The best known Italian unit of the Second World War is probably 10th MAS Flotilla, an elite naval unit that used special weapons with great effect, most notably in an attack on Alexandria harbour that badly damaged the British battleships Valiant and Queen Elizabeth. Other Special Forces units are less well known, but both the Navy and Air Force created a number of Special Forces units, which fought with a varied degree of success.
The Navy's units were the most successful, and the authors do a good job of explaining why. The Air Force created most of its elite units for the planned attack on Malta, and after that was cancelled the units never really got a chance to show what they could do, so the story is one of frustrated ambition.
This book takes the story of the elite units past the Italian armistice of 1943 and into the divided Italy of 1943-45. Both sides attempted to raise some sort of Special Forces in Italy, with the Fascist state in the north probably the most successful. Here we focus on Xa MAS (the generally accepted name for the post 1943 version of 10th MAS, and the 'Folgore' Parachute regiment. In both cases these reformed units tended to serve as normal infantry, but it is still interesting to see what happened after the armistice and how individual commanders were able to win favour with the Germans.
This is an interesting, well illustrated book that looks at the familiar (10th MAS) and unfamiliar (all the rest), and gives a broader picture of the Italian Special Forces than is often the case.
Navy Special Forces: 1st and 10th MAS Flotilla, 1940-43
Midget Submarines and the Black Sea
'San Marco' Naval Infantry
Air Force Special Forces
Borghese and the Xa MAS Units, 1943-45
'Folgore' Parachute Regiment, 1943-45
Author: P. Crociani & P.P. Battistelli