Book Review
Italian Navy & Air Force Elite
Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940-45
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

This is a review of the Osprey Publishing LTD book Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940-45 by authors Piero Crociani and Pier Paolo Battistelli and illustrator Mark Stacey with series editor Martin Windrow.


** The Italian Navy’s most impressive contribution to the war effort was its outstanding special
force, the innovative 10a Flottiglia MAS. Using manned torpedoes, piloted assault motorboats
and frogmen, fewer than 250 men inflicted greater damage on the Allies than any other Italian
naval unit. The course of the Mediterranean war might have been very different had the Axis
carried out its planned assault in Malta in spring 1942, for which the Navy had prepared
elite para-swimmer units to lead the way for its ‘San Marco’ marines, and the Air Force their
paratroop and assault engineer units. Although these specialists were then wastefully deployed
elsewhere, after the Italian surrender in September 1943 they provided the hard core units that
continued to fight for Mussolini alongside the Germans. **

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.


Osprey Publications Ltd has released Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces
1940-45 as Number 191 in their Elite series. It is a paperback book with 64 pages. Included
with the text are black and white photographs, color illustrations, informational charts and
detailed captions. It has a 2013 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-84908-857-2. The book details
the history of the military forces, artifacts, personalities and warfare techniques of the Italian
Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces from the years of 1940 through 1945 during
World War II.

- Introduction
- Navy Special Forces: 1st & 10th MAS Flotilla, 1940-43
- Origins
- Organization, 1942
- Craft and equipment
- Operations
- Midget Submarines & The Black Sea
- ‘San Marco’ Naval Infantry
- Origins
- Italian landing forces
- ‘San Marco’ Regiment: operations
- ‘P’, ‘N’ &’NP’ special forces
- Air Force Special Forces
- 1st Air Force Paratroop Unit
- ‘Loreto’ Battalion
- 1st Air Force Assault Regiment ‘Amedeo d’Aosta
- Air Force Assault Engineer Battalion (ADRA)
- Borghese And The Xª MAS Units, 1943-45
- The Italian surrender
- The RSI Navy special assault forces
- Operations
- The Xª MAS naval infantry
- Early operations
- The ‘Divisione Decima’
- A ‘flotilla’ swallows a navy
- Operations, December 1944-April 1945
- ‘Folgore’ Parachute Regiment, 1943-45
- Conclusions
- Select Bibliography
- Index

The text in the book is professionally written and nicely detailed. Piero Crociani and Pier Paolo Battistelli cover the Italian Navy, Air Force Elite Units and Special Forces units from the years of 1940 through 1945 during World War II in a well-documented professionally written format.
The text goes into great detail on such subjects as the miniature submarines and manned
torpedoes. Other water craft that are detailed and discussed are the MTM ramming motorboats
and their contribution to the Italian war effort. That is a subject that has been of interest to me
and so I found the details to be very interesting and informative. My hat is off to those brave
men that pulled that duty above and below the waves. As well as those individuals, all of the
other Italian special units are discussed in detail and the reader is informed of the various units,
the origins, strength in numbers, training and weaponry available to them as well as the various
campaign and battles they were involved in and the outcome of those conflicts. I found it very
interesting to read about the 1st Air Force Assault Regiment ‘Amedeo d’Aosta and the Air Force
Assault Engineer Battalion (ADRA). Upon reading about them I was reminded of the German
Luftwaffe ground forces and armored units. To me they are all interesting due to the fact that
they are fulfilling a duty outside of what is expected of their units. I guess to me it is a little odd seeing an air force assault engineer battalion or a Luftwaffe armored unit. This is a well written history that will be of great use and interest to the well-seasoned and knowledgeable World War Two and Italian Navy, Air Force Elite Units and Special Forces units historian or the individual that is new to these units and wants to learn about their history. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an
important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my
findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to
be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history
book on the Italian Navy, Air Force Elite Units and Special Forces units from the years of 1940
through 1945 during World War II to their personal library will be pleased with this very
informative and interesting book.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.

There are a total of 57 black and white photographs featured in this volume. There are no color photographs included. The majority of the photographs are very nice and will help the military modeler well. They range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. I appreciate the fact that there are photographs that are new to me as this makes this volume even more exciting for me to sit down and read. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however there are some that have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and some appear too light, which is typical for photographs of that period of time. I do know that several military photographs are actually stills taken from video so that could be one reason as well as the fact that the photographs are close to 70 years old. With that said the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and take away nothing from the book. Piero Crociani and Pier Paolo Battistelli have stuck to the title of the book and chose photographs that are specific to Italian Navy, Air Force Elite Units and Special Forces units from the years of 1940 through 1945 during World War II and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. There are several excellent photographs that will help out the Italian water craft and figure modeler. The majority of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information due to the details they contain.

The photographs contain subjects such as:

- Series 100 ’maiale’ manned torpedo
- SLC (siluro lenta corsa, ‘slow speed torpedo’) series 200
- ‘Maiali’ crewmen wearing the Belloni suit and re-breather apparatus
- MTM ramming motorboats
- Italian sailors checking a 450mm torpedo
- Caproni ‘CB’ midget submarines
- Men of the ‘San Marco’ naval infantry company
- ‘San Marco’ naval infantryman standing with a German soldier from the replacement unit Tuni Feld-Bataillon 1
- 47/32 anti-tank gun
- Frogmen of the Xª MAS ‘NP’ Battalion
- 20mm Breda anti-aircraft cannon and crewman next to an 8mm Breda 37 machine gun position
- Xª MAS naval infantrymen of the Divisione Decima using an inflatable boat to cross a river
- Members of the ‘Folgore’ Parachute Regt in the summer of 1944

Some of the key individuals shown are:

- Capitano di Vascello Junio Valerio Borghese
- SLC pilot Tenente di Vascello Luigi Durand de la Penne
- Commander Borghese with General Hildebrandt, commanding general of the German 715. Infanterie Division
- LtCdr Salvatore Todaro
- Capitano di Fregata Luigi Carallo
- German commander General Kurt Mältzer

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself.

