132nd Armoured Division Ariete

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This article is about the historic Italian 132nd Armoured Division Ariete. For for the currently active Italian Army brigade, see Ariete Armored Brigade.
132^ Divisione Corazzata Ariete
132nd Armoured Division Ariete
CoA mil ITA b cor Ariete.jpg
Italian 132^Armored Division/Brigade "Ariete" Shoulder Insignia
Active 1 February 1939 – 8 December 1942
23 May 1948 – 30 September 1986
Country Italy Kingdom of Italy (1939 - 1943)
 Italy (1948 - 1986)
Branch Italian Army
Type Armored
Size Division
Garrison/HQ Milan
Nickname Ariete (Ram)
Motto "Ferrea mole, Ferreo cuore"
Colors blue and red
Mascot Ram Head
Engagements Operation Compass
Siege of Tobruk
Operation Crusader
Battle of Gazala
First Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Raffaele Cadorna, Jr.
Pietro Giannattasio
Gian Marco Chiarini
Roberto Ranucci
Paolo Ruggiero

The Ariete Armoured Division was an armoured division of the Italian Army during World War II. It was formed in 1939 as the second armoured division in the Italian Army after the 131 Armoured Division Centauro. The division fought in the North African Campaign until being destroyed during the Second Battle of El Alamein. After World War II the division was reformed as part of the Italian Army.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

France[edit]

The 132nd Armoured Division Ariete was formed in Milan in February 1939, it was initially made up of the 8th Bersaglieri motorised infantry regiment, the 32nd tank regiment, equipped with L3/35 light tanks and a few M11/39 medium tanks, the 132nd artillery regiment, and additional divisional support units. The division was moved to the French border at the outbreak of World War II, but was kept in reserve during the short campaign on that front.

Libya[edit]

Later, some battalions of the 32nd Tank Regiment were sent to Libya on a stop gap basis. The I and II M11/39 medium tank battalions were sent as part of the Maletti Group. The III and V M13/40 medium tank battalions become part of the Special Armored Brigade (Brigata Corazzata Speciale, or BCS). Both the Maletti Group and the BCS were part of the ill-fated 10th Army.

Operation Compass[edit]

From December 1940 to February 1941, during Operation Compass, the British Western Desert Force overran the 10th Army and occupied the whole of Cyrenaica. The tanks of the Maletti Group were lost in Egypt, while the tanks of the BCS were sacrificed during the break out attempt at Beda Fomm.
After this setback it was decided to employ the whole Ariete Division in North Africa. On 24 January 1941, the first echelons of the division disembarked at Tripoli. From February 1941 to November 1942, the Ariete Division fought alongside the German Africa Corps (Deutsches Afrikakorps, or DAK) in the North Africa campaign. Ariete was attached to the Italian Mobile Corps (Corpo d'Armata di Manovra Italia). This unit was later to become Italian XX Motorised Corps.

Siege of Tobruk[edit]

In particular, reinforced in 1941 with the 132nd Tank Regiment, which would replace the 32nd Tank Regiment, (disbanded in mid-1942), it took part in the first German – Italian counteroffensive to retake Cyrenaica, and the siege of Tobruk which resulted from this. With this regiment, its battalions equipped with M13/40 and/or M14/41 medium tanks the division fought in the desert of Libya and Egypt during 1941.

On 1 May 1941 the Germans and Italians attacked Tobruk in considerable strength. Their attack pierces the defences, and the Ariete and 8th Bersaglieri capture the R3, R4, R5, R6 and R7 strongpoints,[1][2] On 3 May the Australians launched a counterattack with their 18th Brigade. The counterattack only recaptures one strongpoint from what Australian historian Mark Johnston reported to be Italian defenders.[3]The Australians in fact recaptured R7, but were forced to abandon the strongpoint when the defending Bersaglieri troops launched a counterattack.[4]This action is later known as the Battle of the Salient.

