Purchase these Items

Products mentioned in this Article

--None--
 

 

Ostfront

Italy’s Alpini
A Brief history


Pre World War Two

The Alpini were formed in 1872, ten years after Garibaldi’s unification of Italy in 1860, at the behest of Captain Giuseppe Perruchetti to defend Italy’s northern borders. The soldiers themselves were recruited from the northern regions of Italy such as Lombardia, Trentio-Alto-Adine and Piedmonte, to take advantage of their local knowledge and experience of the Alps and their hardiness to such climates.

In June of 1883 the Alpini were awarded the “fiamme verde” (Green Flame) collar patch, also they adopted their typical hat – the Capello Alpino with the traditional black feather, which gave rise to their nickname “Le Penne Nere” – The black feathers.

Between this time and Word War One they fought in the First Italo-Abyssinian War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, and Turkish-Italian War.

World War One

After several reorganizations by World War One, their Strength stood at 24 peacetime battalions that increased to 64 at their height. They saw heavy combat over the Alps against both the Austro Hungarians and Germans fighting there from 1915 to 1918.

Typically fighting in 12m of snow and at highest altitudes of Alps had to offer. They suffered 120, 000 killed out of 400,000 Alpini. A testament to their tenacity and fortitude.

Their equipment was dragged up by horse, mule, cable car, mountain trails and walkways. Tunnels were drilled and blasted into the mountains for defense. 

And also blasting whole mountains, including their defenders to pieces (Col Di Lana, Monte Pasubio, Lagazuoi to name a few). Climbing and skiing had become essential skills it was during this war that the Alpini earned their legend of their fighting spirit and of their battle hardened friend – the mule. 

19th Century Alpini
Alpini gun crew World War Two

After World War One, almost all of the Alpini Battalions were deactivated. The 9th Regiment part of Julia Alpini Division was formed. By the outbreak of World War Two, six Alpini Divisions were formed by IL Duce Benito Mussolini’s fascist government as part of the Royal Army. These were:

1st Alpini Division “Taurinense”
2nd Alpini Division “Tridentina”
3rd Alpini Division “Julia”
4th Alpini Division “Cuneense”
5th Alpini Division “Pusteria”
6th Alpini Division “Alpi Graie”

1st Alpini Division “Taurinense”

This was part of the Alpini Corps in 1940 during the dismal attempt of Mussolini’s abortive invasion of Southern France under Gen. Paolo Micheletti, plus elements the strength of a Company from the Scuola Militare di Alpinismo from Aosta these were instructors most of them later to become Monte Cervino Battalion. They assumed occupation duties in Vichy France until being sent to Montenegro as part of the 2nd Army and then the XIV Corps from 12/41-6/43. They took part in numerous anti partisan operations until the armistice. 

1st Alpini Division “Taurinense”
1st Alpini Division “Taurinense”

There was a series of offensives against Tito’s partisans from 1941-43 and during the Fifth Offensive (Operation Schwarz) on 5/20/1943 Tito was surrounded by German, Italian and Bulgarian troops, but Tito slipped back into Eastern Bosnia with 3000 men out after breaking through the weak cordon of Italian and Bulgarian troops, leaving 13000 men dead. It is worth note that after the armistice the unit in its entirety joined Montenegrin partisans.

It comprised of
3rd Alpini Infantry Regiment “Aosta”
4th Alpini Infantry Regiment
1st Alpini Artillery Regiment

2nd Alpini Division “Tridentina”

This was part of the 4th Army in 1940 during the dismal attempt of Mussolini’s abortive invasion of Southern France under Gen. Ugo Santovito. The “Tridentina was shipped to Albania to help in reinforcing the Albanian/Greek front in May of 1941 as part of the XXXVI Corps in the 9th Army.

In June of 1941, an offer was extended to Hitler by Mussolini of help in the form of a military unit, and thus the CSIR (Corpo Spedzione Italiane in Russia) under General Messe.

2nd Alpini Division “Tridentina”
2nd Alpini Division “Tridentina”

It was sent to AG Sud in southern Russia and was initially successful in the initial offensive. It took its toll on the units, with equipment being either antiquated or inadequate. During the winter of 1941/42 the CSIR suffered tremendous hardship, and by March 1942 had grown by another 7 divisions increasing then number of Italian troops to 9 divisions.

The Alpini were grouped together in the Alpini Corps in the 8th Army, to round out the corps the ”Vicenzia” Occupational Infantry Division had joined them.

The Italians advanced with Army Group B. the 8th Army was on the Don River in November 1942, when the Russian pincers on Stalingrad closed in Operation Uranus. This smashed into the Italian troops who reeled back in disarray; the Alpini Corps was cut off. 

Despite this they managed to break out of their encirclement and reached the new lines. Tridentina was effectively finished as a combat unit losing 10750 men out of 15000.

