name “Folgore” and divisional services took the number 185th. As just told, it was decided that 185th Regiment didn’t follow the division in N.A. and it will have a different history.
Summing, at the first days of August 1942, The Folgore reached battle zone on this OOB:

HQ

186th Infantry Regiment: battalions V, VI, VII
187th Infantry Regiment: battalions II, IV, IX, X

185th Artillery Regiment: battalions I, II, III

VIII Assault Battalion

185th Mortar Company
185th Engineer Company

The Division had an approximate force of 3000 men. The so-called “six-days run” or battle of Alam Halfa saw the first employment of Folgore which was employed directly aside with panzers of DAK (remember that division was not motorized and advanced by feet….) In this battle, paras had an important role in rejected British counter attacks in Himeimat sector. Losses were high, in particular for what concerns the IX and X Battalion which were grouped in a new “IX” battalion. After that, the division was placed on defensive positions.
The sector of Folgore was the southerner of all the Axis line directly bordering the Qattara depression and was included in the Italian X Corps. Standing Folgore’s lack of heavy equipment it was reinforced with all was possible give them.
The division formed a series of hard strongholds each kept by a battalion combat group and capable of all-directions defence; a tactical reorganization took the division to operate on three forces (from north to south):
187th Regiment: battalions II, IV and IX
“Ruspoli” Group: battalions VII and VIII
186th Regiment: battalions V and VI
Support units were spread between strongholds; the commander of V Battalion, Maj. Izzo, described situation of his unit in those terms: “The defence of over six km of front against probably mech and armored enemy forces was given to less of 400 men with 17 47mm AT guns, 9 HMG and 3 81mm mortars”.
The definitive Allied attack was launched October 23th, 1942 by the British XIII Corps which attacked Folgore positions for a consecutive week without results and losing over 100 tanks (Italian estimate). At last, Montgomery forces broke Axis lines on the coast, many km north and Rommel was forced to order retreat. This was the end for the infantry units at the extreme south of line which had no vehicles to retreat and also for Folgore.
Only some hundred of paras reached Axis lines, all others were captured or died. Survivors were reorganized in a formation battalion coded CCLXXXV Para Battalion which will continue to fight along Axis forces until last stand in Tunisia in May 1943.

bye
Lupo

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Post by Lupo Solitario » 14 Sep 2003 13:56

I add: I suppose Marcus was asking for infos about the parachute division Folgore fighting in Africa in 1942 but during italian civil war (1943-45)operated also a "Folgore" parachute regiment for RSI and a "Folgore" Combat group for Royal Army. They had logically a different story

bye
Lupo

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Post by Peter H » 14 Sep 2003 14:40


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Post by Peter H » 15 Sep 2003 05:32

As far as I can establish Divisional commanders were as follows:

1941:Brigadier-General francesco Sapienza
1942:Major-General Enrico Frattani,later promoted to XXX Corps command

Frattani was replaced by his Deputy-Commander Brigadier-General Riccardo Bignami.

Both Frattani and Bignami became POWs after Alamein.


Frattani.
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Post by Kenshiro » 15 Sep 2003 18:30

Forerunners of the national para units were the " Libyans air troopers", which have been strongly wanted by the then Libya General Governor, Italo Balbo. Coming over every kind of difficulties, Balbo succeeded into founding a Jump school at Castel Benito airport, near Tripoli, in March 1938. The idea was of to give birth to a " Libyans air troopers" Battalion size unit, with Italian Cadres, under the command of one of the bravest and experienced colonial Commissioned Officers, Ltc. Gold Medal to Military Valor Goffredo Tonini.

They were working in a brand new field, they had to resort to ingenuity fairly often, the training was very difficult and, moreover, they were to overcome the natural diffidence of the colored troops about the aircraft.
Flight Lt. Prospero Freri came to Libya, and started to train in the use of the Parachute "Salvator" D/37 (he himself invented it ) the Italian Officers, who should have to play the cadres of the newly born battalion. Everything was done in a big hurry, and the Ascari (colored troopers) , once they got acquainted with the aircraft and the jump techniques, became very good at it. Unfortunately, the unit underwent the first trials using S/81 aircrafts, which were quite unapt to that purpose. The unit had its first dead and casualties count, totaling 15 killed and 72 wounded in training.

