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The Black Prince And The Sea Devils: The Story of Valerio Borghese and the Elite Units of the Decima MAS Hardcover – 20 Oct 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (20 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306813114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306813115
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,268,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Jack Greene is the author of four previous books and has contributed articles on a wide range of naval and military subjects. He lives in Los Osos, California. Alessandro Massignani is a specialist in Italian naval history and the author of numerous books in Italian.

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THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SEA HAS ALWAYS SEEN the employment of great fleets and powerful warships, but at times countries unable to match their opponents in pure power have turned to developing a special naval assault capability. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ignacio Recalde Canals on 18 Jan. 2005
Format: Hardcover
Although this book is well researched and well written, it relies heavily for the first half of the book on Borghese's own account (Decima Flottiglia MAS, translated as Sea Devils in English). The details added to this first half of the book don't make good the loose of Borghese's fresh style and anecdotes that give a real flavour to the story, so better read Sea Devils. Once you have read it, then go for the additional details in this book and for the second half of it, although you should be aware that is difficult to link the casual sportman like soldier before the 1943 Armistice with the politics-involved dark man of later dates.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Martin Jacobsen on 25 Aug. 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I disagree that this book is well written. The sentence construction and words used indicate that the writer is either not a native english speaker or the manuscript was translated directly word for word from another language (italian?). In fact I found the writing style (or lack of same) so irritating, that I gave up half way through the book. Not worth the money, despite the interesting subject.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Before There Were SEALS, SAS, or Special Forces. 1 July 2004
By John Matlock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Every major military in the world has it's special elite units. The British have their SAS. The Americans the SEALS, Rangers, and Special Forces. Strangely enough, this trend began with the Italian Navy. Their Decima MAS unit pioneered the concept of small, specially trained units that did damage to their enemies far beyond their size. Movie buffs will recognize their exploits as shown in the 1958 movie 'The Silent Enemy' where frogmen attack the HMS Valiant and the HMS Queen Elizabeth using specially modified torpedoes that they ride into the harbour.
It is nice to see that the Italian military is portrayed here as something other than the bumbling fools so often shown in American films and books. This book treats the unit as they would any other unit, telling how it got started, their training, their failures and their successes. This book is also the basis for a new movie called 'The Sea Devils' although I understand that the project is now on hold.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Sheds Valuable Light on Italian Naval Special Forces in WW2 21 May 2009
By R. A Forczyk - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Italy's contributions in the Second World War generally don't get much coverage in historiography and what little occurs is often negative. Indeed, the general impression - created largely by wartime British propaganda - was that Italian troops fought badly or not at all. Thus, it is great to finally see a book such as `The Black Prince and the Sea Devils' appear to correct some of these false impressions to show to an English-language audience that Fascist Italy did have some real warriors. In this case, the `Black Prince' was Prince Valerio Borghese, who led the elite `Decima MAS' (10th Light Flotilla), an special forces unit in the Italian Navy that specialized in underwater attacks. Borghese led the Decima MAS in 1941-43 and achieved some of Italy's greatest successes in the war, including the sinking of the British battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant. The great thing about this book is that there is a good deal of fresh material about a subject that has received little coverage before, but the bad thing about this book is that the author's tend to wander off in the morass of post-war Italian politics about two-thirds of the way through and will lose most of their readers in that swamp. Nevertheless, The Black Prince provides a great look not only at a special unit in Italy's armed forces, but the genesis of modern special warfare units such as the American SEALs.

The Black Prince consists of 238 pages of text divided into 17 chapters. Rather little is written about Prince Borghese's background or life before the war - just 23 pages. The authors spend 25 pages detailing the origin and capabilities of the Italian Navy's special underwater warfare units, including diagrams of the `human torpedoes' and MTM explosive boats. However, the heart of the book is the 8 chapters and 126 pages that cover the Decima MAS' special activities during the Second World War. Naval history enthusiasts will enjoy the attention to detail as the authors take the reader through each special mission step-by-step, including maps of the major attacks. These chapters not only describe the major success at Alexandria in 1941, but repeated efforts against Gibraltar. There is some great material here that I had not seen before, such as the Italian success in setting up a secret forward base right next to Gibraltar in the hulk of an abandoned and beached freighter.

The last quarter of the book is a disappointment, in that it actually says fairly little about Borghese and wanders off into a great deal of speculation, beginning with assertion that Decima MAS veterans sank the Soviet battleship Novorossiysk in Sevastopol harbor in 1955. Trying to paint Borghese as a `Cold War warrior,' the authors make a number of assertions that the American CIA needed him since `he knew how to fight Communists.' Since Borghese's anti-partisan experiences in the waning days of World War Two were hardly unique, the authors never make the case as to why he had any special, long-term knowledge that would justify a CIA connection. Later, when Borghese became involved in right-wing Italian politics and a fizzled coup effort, the authors start dragging Richard Nixon, more CIA and the Mafia into an un-substantiated bouillabaisse that becomes virtually unreadable. Indeed, the authors move from a lucid, fact-based account when describing Borghese's military activities to a lurid and speculation-driven account when recounting his post-war life. Throughout the book, even in its best chapters, the authors actually say fairly little about Borghese and he comes across as something of a reactionary cipher. While the authors claim that Borghese destroyed `his papers,' after the war, it is unclear why they were unable to paint a better picture from people who knew him or surviving relatives.

The book also has 8 maps, a glossary, an appendix on X MAS organization, 27 pages of footnotes and a 4-page bibliography. Overall, The Black Prince is noteworthy for shedding considerable light on a previously neglected facet of the war, but the book could have been better if it had provided more on the factual basis of Borghese's life and his relationship with Mussolini, rather than veering off to chase post-war conspiracy theories.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The story of Prince Valerio Borghese 8 Sept. 2004
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Jack Greene and Alessandro Massignani's The Black Prince And The Sea Devils is the story of Prince Valerio Borghese and his infamous World War II Italian naval commando unit will intrigue any with a special interest in World War II history beyond the generalist topics and scope. Green has authored four previous military titles and Massignani brings with him a special focus on Italian naval history: the two draw upon official archival sources and veteran accounts on both sides to separate fact from fantasy.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
a must read 13 Feb. 2011
By GC - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is one of my favourite books. It is very well translated, and easy to read. Having read both the Italian and English version, I find that the English translation is as good if not better than the Italian original.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
history Buff 2 Oct. 2012
By Lombardo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had heard of Valerio Borghese and I am very familiar wtih his family , I have visited Villa Borghese many times .
My father was from Rome and a an officer during WWII , I have written a book which I hope to publish Four Continents one Life , mine I was born in Tripoli Libia lived in Italy during WWII Souith America and now in the States ,
Many episodes and words lique the infamous Sepember the 8 1943 I heard the same from my father
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