33rd Mountain Infantry Division Acqui

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33rd Mountain Infantry Division Acqui
Italian 33 Acqui division.jpg
Acqui Division insignia
Active 1939–1943
1 January 2003 - today
Country Italy Regno d'Italia
Kingdom of Italy
Branch Flag of Italy (1860).svgRegio Esercito
Royal Italian Army
Role Infantry
Size Division
Nickname(s) Acqui
Engagements World War II
Decorations Gold Medal of Military Valor
Collar patch
Acqui Collar Patch.png

The 33rd Mountain Infantry Division Acqui (Italian: 33ª Divisione Acqui) was a Mountain Infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II.[nb 1] The Acqui Division was formed in August 1939 from the parts of 14th and 11th infantry brigades, and mobilized for war in October 1939. It is notable for been massacred with remarkable cruelty after surrendering to German 21 September, 1943. The main detachments of the Acqui division in the islands of Cephalonia and Corfu were officially dissolved 24 September, 1943.[1]


Invasion of France and fighting the Greeks[edit]

THe Acqui division was deployed in 1940 as part of Italian II Corps to defend a line of Maddalena Pass-Argentera-Colle del Ferro on the French border.[2] After the France surrendered to Germany in the evening of 22 June 1940, [3] it received orders to advance to cross the border 23 June, 1940. Meeting weak opposition it descended to La Condamine-Châtelard. 24 June, 1940, it also reached the Ubaye Valley. But at this point a Franco-Italian Armistice come into effect and the Acqui division was immediately sent back to Veneto region. 6 December, 1940, the division received an orders to move to Albanian-Greek border. It reached a coastal area north-west of Vuno in Himarë municipality 18 December, 1940, and immediately quartered in Shushice river valley. Because of the overall deterioration of Italian positions in Greco-Italian War, 19 December, 1940 it already encountered a Greek forces trying to capture Vlorë. The Acqui division was then fought defensively until end of December, 1940. Only attacks to improve the defence positions were made. In January, 1941, the bitter fight for the Qafa e Hazërit mountain trail have started. The Qafa e Hazërit trail have changed hands several times. In February, 1941, the division was pulled back to Smokthinë in Shushice river valley. It was re-deployed in Kakoz, Albania in March, 1941. In the course of the German-led Battle of Greece the Acqui division have started an attack at Bolenë, Horë-Vranisht and Maja e Mesimerit 14 April, 1941. The last organized Greek resistance has been broken by 17 April, 1941, and the Acqui took the direct route to the border town of Konispol and a Greek province of Filiates beyond. The city of Igoumenitsa and a coastal town Syvota in Chameria ethnic region were captured 20 April, 1941. After the end of Greco-Italian War the Acqui division has become the part of the occupation force on the islands of Corfu, Lefkada, Zakynthos and Cephalonia. To reinforce the thinly spread troops, 14 November, 1941 it received a 317th infantry regiment. During 1942 the division headquarters were briefly relocated to Lefkada before settling on Cephalonia in May, 1943.


Following the Italian surrender in September 1943, thousands of soldiers from the division were murdered on the islands during Operation Achse, in what became known as the Cephallonia massacre. One of the largest prisoner of war massacres of the war,[4][5] and one of the largest-scale German atrocities to be committed by Wehrmacht troops,[6] this event provided the historical background to the novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which later became a Hollywood film.[7][8][9]

The events in Cefalonia were repeated, to a lesser extent, elsewhere. In Corfu, the 8,000-strong Italian garrison comprised elements of three divisions, including the Acqui's 18th Regiment. On 24 September, the Germans landed a force on the island, and by the next day they were able to induce the Italians to capitulation.[10] All 280 Italian officers on the island were executed during the next two days on the orders of General Hubert Lanz, in accordance with Hitler's directives.[10] The bodies were loaded onto a ship and disposed of in the sea.[10] Similar executions of officers also occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Kos, when the Italian commander and 90 of his officers were shot.[11]


  • On 28 September, 1943, the ship P.fo Ardena have either struck a naval mine or was intentionally scuttled by explosive charge. Of the 840 Italian prisoners-of-war on board, 720 perished.[12]
  • On 10 October, 1943, the Italian ship Mario Roselli in Corfu bay was bombed and severely damaged by allied aircraft. Out of more than 5000 Italian prisoners-of-war and German crew, 1302 perished.
  • On 13 October, 1943, the ship P.fo Marguerita [13] was sunk, presumably by naval mine, after departing from Argostoli, Cephalonia. 544 men perished.