Anyway, on they went, and a second Battalion sized unit was created on 23, may 1940; this time it was fully manned by Italian soldiers, under the command of Maj. Arturo Calascibetta. After the first, painful experiences, more care was dedicated to the technical aspect of the matter; they used now the S/75 aircraft, specifically modified for jump purpose, and as jumping material was introduced the I/40, a bit bigger in canopy, giving so a softer landing to the user. The training of both the units was under way, when the II WW ignited.

The two battalions, altogether with other units, were assembled as "Mobile Task Force Tonini", whose main task was to slow down the British in their progress. Some fighting went on during the rest of '40, and during '41 some of these men braved a lot. The few Italian survivors went back to Italy, to the Tarquinia Jump School, born in the meantime. This place will eventually become the cradle of all the Italian Paratroopers in the years to come. The Tarquinia Boss was Flight Col. , airborne, Giuseppe Baudoin de Gillette, who will play the spiritual father of all the Italian Airborne. Bunches of youngsters came to the school from every service of the Army, Navy and Air force, so that the selecting teams had a lot to choose from: the 60% of the volunteers was declared unfit for the training, but the ones who passed this first phase were really the bravest and fittest.

Hardships, as usual, were overwhelming; in Tarquinia existed only a runway, some lines and nothing more. Baudoin anyway could count on a selected training wing. As by some kin of magic, they realized serious lines, giant sized tents, and everything that was needed. They even stole, nighttime during, a metallic tower 150 feet high from the parade ground in Rome, and set up again in Tarquinia. From the gates of this pioneer school, out got the Paratroopers of Folgore and Nembo divisions, the Carabinieri Battalion, the San Marco Bn. , the Tenth Arditi Bn. and ADRA Bn. The school was then phisycally moved to Viterbo on Jan '43, but always remained in the heart of them all.

The Folgore Division was -sadly- used as line infantry in the trench war down in el-Qattara sandholes, Africa. The Nembo Division, after the 08 September '43 truce crisis, played an active role in the Italy Liberation war.

Image

training ADRA troops

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Post by Kenshiro » 15 Sep 2003 18:42

The first Italian Paratrooper units, with the exception of the two Libyan Battalions, were trained at Tarquinia's school. Inside this school, on 1940, large numbers of volunteers, coming from every branch of the Royal Army, gave birth to the 2 Para Bn, under the command of Ltc. Benzi. At the beginning of 1941 raised up 3 Para Bn, Commanding Officer Maj. Pignatelli di Cerchiara, followed shortly by 4 Para Bn, CO Maj. Bechi Luserna. These three units, on 1 Apr. 1941, formed up 1st Para Regiment, under the command of Col. Riccardo Bignami.

On the same month, coming to an end the long, bloody Greece campaign, the Paratroopers were tasked with the capture of Cefalonia island. Specially for the mission was summoned 2 Para, which moved down to Lecce two of its three coys, under the tactical command of Maj. Zanninovich. On 30 April 1941, from Galatina airport, 2 Para took off aboard some SM-82 aircraft's: the airdrop took place in the Argostoli plain, and the action was successful without any fighting. Once disarmed the resident Greek Bn, some four hundred policemen, next day some more paratroopers unit requisitioned Greek fishing boats and landed in the nearby Zante and Itaca islands, avoiding in doing so their fall under German domain.

On 5 may the men of 2 Para were relieved by infantry units. The first wartime airdrop for our paratroopers came to an end with a total success. In the meantime, training and constitution of more battalions were under way; between summer 41 and spring 42 seven Bn were formed, one of them being para-saboteurs, while on 10 Aug. 41 an artillery group was raised. Now, times were ripe to set up a Great Unit, a Division.

That was officially constituted on 1 Sep 41, bringing together 1st and 2nd Para Reg. (5, 6 and 7 Bns), the 8 Para-saboteurs Bn, and the Artillery Group. Obviously, not all the units were immediately on operational status and available, but they became so in the ongoing. Next march, a 3rd Para Reg. was incorporated (9,10 and 11 Bns), while before June the Artillery Reg. got two groups more.

