The submarine MAREA was part of the “TRITONE” class (sometimes also referred to as “FLUTTO”, another boat of this class) and more precisely the first of the three series planned for a total of 48 units (12, 24 and again 12). The project for this class, developed when the war had already begun, was born from the need of having medium-size boats at a reasonable cost, to be produced in quantity, and which could take advantage of the experience gained in the first year of war. The original intentions called for this class to become the backbone of the Italian submarine fleet. The project originated from the class “ARGO”, which amongst the 113 submarines with which the Italian Navy had entered World War II, was the one which had better demonstrated the ability to operate both in the Mediterranean and in the oceans.
One of the boats of the TRITONE class at the Muggiano shipyard
The project resulted in excellent and matching expectations, also gaining appreciation from the Germans, but due to war events, of the ambitious program of 48 boats, only 8 were completed and of these only 5 entered service: TRITONE, GORGO, FLUTTO, MAREA and VORTICE. The MAREA (call name “MR”, later replaced during the co-belligerence by “MA”) was built by the C.R.D.A. shipyard of Monfalcone, Gorizia. Laid down on December 1st, 1941, it was launched on December 10th, 1942 and delivered to the Navy on May 7th, 1943. Operational Life The MAREA entered service on May 7th under the command of Sub-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) Attilio Mario RUSSO. After the necessary crew training in the waters of the upper Adriatic, on August 1st the boat reached Naples. From here, on September 3rd, it sailed for the first war mission to patrol off the Gulf of Policastro (Calabria). The mission’s order called for actions against the VIII British Army, thought to be soon landing near Reggio and Villa S. Giovanni. Having failed to complete any sighting, the boat returned to Naples. On the 7th it was again at sea in the Gulf of Salerno, part of a screen of 10 submarines in the lower Tyrrhenian (as part or Operation Zeta) to oppose probable Allied landing operations on Italian soil. At 18:30 of the following day, September 8th, radio Algiers announced to the world the armistice between the Italian and Allied armed forces. Thus, the same night MARICOSON (Italian Submarine Command) ordered all the boats at sea to avoid any hostile action, immediately submerge to a depth of 80 meters, and surface on the 9th at 8:00 AM to remain on the surface flying the national flag and a black signal off the forward periscope. The following day, the submarines which were part of the Tyrrhenian screen, amongst them the MAREA, were ordered to Bona (Algeria), where they arrived between the 11th and 13th of September to complete the bitter task of surrendering to the British. A few days later, these boats were relocated to Malta. Here, on October 6th, the MAREA was sent back to Taranto and almost immediately moved to Brindisi in preparation for operations in collaboration with the Allies.
These were “Special Missions”, and the submarine had to drop off and pick up spies past the frontline. The MAREA completed two missions, both successful: one between the 3rd and 9th of November, with the disembarkation of six spies along the coast of Cortellazzo near the estuary of the river Piave, and the second one, similar to the first, between December 23rd and 29th. A report written by Lieutenant Commander Raul Galletti Of these missions exist. He participated as Chief of the Secret Service Bureau of Brindisi. The report praises Captain Russo and his crew:
Lieutenant Commander Raul Galletti Chief of the Secret Service Bureau of Brindisi The submarine MAREA left port having previously taken aboard myself and six infiltrators divided into two cells. On November 5th at 23:35 we moved toward the coast. At 23:45, since the sound of our engines was probably heard from shore, the lighthouse of Cortellazzo was turned on… We moved close to the coast up to the point where the boat stopped at a depth of 6 meters, resting on the bottom at about 1.5 miles from Cortellazzo… “Due to the current, sea force 2, and a 4 knots wind from NE, we decided to look for deeper waters. … At 01:16 we invited the civilians to quickly disembark on the rubber dinghy previously prepared. The civilians declared their unwillingness to disembark due to the weather conditions, but mostly because they were not able to see the nearby but obscured coastline (due to the severely overcast conditions), thus assuming that they could not reach it… I proposed to repeat the attempt near Chioggia, but the infiltrators categorically refused to do so, thus the submarine reached the prearranged diving position in a 50 meter depth area. “ November 6th, we surfaced at 18:30 and a small plane flew over the submarine at about 200-meter altitude. We dived again and at 20:30 we resurfaced. “Even this time an airplane flew over the boat going north at an altitude of 150 meters. “Visibility is relatively good, the moon is high and the sea almost calm. “ To the almost certain sighting of the boat near Port Cortellazzo the night before, and to the probable alarm, we attributed the presence of the airplanes in a systematic search for submarines. “ …We went to a new position for the landing established near Cattolica. [Having disembarked the informers without problems, the submarine returned to base] “I made present the spirit of sacrifice and sense of duty demonstrated by the crew, especially emphasizing the failures which have taken place (depth meter, planes had to be operated manually, and more serious, impossibility to replenish the air tanks due to the failure of both air compressors), which although making very feeble the possibility of completing the mission, did not minimally impact the morale of the crew, but instead stimulated their tenacity for the completion of the mission.”
At this point the MAREA left the special missions in the Adriatic – which would be continued by other submarines – and after a short period of refitting in Taranto, in February 1944, still under the command of Lieutenant Russo, it was transferred to Bermuda to perform, along with other Italian boats, anti-submarine training activity in support of Allied vessels. Activity in the Atlantic was intense until he end of the European conflict (May 1945), and then it ceased. The MAREA completed 139 training missions, with an average of 10 sorties per month, operating from various bases in Bermuda, and as far away as New London and Key West and others. When, in the following October the MAREA left the American waters to return to Italy, it was saluted by the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet, Admiral Ernest J. King.
The MAREA (Left) in Bermuda along with the ONICE in summer 1944
(Photo courtesy Erminio Bagnasco and Achille Rastelli)
With the return to Taranto ended the operational life of the MAREA under the Italian flag. The boat was inactive up to the moment it was stricken from the Italian Naval roster on February 1st, 1948. A year later, with a civilian crew and flying the flag of the Italian Merchant Marine, the boat reached the Albanian port of Valona where, on February 7th, 1949 it was delivered, along with the NICHELIO, to the Soviet Union as dictated by the clauses of the peace treaty as war reparations. The MAREA was renamed “Z 13” first, and later “I41” (until June 16th, 1949) and again “S 42”. It was used for training activity in the Black Sea up to February 17th, 1946 and then removed from service on December 27th of the same year. It was scrapped in the early 1960s.
Translated by Cristiano D’Adamo