It comprised of
5th Alpini Infantry Regiment
6th Alpini Infantry Regiment
2nd Alpini Artillery Regiment

3rd Alpini Division “Julia”

During the invasion of Greece “Julia” as part of the Ciamuria Army Corps and was in the Epirus Sector – Pindus Gorges and sustained heavy losses. Six months later when the Wehrmacht invade to help the Italians, Julia was transferred to the XXV Corps. Julia then assumed occupation duties until March of 1942.

In June of 1941, an offer was extended to Hitler by Mussolini of help in the form of a military unit, and thus the CSIR (Corpo Spedzione Italiane in Russia) under General Messe.

3rd Alpini Division “Julia”
3rd Alpini Division “Julia”

It was sent to AG Sud in southern Russia and was initially successful in the first offensive. It took its toll on the units, with equipment being either antiquated or just inadequate. During the winter of 1941/42 the CSIR suffered tremendous hardship, and by March 1942 had grown by another 7 divisions increasing the number of Italian troops to 9 divisions. The Alpini were grouped together in the Alpini Corps in the 8th Army, to round out the corps the ”Vicenzia” Occupational Infantry Division had joined them. The Italians advanced with Army Group B. the 8th Army was on the Don River in November 1942, when the Russian pincers on Stalingrad closed in Operation Uranus.

This smashed into the Italian troops who reeled back in disarray; the Alpini Corps was cut off. Despite this they managed to break out of their encirclement and reached the new lines. Julia’s was effectively finished as a combat unit losing 13800 men out of 15000.

It comprised of
8th Alpini Infantry Regiment
9th Alpini Infantry Regiment
3rd Alpini Artillery Regiment

4th Alpini Division “Cuneense”

This was part of the 2nd Army in 1940 during the dismal attempt of Mussolini’s abortive invasion of Southern France under General Alberto Ferrero. After France, “Cuneense” was shipped to the Albanian/Greek Front in May of 1941 as part of the Army Reserve, but ended up being transferred to take part in the invasion of Yugoslavia under General E. Battisti as part of the 9th Army from Albania.

In June of 1941, an offer was extended to Hitler by Mussolini of help in the form of a military unit, and thus the CSIR (Corpo Spedzione Italiane in Russia) under General Messe was born. It was sent to AG Sud in southern Russia and was initially successful in the first offensive.

4th Alpini Division “Cuneense”

It took its toll on the units, with equipment being either antiquated or just inadequate. During the winter of 1941/42 the CSIR suffered tremendous hardship, and by March 1942 had grown by another 7 divisions increasing the number of Italian troops to 9 divisions. The Alpini were grouped together in the Alpini Corps in the 8th Army, to round out the corps the ”Vicenzia” Occupational Infantry Division had joined them. The Italians advanced with Army Group B. the 8th Army was on the Don River in November 1942, when the Russian pincers on Stalingrad closed in Operation Uranus. This smashed into the Italian troops who reeled back in disarray; the Alpini Corps was cut off.

Despite this they managed to break out of their encirclement and reached the new lines.

It comprised of
1st Alpini Infantry Regiment
2nd Alpini Infantry Regiment
5th Alpini Artillery Regiment

5th Alpini Division “Pusteria” 5th Alpini Division “Pusteria”

This division participated in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935 on the Northern Front as part of the 1st Army Corps. It took part in the Battle of Amber Aradam, where a large Ethiopian force under Ras Mulghieta took up an offensive position to threaten the Italian base camp at Mek’ele.

They was part of the 1st Army Reserves in 1940 during the dismal attempt of Mussolini’s abortive invasion of Southern France under General Amedeo de Cia.

The “Pusteria” was shipped to Albania to help in reinforcing the Albanian/Greek front in May of 1941 as part of the IV Corps in the 11th Army. They were sent to Montenegro as part of the XIV Corps from 12/41-8/42.

There was a series of offensives against Tito’s partisans from 1941-43 and, during the Fifth Offensive (Operation Schwarz) on 5/20/1943, Tito was surrounded by German, Italian and Bulgarian troops. But Tito slipped back into Eastern Bosnia with 3000 men after breaking through the weak cordon of Italian and Bulgarian troops, leaving 13000 men dead. After August of 1943 they were reassigned to occupational duties in Vichy France until the Armistice.

It comprised of
7th Alpini Infantry Regiment
11th Alpini Infantry Regiment
5th Alpini Artillery Regiment

6th Alpini Division “Alpi Graie”

They were sent to Montenegro as part of the XIV Corps from 12/41-6/43. There was a series of offensives against Tito’s partisans from 1941-43 and during the Fifth Offensive (Operation Schwarz) on 5/20/1943 Tito was surrounded by German, Italian and Bulgarian troops, but Tito slipped back into Eastern Bosnia with 3000 men out after breaking through the weak cordon of Italian and Bulgarian troops, leaving 13000 men dead. After the Armistice was signed, they fought the Germans in La Spezia for two days under General Mario Gorlier. 