During Operation Crusader, the division very successfully defended Bir el Gobi against the British 22nd Armoured Brigade, inflicting heavy losses on the inexperienced British forces. On 23 November, the 15th Panzer Division moved on to attack the 5th South African Brigade defending Sidi Rezegh and that evening, the Ariete with the 8th Bersaglieri Regiment came up in support and the ridge was taken. Nearly 3,400 prisoners were taken in this attack.[5] During 29–30 November, the Ariete and supporting Italian infantry and motorcycle units were responsible for capturing a considerable number of New Zealand, Indian and British troops during the Italo-German counterattacks. Recalling the loss of the 21st New Zealand Infantry Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Howard Kippenberger, who later rose to command the 2nd New Zealand Division, wrote that, "About 5.30 p.m. damned Italian Motorized Division (Ariete) turned up. They passed with five tanks leading, twenty following, and a huge column of transport and guns, and rolled straight over our infantry on Point 175."[6] When the battle led to the retreat of the Axis forces to the Gazala Line, the Ariete went on the attack. The Italian armoured division, augmented by 23 tanks of the 15th Panzer Division and supported by Bersaglieri motorcycle troops,[7] lost no time in assaulting the pursuing Commonwealth forces. Between them, they overran the 1st Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) and part of the 5th Indian Brigade, taking according to one estimate[8] 1,000 prisoners in the counterattack. Nevertheless, the British were able to recover from this setback and the Ariete retreated through the Djebel Mountain towards el Agheila. By this time the division had lost almost all its tanks.

Reinforced again with replacement tanks and M40 75/18mm semoventi assault guns in the V and VI battalions of the 132nd Artillery Regiment, it took part in the second counteroffensive of January 1942, the Gazala battles of May 1942, and the invasion of Egypt that followed.

Battle of Gazala[edit]

The Ariete met early success during the Battle of Gazala, when it overran the British-officered 3rd Indian Motor Brigade at Rugbet Al Atasc on 27 May 1942,[9] capturing 1,000 troops.[10] The Ariete then repelled strong British armoured counterattacks on 29 May and went on to repeat the same feat on 5 June 1942.[11]

El Alamein[edit]

During the initial phase of the First Battle of El Alamein the Ariete, which had just six or eight tanks and 1,000 men, having just arrived in the positions assigned to it at dawn on 3 July 1942 and due to the disorganization caused by enemy air attacks, had been compelled to withdraw after losing 531 men, several artillery batteries and a number of tanks. Rommel's report of the division having been decimated with the loss of 100 tanks was greatly exaggerated.[12][13]

During the Battle of Alam el Halfa the Trieste, Brescia and 90th Light Division, assisted by tanks from the Ariete and Littorio Divisions, counterattacked in the area of the Munassib Depression the New Zealand 26th Battalion and 5th Brigade and the British 132nd (Kent) Brigade, forcing them practically back to their original positions, after the New Zealanders and British had advanced some 3 miles.[14]

During the Second Battle of El Alamein the Ariete sacrificed its obsolete tanks in the attempt to counter the Allied offensive and cover the withdrawal of the army. On 4 November at about 15:30, the few surviving tanks, surrounded by an overwhelmingly superior enemy, broadcast their last message,[15] quoting:

Enemy tanks broke through South of Ariete Division. Ariete thus surrounded, located 5 kilometers north east of Bir-el-Abd. Ariete tanks keep on fighting!

Then they were destroyed to the last tank. On 6 November 1942, the Germans acknowledged that in the sector allotted to the Ariete " the British were made to pay for their penetration with enormous losses in men and material. The Italians fought to the last man." [16]

135th Armoured Cavalry Division Ariete II[edit]

On 21 November 1942, the division was disbanded, and its name kept by a task force gathering up its remnants, which kept fighting throughout the retreat and subsequent battle of Tunisia. It was forced to surrender along with the rest of the Axis army in North Africa.
On 1 April 1943, as a tribute it was reconstituted as 135 Ariete II Armoured Cavalry Division, made up of cavalry regiments. The division was located in north eastern Italy, with the following order of battle;

  • "Montebello lancers" Armoured Reconnaissance Group
  • "Vittorio Emanuele II’s Lancers" Armoured Cavalry Regiment
  • "Lucca light horse" Motorised Cavalry Regiment
  • 135th Artillery Regiment
  • 235th semoventi artillery Regiment
  • antitank battalion, equipped with 75/34mm semoventi
  • minor divisional support units

It comprised the following armoured fighting vehicles:

for a total of 247 tank and semoventi plus 50 armoured car.