There are 8 plates of color illustrations by illustrator Mark Stacey that are very well done and nicely detailed.

The color illustrations are of:

Plate A:

10th MAS Flotilla; Italy, 1941-42
1. Manned torpedo crewman, 1941
2. Frogman, Gamma group, 1942
3. Tenente di vascello, service dress, 1940

Plate B:

10th MAS Flotilla & Midget Submarines, 1940-42
1. Sottotenente di vascello, “barchino’ pilot; Italy, 1942
2. Marinaio, fatigue dress; Italy, 1940
- 2a. Metal pin-on model of the submariner’s dolphin badge
3. Tenente di vascello, 1st ‘CB’ Submarine Squadron; Yalta, Crimea, summer 1942

Plate C:

‘San Marco’ Naval Infantry Regiment, 1940-42
1. Capitano di corvetta; Italy, 1940
– 1a. Pointed-rectangular red lapel patch bearing the gold metal Lion of St Mark insignia
2. Marò guastatore; Libya, 1942
3. Vice capo squadra attached from Blackshirt MILMART unit; Italy, 1942

Plate D:

‘San Marco’ Naval Infantry Regiment, 1941-42
1. Sottocapo, base defence company; Bordeaux, 1941
2. Tenente di vascello, III Battalion; Tobruk, 1942
3. Marò, Swimmer-Parachutist Battalion; Italy, 1943
– 3a. Special qualification badge of the nuotatori-paracadutisti

Plate E:

Air Force Special Units; Italy, 1942
1. Tenente, Air Force Assault Engineer Battalion (ADRA)
– 1a. Metal breast badge if the Arditi Distruttori Regia Aeronautica (ADRA)
2. Paracadutista, 1st Air Force Parachute Battalion
3. Primo aviere, ‘Loreto’ Battalion

Plate F:

Xª MAS Flotilla; Italy, 1944
1. Guardiamarina, ‘Barbarigo’ Battalion; Anzio, early 1944
-1a. Metal badge of the Xª MAS Flotilla
2. Sottotenente, assault craft squadron; San Remo, summer 1944
3. Marò, Divisione Decima; Piedmont, autumn 1944

Plate G:

Xª MAS Flotilla; Italy, 1944-45
1. Guardiamarina, MAS squadron; San Remo, summer 1944
2. Capitano di fregata Junio Valerio Borghese, 1944
– 2a. Xª MAS Honour Badge
3. Marò, ‘Lupo’ Battalion; Senio river, January 1945
Plate H:

“Folgore’ Parachute Regiment; Italy, 1944-45
1. Paracadutista, “Nembo’ Battalion; Anzio, early 1944
2. Sottotenente; Rome front, June 1944
-2a. RSI parachute qualification badge
3. Paracadutista; Western Alps, February 1945

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.


There are no maps provided in this volume. Personally I would have liked to have seen some

There are 2 informational charts provided which provide information on:

- Abbreviations and glossary
- Equivalent ranks - Italian and Britain


There are 4 notes included in this volume. They are:

- Acknowledgements
- Abbreviated Photo Credits
- Author’s Note
- Artist’s Note


The captions are well written and are very detailed and explain the accompanying photographs
in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown and taking place in the accompanying
photograph. The captions go into very specific detail as to weapons, watercraft, armor, locations
as well as specific individuals, uniforms and other such pertinent information. I was very
impressed by Piero Crociani’s and Pier Paolo Battistelli’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions I have seen that are very brief
and lack detail.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the captions for yourself.

I was pleased to get the chance to review this well written reference book that contains many excellent and subject specific photographs and illustrations and well detailed captions. It details the Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces of 1940-45 during World War II very well which will make this volume particularly interesting and beneficial to anyone interested in the those types of units. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


World War 2 Combat Uniforms and Insignia
Squadron/Signal Publications, #6013
Published in 1977
Martin Windrow with color illustrations by Gerry Embleton

The Military Book Club Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of WWII
Saturn Books Ltd.
Ian V. Hogg

Great Weapons Of World War II
John Kirk
Robert Young
Introduction by Bernard E. Trainor
Walker And Company

Search inside the book on the Osprey web site:


Osprey Publishing also has Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940-45
available as a:

- PDF ebook
- ePub eBook

Look inside the book on the Amazon web site:

Italian Navy & Air Force Elite Units & Special Forces 1940-45

Look inside the Kindle Edition of the book on the Amazon web site:

Italian Special Forces 1940-45 ebook
Highs: Excellent photographs and illustrations Nicely written text and captions
Lows: Nothing to mention
Verdict: This is a very nice reference book of the Italian Navy, Air Force Elite Units and Special Forces units from the years of 1940 through 1945 during World War II that is well researched and written.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781849088572
  Suggested Retail: $18.95 / £11.99
  PUBLISHED: Apr 08, 2013

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved.


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