Italian Ships and Navy in the Second World War
Written by Elio Ando & Erminio Bagnasco
Review by Steve Backer

Navi E Marinai Italiani nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale presents a comprehensive photo history of the Italian Navy from June 1940 until the end of the war in 1945. The volume, measuring 7 inches x 10 inches, is hardbound with 391 pages. Published by Ermanno Albertelli of Italy, the title was originally published in 1977, second edition published 1981 and the current revised second edition published in 1999. 

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The title is chiefly composed of photos of the ships and equipment of the Italian Navy during WW2. Containing 573 photos, the volume exhaustively explores the photographic archives to cover every facet of the Italian naval effort during the war. Each page has one to three photos with extensive explanatory text. All text is in Italian. Ships’ photos are not grouped by class. The book is sectioned into chronological periods of the war, with each period showing photos that range from battleships down to MAS boats and special operation miniature submarines. Warships are not the only subjects covered. The volume also extensively covers the mercantile shipping that supported the Italian war effort in the Mediterranean. The coverage runs from the mighty Rex, former winner of the Blue Riband, down to miniscule trawlers. Having built quite a few models produced by the Italian company, Regia Marina, it was like meeting old friends as I saw photos of Victoria, Ramb II, Poeti Class Motorships and Turbine Class Destroyers

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The volume starts with a listing of all of the Italian Navy’s warships, in service as well as building, arranged by class on June 10, 1940, followed by the listings of the squadron composition and Area of Operations (AO). (p 13-19) Then the authors present a chronological listing of the significant events for the war from June 4, 1940 to May 8, 1945. (p 21-26) Following this you get into the meat of the book, the photos. Photo quality varies depending upon the condition of the original but the print qualities of the book are excellent. The publishers used heavy gage, semi-glossy paper and the title is of very high quality. The photos include detailed on board shots as well as traditional warship photos. Some of the photos I had seen before but most I had not seen. Photo coverage in this first section covers through December 1941. 

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The next section starts with the Order of Battle as of January 1942. (p 147-148) Photo coverage is from January 1942 to September 1943. Following this section is the Order of Battle, with repair and construction listing, as of September 8, 1943. (p 295-299) As before the photo coverage is on ships’ photos taken after the armistice. 

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Towards the end of the book are sections on operations outside of the Mediterranean. Operations in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean and the Orient, starts with another chronological listing of the significant events in that AO. (p 323-324) Thirty-three pages of photos follow. The next special section deals with Italian submarine operations in the Atlantic. The section starts with a listing of each submarine deployed to the Atlantic, its operational data and fate, followed by the chronological events of their activity. (p 334-337) The next 19 pages are entirely devoted to photos of those submarines. (p 338-356)  

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The next section deals with MAS Squadron operations on Lake Lagoda, which is Northeast of Leningrad. I never realized that the Italian Navy operated on this large lake lying between the Soviet Union and Finland. This section has the listing of events and 8 pages of photos. Black Sea operations are covered in the same manner with 13 pages. The last section deals with operations in a co-belligerent status from September 1943 to May 1945. There are only four pages in this section. The volume concludes with an index and glossary of Italian warship and mercantile abbreviations. 

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One of the high points of this title is the inclusion of 16 color plates, half of which are two page fold outs. These plates are beautiful and show a representative cross section of the Italian warship and mercantile classes involved in the war. Contents of these plates are as follows. (FO means two page fold out plate) 

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1. Hospital Ship Virgilio 1941 and Auxiliary Cruiser Citti di Tunisi 1942.

2. Destroyers Saetta 1942 and Permuda (ex-Yugoslav Dubrovnik) 1941.

3. Battleships Giulio Cesare 1940 and Littorio 1941 (FO)

4. Armored Cruiser San Giorgio 1940 and Heavy Cruiser Pola 1941. (FO)

5. Submarine Ambra 1942 and Torpedo Boat (DE) Castore 1942.

6. Torpedo Boat (DE) Gen. M. Prestinari 1942 and Submarine Atropo 1942.

7. Light Cruisers Bartolomeo Colleoni 1940 and Raimondo Montecuccoli 1942 (FO).

8. Destroyers Nicolo Zeno 1942 and Ascari 1942. (FO)

9. Torpedo Boat (MTB) MS 16 1943 and MAS 572 1942.

10. VAS 3 1944 and miniature submarine CB3 1942.

11. Submarines Enrico Tazzoli, Barbaribo, & Leonardo da Vinci with mini-sub CA2 on deck, all 1942 (FO)

12. Tanker Illiria 1943 with false funnel and Motorship M. Foscarini II 1943 (FO).

13. Torpedo Boat (DE) Ariete 1944 and Submarine Flutto 1943.

14. Motorship Himalaya 1940 and Colonial Ship (Aviso) Eritrea 1941.

15. Light Cruiser Luigi di Savoia Duca degli Abruzzi 1944 and Destroyer Tigre 1940 (FO).

16. Light Cruisers Attilio Regolo 1943 and Bari (ex-SMS Pillau) 1942 (FO). 

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Navi E Marinai Italiani nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale provides outstanding photographic coverage on the Italian Navy during WW2. The sheer quantity of the photos, along with the glorious color plates make it the best reference that I have seen on the subject to date. I purchased my copy from La Libreria Militare of Milan, Italy. I bought this title and a companion volume on the Italian Ships and Navy in WWI (subject of a future review) for a total of 61.97 Euros, shipping included. Service was fast and efficient. For a price of around US$30, I don’t see how anyone can afford not to have this magnificent volume in their reference library. La Libreria Militare has a web site at and e-mail address of