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Post Dividing Up Italy's Warships after WWII
Created by John Eipper on 04/28/19 3:51 AM

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Dividing Up Italy's Warships after WWII (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 04/28/19 3:51 am)

John E (April 23rd) asked about the process whereby the Italian battleship Giulio Cesare ended up in the Soviet Union after WWII.

The Peace Treaty of 10 February 1947 was a real Diktat.

The stupid Italians believed that just because they had betrayed their allies and jumped on the bandwagon of the victors, they would be considered victors too. Instead they finally realized that they were to be treated as a disgraced and defeated enemy which could survive only by becoming an occupied colony.

Only the heirs of the communist partisans and many politicians in their speeches mention their "great victory" against the fascist RSI and Nazi Germany. This might be the most hilarious fake story in history.

Anyway, according to the Attachment XII of the Diktat, Italy had to surrender most of her once-powerful fleet to the victors and their Allies:

The USSR got 1 battleship, 1 cruiser, 2 destroyers, 3 torpedo boats, and 2 submarines plus cash for other vessels not in good shape.

UK did not accept any ships but wanted the equivalent in iron scrap of 20,000 tons.

US also declined taking ships but wanted them demolished.

France got 2 cruisers, 4 destroyers, 1 colonial ship, 2 MAS 1 auxiliary ship and 6 tugs.

Yugoslavia got 3 torpedo boats, 7 minesweepers, 4 tugs, 2 auxiliary ships.

Greece got 1 cruiser and 1 tanker.

Italy remained with a maximum of 67,500 tons of shipping, which is almost nothing. Consider the ship Costa Fortuna alone is 102,587 tons of volume. Do not confuse this with its deadweight of 49,969 tons.

JE comments:  Eugenio, do any of these ships survive?  According to the the Wikipedia entry on Italy's battleships, all of them were scrapped, sunk or "discarded," including the Giulio Cesare, which sank while in Soviet service.

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  • Do Any Italian Ships of WWII Survive? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/29/19 10:01 AM)
    To answer John E's question, as far as I know, after 74 years none of the ships of the once-powerful Italian navy have survived.

    On a happier note, some of the olive trees in our orchard have begun to blossom.

    JE comments:  I did some Googling, and it is surprising how few of the world's battleships remain.  In fact, the only tourable battleship outside the United States is Japan's Mikasa, a veteran of the Russo-Japanese war.  The UK has exactly one survivor of the Battle of Jutland (1916):  HMS Caroline (a light cruiser).

    It's expensive to maintain an old warship, but they are very cool to display in your harbor.  I've visited the Alabama in Mobile and the Texas in La Porte.  Pearl Harbor remains on my Bucket List.

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    • USS Olympia, Philadelphia (Patrick Mears, Germany 04/30/19 2:29 AM)

      With respect to John's list of decommissioned battleships and Pearl Harbor, one should include the armored cruiser, USS Olympia, which served as Admiral George Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.

      This sole surviving ship of that conflict can be visited at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have visited this grande dame of warships twice--in 1964 and then in 2010--and will do so again if and when I happen to be in the neighborhood. My first visit was triggered during our family summer vacation that year. Back in the early 1960s, I bought the plastic Revell (?) model of the Olympia, assembled it, and then ordered from the offer contained in its packaging a commemorative copper coin of this ship that had been minted from the ship's original propellers. This is a link a photo of such a coin that I just tracked down on the internet: https://www.ebay.com/itm/USS-OLYMPIA-BATTLE-MANILA-BAY-ADMIRAL-DEWEY-COIN-MEDAL-MADE-FROM-PROPELLER-/273824411954 . To my everlasting shame, I lost that coin somewhere along the line, probably when I left home to attend university in Ann Arbor.

      If any WAISers happen to be visiting Philadelphia in the future, you might stop by the museum and tour the ship. You will likely enjoy the experience.

      JE comments:  We struck pay dirt with this topic on museum ships.  For people interested in history, diplomacy, old stuff, and all things international (meaning, WAISers), historic warships are hard to beat.  Remember Gridley?  He was the gunnery officer told to "fire when ready" at Manila Bay.  (Dewey's quote appears on the commemorative coin.)  I just learned that Indiana-born Charles Vernon Gridley grew up in nearby Hillsdale, Michigan, and attended Hillsdale College before transferring to the US Naval Academy.  He never returned from the Pacific war of 1898.  Sick with dysentery, Gridley died while in a Japanese port.

