Alpine Brigade Orobica
|Brigata Alpina Orobica|
Coat of Arms of the Alpine Brigade Orobica
|Active||1 January 1953 - 27 July 1991|
|Part of||IV Army Corps
1953 - 1991
The Alpine Brigade Orobica was a light Infantry brigade of the Italian Army, specializing in mountain warfare. Its core units were the Alpini, the mountain infantry corps of the Italian Army, that distinguished itself in combat during World War I and World War II.
The Orobica was constituted on 1 January 1953 in the city of Meran. The brigade’s name Orobica alludes to the Bergamo Alps, which are called Alpi Orobie in Italian and from this region most units of the brigade initially originated. The Brigade also drew the majority of its recruits from this region. The brigades units were based in the western and northern half of the province of South Tyrol. The brigade was tasked with the defending the vital Brenner and Reschen mountain passes. The brigade’s strength was around 3000 men and it was composed of the:
- 5th Alpini Regiment with the battalions
- 5th Mountain Artillery Regiment with the groups
- Orobica Signal Company
In the following years the brigade was augmented with further units:
- Orobica Engineer Company (1954)
- 22nd Frontier Defense Regiment (1954) with the battalions
- Morbegno Alpini Battalion (1956)
- Alpini Parachutist Platoon (1956)
The Alpini Parachutist Platoon merged with the other four Alpini Brigades Parachutist Platoons on 1 April 1964 to form an Alpini Parachutist Company under direct command of the 4th Alpine Army Corps.
In 1975 the regimental level was abolished and all units came under direct control of the Orobica Brigade. The new composition was:
- Orobica Command and Signal Battalion in Meran
- Morbegno Alpini Battalion in Sterzing
- Tirano Alpini Battalion in Mals and Glurns
- Edolo Alpini (Training) Battalion in Meran
- Val Chiese Alpini Battalion in Sterzing (reduced to reserve unit on 30 June 1979)
- Headquarters and Service Company
- 250th Alpini Company in Saltaus (former Val Camonica Battalion company)
- 251st Alpini Company in Reschen (former Val Camonica Battalion company)
- 253rd Alpini Company in Brenner - remained active after 1979
- 254th Alpini Company in Gossensaß
- 255th Alpini Company in Pfitsch
- 364th Alpini Company in Franzensfeste
- Bergamo Mountain Artillery Group in Schlanders
- Sondrio Mountain Artillery Group in Sterzing
- Orobica Logistic Battalion in Meran
- Orobica Anti-tank Company in Meran
- Orobica Engineer Company in Meran
Strategic plans in case of war
After the 1976 reform, the 4th Alpine Army Corps was responsible to defend the Italian border along the main chain of the alps from the Swiss-Austrian-Italian border tripoint in the west to the Italian-Yugoslavian border in the east. In case of war with Yugoslavia, the 4th Alpine Army Corps would remain static in its position guarding the left flank of the Italian V Corps, which would meet the enemy forces on the plains of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The only brigade which would have seen combat in such a case would have been the Julia.
In case of a war with the Warsaw Pact, the 4th Alpine Army Corps had two war plans: one in case the Soviet Southern Group of Forces and Hungarian Army would march through Yugoslavia and the other in case the Warsaw Pact would violate Austrian neutrality and march through Austria. In case the enemy forces would come through Yugoslavia, the Julia would cover the mountainous left flank of the 5th Corps, which, with its four armoured and five mechanized brigades, would try to wear down the enemy before it could break out into the North Italian Padan plain. The other Alpini brigades would remain static.
In the more likely case, the Soviet and Hungarian divisions would invade Austria, march through Southern Styria, and through the Drava valley in Carinthia, the Alpini brigades would have been the first front line units of the Italian Army. The Julia would have defended the Canal valley, the Cadore, the Piave valley, the Tridentina, and the Puster valley, while the Taurinense would remain in reserve. The Orobica, with its two Alpini battalions and two Mountain Artillery groups, was tasked with defending the vital Reschen and Brenner passes. However, the true mission of the Orobica was to advance into neutral Austria and link up with the German 23rd Gebirgsjäger Brigade of NATO's Central Army Group in Southern Germany. It was considered vital to establish a line of communication between the Italian Army and the allied armies fighting in Germany. Therefore, the Morbegno Alpini Battalion and the Sondrio Mountain Artillery Group based in Sterzing would have advanced over the Brenner Pass and through the Wipp valley until Innsbruck, where they would have linked up with German and American forces coming from Mittenwald and through the lower Inn valley, while the Tirano Alpini Battalion in Mals along with the Bergamo Mountain Artillery Group in Schlanders would have crossed the Reschen pass and advanced until Landeck where they would have linked up with German units coming over the Fern pass. Although Austrian military defence plans envisioned a strong defence around Innsbruck to deny an invading force the use of the many important roads crossing the city, there was a tacit understanding that NATO forces would not be opposed if Warsaw Pact forces had invaded Austria first.
To aid in the defence of the narrow mountain valleys, the 4th Army Corps re-activated some fortifications of the World War II era Alpine Wall. In the area of operation of the Orobica, the following fortified lines of defence were re-activated during the Cold War:
- Saltaus: 4 bunker, 169 men, 250th Alpini Company (Italian Wikipedia: Sbarramento di Saltusio)
- Mals-Glurns: 9 bunker, no troops assigned after 1964 (before 1964 the 252nd Alpini Company) (Italian Wikipedia: Sbarramento Malles-Glorenza)
- Reschen pass: 9 bunker, 254 men, 251st Alpini Company (Italian Wikipedia: Sbarramento Passo Resia)
In the Eisack valley:
- Brenner pass: 5 bunker, 136 men, 253rd Alpini Company (Italian Wikipedia: Sbarramento Brennero)
- Gossensaß: 7 bunker 190 men, 254th Alpini Company (Italian Wikipedia: Sbarramento di Tenne-Novale)
- Pfitsch: 3 bunker, 121 men, 255th Alpini Company (Italian Wikipedia: Sbarramento di Saletto)
- Franzensfeste: 5 bunker, 165 men, 364th Alpini Company (Italian Wikipedia: Sbarramento di Fortezza)
The defences were to be manned by the troops of the Val Chiese Alpini Battalion in Sterzing which had six companies dislocated throughout South Tyrol. However, in 1979 the battalion was put into reserve status with only the 253rd Alpini Company remaining on active duty.
In 1989 the Sondrio Mountain Artillery Group was dissolved, as was the Tirano Alpini Battalion on 26 March 1991. The brigade was disbanded on 27 July 1991 and the remaining units (Alpini battalions Morbegno and Edolo, Bergamo Mountain Artillery group and the Anti-tank Company) passed to the Alpine Brigade Tridentina. The Orobica Logistic Battalion merged with the 24th Maneuver Logistic Battalion Dolomiti to form the 24th Maneuver Logistics Regiment Dolomiti in Meran.