2nd Infantry Division Sforzesca

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2nd Infantry Division Sforzesca
2a Divisione Fanteria Sforzesca.png
2nd Infantry Division Sforzesca Insignia
Active 1940 - 1943
Country Italy Regno d'Italia
Kingdom of Italy
Branch Flag of Italy (1860).svg Regio Esercito
Royal Italian Army
Role Infantry
Size Division
Garrison/HQ Novara, Italy
Nickname(s) Sforzesca
Engagements World War II
Disbanded 1943

The 2nd Infantry Division Sforzesca was a mountain Infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II. The Division was mobilized in June 1940 in Novara, for the Italian invasion of France. 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.

History[edit]

1940[edit]

The Sforzesca Division started an offensive against France between Claviere and Cesana Torinese. It spearheaded the attack to the direction of Briançon, but encountered heavy French fortifications. On 22 June 1940, the area of Bois de Praria fort was secured, and fighting shifted to Bois de Sestriere, with the capture of Montgenèvre commune.[1] On the southern flank, the advance stalled at La Crete (Crete de Chaussard). On June 23, Sforzesca Division has made very modest advance. In the night from 23 to 24 June 1940, the Sforzesca division was moved to reserve and replaced by 58th Infantry Division Legnano.

1941[edit]

The Sforzesca Division took part in the Greco-Italian War in 1941, being transferred to Albania in 12–18 January 1941. For this offensive, the Sforzesca Division has the 30th legion CC.NN. attached. The division has assembled in Tepelenë. It had its first encounter with Greek army on 28 January on the ridge over Mali i Shendellise (Scindeli). The heavy defensive fighting, with frequent hand-to-hand combat and trenches lost and re-captured several times, continued until 28 February. During the offense started 1 March 1941, the Sforzesca Division captured Chiaf. By 4 March, it passes Bregu i Buzit, and by 6 March 1941, it captured the Klisura road junction.

The Sforzesca division remained in occupied Greece until middle of July, 1941. Later it was transferred to mainland Italy, tentatively to Novara. It was then chosen to be part of the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia in June 1942, and was transferred to the Eastern front. First it reached and helped to storm the Ivanovka village in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. On 14 July 1942, it reached Fashchivka village in Luhansk Oblast.

By 18 July 1942, the Sforzesca division has started mop-up operation near the Krasny Luch. At beginning of August, 1942, it marched to area north of Serafimovich, establishing a bridgehead on the east bank of Don river up to khutor of Yarskoy 1-y. Together with 3rd Cavalry Division Amedeo Duca d'Aosta, the Sforzesca beat off several Soviet attacks from 12 August 1942 to 1 September 1942,[2] with the Spighi Battalion winning the admiration of the German officer attached to the Italian division.[3]

Although Soviet attacks were stopped, the Italians were unable to resume their offensive or expand their bridgehead as a result. After repositioning South of Don, Sforzesca Division fought among the units of Romanian 3rd Army, along with sub-units and remnants of 9th Motorised Division Pasubio and 3rd Cavalry Division Amedeo Duca d'Aosta. The Sforzesca Division was under heavy attack from 20 November 1942 until 28 November 1942. The Axis retreat started at the beginning of December, 1942. On 22 December large columns of Soviet tanks overran the Sforzesca and a great part of the division was destroyed, largely as a result of conflicting German orders, that caught the Italian division advancing forward near Verkhne-Chirskoy, when it should've been retreating to the new German defensive line near the Chir River.[4] The remnants of the Sforzesca division fought a defensive battle in village of Kranoyarovka, Rostov Oblast from 25 December 1942 until 28 December 1942. The division suffered heavy losses again in January 1943, and the remaining units had break through the encirclement by Soviet 1st Guards Army on 3 January 1943[5] and the surviving units were withdrawn to Italy in March, 1943.

The Sforzesca division was disbanded in April, 1943, but re-formed on 1 June 1943 based on garrison division "157th Infantry Division Novara". Elements of former Sforzesca division were allocated to coastal divisions in France.[6] The newly formed Sforzesca division was garrisoning village Divača, towns Sežana and Ilirska Bistrica (Villa del Nevoso) towns border between Italy and Yugoslavia. It performed mop-up and anti-partisan duties. The remnants of Sforzesca division has surrendered to the German forces on 9 September 1943.

Battles[edit]

  • 53. Infantry Regiment
  • 54. Infantry Regiment
  • 17. Artillery Regiment
  • 4. Mixed Carabinieri Section
  • 5. Motorized Carabinieri Section
  • 53. Flak Company
  • 302. Flak Company
  • 2. Anti-Tank Company
  • 70. Anti-Tank Company
  • 121. Anti-Tank Company
  • II Divisional Mortar Battalion
  • 16. Pioneer Company
  • 2. Telephone & Radio Company
  • 1. Supply Company
  • 2. Command Transport Unit
  • 2. Transport Section
  • 569. Field Post Office [8]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Libero - Community - I siti personali". digilander.libero.it. 
  2. ^ "The first Soviet counteroffensive began on August 12, 1942, and is referred to in Italy as the First Battle of the Don. Three Soviet divisions crossed the river. Infantry Division Sforzesca was outnumbered 4 to 1 and had no tanks. It resisted as best it could. When it collapsed, Italian survivors held two strong points: Yagodny and Chebotarewksy. Chebotarewksy was overwhelmed, but Yagodny resisted. While the breach widened, the Yagodny garrison was attacked on August 20. It held and counterattacked from August 21–24, until ammunition ran out; and then the Italians faced the last Soviet attack with bayonets. Bersaglieri reinforcements arrived just in time and repelled the enemy." A Military History of Italy, Ciro Paoletti, p. 176, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008
  3. ^ "On 20 Aug., the Spighi Battalion defended its position valiantly and tenaciously, but eventually had to fall back ... When the counter-attack of 3 other battalions began at 16:00, I observed along with the divisional commander, the scattered remains of the Spighi Battalion. Some of them arrived with no rifles or equipment ... Their morale was badly shaken ... They tried not to let on at first." The Unknown Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht and Hitler's Foreign Soldiers, Rolf-Dieter Müller, pp. 81.-82, I.B.Tauris, 28 Feb 2014
  4. ^ '"The division was half-way to its designated position, when a third order came from German Army Group B to fall back to the Chir River. The Sforzesca was overtaken by a Russian tank corps ... The Italian division, along with elements of the Romanian 7th Division, was largely destroyed in an 8-hour battle with Russian tanks and infantry near Verkhne-Chirskoy on 22 December. The Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini's Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 156, Lulu, 2013
  5. ^ Italian General Reported Killed, New York Times, 15 January 1943
  6. ^ http://www.wwii-photos-maps.com/italianarmy/Order%20of%20Battle/slides/Italian%20Army%20OB%20%20066.html
  7. ^ Paoletti, p 170
  8. ^ An Italian Infantry Division normally consisted of two Infantry Regiments (three Battalions each), an Artillery Regiment, a Mortar Battalion (two companies), an Anti Tank Company, 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, each company 150 men.[7]

References[edit]

  • Paoletti, Ciro (2008). A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98505-9.