October 8, 1887|
June 27, 1951|
Rome (aged 63)
|Allegiance||Kingdom of Italy (1912–20 and 1940–41)|
First World War (1915–1918) |
Second World War (until 1941)
Luigi Rizzo, 1st Count of Grado and Premuda, nicknamed the Sinker (October 8, 1887 in Milazzo – June 27, 1951 in Rome) was an Italian admiral. He is mostly known for his distinguished service during World War I, and his renown is particularly due to his role in the sinking the Austro-Hungarian battleship SMS Szent István, in June 1918.
After receiving his training at the Naval Academy in Livorno, he was appointed ship-of-the-line sub-lieutenant within the Italian Navy in 1912. He saw action in the First World War (1915–1918), when he conducted several spectacular raids as commander of torpedo boats (PT boat MAS) against ships of the Austro-Hungarian Navy.
On February 10, 1918 three MAS boats (with the MAS 96 commanded by Rizzo), attack Austrian shipping inside the harbour of Bakar (now in Croatia) a port in an enclosed bay near Fiume, at the head of the Kvarner Gulf. As it lay 80 km into a sheltered waterway, it was thought to be beyond attack, so the raid was intended as a psychological, as well as a physical, assault. The operation become famous as Bakar mockery (In Italian: Beffa di Buccari).
On June 10, 1918 Rizzo sank the large battleship SMS Szent István off Premuda. The sinking of the 21,700-ton SMS Szent István was the greatest success of any MAS torpedo boat and is still celebrated in the Italian Navy on June 10 every year. It forms an important anniversary in the Italian naval history.
He finally rose to the rank of admiral and was ennobled by King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, taking the victory title of Conte di Grado e di Premuda. He also received the Gold Medal of Military Valor (twice), the Silver Medal (four times), the Cross of War and was a knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy.
In September 1943 he was charged with sabotage by the Nazis, after ordering the sinking of ships to stop them getting in the hands of the Germans and deported to Germany. He was later reached there by his daughter. They returned to Italy when the war ended; Rizzo died in 1951 after a long illness.
Admiral Count Rizzo was second cousin to Captain Victor P. Rizzo of Lawrenceville, New Jersey (USA), a World War II reconnaissance pilot and author. Another second cousin was Rose Rizzo-Goff, and both were the children of Leonardo Rizzo (first cousin to Adm. Luigi Rizzo) and Camilina Dell'Utri-Rizzo of Brooklyn, New York (USA).
- Kennedy, Paul. The Sinking of the Szent Istvan, in "The History of the First World War", BPC Publishing Ltd., Bristol, England, 1971, vol.7, no.14, pps:3072 – 3075.