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33rd Infantry Division Acqui
33a Divisione Fanteria Acqui.png
33rd Infantry Division Acqui Insignia
Active 1939–1943
1 January 2003 - today
Country Italy Regno d'Italia
Kingdom of Italy
Branch Flag of Italy (1860)Regio Esercito
Royal Italian Army
Role Infantry
Size Division
Nickname(s) Acqui
Engagements World War II
Decorations Gold Medal of Military Valor
Collar patch
Acqui Collar Patch

The 33rd Infantry Division Acqui (Italian language:33ª Divisione Acqui ) was a mountain infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II. The only difference between line infantry divisions and mountain infantry divisions was that the latter's artillery was carried by pack mules instead of the standard horse-drawn carriages. Italy's real mountain warfare divisions were the six alpine divisions manned by the "Alpini" mountain troops. The Acqui Division was formed in August 1939 from the parts of 14th and 11th infantry brigades, and mobilized for war in October 1939. It is notable for having been massacred with remarkable cruelty after surrendering to the Germans 21 September 1943. The main detachments of the Acqui division in the islands of Cephalonia and Corfu were officially dissolved 24 September 1943.[1]


Invasion of France and fighting the GreeksEdit

The Acqui division was deployed in 1940 as part of Italian II Corps to defend a line of Maddalena Pass-Argentera-Colle del Ferro on the French border.[2] After France surrendered to Germany in the evening of 22 June 1940,[3] it received orders to advance to cross the border 23 June 1940. Meeting weak opposition it descended to La Condamine-Châtelard. 24 June 1940, it also reached the Ubaye Valley, but at this point a Franco-Italian Armistice came into effect and the Acqui division was immediately sent back to Veneto region. 6 December 1940, the division received an orders to move to Albanian-Greek border. It reached a coastal area north-west of Vuno in Himarë municipality 18 December 1940, and immediately ordered to reinforce positions of 51st Infantry Division Siena at Shushice river valley. Because of the overall deterioration of Italian positions in Greco-Italian War, 19 December 1940 it already encountered a Greek force trying to capture Vlorë. The Acqui division then fought defensively until the end of December, 1940. Only attacks to improve the defence positions were made. In January, 1941, the bitter fight for the Qafa e Hazërit mountain trail started. The Qafa e Hazërit trail changed hands several times. In February, 1941, the division was pulled back to Smokthinë in Shushice river valley. It was re-deployed in Kakoz, Albania in March, 1941. In the course of the German-led Battle of Greece the Acqui division started an attack at Bolenë, Horë-Vranisht and Maja e Mesimerit 14 April 1941. The Greek army began an organized retreat on April 16, and the Acqui took the direct route to the border town of Konispol and a Greek province of Filiates beyond. The city of Igoumenitsa and a coastal town Syvota were captured 20 April 1941.

Between 20 December 1940 and 23 April 1941 the casualties in the Acqui Division were 481 killed, 1,163 missing, 1,361 wounded and 672 frostbitten.[4] After the end of Greco-Italian War the Acqui division has become the part of the occupation force on the islands of Corfu, Lefkada, Zakynthos and Cephalonia. To reinforce the thinly spread troops, 14 November 1941 it received a 317th infantry regiment. During 1942 the division headquarters were briefly relocated to Lefkada before settling on Cephalonia in May, 1943.


Following the Italian surrender in September 1943, thousands of soldiers from the division were murdered on the islands during Operation Achse, in what became known as the "Cephallonia massacre". One of the largest prisoner of war massacres of the war,[5][6] and one of the largest-scale German atrocities to be committed by Wehrmacht troops,[7] this event provided the historical background to the novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which later became a Hollywood film.[8][9][10]

The events in Cefalonia were repeated, to a lesser extent, elsewhere. In Corfu, the 8,000-strong Italian garrison comprised elements of three divisions, including the Acqui's 18th Regiment. On 24 September, the Germans landed a force on the island, and by the next day they were able to induce the Italians to capitulation.[11] All 280 Italian officers on the island were executed during the next two days on the orders of General Hubert Lanz, in accordance with Hitler's directives.[11] The bodies were loaded onto a ship and disposed of in the sea.[11] Similar executions of officers also occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Kos, when the Italian commander and 90 of his officers were shot.[12]


  • On 28 September 1943, the ship Ardena have either struck a naval mine or was intentionally scuttled by explosive charge. Of the 840 Italian prisoners-of-war on board, 720 perished.[13]
  • On 10 October 1943, the Italian ship Mario Roselli in Corfu bay was bombed and severely damaged by allied aircraft. Out of more than 5000 Italian prisoners-of-war and German crew, 1302 perished.
  • On 13 October 1943, the ship Marguerita [14] was sunk, presumably by naval mine, after departing from Argostoli, Cephalonia. 544 men perished.