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    • HMS Belfast, London (John Heelan, UK 04/30/19 2:53 AM)

      HMS Belfast is moored in the Thames opposite the Tower of London. I once was a guest for an amazing dinner in its wardroom complete with "pink gins" (A large gin with Angostura bitters being waved at it from a safe distance).

      JE comments:  The Belfast is a light cruiser, which at 11,500 tons is an understatement.  But battleships can weigh four times as much.  (Japan's behemoth Yamato tipped the scales at 65,000 tons.)

      The Belfast was nearly done in by a German mine early in WWII, but was repaired and amassed an impressive record for the rest of the war, including service on the convoys supplying the Soviet Union.  The pink gins must have helped with the Arctic cold and tedium.

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      • HMS Belfast, and "Confusion to the French" (Timothy Ashby, Spain 04/30/19 6:08 AM)
        I love HMS Belfast and have been aboard (as a tourist) several times. She is a very popular tourist attraction (and moored across the Thames from the Tower of London), so I advise visiting her in the dead of winter when one does not feel hemmed or hurried by hordes of selfie-snapping turistas.

        On the subject of HM warships--when I was living on the island of Grenada in 1977 I was "dined in" in the wardroom (officers' mess) of a Royal Navy frigate (name long since forgotten I'm afraid). I was pleasantly surprised by the historical knowledge of the officers (several were reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels, which had debuted a few years earlier). During and after dinner, various toasts were drunk, starting with, of course, the Loyal Toast to Her Majesty (Royal Navy officers traditionally drink the Loyal Toast seated, unlike other branches of HM Armed Forces).

        The toast I remember vividly was "Confusion to the French," which was done amidst much raucous and redfaced laughter. I remember asking one of my table companions if this was still a traditional toast, and he replied that it was not, but that the frigate had experienced a "rather unpleasant" port call at one of the French Caribbean islands and that the Captain was "on board" with this as long as no Frenchmen or British diplomats were aboard!

        JE comments:  "Confusion" as a curse sounds so British!  The more choleric races would be inclined wish death on their enemies.  The British and the French are probably the world's oldest "frenemies."  The Tommies of WWI often wondered why they were fighting against the Germans and not the French, and many Poilus no doubt had the same question.

        Imagine this coming from Iran or North Korea:  Confusion to the Yankee Satan!

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        • Toasting to France's Confusion (John Heelan, UK 05/03/19 5:19 AM)

          In response to Timothy Ashby (April 30th), I think the full toast from 1794 is "Confusion to the French (hear, hear!) and all enemies to Great Britain."

          JE comments:  I had a philological suspicion, and "confusion" in the medieval mind suggested "overthrow" or "ruin."  There must have been some vestiges of this meaning in Lord Nelson's day.


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  • What Happened to Italy's Warships after WWII? (Brian Blodgett, USA 04/30/19 5:43 AM)
    Eugenio Battaglia's post of April 28th caused me to look up the Peace Treaty of 10 February 1947. I noticed that Annex VII allowed the Italian Navy to retain a fair number of ships, to include:

    45 Major Warships: 2 Battleships, 4 Cruisers, 4 Destroyers, 16 Torpedo Boats, 19 Corvettes.

    43 Minor Warships: 35 minesweepers, 8 Vedettes.

    74 Auxiliary Naval Vessels: 2 fleet tanks, 12 Water Carriers, 21 Large Tugs, 29 Small Tugs, 1 Training Ship, 3 Transports, 1 Supply Ship, 1 Repair Ship, 2 Surveying Ships, 1 Lighthouse-Service Vessel, 1 Cable Ship.

    They surrendered:

    30 Major War Vessels: 3 Battleships, 5 Cruisers, 1 Sloop, 7 Destroyers, 6 Torpedo Boats, and 8 Submarines.

    Minor Warships: 29 M.T.B., 7 Minesweepers, 1 Gunboat, 6 Vedettes, 16 Landing Craft.