The Para Div., so formed, was far away from the other units of this level, being organizationally lighter, with a diminished support and not encumbered by heavy logistic structures. Even the artillery reg. was issued 47/32 guns only, with only anti-tank tasks, and also that with serious limitations- but it was unapt for instance to provide a normal fire support, lacking the curved fire capability. Few the mortars and the machine guns, the only advantage being the Beretta sub-machine gun the standard personal weapon. On the other hand, this kind of weaponry was the best for the tasks the Division would eventually get assigned: the airdrop, subsequent surprise raid on a hard target, and the set-up of a beach-head to be defended for a limited period of time, up to the link-up with the conventional forces. All of these nice theories, the above mentioned, that to the future "Folgore" Div. Were nevertheless denied by the war evolution.

The para div., this being the new name of the Great Unit, was initially commanded by Gen. Francesco Sapienza, then relieved by Gen. Enrico Frattini. The basic training was carried out both in Tuscany and Lazio regions up to may 42, then they moved south to Puglie for the advanced training, keeping in mind the foreseen mass airdrop on Malta island, in the greater contest of the conventionally code-named "C3" operation.

The excessive faith placed in the victories of Rommel and the fall of Tobruk privileged the Egypt-oriented operations, therefore the fundamental action onto Malta- about which the paratroopers trained so long- was discarded, denying so the Division its right to be fully employed in a wartime air drop. On Jul '42 the Army Staff decided to employ the Division in Northern Africa, but the Para rejoiced very little, since almost at once they realized that occasions of a future drop were scarce. But, since the jump kit was retained and properly stored, some hope survived.

Simultaneously, the Division was re-christianized " 185 Para Div Folgore", this name deriving from Latin motto " ex alto Fluor- like lighting from above", already used by its 1st Para Reg.. The reorganization involved its regiments too, that became 185, 186 and 187, with the Artillery and support retaining the 185 number. Anyway, the news were not over since the Army Staff ordered the 185 reg. To stay back in motherland, as hard core of a second Para Div. They wanted to set up. 185 had to release from under its command 4 and 5 Para Bn. To 187 Reg., retaining so only 3 Para Bn. From now on, Folgore was constituted on a binary base, and bit by bit it started to redeploy the units to North Africa, partly by air- from Lecce airfield- and partly by sea and road, long and difficult, via the Balkans and Greece.

The first unit to touch the African soil was 4/187 Para, CO Ltc, Bechi Luserna, reaching Fuka on 18 Jul., shortly followed by other units. Staged in El Daba, for secrecy reasons paratroopers were ordered neither to wear the wings, nor any other patch and badge capable of having them identified by the enemy. It was a great sacrifice indeed, bittered by two more: The assumption of "Africa hunters" phoney name, and the order coming from Rome to give back all the jump kit, to be stored back in Derna. The last hope of an airdrop so vanished.

Image
Folgore AT gunners with theyr 47/32

Image
Folgore in action or in training with captured tanks?????

credits to bunkerafricano.it congedatifolgore and avanti savoia.

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Post by Peter H » 16 Sep 2003 10:09

The only criticism I have found on the Folgore Division was that manpower wise it was at best a truncated light infantry division with only 5,200 members in its ranks.Granted that Airborne Divisions were much smaller than your average infantry division in other armies(from 8-10,000 men) but to equate the Folgore on a map as being a 'division' would be an optimist's view.

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Post by Kenshiro » 17 Sep 2003 08:42

On the paper it was a division, but I see it more as a brigade.

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Post by Peter H » 18 Sep 2003 06:17

Folgore strength at Alamein was estimated at 3,500 trained paratroopers and 1,000 men untrained airborne, infantry types(31° Battalion Guastatori d' Africa and a battalion of infantry of the Pavia Division).Morever 30% of the force was classified as sick due to the debilitating desert conditions and lack of supplies.

Losses at Alamein have been given as 1,100 men killed or wounded,many of the latter in the POW cages after the battle.Only a handful of Folgore veterans managed to escape.The Division was effectively destroyed by the 2nd NZ Division and the British 7th Armoured Division.


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http://www.folgore.it/el_alamein/tattic ... olgore.jpg

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 24 Sep 2003 02:01

Moulded wrote:The only criticism I have found on the Folgore Division was that manpower wise it was at best a truncated light infantry division with only 5,200 members in its ranks.Granted that Airborne Divisions were much smaller than your average infantry division in other armies(from 8-10,000 men) but to equate the Folgore on a map as being a 'division' would be an optimist's view.

