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The Paracadutisti are the paratroops of Italy.

History[edit | edit source]

The first units of Italian parachutists were trained and formed shortly before the Second World War in Castel Benito, near Tripoli, where the first Military Parachute School was located.

The first troops trained were two Libyan battalions, the Libyan Parachute Battalion and the 1st National Libyan Parachute Battalion,[1] of the Royal Colonial Corps. To these were added the first battalions of Italian army troops and the 1st Carabinieri Parachute Battalion (there were three Carabinieri Parachute Battalions). 1 Battalion Royal Carabinieri paratroopers, formed on July 1, 1940, used in Second World War on the North African front (1941). The Italian Air Force also had parachute units.

Later in Italy, the staff at Castel Benito was expanded into the School at Tarquinia and became the first elements of the future Divisione Folgore.

The divisions[edit | edit source]

A second School was established in Viterbo and a new division, the Nembo (Nimbus or Rain Cloud) was being organized. A third division, the 183 Parachute Division Ciclone (Cyclone), was planned but the 1943 Armistice of Cassibile interrupted its organization.

Folgore[edit | edit source]

In 1941 a 5,000-man Parachute division was raised and was designated the 185th Parachute Division Folgore, it was trained for the assault on Malta in the planned Operation Hercules. When the Malta invasion never took place, the parachutists were deployed instead as infantry in the North African theater, despite being poorly equipped for this role. It was engaged in ground combat operations in North Africa from July 1942 until its destruction at El Alamein. Following this, a 185th Parachute battalion was raised from survivors.

At El Alamein, as part of the German-Italian Panzer Army the Folgore was to the south. It was attacked by the British 44th and 50th Infantry, 7th Armoured, and Greek and Free French brigades making a feint to draw attention from the objective of operation Lightfoot and to pin down the 21st Panzer and Ariete armoured divisions.

The heroic behavior of the Folgore Division during the Second battle of El Alamein in resisting the attacks of six British divisions (two armored and four infantry) inspired the respect and admiration of its enemy. Lacking effective anti-tank weapons, the Italian paratroopers managed to stop British tanks only with a few obsolete 47/32 guns and petrol bombs. On 11 November 1942, when the battle was over, the BBC transmitted the famous official bulletin: “The remnants of the Folgore division put up resistance beyond every limit of human possibility.”[2]

The Folgore, having run out of water, withdrew from the El Alamein front at 2:00 a.m. on 3 November 1942, carrying their anti-tank weapons. At 2:35 p.m. on 6 November what was left of the division was captured by the British. They had exhausted their ammunition and destroyed their weapons, but refused to raise their hands in surrender or show the white flag.

Nembo[edit | edit source]

183° Parachute Regiment parading 2 June 2006 in Rome

184th Division Parachutists Nembo was constituted in 1943 as a second division of parachutists, based on entirely new units as well as the 185° Regiment of the Folgore Division. Nembo was sent shortly before the armistice between Italy and the Allies of 8 September 1943 to Sardinia where it was decimated by malaria.

A unit of the same name was raised by the Co-Belligerent Army now fighting against the Germans, alongside the allies, as 12/183rd in the War of Italian liberation it fought in the battles of Filottrano, Grizzano Houses and in Operation Herring (the latter two as part of the Folgore Combat Group that was raised from surviving elements of original Division.

After the end of the Second World War the Nembo unit title was given to a mechanized infantry units that was stationed, in turn, at Belluno, Villa Vicentina, Cervignano del Friuli and Gradisca d' Isonzo. The latter was its base of operations until 1991, at which time it was reconstituted as the 183rd Parachutist Battalion Nembo , within the Folgore Parachute Brigade. The Folgore (Parachute) brigade had been reconstituted in 1960. The Nembo battalion in 1993 was expanded to a Regiment, and from 1991 it has participated in many international missions that Italy has joined.

Ciclone[edit | edit source]

The 183rd Ciclone Parachute Division was planned and the training center was established in early 1943 with four battalions forming, however, it was overcome by events and was disbanded in accordance with the 1943 Armistice.

La Spezia[edit | edit source]

80 Infantry Division La Spezia (Airlanding) - trained and equipped similarly to the German Airlanding divisions, again for the Malta Invasion.

Italian Air Force Paracadutisti[edit | edit source]

RSI Paracadutisti[edit | edit source]

A number of parachute units were raised by the RSI and were considered to be elite troops and fought well. The RSI Army (ENR), RSI Air Force, GNR, X Mas.

  • RSI Army - raised the 350 man 'Nembo' Autonomous Parachute battalion which suffered 70 percent casualties at the Battle of Anzio.
  • RSI Air Force - raised a three battalion 'Folgore' Parachute Regiment which became part of the 'Arditi' Group.
  • GNR - 'Mazzarini' GNR Parachute battalion of 300 men. It mainly operated against partisans in the Padovana Plains from August 1944 until 1945.
  • RSI Navy - Xa MAS - 'Nuotatori Paracadutisti' Parachute Battalion (Parachute Swimmers), which was formed by volunteers of the former Italian Navy's San Marco Regiment's Parachute battalion. A flood of volunteers joined the battalion increasing it to over 1,400 men.

The modern Folgore Parachute Brigade[edit | edit source]

Folgore soldier at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin

Currently the Italian Army fields the Folgore Parachute Brigade with eight battalions, based in Livorno and stationed mostly in Tuscany. The Brigade is constituted around three paratrooper regiments (183°, 186° and 187°). There is also a training establishment known as CAPAR in Pisa (Parachuting Training Center, former SMIPAR - Military school of Parachuting, in its turn former CAP).

Folgore[edit | edit source]

Denomination of two distinguished units (for a long period coexisting) of the Italian army: the Brigade Parachutists Folgore and the Division of Infantry (then Mechanized) Folgore .

Common heraldic elements to both units: the gladio winged of mostrine/fregi (integrated from a parachute for the Brigade Parachutists) and the yellow lightning bolt in the symbol of the unit (in red field for the Division of Infantry, in blue field for the Brigade Parachutists). Currently the military school of parachuting (CAPAR) is found to Pisa.

Other parachute units[edit | edit source]

1944 paracadutisti motorcycle

  • The 4th Alpini Parachutist Regiment is a light Infantry regiment of the Italian Army, specializing in Mountain Combat. The Alpini are the mountain infantry corps of the Italian Army, that distinguished itself in combat during World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII). Today the 4th Alpini Parachutist Regiment is a Special Forces unit of elite mountain infantry specialized in the airborne assault role.
  • Carabinieri - 1st Carabinieri Regiment "Tuscania"( Livorno) (or more properly the 1st Regiment Carabinieri "Tuscania") is a Special Forces unit of the Italian Carabinieri. It is formed from paratroopers and is part of the Carabinieri Second Mobile Brigade along with the 7th Carabinieri Regiment based on Laives ( BZ), the 13th Carabinieri Regiment based in Gorizia, and the Special Intervention Group, which is also a parachute trained unit. The Tuscania is currently based in Livorno, and has approximately 550 personnel.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. http://www.comandosupremo.com/LibyaPara.html
  2. « I resti della divisione Folgore hanno resistito oltre ogni limite delle possibilità umane. » (Radio Londra)

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