132nd Armored Division "Ariete"

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132nd Armored Division "Ariete"
132a Divisione Corazzata Ariete.png
132nd Armored Division "Ariete" insignia
Active1 February 1939 – 8 December 1942
CountryItaly Kingdom of Italy
BranchItaly Royal Italian Army
TypeArmored
SizeDivision
Garrison/HQMilan
Motto(s)"Ferrea mole, Ferreo cuore"
Colorsblue and red
Mascot(s)Ram Head
EngagementsSiege of Tobruk
Operation Crusader
Battle of Gazala
First Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
Insignia
Identification
symbol
World War II - Mostrina - Fanteria carrista.png World War II - Mostrina - Bersaglieri.png World War II - Mostrina - Artiglieria di divisione motorizzata e corazzata.png World War II - Mostrina - Genio di divisione motorizzata e corazzata.png World War II - Mostrina - Sanità di divisione motorizzata e corazzata.png World War II - Mostrina - Sussistenza di divisione motorizzata e corazzata.png
WWII Ariete gorget patches

The 132nd Armored Division "Ariete" (Italian: 132ª Divisione corazzata "Ariete") was an armored division of the Royal Italian Army during World War II. It was formed in 1939 as the second armored division after the 131st Armored Division "Centauro". The division fought in the Western Desert Campaign until being destroyed during the Second Battle of El Alamein and declared lost due to wartime events on 8 December 1942.[1]

History[edit]

On 15 July 1937 the II Motor-mechanized Brigade was formed in Milan, which consisted of the 3rd Bersaglieri Regiment and other minor units. On 1 December 1938 the 32nd Tank Infantry Regiment joined the brigade and the 3rd Bersaglieri Regiment was replaced by the 8th Bersaglieri Regiment. On the same date the brigade was renamed II Armored Brigade.[2][3] On 1 February 1939 the 132nd Motorized Artillery Regiment was formed in Rovereto and assigned to the brigade, which on that date was renamed 132nd Armored Division "Ariete". [4]

During the invasion of France in June 1940 the division was kept in reserve. By that time the 32nd Tank Infantry Regiment had grown to eight battalions: three equipped with L3/35 tankettes, two equipped with M11/39 tanks, and three equipped with M13/40 tanks. Four of the latter battalions were transferred in the second half of 1940 to Libya: the I and II tank battalions "M" equipped with M11/39 tanks were transferred on 11 June 1940 to the 4th Tank Infantry Regiment and shipped to Libya, where the two battalions joined the Maletti Group. The III and V tank battalions "M" equipped with M13/40 tanks shipped to Libya in October respectively November and joined the Special Armored Brigade, which was also known as Babini Group. Both, the Maletti Group and the Special Armored Brigade, were part of the Italian 10th Army, which had invaded Egypt on 9 September 1940.

In December 1940 the British Western Desert Force annihilated the Italian 10th Army during Operation Compass: the I Tank Battalion "M" was destroyed in Egypt during the Attack on Nibeiwa, while the II Tank Battalion "M" was lost in the fall of Tobruk. The III and V tank battalions "M" were destroyed during the failed break out attempt at the Battle of Beda Fomm on 6–7 February 1941.

Western Desert Campaign[edit]

After the rout of Italian forces during Operation Compass the Italians and Germans transferred reinforcements to Libya. The Ariete's first units disembarked Tripoli on 24 January 1941. From February 1941 to November 1942, the Ariete fought alongside the German Afrika Korps in the Western Desert Campaign. The Ariete was assigned on 15 August 1941 to the Italian Maneuver Army Corps, which on 10 March 1942 was renamed XX Army Corps.

The Ariete participated in the Axis counter-offensive to retake the Cyrenaica and the following Siege of Tobruk. On 1 May 1941 the Germans and Italians attacked Tobruk in strength. Their attack pierced the Australian defences: the Ariete captured the R3, R4, R5, R6 and R7 strongpoints,[5] On 3 May the Australians launched a counter-attack with the 18th Brigade. The counter-attack only recaptured one strong point from what Australian historian Mark Johnston reported to be Italian defenders.[6] This action is later known as the Battle of the Salient. On 1 September the division activated the 132nd Tank Infantry Regiment and split the 32nd Tank Infantry Regiment.

