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Divisione paracadutisti italiana (Italian Parachute Division)

jwsleser

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This information is from Folgore - Storia del paracadutismo militare italiano by Nino Arena (pp. 144-146)

The need for an Italian parachute division was identified during the planning for Operazione C3, the assault on Malta that was scheduled for the summer of 1942. At the end of December 41/early January 42 the divisione was slowly formed. Generale Enrico Frattini volunteered to command the new division with most of the other generals having little interest in commanding such a novel formation.

To say that the « Folgore » was to participate in Operazione C3 is a misnomer for the division remained unnamed during the planning, training and likely attack window. It wasn't until the division was ordered to A.S. in July 1942 that the division was finally given a designation: « Cacciatori d'Africa ». It was under this name that the division deployed to A.S.

The division moved from Lecce though Tatoi in Greece and then on to A.S. by air transport, assembling at El Dabà in July. Here the division underwent a reorganization. Operazione C3 didn't require that the division possess all the elements needed for sustained operations. This organization was very light and mainly consisted of combat elements and embedded light weapons. Fire support, logistics, maintenance, medical, staffs, etc. were all to be provided by higher headquarters as the anticipated fighting on the island was expected to be close and intense. Now that the division was to be operating as a 'normal' infantry division, the additional structure/units needed to support sustained operations and make the division more self-contained was added. The third regiment remained in Italy to become the nucleus of a new divisione paracadutisti, and the « Cacciatori d'Africa » was organized more as an A.S. 42 type division. However, its regiments retained the three-infantry battalion structure and the equipment remain light.

The « Cacciatori d'Africa » moved forward to El Alamein at the end of August. It was here in September 1942 that the division officially became
185º divisione paracadutisti « Folgore » .
 

jwsleser

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Staff member
True. As your article states, the remains of the battaglione later formed the 184º sezione mista CC.RR. in the Nembo and the
185º sezione mista CC.RR. in the Folgore.

The first paracadutisti units in A.S. were the Ascari del cielo (1º battaglione, later called Battaglione paracadutisti libico « Fanti dell'aria ») and the Battaglione paracadutisti nazionali della Libia (2º battaglione). Both formed the Fanti dell'aria which later was called gruppo mobile « Tonini ». The Battaglione Reali Carabinieri Paracadutisti (3º battaglione) was the third battalion formed , but later was renumbered the 1st as the Carabinieri is the senior corps in the R.E.

I am working on an OB for the divisione paracadutisti in June 1940.

Pista! Jeff
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
The following information is based on material originally provided by Davide Pastore in 2007-2008 that I had saved. Davide, an Italian Air Force officer, had researched the Folgore over many years, include work in the Italian archives. He discovered that the structure of the division up through the planning for C3 is poorly documented There is little on the division’s organization prior to the time it was reorganized and deployed to Africa settentrionale (A.S.). In A.S., the division took on many, but not all the characteristics of a divisione tipo A.S. 42.

I have done a little more work on it over the years and modified Davide’s data based on my own research. What follows in this post is an attempt to show the likely organization of the division as it would have been used in Operazione C3, the invasion of Malta.

Divisione paracadutisti italiane June 1942
(with changes provided by Maurizio in post #5)

Comando e Compagnia Comando divisione paracadutisti

1° reggimento paracadutisti
Compagnia commando
-II battaglione fanteria paracadutisti (4a, 5a, 6a compagnie)
-III battaglione fanteria paracadutisti (7a, 8a, 9a compagnie)
-IV battaglione fanteria paracadutisti (10a, 11a, 12a compagnie)
-1ª compagnia accompagnamento (four 47/32 c.c.)

2° reggimento paracadutisti
Compagnia commando
V battaglione fanteria paracadutisti (13a, 14a, 15a compagnie)
VI battaglione fanteria paracadutisti (16a, 17a, 18a compagnie)
VII battaglione fanteria paracadutisti (19a, 20a, 21a compagnie)
2ª compagnia accompagnamento (four 47/32 c.c.)

Reggimento artiglieria paracadutista
Compagnia commando
I gruppo artiglieria paracadutisti (1ª, 2ª batteria) (four 47/32 c.c.)
II gruppo artiglieria paracadutisti (3ª, 4ª batteria) (four 47/32 c.c.)
III gruppo artiglieria paracadutisti (5ª, 6ª batteria) (four 47/32 c.c.)

Battaglione guastatori paracadutisti
Compagnia commando
1ª compagnia fucilieri
2ª compagnia fucilieri
3ª compagnia fucilieri

Compagnia mortai paracadutisti (nine 81mm)
Compagnia misto minatori/artieri paracadutisti
Compagnia misto collegamenti paracadutisti
Reparti divisione servizi paracadutisti

Note that this organization represents a jump-capable division. The headquarters and support services would be the minimum to support the division for a limited period of time.

Many of the subordinate units had not received formal names/numbers. As noted at the beginning of this thread, the division was basically unnamed until June 1942.