    85 Auxiliary Naval Vessels: 4 Tankers, 14 Water Carriers, 32 Large Tugs, 14 Small Tugs, 1 Depot Ship, 1 Training Ship, 1 Auxiliary Mine-Layer, 3 Transports.

    Percentage-wise, Italy retained 60% of its major warships, 50% of its minor warships, 47% of its Auxiliary Naval Vessels.

    In Major Warships, they retained 40% of their battleships, 44% of their cruisers, none of their sloops, 36% of their destroyers, 73% of their torpedo boats, none of their submarines, and 100% of their corvettes.

    In Minor Warships, they retained none of their M.T.B., 83% percent of their minesweepers, and 57% of their vedettes.

    In Auxiliary Naval Vessels, they retained none of their landing craft, 33% of their fleet tankers, 46% of their water carriers, 40% of their large tugs, 67% of their small tugs, none of their depot ships, 50% of their training ships, none of their auxiliary mine layers, 60% of their transports, and all of their supply, repair, survey, lighthouse-service, and cable ships.

    So, my question is, did they really surrender most of their naval ships? By percent they actually kept more major ships, broke even on minor warships, and lost just 6% more auxiliary ships. But I guess the real question is in what condition were the ships that they kept?

    JE comments:  MTB--motor torpedo boat?  I'm not clear how they are different from a "regular" torpedo boat.

    Either way, Brian Blodgett has uncovered some valuable information.  The fate of Italy's navy reflects its curious record of fighting on both sides of the war.  As a result, it was treated with more benevolence afterwards than Germany or Japan--although Eugenio Battaglia certainly wouldn't agree.

    Yet what is a defeated and bankrupt nation going to do with a battleship?  Was Italy "allowed" to keep these floating white elephants, or did no one else want them?

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    • MTBs, and the Disaster at Slapton Sands (John Heelan, UK 05/01/19 6:31 AM)
      JE (30 April) asked about MTBs.

      "The 'motor' in the formal designation, referring to the use of petrol engines, was to distinguish them from the majority of other naval craft that used steam turbines or reciprocating steam engines."

      It all had to do with power and speed. The Germans had squadrons of better and faster boats (Snell-booten) that were instrumental in sabotaging one of the rehearsals for D-Day that took place at Slapton Sands that has similar beaches to those later used for D-Day.

      Slapton Sands is remembered this week, given that hundreds of UK and US military died as a result of the German S-boot attack.

      Attached is a photo of a WWII MTB that was converted into a houseboat and moored in our local harbour until age took its toll and destroyed it.

      JE comments:  "Exercise Tiger" may be the deadliest military training incident ever.  Most of the dead were Americans (749 according to Wikipedia).  The biggest culprit was "friendly" artillery fire.  The secrecy seems to have held; I thought I knew WWII but never heard of this:


      That MTB could use some TLC!  Do I see wood planking?

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      • Slapton Sands Disaster, 1944 (David Pike, France 05/02/19 4:24 AM)

        But yes, we did discuss the Exercise Tiger tragedy on WAIS a decade or so ago. When I lived in Torquay in the 1940s I visited Slapton Sands, to find only a wooden marker commemorating a fatal accident! There's a lot more to this than what you read on Wikipedia. It was a true disaster.

        JE comments:  I found this undated and unarchived WAIS item from our old days of yellow postings ("yellow" in the literal, not figurative sense).  It appears to be from the late 1990s:


        How is it we didn't visit Slapton Sands and its monument when WAIS met in Torquay in 2011?  The beach is only ten miles or so down the road.  The veil of secrecy over Exercise Tiger still holds.

        David, do you know if anyone was punished for the fiasco?  The Germans did their part, but the biggest blunder was a lack of communication.  Several boatloads of trainees got the timing wrong and stormed the beaches under a deluge of "friendly" artillery fire.

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        • Slapton Sands Disaster; Admiral Don P. Moon (John Heelan, UK 05/02/19 10:38 AM)
          Regarding the Slapton Sands fiasco, did not the Officer Commanding delay H Hour? According to Wiki and the subsequent book by Ken Small, the American commander of the exercise, Rear Admiral Don P. Moon, decided to delay H-hour for 60 minutes, until 08:30.  Some of the landing craft did not receive word of the change. (Sadly, Moon later committed suicide.)

