Monterotondo

Afrika

Monterotondo
The Fallschirmjäger attack on the Italian Army HQ outside Rome.

In July 1943 the Allies invaded Sicily, and against fierce German and Italian resistance finally fought their way to Messina at the top of the island by August 17. By then the Germans and Italians had skilfully evacuated a large proportion of weapons and men from the island. In the meantime the Italian government had had enough of Mussolini’s war, and his own Fascist Grand Council voted him out of power.

After negotiations Italy’s new leader General Badoglio announced the unconditional surrender of Italy to the Allied Powers.

The Germans immediately took moves to secure Rome for themselves, forcing the Army Comandosupremo to set-up 30km to the east of Rome at Monterotondo in Orsini Castle.

One of the German units taking control of Rome was the 2. Fallschirmjäger Division under General Bernhard Ramcke. Making up the division were the 2. Fallschirmjäger regiment, 6. Fallschirmjäger regiment (formed from the 4th Luftlandesturm battalion), 7. Fallschirmjäger regiment (formed from the Lehr battalion) and an artillery battalion. Among the cadre of the new units were the few surviving veterans from Ramcke’s African campaigns.
 
On September 8, 1943, the 2. Fallschirmjäger Division was ordered into Rome to take control of the city, disarm Italian units and squash any resistance. The German command soon became aware that the Italian headquarters at Monterotondo refused to surrender and it was decided to airdrop Major Walter Gericke’s II Battalion, 6. Fallschirmjäger regiment on the Italian headquarters’ positions. Their aim was to capture General Mario Roatta.
Monterotondo near Rome
A Fallschirmjäger gets a decoration.

On September 9, at 0630 hours 50 JU-52 aircraft left from the airfield at Manfredonia. The first Fallschirmjäger jumped over the landing zone at 0825 hours. The 6th and 7th companies’ aircraft came under heavy fire and were dropped some way of course landing 4km to the northwest of Monterotonda on either side of the Tiber River. The 5th Company landed closed to target, 1km northwest of Monterotondo, near the sports stadium. The 8th Company was also better aimed, landing 1km southeast of the objective on the Monterotonda-Mantana road. They were soon to run into stiff resistance.

Facing the Fallschirmjäger and guarding the Italian headquarters were elements of the Piave Motorised Division (a battalion of the 58th Infantry Regiment and a battery of the 20th Artillery Regiment), Re Infantry Division (an Infantry battalion), and Carabinieri (military police), ably assisted by a group of armed civilians.

The first fighting occurred on the Via Salaria, which runs southeast to Rome. Here the Fallschirmjäger from the 6th and 7th companies’ ran into Italian infantry from the 58th Regiment. The Fallschirmjäger had occupied the Monterotondo railway station and were heading northeast towards the HQ at Orsini Castle.

Advancing up the road the Fallschirmjäger found themselves under heavy crossfire, on their left were the Fucilieri of the 58th Regiment, and to their right were a group of armed civilians, firing with shotguns and rifles. As they advanced the artillery and another company of the 58th opened fire from behind. The Fallschirmjäger then withdrew and counter-attacked the 58th Infantry to their left. The Italians tenaciously fought off their assault.

Meanwhile the 5th and 8th Fallschirmjäger companies advanced on Monterotondo from their landing positions and run into resistance from civilians, Carabinieri and infantry from the Re Division. They fight their way to the Italian HQ at Orsini Castle.

Heavy fighting also occurred around the Cricket Tavern, as the Fallschirmjäger advanced on the HQ.

Orsini Castle was aptly named being a fortified palace protected by a bunker and anti-tank walls. Sources are conflicting, some claim the Germans successfully stormed the castle, while others claim the Fallschirmjäger were thrown back and the Italians only surrendered after Major Gericke persuaded the Italian General Staff to do so.

Ironically General Mario Roatta and most of the high-ranking General Staff had escaped south a couple of days before hand.

Orsini Castle dominating the hights of Monterotondo
Fallschirmjäger after a hard days fighting

Fallschirmjäger Force

II Battalion, 6. Fallschirmjäger Regiment ~ Major Walter Gericke
5. Kompanie ~ Oberleutnant Nitzschke
6. Kompanie ~ Oberleutnant Knaus
7. Kompanie ~ Oberleutnant Thomsen
8. Kompanie ~ Oberleutnant Engelhardt
 
German Casualties: 135 (52 killed, 4 missing, 79 wounded)
Italian Casualties: 156 (125 soldiers, 31 civilians)

Scenarios

The landings were pretty scattered, and the fighting didn’t start until the Fallschirmjäger had organised themselves and their equipment. The first encounter on the Via Salaria makes for an interesting encounter battle best handled by the Free-For-All or Encounter missions.

