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"Italian Tanks on the Russian Front" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2020 9:02 p.m. PST

Interesting thread here…



gavandjosh0216 Oct 2020 10:01 p.m. PST


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Oct 2020 12:20 p.m. PST

A votre service mon ami! (smile)


Legion 418 Oct 2020 9:32 a.m. PST

I have that Squadron Eastern Front Armor book mentioned in the link. It is pretty good ! Along with a Squadron book about France '40 Armor & camo. thumbs up

It always surprised me the Italian M13/40s and larger Semovettes never made it to the Eastern Front. The light AFVs with the units they sent to the East. Were even really not that effective in the NA Campaign against much of the Allied armor.

So I'm sure when these light AFVs ran into T34s, KVs, etc., they were at a distinct disadvantage.

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP18 Oct 2020 1:48 p.m. PST

So I'm sure when these light AFVs ran into T34s, KVs, etc., they were at a distinct disadvantage.

I have yet to find much primary information on armor-vs-armor clashes by the Italian forces in Russia.

The L3s went in with the original CSIR -- this was a single corps of 3 divisions: Pasubio, Torino and Celere (Duca d'Aosta). Pasubio and Torino were "auto portable" divisions, meaning they could be transported by truck … if someone came up with the trucks. These divisions were equipped with kit that could be moved by truck (most notably their artillery), but did not have sufficient motor transport to move themselves. Celere, as a "fast division", had it's own transport (including motorcycle troops and some cavalry, IIRC).

The L3s were attached to Celere, but were not an integral part of the division. They were sometimes cross-attached to the other divisions as need arose. So for example in the successful Italian crossings of the Dniepr and encirclement of Soviet forces around Petrikovka in Sept. of 1941, L3s joined in Pasubio's left pincer movement while Celere held the center and Torino moved on the right.

Against infantry formations, the L3s did well enough. And as part of a mobile attack their light-and-quick characteristics were useful.

Later, the L6s were used mostly in a recon role, if I understand correctly. In 1942 they would have been about as useful as the T-60s on the Soviet side. I have not seen any battle reports of L6s being used in support of major offensive or defensive operations. Just screening, scouting, and other traditional recon/cavalry type actions.

The Semoventi da 47s I really can't figure out. I mean, it ain't much of a recon vehicle. It was built as a tank destroyer, but I would not have wanted to duel with T-60s in one, much less with T-34s!

It always surprised me the Italian M13/40s and larger Semovettes never made it to the Eastern Front. The light AFVs with the units they sent to the East. Were even really not that effective in the NA Campaign against much of the Allied armor.

I think there were two dominant issues for the Italians in deciding what armor to send to the Eastern Front.

The first was logistics. Bother with the superior fighting capabilities of heavier armor -- if you don't have a secure logistical channel, you can't support tank formations. The Italians were entirely dependent on the Germans for logistical transit to their formations. The Germans ran the railroads in occupied Russia. And the Germans were already struggling to supply German formations, with scant concern about the fate of Italians. An armored division consumes several times the tonnage of supplies as a foot-infantry division. If you can't even get food and ammo to your infantry, how are you going to get fuel to your tanks?

The second was priorities. The North Africa campaign was fought over Italian interests. The Mediterranean coast was all viewed by Mussolini as Italian "turf". Pushing the Brits out, pushing the French out, later preventing the Brits, French and/or Americans from pushing the Italians (and the Germans) out … these were vital interests for a nation that fancied the Mediterranean as "Mare Nostrum" (our sea).

They had no such vital interest in Russia. The CSIR, later the 8th Army, was just an ante of Italian blood and treasure to keep Mussolini in the game with Hitler. Italy had no national interest in war with the Soviet Union.

So if your armored formations are few and precious, sending them somewhere you don't care about where you can't support them and they won't make much of a difference anyways, vs. sending them somewhere vital where you are in control of the support channels and they seem to be among the major factors … it isn't really too hard to figure out how you decide in that case, at least to my mind.

Could be wrong. Might have missed something, wasn't there, never was consulted by any members of the Commando Supremo, but that's how I read it.

(aka: Mk 1)

RudyNelson18 Oct 2020 2:48 p.m. PST

The Italian armor was designated as support for infantry formations. I do not think they were expected to counter tank formations. Remember the deployment and vehicle allocations were based on the 1941 invasion.
I read in one book that the same could be said for the other minor Axis allies as well. Their missions were not spearheads but mop up and flank security.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Oct 2020 3:36 p.m. PST



Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP18 Oct 2020 5:29 p.m. PST

The Italian armor was designated as support for infantry formations.

This was true of the Italian forces in Russia. The original CSIR (Expeditionary Corps in Russia) was intended to be a fast corps, not an armored or mechanized corps. Even so it never had enough transport to move all 3 divisions at once. Even when one of the divisions got priority, it seldom got enough transport to move all of it's infantry and artillery at once.

But the Italians did have armored divisions. Just not in Russia.

I read in one book that the same could be said for the other minor Axis allies as well. Their missions were not spearheads but mop up and flank security.

This may be true of later periods, but in the early stages of the war on the Eastern Front, the allied Axis countries participated heavily (by comparison of their overall levels of contribution) in offensive operations.

I mentioned above the CSIR crossing the Dniepr in September of 1941, and encircling several Soviet divisions. The CSIR, and the Pasubio division in particular, was the spearhead of the German 17th Army's efforts to cross this major waterway. It was after Pasubio had secured a bridgehead that German units began to cross, pass through, and advance. (This part of the operation was just before the CSIR turned to envelop the Soviet forces at Petrikovka.)