The division was moved to central Italy following the fall of Benito Mussolini's government and took part to the defence of Rome from 8 to 10 September 1943, counter-attacking German Panzergrenadiers and Paratroopers. Because the Headquarters decided to avoid unnecessary sacrifices and losses, the division was ordered to surrender and was then disbanded.

Reconstitution[edit]

On 23 May 1948 its reconstitution as a brigade sized unit begins at Forte Pietralata in Rome. The same year it was transferred to Pordenone in the Friuli region in Northern Italy. On 1 October 1952, the brigade had completed its increase to full division and commanded now the same regiments as during the African campaign:[17]

  • 132nd Armored Division Ariete
    • CoA mil ITA rgt bersaglieri 08.png 8th Bersaglieri Regiment
      • III Bersaglieri Battalion with M3 Half-tracks
      • V Bersaglieri Battalion with M3 Half-tracks
      • XII Bersaglieri Battalion with M3 Half-tracks
      • Bersaglieri Anti-tank Company with M40 recoilless rifles
    • CoA mil ITA rgt carri 132.png 132nd Tank Regiment
      • I Tank Battalion with M26 Pershing
      • II Tank Battalion with M26 Pershing
      • III Tank Battalion with M26 Pershing
    • CoA mil ITA rgt artiglieria 132.png 132nd Armored Artillery Regiment
      • I Self-propelled Howitzer Group with M7 Priest
      • II Self-propelled Howitzer Group with M7 Priest
      • III Self-propelled Howitzer Group with M7 Priest
      • IV Self-propelled Howitzer Group with M7 Priest
      • V Light Air-defense Group with M1 40mm Automatic Guns
      • VI Light Air-defense Group with M1 40mm Automatic Guns
    • CoA mil ITA rgt cavalleria 19.png Armored Cavalry Squadron Cavalleggeri Guide with M8 Greyhound
    • CXXXII Engineer Battalion
    • 132nd Signal Company

Cold War[edit]

In 1963 all Italian divisions adapted their organization to NATO standards and thus added a brigade level to the divisions structure. In the same year the reconstitution of the 32nd Tank Regiment began:

  • I Mechanized Brigade Ariete (formed 1 January 1963 in Pordenone)
    • CoA mil ITA rgt bersaglieri 08.png 8th Bersaglieri Regiment in Pordenone
    • I/132nd Armored Artillery Regiment with M7 Priest
    • I Service Battalion
    • 1st Engineer Company
    • 1st Signal Company
  • II Armored Brigade Ariete (1 October 1963 in Pordenone)
    • CoA mil ITA rgt carri 032.png 32nd Tank Regiment in Cordenons (becomes operational 1 March 1964)
      • III Tank Battalion with M47 Patton
      • V Tank Battalion with M47 Patton
      • XXIII Bersaglieri Battalion with M113
    • II/132nd Armored Artillery Regiment with M7 Priest
    • II Service Battalion
    • 2nd Engineer Company
    • 2nd Signal Company
  • III Armored Brigade Ariete (1 January 1963 in Maniago)
    • CoA mil ITA rgt carri 132.png 132nd Tank Regiment in Aviano
      • VIII Tank Battalion with M47 Patton
      • X Tank Battalion with M47 Patton
      • XXXVIII Bersaglieri Battalion with M113
    • III/132nd Armored Artillery Regiment with M7 Priest
    • III Service Battalion
    • 3rd Engineer Company
    • 3rd Signal Company
  • Ariete Artillery Brigade (1 October 1963 in Casarsa della Delizia)
    • CoA mil ITA rgt artiglieria 132.png 132nd Armored Artillery Regiment in Pordenone
  • CoA mil ITA rgt cavalleria 19.png XIX Reconnaissance Squadrons Group Cavalleggeri Guide with M24 Chaffee and M113
  • CoA mil ITA rgt genio 11.png CXXXII Engineer Battalion
  • CCXXXII Signal Battalion
  • Ariete Light Airplane Section with L-21B
  • Ariete Helicopter Section with AB 47J helicopters