The reason was the extreme hard training: 100 times harder and longer than the standard one. ("Unus sed leo"=only one but a lion) Too much selective for large numbers. Folgore was not simply an airborne division but an elite special unit.

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Post by Andy H » 27 Sep 2003 15:22

In one of the many raid's preluding the Battle of El Alamein, the British launched an attack with it's 131st Infantry Brigade/44th Infantry Division, on Deir el Munassib. This objective was chossen as an additional artillery deployment area for the forthcoming offensive and also to keep the enemy's attention to the southern sector of the front.

One of the area's was defended by IX Btn of the Folgore and elements of the German Ramcke Brigade.

The 1/6th & 1/7th Queens (131st Brigade) met little opposistion, but the 1/5th Queens suffered badly at the hands of the Folgore & Ramcke troops and they failed in their objective.

Corps commander General Horrocks decided on October 1st to call of any further attacks against the Folgore/Ramcke posistion, whilst 132nd Infantry Brigade took over the posistions won by 1/6th & 1/7th Queens.

Andy H

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Post by Andy H » 13 Jan 2004 16:54

60° Anniversario della Battaglia di TAKROUNA

21 Aprile 2003

Durante l'anno appena trascorso abbiamo commemorato degnamente in varie Sedi l’eroismo della folgore nella battaglia di EL ALAMEIN , ma non dobbiamo assolutamente dimenticare che un certo numero di quei eroici combattenti non ha finito di soffrire
alla fine di ottobre del 1942.

Circa 400/450 Paracadutisti insieme a Granatieri , Bersaglieri e Truppe Tedesche sono infatti riusciti a rompere l’accerchiamento degli Inglesi ed hanno continuato a combattere strenuamente per altri 6 mesi durante tutta la ritirata da EL ALAMEIN
attraverso la parte occidentale dell’Egitto , tutta la Libia fino in Tunisia.

In questo modo hanno ritardato notevolmente l’avanzata degli Inglesi verso la Tunisia e la Sicilia , permettendo agli Americani di sbarcare per primi in Sicilia.

2500 km di estenuante ritirata nel deserto , sete , fame , freddo notturno , caldo soffocante di giorno , sporcizia , parassiti , mancanza di rifornimenti adeguati , attacchi da terra e dal cielo hanno messo a durissima prova questi uomini.

In Libia i Paracadutisti superstiti formarono il 285° Battaglione FOLGORE
(composto da 5 Compagnie : la 107° del Cap. CAROLI , la 108° Autonoma del Ten. GIAMPAOLO , la 109° del Ten. ARTUSI , la 110° del Ten. RAFFAELLI alle quali si aggiunse successivamente la 111° del Ten. BOSCO CORRADINI ) al Comando del Cap. Alpino Paracadutista LOMBARDINI.

Il nuovo reparto venne inquadrato nel 66° Rgt. Fanteria della Divisione TRIESTE.

Giunti nella parte meridionale della Tunisia dovettero sostenere una serie di aspri combattimenti a MEDENINE , GABES , ma soprattutto a EL MARETH e UADI AKARIT . Questi aspri scontri spesso all’arma bianca , per mancanza di munizioni ,
decimarono il 285° ed a TAKROUNA arrivarono solo i superstiti delle 5 Compagnie ( circa 180 uomini ) che costituirono 2 Compagnie :

l’Autonoma del Ten. GIAMPAOLO e quella del Ten. ORCIUOLO.

nella foto: il Ten Giampaolo ai tempi di El Alamein

Il 20.Aprile 1943 il Comandante della Divisione Trieste Gen. La FERLA affidò a queste 2 Compagnie l’arduo compito di conquistare questo villaggio situato su un tremendo picco roccioso che si erge in mezzo alla piana di Enfidaville.
Il villaggio era occupato da truppe Neozelandesi e Maori ben armate ed i nostri dovettero avvicinarsi dalla pianura esposti ai tiri dall’alto ad al fuoco d’artiglieria alle loro spalle , cantando spavaldamente “ All’armi Arditi dell’Aria ”.
La Compagnia GIAMPAOLO affrontò il lato orientale della rocca , mentre quella di ORCIUOLO la parte opposta.