Order of battleEdit

  • 17. Acqui Infantry Regiment
  • 18. Acqui Infantry Regiment
  • 317. Infantry Regiment
  • 33. Artillery Regiment
  • 27. CCNN Legion (Blackshirts)
  • 33. Mortar Battalion
  • 33. Signal Company
  • 31. Pioneer Company
  • 33. Machine Gun Battalion
  • 3. Medical Section
  • 4. Supply Section
  • 9. Field Bakery
  • 7. Carabinieri Section [15][nb 1]


In 2002 the Italian Army raised three division commands, with one of the three always readily deployable for NATO missions. The army decided that each division should carry on the traditions of one of the divisions that served with distinction in World War II. Therefore, on 31 December 2002 the 3rd Italian Division in San Giorgio a Cremano was renamed as Division Command Acqui.

In the 2013 Army reform it was decided to abolish the corps level in the Italian Army and combat brigades were placed directly under the three divisions. The Acqui Division now commands of the following brigades in Southern Italy and Sicily:

External linksEdit


  1. An Italian Infantry Division normally consisted of two Infantry Regiments (three Battalions each), an Artillery Regiment, a Mortar Battalion (two companies), an Anti Tank Company, a Blackshirt Legion (Regiment of two Battalions). Each Division had only about 7,000 men, The Infantry and Artillery Regiments contained 1,650 men, the Blackshirt Legion 1,200, each company 150 men.[16]
  2. Jowett, Philip S. The Italian Army 1940–45 (1): Europe 1940–1943. Osprey, Oxford – New York, 2000, pg. 5, ISBN 978-1-85532-864-8
  4. Storia fotografica della Divisione Acqui.
  5. "Massacres and atrocities of WWII". "Almost unknown outside of Italy, this event ranks with Katyn as one of the darkest episodes of the war" also "The German 11th Battalion of Jäger-Regiment 98 of the 1st Gebirgs (Mountain) Division, commanded by Major Harald von Hirschfeld, arrived on the island and soon Stukas were bombing the Italian positions" 
  6. "Rizospastis" (in el). 2000-09-03. "Πρέπει να σημειωθεί πως τα βιβλία για τη σφαγή των Ιταλών στρατιωτών της Κεφαλονιάς (η μεγαλύτερη σφαγή αιχμαλώτων του Β' Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου), εκτός αυτού του Μπερνιέρ, είναι το ένα καλύτερο από το άλλο. Translation: It must be noted that the books about the massacre of the Italian soldiers in Kefalonia (the biggest massacre of prisoners of war in WWII), except the one by Bernier, are one better than the other." 
  7. "Mörder unterm Edelweiß – noch immer unter uns ("Murderers under the Edelweiss — still among us")" (in de). 
  8. Holmes, Professor Richard. "The ‘D-Day Dodgers’". BBC. "...the massacre of the Acqui division on the island of Cephalonia, the background to Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, was a cruel fact" 
  9. "Corelli’s comrades". "That same day, military records show, the German Gen. Hubert Lanz reported from Cephalonia to Berlin: ‘Final mopping up... is under way. General Gandin and his staff were captured. Special treatment in compliance with Fuhrer Order.’" 
  10. "Hollywood goes to Italy". "Historical Context: Italy invaded Greece on 28 October 1940 with 7 divisions of the 9th and 11th Armies. By 22 November, the Italians were pushed back into Albania. The Germans had to come to their aid. But when the Italian government decided to negotiate a surrender to the Allies, the German Army tried to disarm the Italians in what they called Operation ACHSE. On 29 September 1943, on the island of Cephalonia, the Germans fought the Italians of the 33rd "Aqui" Division. A total of 1315 were killed in battle, 3,000 were drowned when the German ships taking them to concentration camps were sunk by mines, and 5,325 were executed. In general, the Germans did not battle or massacre the Italians in other areas." 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Kriegsverbrechen der 1. Gebirgs-Division auf dem Balkan ("War Crimes of the 1. Mountain Division in the Balkans")
  12. Massacres and Atrocities of WWII
  15. Wendal, Marcus. "Italian Army". Axis History. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 
  16. Paoletti, p 170
  • Paoletti, Ciro (2008). A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98505-9. 

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