On 1 October 1968 the brigade headquarters were disbanded and the divisions returned to its former structure. The Ariete Armored Division was part of the 5th Army Corps based in North-Eastern Italy. The 5th Army Corps was tasked with defending the Italian-Yugoslavian border against possible attacks by either the Warsaw Pact, or Yugoslavia or both. The Ariete Armored Division was based in the middle of the potential front.

Before the major reorganization of 1975 the division consisted of the following units:

  • CoA mil ITA rgt bersaglieri 08.png 8th Bersaglieri Regiment
    • III Bersaglieri Battalion with M113
    • XI Bersaglieri Battalion with M113
    • VII Tank Battalion with M60A1 Patton
    • Bersaglieri Anti-tank Company with M40 recoilless rifles
  • CoA mil ITA rgt carri 032.png 32nd Tank Regiment
    • III Tank Battalion with M60A1 Patton
    • V Tank Battalion with M60A1 Patton
    • XXIII Bersaglieri Battalion with M113
  • CoA mil ITA rgt carri 132.png 132nd Tank Regiment
    • VIII Tank Battalion with M60A1 Patton
    • X Tank Battalion with M60A1 Patton
    • XXVII Bersaglieri Battalion with M113
  • CoA mil ITA rgt artiglieria 132.png 132nd Armored Artillery Regiment (between 15 October 1970 and 1 August 1975 all 5x groups switch to the M109G howitzer)
    • I Self-propelled Field Artillery Group with M7 Priest
    • II Self-propelled Field Artillery Group with M7 Priest
    • III Self-propelled Field Artillery Group with M7 Priest
    • IV Heavy self-propelled Field Artillery Group with M44 howitzers
    • V Heavy self-propelled Field Artillery Group with M110 howitzers
  • CoA mil ITA rgt cavalleria 19.png XIX Reconnaissance Squadrons Group Cavalleggeri Guide
  • CoA mil ITA rgt genio 11.png Ariete Engineer Battalion
  • Ariete Signal Battalion
  • Ariete Light Airplane Section with L-19E
  • Ariete Helicopter Section with AB 206 helicopters
  • Ariete Service Department
    • Medical Battalion
    • Transport Battalion
    • Maintenance Battalion
    • Supply Battalion

In 1975 the Italian Army undertook a major reorganization of it forces: the regiment level was abolished and battalions came under direct command of newly formed brigades, which combined units from different arms. Thus on 1 October 1975 the Ariete took command of the following brigades, which were formed from its disbanded regiments:

Additional troops were added to bring the division up to full strength:

  • Ariete Command Battalion, in Pordenone
  • 73rd Infantry Battalion Lombardia, in Arzene
  • 74th Infantry (Reserve) Battalion Pontida, in Latisana
  • 14th Bersaglieri (Training) Battalion Sernaglia, in Albenga
  • 16th Infantry (Training) Battalion Savona, in Legino
  • 19th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadrons Group Cavalleggeri Guide, in Casarsa della Delizia, (Leopard 1A2 Main battle tanks)
  • 108th Heavy Self-propelled Field Artillery Group Cosseria, in Casarsa della Delizia, (M109G howitzers)
  • 132nd Heavy Self-propelled Field Artillery Group Rovereto, in Casarsa della Delizia, (M109G howitzers)
  • Ariete Artillery Specialist Group (Artillery Radar), in Casarsa della Delizia
  • 14th Light (Reserve) Air-defense Artillery Group Astore, in Casarsa della Delizia
  • 49th Reconnaissance Helicopter Squadrons Group Capricorno, in Casarsa della Delizia
  • 132nd Engineer Battalion Livenza, in Motta di Livenza
  • 232nd Signal Battalion Fadalto, in Casarsa della Delizia
  • Ariete Logistic Maneuver Battalion, in Casarsa della Delizia
  • Ariete Medical (Reserve) Battalion, in Casarsa della Delizia
  • Ariete Carabinieri Company, in Pordenone