Order of battle[edit]

  • 17. Acqui Infantry Regiment
  • 18. Acqui Infantry Regiment
  • 317. Infantry Regiment
  • 33. Artillery Regiment
  • 27. CCNN Legion (Blackshirts)
  • 33. Mortar Battalion
  • 33. Signal Company
  • 31. Pioneer Company
  • 33. Machine Gun Battalion
  • 3. Medical Section
  • 4. Supply Section
  • 9. Field Bakery
  • 7. Carabinieri Section [14][nb 2]


In 2002 the Italian Army raised three division commands, with one of the three always readily deployable for NATO missions. The army decided that each division should carry on the traditions of one of the divisions that served with distinction in World War II. Therefore, on 31 December 2002 the 3rd Italian Division in San Giorgio a Cremano was renamed as Division Command Acqui.

In the 2013 Army reform it was decided to abolish the corps level in the Italian Army. Combat brigades will from 2014 onwards come under the three division commands. The Acqui Division will take command of the following brigades:

Together with the Friuli Division and the Tridentina Division the Acqui will come directly under the Armys Operational Center (Centro Operativo dell’Esercito or COE) once COMFOTER has been disbanded.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Italian "Mountain" divisions are not to be confused with the Alpini specialized mountain troops. The "Mountain" divisions were equipped with pack horse or mule-carried mountain guns instead of the usual towed type.
  2. ^ 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.[15]
  1. ^ http://www.regioesercito.it/reparti/fanteria/rediv33.htm
  2. ^ Jowett, Philip S. The Italian Army 1940–45 (1): Europe 1940–1943. Osprey, Oxford – New York, 2000, pg. 5, ISBN 978-1-85532-864-8
  3. ^ http://www.kbismarck.com/frencharmistice.html
  4. ^ "Massacres and atrocities of WWII". Almost unknown outside of Italy, this event ranks with Katyn as one of the darkest episodes of the war" also "The German 11th Battalion of Jäger-Regiment 98 of the 1st Gebirgs (Mountain) Division, commanded by Major Harald von Hirschfeld, arrived on the island and soon Stukas were bombing the Italian positions 
  5. ^ "Rizospastis" (in Greek). 2000-09-03. Πρέπει να σημειωθεί πως τα βιβλία για τη σφαγή των Ιταλών στρατιωτών της Κεφαλονιάς (η μεγαλύτερη σφαγή αιχμαλώτων του Β' Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου), εκτός αυτού του Μπερνιέρ, είναι το ένα καλύτερο από το άλλο. Translation: It must be noted that the books about the massacre of the Italian soldiers in Kefalonia (the biggest massacre of prisoners of war in WWII), except the one by Bernier, are one better than the other. 
  6. ^ "Mörder unterm Edelweiß – noch immer unter uns ("Murderers under the Edelweiss — still among us")" (in German). 
  7. ^ Holmes, Professor Richard. "The ‘D-Day Dodgers’". BBC. ...the massacre of the Acqui division on the island of Cephalonia, the background to Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, was a cruel fact 
  8. ^ "Corelli’s comrades". That same day, military records show, the German Gen. Hubert Lanz reported from Cephalonia to Berlin: ‘Final mopping up... is under way. General Gandin and his staff were captured. Special treatment in compliance with Fuhrer Order.’ 
  9. ^ "Hollywood goes to Italy". Historical Context: Italy invaded Greece on 28 October 1940 with 7 divisions of the 9th and 11th Armies. By 22 November, the Italians were pushed back into Albania. The Germans had to come to their aid. But when the Italian government decided to negotiate a surrender to the Allies, the German Army tried to disarm the Italians in what they called Operation ACHSE. On 29 September 1943, on the island of Cephalonia, the Germans fought the Italians of the 33rd "Aqui" Division. A total of 1315 were killed in battle, 3,000 were drowned when the German ships taking them to concentration camps were sunk by mines, and 5,325 were executed. In general, the Germans did not battle or massacre the Italians in other areas. 
  10. ^ a b c Kriegsverbrechen der 1. Gebirgs-Division auf dem Balkan ("War Crimes of the 1. Mountain Division in the Balkans")
  11. ^ Massacres and Atrocities of WWII
  12. ^ http://www.marenostrumrapallo.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=278:ardena&catid=36:storia
  13. ^ http://digilander.libero.it/lacorsainfinita/guerra2/43/lero.htm
  14. ^ Wendal, Marcus. "Italian Army". Axis History. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 
  15. ^ Paoletti, p 170
  • Paoletti, Ciro (2008). A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98505-9.