Italian Paratroopers Folgore 2

                                                           


LIVORNO, Italy – Recently, Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Donahue II, commander U.S. Army Africa, toured the Folgore Parachute Brigade, Livorno, Italy. The tour of the brigade was hosted by its commander, Brig. Gen. Massimo Mingiardi.

Mingiardi hosted a luncheon for the USARAF commander and his group. After lunch, Donahue toured a paratrooper training area interacting with Italian soldiers and their instructors.

Folgore Parachute Brigade or Brigata Paracadutisti is the Italian Army’s largest airborne infantry unit with a lineage dating to the mid-1930s
The unit is composed of six battalion-sized regiments with its headquarters in Livorno, Italy. The brigade is made up of airborne infantry regiments and an assault regiment,

a reconnaissance regiment, a combat engineer regiment, and a combat service support battalion. Additionally, the Military Parachute Center is based in Pisa.

The Folgore Brigade supported allied operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the brigade performed a variety of international peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, as well as with Multinational Force in Albania and East Timor. 

Continued from Italian Paratroopers Folgore page 1

During the night of 26th the British attacked the Folgore positions again attempting to penetrate into the south sector in order to attack the Germans behind their lines. The Green Howards Regiment, the Royal West Kent, the Free French Brigade, the 4/8th Hussars Battalion. and the Household Cavalry participated in this attack. Some Folgore machine gun positions were destroyed by the advancing tanks, but the attack was finally stopped by the intense and precise fire of the anti-tank guns.  On October 27th there was the last attack of the operation Lightfoot: some British and French infantry units were again repulsed with counter-assaults. At that point the British had taken just half of their planned objectives and had to stop because of the unacceptable losses they were suffering: the result was that where the Folgore was stationed they could not pass. The price that Folgore Division had to pay for stopping the British was high: hundreds of men, among them many officers, were lost.

After driving back the British attacks during operation Lightfoot, the Folgore stood alone facing the British operation called "Supercharge", a massive armored attack by the 7th Armored Division "The Desert Rats", by the 44th and 50th Infantry Divisions and by the Free French Brigade. During this phase of the battle a ratio of 1/20 was sometimes reached. On November 2nd Montgomery ordered the start of "Supercharge" that would concentrate on the Southern Sector. On November 3rd the Folgore received the order to retreat 25 km to the West, and so began a slow, hard fighting march for the Italian paratroopers. Everyone was on foot, and the few still operational guns had to be towed by hand while facing continuous attacks

The British demanded several times for the Folgore to surrender, using powerful megaphones,: "You’re brave soldiers, surrender and you will have the honor of the arms; continue to fight and you will be destroyed! You have no chance to resist!" And each time, louder and louder, the paratroopers’ answer was their assault yell: "Folgore!!!".

All of this ended on November 6th, when the last organized group commanded by Colonel Camosso and Major Zanninovich, surrounded by British tanks, finished its ammunition reserves. The officers ordered all the weapons to be destroyed, and still some refused to surrender, all the survivors lined up standing to attention waving no white flags. Some eyes cried silently, but they were strong men’s tears. The British ceased to fire and were looking at this touching scene with admiration. From an initial strength of 5,000, only 306 paratroopers - officers included - were still alive. At 14:35 on Friday, November 6th, 1942 the British reached the Folgore survivors and gave them the honor of the arms. Some isolated group of Folgore’s paratroopers continued to fight until November 11th without surrendering, other small groups managed to join the retreating Afrika Korps and continued to fight in other units. .

On Novembr 7th, General Hugues, commander of the 44th Infantry Division (whose unit suffered heavy losses fighting against the Folgore) approached 3 Italian prisoners, one of them being Folgore’s commander, General Frattini. The British officer smartly saluted the 3 Italians and they returned his salute. Hugues told Frattini: "I had heard rumors that the Folgore’s commander was dead. I’m glad to find out that it is not true." "Thank you" answered Frattini. "I also wish to tell you that, during my long life as a soldier, I’ve never met such valiant men as the Folgore’s paratroopers" Hugues added. Frattini, again: "Thank you.” The British and the three Italians saluted each other again and everyone went away. The Italian paratroopers continued to fight most bravely and effectively until the end of the war, some with the Allies and some with the Germans. Today all of this is not forgotten, Folgore is one of the elite units of the Italian Armed Forces and has participated in many peacekeeping missions. Every year the Italian paratroopers celebrate the recurrence of the El Alamein battle; never a defeat was so glorious.

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