26th Infantry Division Assietta
|26th Infantry Division Assietta|
26th Infantry Division Assietta Insignia
|Active||1935 - 1943|
|Country|| Regno d'Italia
Kingdom of Italy
Royal Italian Army
|Engagements||Second Italo-Abyssinian War
World War II
|Assietta Division collar insignia|
The 26th Infantry Division Assietta was a mountain infantry Division (formed 6 August 1935) of the Italian Army during World War II. The Assietta Division was reorganized 5 April 1939 as a binary Mountain division. The only difference between line infantry divisions and mountain infantry divisions was that the latter's artillery was carried by pack mules instead of the standard horse-drawn carriages. Italy's real mountain warfare divisions were the six alpine divisions manned by the "Alpini" mountain troops. Most men drafted in the Assietta Division came from Asti and surroundings.
As the war become imminent, the 25th divisional artillery regiment was sent in September, 1935 to Libya, and transferred to Eritrea in March 1936, to fight within the newly formed Assietta Infantry Division II (126a) which was dissolved later in 1937.
The Assietta division itself, receiving a 49th divisional artillery regiment instead of the missing 25th, landed in Massawa in January 1936. Soon it reached the Endaga Robo-Enticho-Dek’emhāre region. Then it moved its headquarters to Mek'ele, guarding a front from Doghea to Kwīhā. The Assietta division participated in the Battle of Amba Aradam in February 1936, fighting mostly in defence. Some detachments of Assietta division were used to reinforce the left flank of the 27th Infantry Division Sila. On 2 March 1939, it blocked a retreat route of the Ethiopian army on the front from Yereserē to Edai. But the retreating Ethiopian army bypassed the Asietta division, breaking through Italian lines further to the east in their push to Amba Alagi. The Assietta division, now used as a rear areas guard force, followed in March–April 1936 first to Aderat and Amba Alagi and then to Atzalo and Aiba. After the conclusion of war, it was used in June 1936 for mopping-up south of Lake Ashenge. In July 1936 it was transferred to an unidentified location, "Seggiù". The last duty assignment was in September 1936 to the city of Dessie. The orders to return to Italy were received 2 February 1937.
Second World War
Following return to Italy, the Assietta division was placed in Latina, Lazio in March 1937, where it received back the 25th artillery regiment. Several reorganizations and detachments followed, until 5 April 1939, when the form of the new Assietta division was settled. The newly reorganized division took part in the Italian invasion of France. It was then involved in the Invasion of Yugoslavia and soon after moved to Sicily. It was destroyed during the Allied landings.
10 June 1940, the Assietta division stayed on the border with France near mountain peaks Rochers Charniers, Grand Queyron, Mont Chaberton, the pass of Col de Montgenèvre, and Thuras valley. The advance on French territory started on 18 June 1940, with the border post captured by surprise. By 20 June 1940, the division moved past mountain crests, completing capture of the mount Chenaillet and mount Sommet des Anges fortified area by 22–23 June 1940, but further advance was stopped by the Franco-Italian Armistice 25 June 1940.
At the start of April, 1941, the Assietta division was in the border town of Ajdovščina. On 6 April 1941, it moved to defensive positions at Javornik, Idrija. After the failure of the Yugoslavian army the division moved its headquarters to Delnice 20 April 1941, performing for a while mopping-up operations in the Gerovo-Karlovac-Lokve, Croatia region. As operations had been wrapping up, the division moved to Ilirska Bistrica on 6 May 1941 before departing for Italy 15 May 1941.
Defence of Sicily
The location of Assietta division changed during the first half of August 1941 to the western part of Sicily island as part of XII army corps. Initially, the headquarters were located in Caltanissetta, and the coastal defence sector stretched from Porto Empedocle to Licata. On 10 July 1943, the day of the Allied invasion of Sicily, the division was in the Santa Ninfa-Partanna area in the west of Sicily, but started marching to Licata immediately. By the time the division was able to make contact with the enemy, the rapid Allied advance resulted in battles in the Lercara Friddi area. Unable to cover the wide front against the numerous Allied troops, on 15 July 1943 the Assietta division had to split into three roadblock groups near Bisacquino, blocking routes from Agrigento to Palermo. Unfortunately, the rapid crumbling of Italian defences elsewhere meant that a defensive line to be abandoned on 16 July 1943. The division then fell back to the Cerda-Chiusa Sclafani line. Unlike other Italian units nearby, it maintained constant contact with the enemy, constantly setting up delaying battles. An attempt was made to make a stand 22 July 1943, but by the late evening 23 July 1943, the Allies had made a breakthrough, resulting in an Italian run to Santo Stefano di Camastra. On 29 July 1943, the division fought at the San Fratello-Troina line. The nearby Battle of Troina was over on 6 August 1943, and United States units turned their forces to the battered Assietta division again. The initial armor attack to San Fratello and mount Pizzo degli Angeli was repulsed, but on 7 August 1943, the Assietta had to fall back to Tortorici after the Allies made a landing at the division's rear in the Militello Rosmarino. By this time the division was severely crippled by heavy casualties and unfit for battle. The remains of it stayed in the Messina area 11–14 August 1943, before being evacuated to the mainland.
Order of Battle 1935
- 38th Infantry Regiment "Ravenna"
- 63rd Infantry Regiment "Cagliari"
- 49th Artillery Regiment
- 504th Medium Machine Gun Battalion
- Engineers Company
- Replacements Battalion
- Each Army Division in the Ethiopian Campaign had a Pack-Mules unit of 3000 mules and three Regimental Trucks units (20 light trucks each).
- Assietta was a Binary Division (2 Infantry Rgts only)
Order of battle 1940
- 29. Pisa Infantry Regiment
- 30. Pisa Infantry Regiment
- 17. CCNN Legion (Blackshirts)
- 25. Assietta Artillery Regiment
- 5 x Battalion
- 10. Anti Aircraft Battery
- 326. Anti Aircraft Battery
- 26. Mortar Battalion
- 126. Mortar Battalion
- 126. Anti-Tank Company
- 64. Pioneer Company
- 26. Signal Company
- 16. Medical Section
- 9. Field Hospital
- 10. Field Hospital
- 151. Field Hospital
- 468. Field Hospital
- 262. Heavy Motor Transport Section
- 18. Supply Section
- 31. Bakery Squadron
- 51. Pack Transport Section [nb 1]
- An Italian Infantry Division consisted of two Infantry Regiments (three Battalions each), an Artillery Regiment, a Mortar Battalion (two companies), an Anti Tank Company,and a Blackshirt Legion (Regiment of two Battalions). Each Division had only about 7,000 men, The Infantry and Artillery Regiments contained 1,650 men, the Blackshirt Legion 1,200, and each company 150 men.
- Wendal, Marcus. "Italian Army". Axis History. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
- Paoletti, p 170