On 18 November 1941 the British launched Operation Crusader to relieve Tobruk. On 19 November 1941 the Ariete clashed at Bir el Gubi with the British 22nd Armoured Brigade and inflicted heavy losses on the inexperienced British forces. On 23 November, the 15th Panzer Division attacked the 5th South African Brigade defending Sidi Rezegh and that evening, the Ariete came up in support and the ridge was taken along with 3,400 prisoners.[7] On 29 November the Ariete engaged the New Zealand 2nd Division at the Battle of Point 175.

On 7 December 1941 Axis forces withdrew to the Gazala position and on 15 December they continued their withdrawal to El Agheila. The Ariete retreated through the Djebel Mountain towards El Agheila; by this time the division had lost almost all its tanks. On 8 January 1942 the 32nd Tank Infantry Regiment was disbanded and in February 1942 the Ariete was reorganized and reinforced.[1]

Battle of Gazala[edit]

On 26 May 1942 Axis forces went on the offensive again in the Battle of Gazala and on 27 May the Ariete overran the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade at Rugbet Al Atasc and [8] captured 1,000 troops.[9] On 29 May and 5 June 1942 the Ariete repelled British armored counterattacks.[10] Axis forces then surged forward, took Tobruk, invaded Egypt and were stopped by British forces at El Alamein.

El Alamein[edit]

Only part of the Ariete had reached El Alamein on 3 July 1942 during the initial stage of the First Battle of El Alamein. The division's artillery was caught on the move by British forces engaged in a flanking attack and suffered heavy casualties in the ensuing clash.[11][12] On 30 August 1942 the Ariete participated in the Battle of Alam el Halfa, but the Axis plan to outflank and encircle the British forces at El Alamein failed.

On 4 November 1942 during the Second Battle of El Alamein the Ariete was surrounded by advancing enemy forces and the division's commander General Francesco Antonio Arena broadcast the division's last message:[13]

"Enemy tanks broke through south of Ariete Division. Thus, Ariete surrounded, located 5 kilometers north-west of Bir-el-Abd. Ariete tanks are fighting."

— Ariete Division's last radio message[14]

Of the division's units only the XIII Tank Battalion "M" and about 200 Bersaglieri with six 75/18 self-propelled guns escaped, but were overtaken and destroyed by British forces on the coastal road near Fuka on 5–6 November 1942.[15] Rommel mourned the loss of the division, writing that its final action had been conducted with exemplary courage and that "in the Ariete we lost our oldest Italian comrades, from whom we had probably always demanded more than they, with their poor armament, had been capable of performing".[16] The 132nd Armored Division "Ariete" was declared lost due to wartime events on 8 December 1942.[1]

Tactical Group "Ariete"[edit]

On 21 November 1942 the Ariete's remaining personnel and the remnants of the 101st Motorized Division "Trieste" and 133rd Armored Division "Littorio" were organized as Tactical Group "Ariete", which kept fighting throughout the retreat, including a successful rearguard action at the Battle of El Agheila.[1]

During the Tunisian Campaign the Tactical Group "Ariete" was reorganized as 132nd Anti-tank Regiment, which joined the 131st Armored Division "Centauro". The last survivors of the Ariete surrendered with the rest of the Axis forces in North Africa on 13 May 1943.[1]

135th Armored Cavalry Division "Ariete"[edit]

On 1 April 1943 the Royal Italian Army activated the 135th Armored Cavalry Division "Ariete" in Ferrara, which continued the tradition of the 132nd Armored Division "Ariete". After the announcement of the Armistice of Cassibile on 8 September 1943 the division fought the invading German forces South of Rome. After two days the division was forced to surrender and was disbanded by the Germans on 12 September 1943.[17]

Post War[edit]

On 23 May 1948 the Italian Army raised the Armored Brigade "Ariete" in Rome, which on 1 October 1952 was expanded to Armored Division "Ariete".[18]