          Landing on Utah beach at their original scheduled time, the second wave came under fire, suffering an unknown number of casualties. Rumours circulated along the fleet that as many as 450 men were killed. Further, I seem to remember that the intelligence about Slapton Sands beach was also faulty, resulting in some of the LSTs beaching on sandbanks just offshore. The heavy armour crews drowned as their vehicles slipped down into the deep channels landside of the sandbanks that had scoured out those channels. A total tragedy!

          There have been several books and films about this disaster. Those of us who live by the sea are aware the dangers of sandbanks causing deep channels with currents that each year carry the unwary (especially kids in inflatables) out to sea and a watery grave.

          JE comments:  Admiral Moon's official cause of death was suicide due to "battle fatigue."  Given that he shot himself just months after Slapton Sands, remorse may well have been the real reason.

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    • Strength of Italian Navy in 1940, 1947 and Today (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/04/19 6:10 AM)
      As a partial correction to Brian Blodgett's post of April 30th, the section of the Peace Treaty referring to the Italian Navy is Annex 12, while Annex 7 refers to the Provisional Regime of the Free Territory of Trieste.

      Article 59 of the Peace Treaty states: "The total standard displacement of the war vessels other than battleships, of the Italian Navy, including vessels under construction after the date of launching, shall not exceed 67,500 tons." This, as I wrote earlier, is practically nothing.

      Annex 12, point B lists the ships to be handed over by Italy, while point A indicates the ships to be retained by Italy. Unfortunately many of the ships indicated as remaining were by that time damaged/obsolete (as JE surmised) and had to be scrapped, including the two battleships. This left Italy with 2 viable cruisers, 1 destroyer, 36 torpedo boats and corvettes, plus 100 small vessels such as minesweepers, tugs, coastals, etc.

      Theoretically it was a terrible blow, but thanks to the Soviet threat things changed and the strict observance of the 67,500 ton limit was slowly forgotten and new modern ships were brought into service. Italy now has a fairly strong fleet.

      At present the Italian Navy has two cruiser carriers, 12 submarines, 4 destroyers armed with missiles, 12 frigates and several minor boats. Of course this is not much in comparison to 1940.

      The three-masted training ship Amerigo Vespucci is still operating at sea since 1925 to train future naval officers. Her twin Cristoforo Colombo was taken by the USSR under the Annex 12 point B referred to above. Prior to delivery to the Soviets some members of her crew tried to explode her, but they were detected and arrested. The USSR named the vessel Dunay (Danube), and sent her to the Nautical School of Odessa in 1961. In 1971 she was demolished at Leningrad.

      JE comments:  A curiosity:  why are naval officers still trained in the ancient sailing techniques (as in, using actual sails)?  Is it truly a necessary skill, or more of a rite of passage?

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      • Learning to Sail with Outward Bound (John Heelan, UK 05/05/19 4:30 AM)
        JE (4 May) asked why naval officers are still trained in traditional sailing techniques.

        As a graduate of the Outward Bound Sea School, we had to learn how to sail not only "dipping lug cutters" (for which every tack meant taking the sail down and rehoisting it the other side of the main mast.) but also sailing the school's three-master through the sometimes stormy Cardigan Bay. The value of Outward Bound training was to instill physical confidence in the trainees who had to abseil down cliffs and complete a 20-mile hike across mountains. Every morning was started with a cross-country run and a cold shower (and I mean COLD in November). The building physical courage succeeded: so much so that a couple of years later, I found my National Service basic training relatively easy despite it taking place in one of the worst UK winters.

        Not that I was an aspiring naval officer at that time, but just a young bank clerk lucky enough to be selected for the OB training. I still look back on those days with affection and have revisited the mountains and estuaries with my young family, taking them sailing in dinghies. I wish I was agile enough to continue to enjoy sailing. North Wales became a favourite vacation choice.

        JE comments:  For his part, Eugenio Battaglia answered my question in more poetic terms:  "Training men on sails makes them materially and spiritually stronger."  (Let's include the women, too!)  I still suspect tradition plays a bigger role here than necessity.  Also, a three-master (such as the Italian Amerigo Vespucci) is a very cool thing to play with.  "You are the most beautiful ship in the world":


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