A Brief Analysis

of the Italian Navy during World War II

In the Mediterranean, the situation of military power, in terms of quantity, appeared to be balanced. The Italian Fleet, of some importance for the number of surface and submarine forces, could have withstood the heavy weight of the opposing French and English forces.

July 9th, 1940. Cruisers of the 2nd Squadron on route to Calabria.
(Photo USMM).

After Italy’s entry into the war, June 10 1940, this apparently balanced situation was gradually compromised by several factors, including: The stronger British power in naval aviation. Italian lack of instruments of detection (radar) and fuel. British ability to easily resort to naval and industrial power from other sectors of operation to replace losses in the Mediterranean.

Despite these adversities, the Italian Navy, in more than three years of hard engagement, was able to reach the peace table with all of its battleships. Italian naval forces fought on all seas. The men from the special forces, submariners, naval aviators, crew from small and large ships and marines from the regiment San Marco, clearly distinguished themselves for their perseverance and valor in obeying the law which states that “when the Motherland is at war, everyone must obey up to the ultimate sacrifice”.

Between 1940 and 1943, along with the Merchant Marine, the Italian Navy , despite the bitter opposition from British naval and aerial forces, was able to deliver to North Africa 86% of all war material and 92% of all troops shipped.

Some data eloquently summarizes the Italian effort in the war at sea: 3 million hours of operations for a total of 37 million miles sailed, equal to 2000 trips around the equator. 126,000 hours of aerial observation with 31,107 missions.

The naval routes with Albania, Greece and North Africa were always operational, averaging four concurrent convoys at sea. Transportation between the areas of operation was never interrupted. Such a result must be considered admirable especially considering the limited forces in place and the presence and location of the British military base of Malta. British traff on the prescribed routes toward Africa could have easily been considered an absurdity.

Nevertheless, the Mercantile Navy completed its assignment at the incredibly high price of 2,513 ships sunk between June 10,1940 and September 8, 1943.

The “Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare” awarded to the flag of the Italian Navy, to the Special Forces, the cruiser San Giorgio, and the submarine Scire along with 158 “Medaglie d’Oro al Valore” and the 4 “al Valore di Marina”, clearly represent the highest possible measurement of the sacrifice and the devotion to the Motherland shown by the Italian Navy between 1940 and 1945.