Flames Of War Forces

For the Italians use the Battalion Morale rules on page 230 of Flames Of War.

The Carabinieri Platoon is fielded using the Bersaglieri rules and organisation from Afrika.

A view down one of the narrow streets of Monterotondo of Orsini Castle’s tower.

Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment,
Piave Motorised Division
(2 Compagnia Fucilieri)

Battalion HQ ~ (Same as Company HQ)

25 points

1st Company Headquarters

25 points

1st Fucilieri Platoon
4 Squads, Upgraded to Rifle/MG teams


115 points

2nd Fucilieri Platoon (as above)

115 points

3rd Fucilieri Platoon (as above)

115 points

Machine-gun Platoon
4 Machine-gun Sections


95 points

Mortar Platoon
3 Mortar Sections


80 points

2nd Company Headquarters

25 points

4th Fucilieri Platoon
4 Squads, Upgraded to Rifle/MG teams


115 points

5th Fucilieri Platoon (as above)

115 points

6th Fucilieri Platoon (as above)

115 points

Machine-gun Platoon
4 Machine-gun Sections


95 points

Support Platoons  
Artillery Battery
2 Gun Sections, Add TL37s, 3-ton truck


190 points

Civilian Fighters
(Fucilieri Platoon, Fearless Conscript)
2 Sections (Rifle teams)



55 points

Carabinieri Platoon (Elite, as Bersaglieri)
3 Squads, Rifle/MG teams


150 points

Total

1430 points

6. Kompanie,
6. Fallschirmjäger Regiment
Oberleutnant Knaus

Company HQ ~
Command Panzerknacker SMG teams
Mortar Section, 3 Light Mortars



125 points

1st Fallschirmjäger Platoon
3 Squads
Command Panzerknacker SMG team



285 points

2nd Fallschirmjäger Platoon
3 Squads
Command Panzerknacker SMG team



285 points

3rd Fallschirmjäger Platoon
2 Squads
Command Panzerknacker SMG team



200 points

Weapons Platoons  
Machine-gun Platoon
4 HMG teams
Command Panzerknacker SMG team



180 points

Light Gun Platoon
2 Sections
Command Panzerknacker SMG team



95 points

Support Platoons  
Pioneer Platoon
2 Pioneer Squads


250 points

Total

1420 points

Side view of Orsini Castle

After withdrawing the Fallschirmjäger rallied and counter-attacked the flanking Fucilieri. This time, pit the above Fallschirmjäger against the defending Italians in a Hold the Line mission. Defend with the Italian 1st Company and have the second company arrive from reserve.
 
For the fighting around the Cricket Tavern you may like to run a game similar to the first or a Hold the Line or Fighting Withdrawal with the Italians defending.

Rear view of Orsini Castle

Similar forces to those above, but the Italians from Re Division and Fallschirmjäger from the 5th or 8th companies. 

For the final assault on Orsini Castle The Cauldron mission will make a challenging game. Place Orsini Castle in the middle of the table with the rear courtyard facing where the defenders reserves will arrive from, with the front of the building facing the Fallschirmjägers’ reserve area.

For the bunker, treat as an immobile tank with front armour 6, side 6 and top 2, armed with a ROF 4 machine-gun rated Regular. Place the bunker in the centre in front of the castle.

Alternative Ideas

The Piave Division had the DLX Semovente Battery attached to them and from June 1943 they were armed with the Semovente 105/25.

Fallschirmjäger street fighting
Semovente 105/25

So if you want add a bit of extra challenge to the Fallschirmjäger you might like to field these in support.

Semovente 105/25, Fully-tracked, Armour Front 6, Side 3, Top 1, 105mm gun, AA MG.

105mm gun, Range 24”/60cm, ROF 2, AT 10, FP 2+.

Organise them like a Self-propelled 75/18 Platoon on page 74 of Afrika. Upgrade from Semovente 75/18 to Semovente 105/25 for +75 points per vehicle.

Right: A great photo showing the difference between the Semovente 75/18 (left) and the Semovente 105/25 (right).
 
Just model them with Semovente 75/18s. The Semovente 105/25 was actually lower and wider than the original 75/18. It was built based on the M15/42 tank chassis.
Semovente 75/18 and 105/25
A square near Orsini Castle.

Sources

http://www.comandosupremo.com/forum/index.php The Comandosupremo website’s forum, always lots of interesting information on the Italians during WWII.

http://www.eagle19.freeserve.co.uk/monterotondo.htm An account of the operation from German sources.

SAND AGAINST THE WIND, by Riccardo Maffey, http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/Sand/00000014.htm
Historical fiction with characters inserted into actual events.

And a special thanks to Richard Chambers for the initial idea and background material.


Last Updated On Friday, February 01, 2008 by Wayne at Battlefront