Fu necessario issarsi con delle corde rudimentali lungo le pareti verticali sotto il costante fuoco nemico ( qui si distinsero i pochi Alpini Paracadutisti presenti nei due reparti ) e snidare il nemico con bombe a mano ed all’arma bianca. Conquistato il villaggio i nostri oramai ancora più decimati resistettero fino al pomeriggio del 21 Aprile 1943 ( Natale di Roma ) ma alla fine dovettero arrendersi alle soverchie forze anglo – neozelandesi per assoluta mancanza di rifornimenti e molti nostri feriti , alla faccia della Convenzione di Ginevra sui Prigionieri di Guerra , vennero trucidati dalle baionette dei Maori.

nella foto: una cartolina che raffigura i luoghi della Battaglia e la Stele.

La maggior parte degli Ufficiali e dei Sottufficiali morì o rimase ferito e diverse furono le Medaglie d’argento e di bronzo al V.M. a Viventi o Caduti ( tra le quali vanno ricordate quelle d’Argento dell’ S.Ten. Cesare ANDREOLLI , del Ten . Ludovico ARTUSI e del S.Ten. Cesare Cristoforetti ) .
Molte altre proposte per decorazioni al V.M. furono perse nella situazione caotica di quei mesi o furono respinte dai burocrati per “decorrenza dei termini di presentazione” !

Ottennero l’onore delle armi e solo una cinquantina , di cui la maggior parte ferita , si avviò verso i campi di prigionia in Egitto , dove alcuni dovettero rimanere nei campi dei “Criminali” fino alla primavera del 1947.
Il numero sterminato di tombe nel cimitero inglese di Enfidaville danno ancora oggi una chiara indicazione a quale caro prezzo gli ultimi ragazzi della gloriosa FOLGORE hanno venduto la loro pelle nella loro ultima battaglia in terra africana.
Per concludere desidero ricordare un solo esempio d’eroismo , non potendo raccontarli tutti . A UADI AKARIT gli inglesi riuscirono a circondare tutto il nostro schieramento , ma la Compagnia Autonoma di mio Padre ( decorato per questo assalto con la Medaglia d’argento al V.M. ) riuscì a sfondare l’accerchiamento combattendo all’arma bianca e salvando così le altre Compagnie.
Durante questo assalto al C.M. Paracadutista Giambattista CORLAZZOLI di Bergamo fu tranciato da una raffica di mitra il braccio destro sopra il gomito che rimase attaccato solo da alcuni brandelli di carne. Quando mio padre lo raggiunse nella trincea , il buon Corlazzoli gli porse con la mano sinistra la propria baionetta e gli disse : “ Comandante per favore finisca l’opera. Questo è il braccio che doveva dare il pane ai miei figli ed io lo offro volentieri alla Patria “. Fu decorato anche lui con la Medaglia d’argento al V.M. e con una di bronzo per un precedente atto di eroismo. Ritengo che questo episodio possa sintetizzare meglio di ogni altro lo spirito di abnegazione dei Ragazzi della folgore , il loro coraggio , il loro valore.
Andiamo perciò in tanti nel mese di Aprile 2003 a TAKROUNA e davanti alla nostra Stele rendiamo il giusto tributo a questi uomini che dopo EL ALAMEIN hanno combattuto stoicamente per altri 6 mesi consolidando ancora di più il mito della gloriosa folgore.

Rolando GIAMPAOLO Jr.

http://www.amicifolgore.com/congedati/r ... _0353.html

Apologies that it's in Italian but maybe Lupo or someone could give us a quick synopsis

Andy H

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Post by gabriel pagliarani » 14 Jan 2004 15:55

Let me try, Andy. It is not so easy: "aulic/hepic" italian is hard for me too.