Organization[edit]

Organization in Italy[edit]

Organization in North Africa[edit]

  • 132a Divisione Corazzata Ariete.png 132nd Armored Division "Ariete"[1]
    • 8th Bersaglieri Regiment[19]
      • Command Company
      • III Bersaglieri Motorcyclists Battalion (reorganized as III Bersaglieri Support Weapons Battalion in September 1941)
      • V Auto-transported Bersaglieri Battalion
      • XII Auto-transported Bersaglieri Battalion
      • 8th Anti-tank Company (47/32 anti-tank guns; entered the III Bersaglieri Support Weapons Battalion in September 1941)
      • 8th Bersaglieri Motorcyclists Company (formed in September 1941)
    • 32nd Tank Infantry Regiment (repatriated in January 1942)
      • Command Company
      • I Tank Battalion "L" (L3/35 tankettes; disbanded on 8 January 1942 and personnel transferred to the 132nd Tank Infantry Regiment)
      • II Tank Battalion "L" (L3/35 tankettes; arrived 30 June 1941, disbanded on 8 January 1942 and personnel transferred to the 132nd Tank Infantry Regiment)
      • III Tank Battalion "L" (L3/35 tankettes; arrived 30 June 1941, disbanded on 8 January 1942 and personnel transferred to the 132nd Tank Infantry Regiment)
      • VII Tank Battalion "M" (M13/40 tanks; arrived 4 March 1941, transferred on 1 September 1941 to the 132nd Tank Infantry Regiment)
      • VIII Tank Battalion "M" (M13/40 tanks; arrived on 22 June 1941 from the 4th Tank Infantry Regiment, transferred on 1 September 1941 to the 132nd Tank Infantry Regiment)
      • IX Tank Battalion "M" (M13/40 tanks; arrived on 21 July 1941 from the 3rd Tank Infantry Regiment, transferred on 1 September 1941 to the 132nd Tank Infantry Regiment)
    • 132nd Tank Infantry Regiment (activated on 1 September 1941)
      • Command Company
      • VII Tank Battalion "M" (M13/40 tanks; disbanded in January 1942 and personnel transferred to VIII and IX tank battalions)
      • VIII Tank Battalion "M" (M13/40 tanks; disbanded in July 1942 and personnel transferred to IX Tank Battalion)
      • IX Tank Battalion "M" (M13/40 tanks)
      • X Tank Battalion "M" (M14/41 tanks; arrived on 27 January 1942 from the 133rd Tank Infantry Regiment)
      • XIII Tank Battalion "M" (M14/41 tanks; arrived in August 1942 from the 31st Tank Infantry Regiment)
    • 132nd Motorized Artillery Regiment "Ariete"
      • Command Battery
      • I Group (75/27 field guns; renamed III Group in September 1941)
      • II Group (75/27 field guns; renamed IV Group in September 1941)
      • I Group (100/17 howitzers; joined the regiment in September 1941)
      • II Group (100/17 howitzers; joined the regiment in September 1941, merged into the I Group in February 1942)
      • XX Anti-aircraft Artillery Group (8.8 cm Flak 37 anti-aircraft guns; joined the regiment in February 1942)
      • CCCXXXII Artillery Group (100/17 howitzers; attached to the regiment from February 1942)
      • DII Anti-aircraft Artillery Group (joined the regiment in February 1942)
        • 2x Anti-aircraft/Anti-tank batteries (90/53 anti-aircraft guns mounted on Breda 51 trucks)
        • 2x Anti-aircraft batteries (20/65 Mod. 35 anti-aircraft guns)
    • II Anti-tank Battalion (formed in September 1941 and disbanded in February 1942)
      • 132nd Anti-tank Company (47/32 anti-tank guns; autonomous unit until September 1941)
      • 142nd Anti-tank Company (47/32 anti-tank guns; autonomous unit until September 1941)
    • III Squadrons Group/ "Nizza Cavalleria" (AB 41 armored cars; armored reconnaissance, arrived in September 1941)
    • DLI Self-propelled Group (75/18 self-propelled guns; joined the division in February 1942)
    • DLII Self-propelled Group (75/18 self-propelled guns; joined the division in February 1942)
    • XXXII Mixed Engineer Battalion (formed on 11 August 1941, later renumbered CXXXII)
    • 132nd Medical Section
    • 132nd Supply Section
    • 132nd Transport Section (replaced by the 42nd Transport Section in September 1941 - replaced by the 82nd Transport Section in February 1942)
    • 70th Carabinieri Section
    • 132nd Field Post Office