It comprised of

6th Alpini Division “Alpi Graie”
3rd Group (Col. A. Bruzzone) (During the invasion of France was part of the 1st Corps and consisted of 3 Alpini Battalions)
4th Group (During the invasion of France was part of the 15th Corps and consisted of 4 Alpini Battalions, 1 Alpini Artillery Battalion and 1 MSVN Battalion)

Alpini in full kit

Independent Alpini Units

I have found during my research mention of numerous Alpini battalions not assigned to a division. Anyone whom has additional information on these units please contact the editor and he will pass it on to me.

France 1940

Alpine Battalions in Army Group West at June 10th, 1940
From North to South, for Corps:

Alpine Corps:
Battalions: Duca degli Abruzzi, Aosta, Val Baltea, Val d’Orco, Ivrea, Val Piave, Val Cordevole, Intra, Val Brenta, Val Cismon, Morbegno, Tirano, Edolo, Vestone, Verona. Total: 15
I Corps:
Battalions: Susa, Val Cenischia, Exilles, Val Dora, Val Fassa. Total 5
IV Corps:
Battalions: Fenestrelle, Pinerolo, Val Pellice, Val Chisone. Total: 4

II Corps:
Battalions: Pieve di Teco, Ceva, Mondovì, Borgo San Dalmazzo, Dronero, Saluzzo, Val Chiese, Val Camonica, Val d’Intelvi, Valtellina, Val Maira, Val Stura. Total: 12 

III Corps:
Battalions: Val Ellero, Valle Arroscia, Val Tanaro, Val d’Adige, Val Venosta. Total: 5
XV Corps:
No Alpini battalions

Alpini

In reserve, 1st Army:
Battalions: Feltre, Pieve di Cadore, Belluno, Bassano, Trento, Bolzano. Total: 6
As a whole: Army Group West: 47 Alpini battalions. Of which: 1st Army: 23; 4th Army: 24

Invasion of Greece October 1940

EPIRUS SECTOR
Ciamuria Army Corps - 5 Alpine Battalions

Alpini in winter gear Russia 1942

Monte Cervino ski Bn – added to the 8th Army’s TOE as an elite Ski unit. These were instructors from the Scuola Militare di Alpinismo.
For those folks interested in the Alpini in Russia here is an order of Battle for the Alpini Corps.

Italian Alpine Corps (Generale di Corpo d’Armata Gabriele Nasci)
Chief of Staff: Colonnello Giulio Martinat
Artillery Commander: Generale di Brigata Carlo Filippi
Engineer Commander: Generale di Brigata Cesare Tamassia
Line Divisions:
• 2nd Tridentina Alpine Division (Generale di Brigata Luigi Reverberi) – 6th and 5th Alpine Regiments (Colonnello Paolo Signorini and Colonnello Giuseppe Adam respectively) and 2nd Alpine Artillery Regiment (Colonnello Federico Moro).
• 3rd Julia Alpine Division (Generale di Brigata Umberto Ricagno*) – 9th and 8th Alpine Regiments (Colonnello Fausto Lavizzari and Colonnello Armando Cimolino respectively) and 3rd Alpine Artillery Regiment (Colonnello Pietro Gay).
• 4th Cuneense Alpine Division (Generale di Divisione Emilio Battisti**) – 1st and 2nd Alpine Regiments (Colonnello Luigi Manfredi and Colonnello Luigi Scrimin respectively) and 4th Alpine Artillery Regiment (Colonnello Enrico Orlandi).

Alpini in winter gear
Retreat in Russia Organic Corps Assets:
• 11º Raggruppamento Artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata – LI, LII and LIII Gruppo cannoni da 105/32; CXVII Gruppo obici da 149/13.
• 39th and 41st Antiaircraft Batteries (20mm)

Additional Army-Level Reinforcements:
• Alpine Ski Battalion “Monte Cervino” (Tenente Colonnello Mario D’Adda)
• Squadron grouping of dismounted cavalry from the Raggruppamento truppe a cavallo (see note above).
• Horse Artillery Regiment (Colonnello Domenico Montella) – without horses; removed to the rear.
• XXXII Gruppo cannoni da 149/40 of the 9º Raggruppamento Artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata
• XXIV Gruppo cannoni da 149/28 of the 9º Raggruppamento Artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata
• German Artillery Regiment 612
Sources (Italian):

Alpini storia e leggenda, vol. II
Attacco a Occidente - M. Minola
I battaglioni Alpini nella guerra 1940-43 - G. Rochat
Storia degli Alpini - G. Oliva
Le Operaazioni Delle Unità Italiane Al Fronte Russo (1941-1943) by the Stato Maggiore Dell’Esercito – Ufficio Storico (General Staff of the Army – Historical Office), Rome, 2000 (3rd Edition).

Sources (English):

Italian Army Order of Battle 1940-44 - Victor W Madeja
Italian Army Handbook - Victor W Madeja
Italian Order of Battle WWII (3 Volumes) - George F Nafziger
Mussolini’s Soldiers - Rex Trye
Rommel’s North African Campaign - Greene & Massignani
Miscellaneous other publications & Articles

Enjoy, Ranger_1-75th aka Will


Last Updated On Monday, February 25, 2008 by Wayne at Battlefront