Pista! Jeff
 
Last edited:
Jeff
Your scheme is basically right but in my opinion we need two clarifications ...
1) If the reference date is that of June-July 1942 the staff of the 8. battalion guastatori parachutists (which at the time had not yet numerical reference) is completely wrong ... in my opinion should be this (Sme tables of April 1942) ...
- DIVISIONAL GUASTATORI BATTALION then 8.o
--compagnia command
- 3 spoiling companies
Note) theoretically the striking battalion had 3 81mm mortars, 6 anti-tank rifles, 27 45mm mortars, 9 flamethrowers, 4 machine guns, 9 submachine guns and 51 MAB (Beretta automatic submachine gun)
2) The 3rd paratroopers regiment while still part of the division was taking on the "framework" task for the formation of the new Nembo division therefore it would not (at least in the intentions of the SME) participate in the C3. It was also moving towards Sardinia (?????) according to other sources Sicily but was still abandoning the divisional barracks.
All the best
Maurizio
 

jwsleser

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Maurizio

All excellent points. I will make the changes. I plan to post the organizations of the subordinate units.

RE: 3° reggimento paracadutisti. Yes, I should have caught that. The lifts provided by Davide only lists two regiments.

Pista! Jeff
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Organization of the airborne infantry

Battaglione fanteria paracadutisti
Compagnia commando
-Plotone comando misto
-Two plotoni mtr. (four Breda 37)
Three compagnia fanteria paracadutisti

Compagnia fanteria paracadutisti
Comando (2 Uff.)
Squadra comando
-sezione c.c. (2 x fucile controcarro 35(P))
plotoni mtr. (3 x Breda 37)
Three plotone paracadutisti each with:
-Comando (2 Uff.)
-3 squadra paracadutisti each with:
--1 NCO, 7-9 men with M91 moschetti di cavalleria, MAB38a, and 1 f.m. Breda 30

Working through Davide's notes, this appears to make the most sense. He discussed whether the company had three or four Breda 37s. He felt three was correct based on the number of personnel in the company and the normal use in combat was one per platoon. I have not found any source that can confirm or deny this possibility.

Pista! Jeff
 
At this date I have: (SME circolare 15710 del luglio 1941-The last before june 1942)
-battaglione paracadutisti with:
--Compagnia comando with:
---plotone misto with:
----squadra comando e collegamenti
----squadra lanciafiamme (6 x flametrowers)
---plotone mitraglieri (4 squadre-1xBreda 37 each)
---plotone mortai da 81mm (3 squadre - 1 x 81mm mortar each)
--3 x compagnie fucilieri (each)
---plotone comando
----squadra comando (2 x fucili controcarro da 7,92)
----2 squadre mitraglieri (1xBreda 37 each)
---3 plotoni fucilieri su 3 squadre (2xBreda 30 each)

-on the field (attached)
-compagnia cannoni da 47/32
--squadra comando
--3 plotoni cannoni (2x47/32 each)

-In Italy
--compagnia servizi (non paracadutabile) with:
---plotone misto
---3 plotoni servizi
All the best
Maurizio
 

jwsleser

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Staff member
Maurizio

Thanks. Excellent info.

Pure speculation follows.

The battaglione 1941 TO&E was before the division was formed. I feel the creation of the btg. guastatori and cp. mortai was done by consolidating the flamethrowers and mortars from the battalions. Davide's data (aircraft lift) indicates that these were now divisional assets and not regimental/battalion. I have not read of any airborne organization (Italian or other) jumping with flamethrowers. The btg. guastatori is not part of the 1st or 2nd lifts, so possibly planned as airlifted or its assets attached to the regiments.

Besides those two points, the July 41 is pretty close to what I posted. The one f.m. per squad is based on the small size of the squadra f. Davide reconstructed the squad organization using multiple sources, but it remains unproven (but reflects what was used in A.S.). With two f.m. per squad, that looks like a 18 man squad. With three squads per platoon instead of the normal two, that makes the airborne platoon (and therefore also the company) quite large, requiring more aircraft to carry. It is also harder to maneuver on the ground and reflects a step backwards in how the Italians were organizing their elite assault units. It is possible that as Italy expanded its airborne forces, the smaller, prewar squad, was adopted for flexibility and scale.

Of course, this is all speculation. The airborne force underwent rapid expansion between July 41 and May 42 and changed from several independent battalions to a formal divisional structure.

Pista! Jeff
 
Dili
6

Jeff
The Circolare 15710 have also a note
Total (divisional) flights needed for transport on SM82
-1 divisional flight ticket
-2 regimental commands (2x3 flights = 6)
-6 battalions paratroopers (flights 6x17 = 102)
-3x batteries of 47/32 (4 cannons each + command) (flights3x5 = 15)
-4x platoons from 47/32 (2 cannons each) (flights4x2 = 8)
-4x 81-mortar platoons (3 mortars each) (flights4x2 = 8)
So...not battaglione guastatori (????)

All the best
Maurizio
 
Dili
In effect the Circolare put on 6 47/32 the total amount of 47/32....but the note put to 8 the total amount of transport........Phreaps a tipo, Phreaps the usual italian hodgepodge, phreaps a change on the field (???????????).
All the best
Maurizio
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
I am currently writing my book on the parachutisti I am searching for original documents on these units. If anyone has copies they can share, that would be excellent.

If anyone has cites for documents, but not the document itself, I would welcome that information as well. I have some connections in Italy and I can ask them to search for those documents if they know what to look for.

For example, Maurizio stated there is a document SME circolare 15710 del luglio 1941. He also indicates that there is a June 1942 document, but no full cite provided.

Any information on organization would be welcome. The book will cover the years 1936-1943 and include units raised by the R.A. and R.M.

Grazie!
 
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