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Italian Assault Craft, 1940-1945 (Hardback)

Human Torpedoes and other Special Attack Weapons

Maritime > Naval Maritime > Seaforth Publishing WWII

By Erminio Bagnasco
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781399056083
Published: 12th September 2023

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In stark contrast to the rather modest performance of its large surface fleet in the Second World War, the Italian Navy’s smallest units achieved its most spectacular successes. It made a speciality of unconventional methods of attack – explosive motor boats, human torpedoes and miniature submarines – that were employed with ingenuity and daring to surprise, discomfort and baffle the enemy. In December 1941 the whole balance of the naval war in the Mediterranean was altered by six frogmen riding three of the SLC craft they called maiale (‘pigs’) who penetrated Alexandria harbour to cripple the battleships Valiant and Queen Elizabeth, surely one of the most impressive ratios of results to resources in naval history.

This book is the first complete history of these craft, both the details of the technology and the history of their deployment. Beginning in the Great War with the extraordinary ‘jumping’ boats designed to scale harbour boom defences, the story takes in the inter-war development of both lightweight surface craft and underwater systems from small submarines to ‘Gamma’ assault divers. By way of comparison, equivalent developments in other navies are analysed, including the British ‘chariots’ which were little more than copies of the Italian SLCs.

Every operation by these craft is described, cataloguing the forces involved and the results, from high-profile successes like the sinking of the cruiser York by explosive motorboat to lesser-known incidents – the use of such craft by the Israelis as late as 1948 for example. Many were carried out by the famous Decima MAS, a unit as legendary in Italy as the SAS in Britain, and this book provides a comprehensive chronicle of their activities.

Originally commissioned by CABI Cattaneo that designed and built most of these craft, Italian Assault Craft benefited from unrestricted access to the company’s archives, technical drawings, and photo collection so it is replete with rarely seen illustrations. Very much secret weapons in their day, they are here revealed in full detail for the first time.

Handsomely produced, it contains numerous photographs, line drawings and informative tables.

Read the Full Review Here

Naval Review

As featured in

Storia Militare - No.365, February 2024

It is the only English language book I know of that is dedicated to the subject, and it deserves to be on any reference bookshelf for naval historians/enthusiasts/and modellers.

Read the Full Review Here

Military Model Scene

"In many respects this book provides a more balanced presentation of Italian naval forces, especially during the Second World War, where its naval personnel showed considerable ingenuity, gallantry and professionalism. This aspect of naval warfare is frequently overlooked in favour of more glamorous things like nuclear submarines, major surface combatants, aircraft and missiles. It is readily apparent that the Australia’s clearance diving force has a major role to play in Australia’s future maritime defence. I highly recommend this book."

Read the full review here.

Australian Naval Institute

“Really well put together, I’ve enjoyed reading it...A good book".

Watch here at 02:19:00

Bruships

About Erminio Bagnasco

ERMINIO BAGNASCO is the Editor of Storia Militare, Italy’s leading military journal. He is the author of many books on Italian warships, and is widely regarded as the foremost authority. As for Littorio Class, he was assisted by AUGUSTO DE TORO, an authority on the political and economic aspects of naval policy, and himself the author of many articles and monographs.

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