When the Italian Army abolished the divisional level on 10 October 1986 the 132nd Armored Brigade Manin was renamed as 132nd Armored Brigade Ariete.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Rommel's Army in Africa, Dal McGuirk, p. 91, Stanley Paul, 1987
  2. ^ XXXII BATTAGLIONE GUASTATORI
  3. ^ That magnificent 9th: An Illustrated History of The 9th Australian Division, Mark Johnston, p. 38, Allen and Unwin, 2002
  4. ^ "On 4 May, the positions held by 5 Battalion of 8 Bersaglieri under Major Gaggetti around Redoubts 6, 7 and 8 were counter-attacked by the Australians. The Italians responded with strong defensive fire and launched a counter-attack supported by three L3 light tanks. The latter were quickly destroyed at close quarters, and the Australians captured Redoubt 7. The Bersaglieri counter-attacked almost immediately, supported by one M13 tank and three armoured cars, and forced them back." Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts: Mussolini's Elite Armoured Divisions in North Africa, Ian Walker, p.102, Crowood Press, 2006
  5. ^ Rommel's Desert Commanders: The Men Who Served The Desert Fox, North Africa, 1941-1942, Samuel W. Mitcham, p.50, Praeger, 2007
  6. ^ Infantry Brigadier, Howard Kippenberger, p. 101, Oxford University Press, 1949, (371 pages)
  7. ^ Italians passed to counter-attack along the whole line (The Bologna Division: 19 November – 10 December, 1941) By David Aldea & Joseph Peluso, Comando Supremo: Italy at War.
  8. ^ Das Afrika Korps: Erwin Rommel and the Germans in Africa, 1941-43, By Franz Kurowski, pg. 125, Stackpole Books (March 2010)
  9. ^ James J. Sadkovich, Of Myths ad Men: Rommel and the Italians in North Africa, p. 302, The International History Review XIII (1991)
  10. ^ Das Afrika Korps: Erwin Rommel and the Germans in Africa, 1941-43, By Franz Kurowski, pg. 125, Stackpole Books (March 1991)
  11. ^ James J. Sadkovich, Of Myths ad Men: Rommel and the Italians in North Africa, p. 303, The International History Review XIII (1991)
  12. ^ Under a Fading Moon, (First Battle of El Alamein), David Aldea, Comando Supremo, Italy At War.
  13. ^ Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-november 1942, Jack Greene, Alessandro Massignani, p. 196, Da Capo Press, Revised Edition, (272 pages)
  14. ^ "During the early morning hours, the New Zealand Division, composed of the two New Zealand brigades, which occupied the box, assisted by a brigade of another infantry division, laid down an artillery barrage and followed with an infantry attack. This attack advanced south and along the trails in square 88-27. The attack advanced 3 miles, but with the coming of daylight the Trieste, Brescia, and the 90th Light Division, supported by the Ariete, and Littorio Divisions, in a series of three counterattacks, forced the attacking troops back nearly to their original positions." The Afrika in Combat, Bob Carruthers, p. ?, Pen & Sword, 2013
  15. ^ Rommel's Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps, Samuel W. Mitcham, p. 176, Stackpole Books, 2000
  16. ^ "Desert War, Note (11): Statement issued by the German Government on 6 November 1942". spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-06-18. 
  17. ^ http://www.esercito.difesa.it/Organizzazione/Organizzazione%20Centrale/Comando%20delle%20Forze%20Operative%20Terrestri/1_fod/br_corazzata_ariete/Pagine/la_storia.aspx Italian Army homepage; History of the Ariete Brigade

References[edit]

External links[edit]