The Romanians were the lead force in the reduction and capture of Odessa. This was after their participation in Operation Munich, a series of rapid bounding advances by Army Group South during the early part of Operation Barbarossa in which the Romanian 1st (and ONLY) Armored Division was prominently featured. Later, they also made a substantial contribution to the reduction and capture of Sevastopol.

All of that said, it is true that by the second half of 1942 the majority of non-German Axis forces were relegated to defensive positions and occupation duties. Sometimes, as with the Romanians in the Crimea and Kerch Penninsula, these were active defensive roles in areas that were expected to see a lot of combat. Other times they were expected to be more passive "just hold the line in this non-critical sector" roles, even though things did not always turn out that way (as at Stalingrad).

Or so I've read.

(aka: Mk 1)

Legion 419 Oct 2020 8:22 a.m. PST

I understand & agree with much of what both Mark and Rudy posted. Regardless they were very light when it came to armor in the East. For the reasons mentioned, etc..

even though things did not always turn out that way (as at Stalingrad).
Yes the Russians knew to attack the "weaker" allied forces* on the German flanks. Demonstrating the effective use of "Double Envelopment". *(Were not the Romanians using some French R-35s?)

IIRC the Italians had 3 Tank Divs. in North Africa. With the M13/40 and later it's more "advanced" versions, i.e. M14/41, M15/42. Albeit fewer than the M13/40. Along with Semovette 75s in those Divs. And even the Germans used some of these Italian AFVs too, later in the war.

And I too have never heard of any Tank on Tank action where this Italian light armor took on Russian heavier AFVs. But I'd think the result would be predictable.

Cuprum219 Oct 2020 8:41 a.m. PST

For any light armored vehicles, Soviet anti-tank rifle were a big problem.



donlowry19 Oct 2020 8:43 a.m. PST

So what did the Italians on the Russian Front have for anti-tank guns?

Cuprum219 Oct 2020 8:47 a.m. PST

14,5 mm anti-tank rifle

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2020 12:06 p.m. PST

So what did the Italians on the Russian Front have for anti-tank guns?

The core Italian AT gun was the Canone da 47/32 M.1935. This was the same small, light 47mm gun used in the North African campaigns. It was an Austrian Boehler design built under license by Breda, and was also widely used by the Romanians in both Breda and Boehler forms.

This was a very good gun in 1941 -- more powerful than a Pak36 or a Bofors 37mm, lighter and handier than a 2pdr or 45mm M1932/38.

It was certainly up to the task of taking on T-26, BTs, T-60s and even T-28s. But it was probably marginal against T-70s, and virtually hopeless against T-34s and KVs.

It was supplemented in 1942 by the Canone da 75/39. These were hybrid French/German guns supplied by the Germans, who knew them as Pak97/38s. They were made by mounting the French 75mm Mlle1897 field gun on the carriage of the German 50mm Pak38. About 3500 of these were made in 1942 and 43. But they were never available in particularly large numbers to the Italians -- each division in the Italian 8th Army wound up with a single battery of these. They were decent guns (although violent to fire), and fired a variety of French, German or Polish AP rounds through 1942, switching largely to German-provided HEAT rounds by 1943. It was effective enough against T-34s. These were also supplied to, and deployed by the Romanians, with each Romanian infantry division in the 3rd and 4th Armies getting a battery.

For infantry AT work the Italians used mostly AT rifles. They deployed two types: the 7.92mm Fucile Contracarro 35(P) was the Polish Maroszek wz.35 ATR provided from war booty stocks by the Germans, and the 20mm Fucile Anticarro Tipo S was the S-18/1000 built in Switzerland by Solothurn, a gun maker that was owned by German firm Rhienmetal. It appears that the Italians generally sent the Maroszeks to the Eastern Front, and the Solothurns to North Africa, although I would not be surprised to see some mixing of the two. While the Solothurn was a substantially larger gun with longer range, the Maroszek had better anti-armor performance, particularly against monolithic plate (less so against face-hardened plate). However, neither was as capable as the Soviet PTRS-41 or PTRD-41, as the 14.5mm AT round ruled the roost in ATR performance.

Or so I've read.

(aka: Mk 1)

Mark 1 Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2020 12:34 p.m. PST

Were not the Romanians using some French R-35s?

The Romanian 1st Armored Division operated two regiments of tanks. One was equipped with French-provided kit, including R-35 tanks. The other was equipped mostly with non-French kit, running German trucks, Swedish AT guns, and Czech tanks (the R-2 tank, built by Skoda, which also served the Germans as the Pz. 35t).

There is some photographic evidence that some R35s saw service in the early phases of Operation Munich on the southern front during the opening stages of Barbarossa. But most written source materials I have seen state that the 1st Armored Division went into Russia with only 1 regiment equipped with R-2s. The regiment with R35 tanks was kept home to protect the Romanian boarder with Hungary, a nation that Romanian considered to be as much of an enemy as the Soviet Union.

By the time of Operation Saturn (the Stalingrad counter-offensive) the Romanian 1st Armored had been bolstered by about 20 each of T-3 (Pz. IIIn) and T-4 (Pz IVg or h) tanks. But the Romanians did not have more than a couple weeks to learn these tanks and integrate them into the formation before they were wiped off of the map by the Russian attack.

As an interesting corollary, one reason that the Italians were caught in the crosshairs by the Soviets both in Operation Saturn and Operation Mars (further north at the same time) was their position in the line -- the Italian 8th Army was placed in the line between the Romanian and Hungarian forces, to serve as a buffer and prevent these two German allies from coming to blows against each other instead of the Russians.

(aka: Mk 1)

Legion 419 Oct 2020 3:55 p.m. PST

All good information guys ! Most of it goes along with what I had read, etc. old fart

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