"During last year we celebrated proudly in many sites the heroism of Folgore during the battle at El Alamein, but absolutely we must forgive not that a discrete amount of those fighters didn't finished to suffer at the end of October 1942.
About 400/500 paratroopers with some Granatieri (di Sardegna n.t.)Bersaglieri and German Troops attempted successfully the breaking of the British "cul de sac" thus continuing a strenuos fight lasting 6 months during all the retrieval from El Alamein crossing the west side of Egypt, all Libya till Tunisia.
Doing so they imposed a wide gap to the incoming Britishes towards Tunisia and Sicily. 2500Km of exhaustive withdrawal in the desert only by foot, hungry and thirsty, suffering by the cool of the night and the hot of the day, by the dust and parassytes, by the lack of sufficient supplies, suffering by the continuous attack from ground and air: all those eveniences hardly rugged those men.
In Libya paras joined 285° Battaglione Folgore under the command of Cap. Alpino Paracadutista Lombardini(formed by 5 Compagnie: 107/a Compagnia of Cap. Caroli, 108/a Compagnia Autonoma of Ten.Giampaolo, 109/a of Ten.Artusi, 110/a of Ten.Raffaelli adding the later constituted 111/a of Ten.Bosco Corradini.)
This new unit was alleged in 66°Rgt.Fanteria of Div. TRIESTE.
When they were displaced in the southern bank of Tunisia they were involved in rough struggles in MEDENINE, GABES, but mainly at EL MARETH and UADI AKARIT. Sometimes they faced the foe only by bayonets because there were no more ammos.These struggles decimated 285°Btg and only 180 survivors from all 5 Compagnie reached TAKROUNA, wehre they constituted the last 2 Compagnie: Autonoma of Ten Giampaolo and that of Ten Orciuolo.

In the photo ten. Giampaolo during El alamein. SEE ROLANDO

On 20 April 1943 Gen. La Ferla leader of Divisione Trieste ordered to these 2 Compagnie the rough task to assault this village (TAKROUNA) positioned on the edge of a tremendous high alone rocky peak standing amid the plane of Enfidaville.
The village was occupied by well equipped NZ and Maori troops (but aren't Maoris and NZs the same people? Note of translater)and paras were obliged to tight to the target exposed to downward enemy aim and to the artillery fire from behind: they did it singing loudly “ All’armi Arditi dell’Aria ”. The Giampaolo's Company scrambled the rock rightward from left side, Orciuolo's company leftward from right. They were obliged to use primitive ropes on the vertical walls under continuos enemy fire.

in the photo: a postal card about the sites of the Battle and the Monument.
SEE TAKROUNA


The most of the Officials and Underofficials (graduated) died or was seriously injured, gaining some Silver(M.A.V.M.) and Bronze(M.B.V.M.) Medals for bravery to survivals and deads. Among these had to be mentioned the MAVM to S.Ten.Cesare Andreolli, Ten.Artusi (former leader of destroyed 109/a Compagnia) and to S.Ten. Cesare Cristoforetti.
Many other proposals for Bravery medals were lost, due to the chaos occurred these months, or burocrates denied further decorations as "out of presentation time limits"!
Only 50 seriously injured paras after having obtained "l’onore delle armi" survived, then they were sent to captivity and inmated in Egyptian Camps, where the large part of them was sent to "Criminal Camps" till Spring 1947.
The wide nos of tombstones in the british burial of Enfidaville give to the visitor the right feeling about the high price the last boys of FOLGORE asked to the foes for their lives during their last battle in Africa.

Finally I wish to remember only a sample of heroic behaviour, because I cannot remember them all. Britishes encircled all our 1st line, but the Compagnia Autonoma leaded by Dad (decorated with MAVM for this action) had success in breaking the encirclement by fighting only with bayonets then freeding all the other Companies.
Gunfire cut the upper right arm To Cap. Mag. Paracadutista Giambattista Corlazzoli of Bergamo: the arm was linked to his body only by stranded strings of flesh. When Dad reached him in his fox-hole, the brave Corlazzoli gave him his bayonet with the left arm then said to Dad: "Captain, please give end to my own job. This was the arm having the task to give bread to the sons of mine and now I offer it to my Homeland."He was decorated with Silver and Bronze medals for bravery, the bronze one due to another previous heroic action.

I argue that this fact could explain far better than any other how much high was the spirit of sacrifice of the Boys of FOLGORE, high was their courage, high was their bravery.

Let's go as many as we can in April 2003 to Takrouna and facing our monument we shall tribute rightly those braves who fought stoically for 6 months more upgrading the mith of glorious FOLGORE.


Rolando GIAMPAOLO Jr.

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 15 Jan 2004 01:26

Thank you Gabriel.

It's so frustrating when reading articles about the war in the Med & N.Africa to have so little published information available concerning the Italian viewpoint. I know if I understood Italian that would change somewhat but there is just so little good information out there at present in English.

Again thank you

Andy H

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