Attached to the division from February to July 1942:

Military honors[edit]

For their conduct during the Western Desert campaign the President of Italy awarded the units of the 132nd Armored Division "Ariete" Italy's highest military honor, the Gold Medal of Military Valor. The 8th Bersaglieri Regiment, which was the only remaining unit of the division after the Second Battle of El Alamein was awarded a second Gold Medal of Military Valour for its service during the Tunisian campaign.

For the units' conduct during the Western Desert campaign:

For the regiment's conduct during the Tunisian campaign:

Commanding officers[edit]

The division's commanding officers were:[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Bollettino dell'Archivio dell'Ufficio Storico N.II-3 e 4 2002. Rome: Ministero della Difesa - Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito - Ufficio Storico. 2002. p. 329. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  2. ^ "132^ Brigata Corazzata "Ariete" - La Storia". Italian Army. Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  3. ^ "32° Reggimento carri - La Storia". Italian Army. Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  4. ^ "132° Reggimento Artiglieria Terrestre "Ariete" - La Storia". Italian Army. Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  5. ^ Rommel's Army in Africa, Dal McGuirk, p. 91, Stanley Paul, 1987 and XXXII BATTAGLIONE GUASTATORI
  6. ^ That magnificent 9th: An Illustrated History of The 9th Australian Division, Mark Johnston, p. 38, Allen and Unwin, 2002
  7. ^ Rommel's Desert Commanders: The Men Who Served The Desert Fox, North Africa, 1941–1942, Samuel W. Mitcham, p.50, Praeger, 2007
  8. ^ James J. Sadkovich, Of Myths and Men: Rommel and the Italians in North Africa, p. 302, The International History Review XIII (1991)
  9. ^ Das Afrika Korps: Erwin Rommel and the Germans in Africa, 1941–43, By Franz Kurowski, pg. 125, Stackpole Books (March 1991)
  10. ^ James J. Sadkovich, Of Myths and Men: Rommel and the Italians in North Africa, p. 303, The International History Review XIII (1991)
  11. ^ "Under a Fading Moon, (First Battle of El Alamein), David Aldea, Comando Supremo, Italy at War". Archived from the original on 19 June 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  12. ^ Rommel's North Africa Campaign: September 1940-November 1942, Jack Greene, Alessandro Massignani, p. 196, Da Capo Press, Revised Edition, (272 pages)
  13. ^ Rommel's Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps, Samuel W. Mitcham, p. 176, Stackpole Books, 2000
  14. ^ Rommel's Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps, Samuel W. Mitcham, p. 176, Stackpole Books, 2000
  15. ^ Caruso, Alfio (2011). L'onore d'Italia. Milan: Longanesi.
  16. ^ The Rommel Papers, p. 325
  17. ^ Bollettino dell'Archivio dell'Ufficio Storico N.II-3 e 4 2002. Rome: Ministero della Difesa - Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito - Ufficio Storico. 2002. p. 335. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ a b "8° Reggimento Bersaglieri". Regio Esercito. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  20. ^ "8° Reggimento Bersaglieri". President of Italy. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  21. ^ "32° Reggimento Carri "Ariete", per il III Battaglione Carri M/13". President of Italy. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  22. ^ "132° Reggimento Carri "Ariete"". President of Italy. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  23. ^ "132° Reggimento Artiglieria "Ariete"". President of Italy. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  24. ^ "8° Reggimento Bersaglieri". President of Italy. Retrieved 23 November 2021.

Bibliography[edit]