Purchase these Items

Products mentioned in this Article

--None--
 

 

Death From Above

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 off course landing 4km to the northwest of Monterotonda on either side of the Tiber River. The 5th Company landed close 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 ran into resistance from civilians, Carabinieri and infantry from the Re Division. They foughtt 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 beforehand.

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 Italian forces use the Bersaglieri organisation from
Avanti with the addition of the Legions of Rome Command Card for 10 of the 11 platoons across the three formations.

 

The Carabinieri Platoon is fielded using the Bersaglieri rules and organisation from Avanti as a single platoon in a formation, but being the only platoon without the Legions of Rome Command Card. The HQ of this formation is also fielded without Legions of Rome. 


The Italian civilians are represented by the second platoon in the third Bersaglieri Formation, but without Legions of Rome, and instead Blackshirts.

 

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)

Formation HQ 
2x Rifle teams


1 point

1st Fucilieri Platoon
9x MG & Rifle teams
Legions of Rome Command Card


9 points
-2 points

2nd Fucilieri Platoon 
9x MG & Rifle teams
Legions of Rome Command Card


9 points
-2 points

3rd Fucilieri Platoon (as above)
9x MG & Rifle teams
Legions of Rome Command Card


9 points
-2 points

Machine-gun Platoon
3x Breda HMG
Legions of Rome Command Card


3 points
-1 point

81mm Mortar Platoon
3x 81mm Mortar
Legions of Rome Command Card


5 points
-1 point

Formation HQ
2x Rifle teams


1 points

4th Fucilieri Platoon
9x MG & Rifle teams
Legions of Rome Command Card


9 points
-2 points

5th Fucilieri Platoon (as above)
9x MG & Rifle teams
Legions of Rome Command Card


9 points
-2 points

6th Fucilieri Platoon (as above)
9x MG & Rifle teams
Legions of Rome Command Card


9 points
-2 points

Machine-gun Platoon
3x Breda HMG
Legions of Rome Command Card


3 points
-1 points

Formation HQ
2x Rifle teams


1 point

Civilian Fighters
9x MG & Rifle teams
Blackshirts Command Card


9 points

-2 points

Carabinieri Platoon (Elite, as Bersaglieri)
9x MG & Rifle teams

9 points
Support Platoons  
100mm Howitzer Battery
4x 100mm Howitzers
Softskin Transport Command Card


12 points
1 point

Total

82 points

6. Kompanie,
6. Fallschirmjäger Regiment
Oberleutnant Knaus

Formation HQ  
2x MP40 SMG teams
2x 7.5cm Recoilless Gun
Panzerknacker Command Card


3 points
6 points
2 points

1st Fallschirmjäger Platoon
10x MG & Rifle teams
Panzerknacker Command Card


13 points
2 points

2nd Fallschirmjäger Platoon
10x MG & Rifle teams
Panzerknacker Command Card


13 points
2 points

3rd Fallschirmjäger Platoon
7x MG & Rifle teams
Panzerknacker Command Card


9 points
2 points

Support  
Machine-gun Platoon
4 HMG teams


6 points

Pioneer Platoon
5x MG & Rifle teams
2x Flame-thrower teams


250 points

Total

68 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 No Retreat or Rearguard with the Italians defending.

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, Bridgehead 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 it is Motivation Confident, Skill Green 5+, with Assault 6. It is Hit On 2+, and Has a 2+ Save. It is armed with a machine-gun (Range 16”/40cm, ROF 6/2, AT2, FP 6)

Rear view of Orsini Castle

Bunker
Bunkers are Gun teams with the following rules. 


A Bunker can only be Shot at or Assaulted from within its Field of Fire. It cannot be hit by an Artillery Bombardment.


A Bunker is always Concealed and in Bulletproof Cover.

Teams Shooting or Assaulting a Bunker must re-roll successful Firepower tests to Destroy it.


Turret Bunkers with Armour ratings rather than a Save rating are treated as Tank teams when hit by Shooting or in Assaults.


Bunkers cannot be Assaulted by Tank teams nor can they Charge into Contact.

 

Each Bunker team is a separate Unit, even when taken as part of the same selection.

Place the bunker in the centre in front of the castle
.

 

Fallschirmjäger street fighting
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, December 6, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront