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Sea Devils: Italian Navy Commandos in World War II (Classics of Naval Literature) Paperback – 15 Mar 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Age Range: 1 - 1 year
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press; Reprint edition (15 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591140471
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591140474
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.3 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 175,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

J. Valerio Borghese, a member of the Italian aristocracy, was known as the Black Prince. Following his legendary World War II exploits in the Italian navy, he remained active with the Fascists after the war and died in 1974.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
Borghese commanded the Decima Flottiglia MAS, the special forces unit of the Italian Navy responsible for one of the greatest raids of World War Two: the attack on the British base at Alexandria in December 1941. Even Churchill expressed admiration for the Italian frogmen who rode their slow-speed torpedoes and put two battleships and an oil tanker out of commission for months. Borghese tells of the development of the group's weapons and tactics, the success and the setbacks, right up to the Italian Armistice, and does so in an easily accessible style. It is a fitting tribute to men like Tesei, Toschi and Luigi Durand de La Penne who risked - or gave - their lives for their country. The translation captures Borghese's patrician idiom very well. This is one of my favourite WW2 reads and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories of sheer audacity. There are very few books about WW2 from the Italian perspective, which makes the reissue of 'Sea Devils' by the highly respected USNI so welcome.
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My husband very happy
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very interesting book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical facts about the war finally revealed 22 Mar. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating account detailing one of WWII's fiercest
but often neglected units by English speaking Historians.
We learn about the commando units successes, failures and challenges it faced in the theatre of WWII.
From the detailed insights given into this formidable Italian fighting unit as well as first hand accountss into the political and logistical challenges that the Italian commandos faced during it's involvement in the war, the reader can finally learn about the many episodes of Italian victories which never made it into English print.
And has been until now for homefront propanganda purposes
intentionally kept out of English /American history books.

Those who belittled Italian military contributions during WWII should read this book it goes a long way into exploding mistruths/misconceptions which many not privy to war texts in other languages may have had regarding the Italian Military.
For those interested in a deeper understanding of Italian fighting units/commandos and Italian acts of War valour this book finally redresses many inaccuracies found in far too many poorly researched stereotypically biased essays released in the English language that replaced and omitted important historical facts due to an agenda of propaganda.
This volume should be required reading for all historian and student alike - a brilliant work overall that vindicates Italy's poorly equipped but heroic WWII commando unit.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Robert A. Lynn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback

During World War II, Italy's position in the central Mediterranean allowed her to influence, if not control, most east-west movement. But control of the sea isn't like on land where one has an easily defined front line. The front line at sea is above, on, and under the water, and remains fluid as ships and aircraft only control a finite space on an immense sea. Movement across the sea is measured in hours or days at most, and on the eve of World War II, it was now being measured in minutes by air. This isn't at all like land warfare where a distinct front can change usually no faster than the speed of marching feet, or where a truck can manage to find a road or a unit can be transfered by railway.

Italy was the first nation to use frogmen and human torpedoes. The Italian Naval Assault Divisions are considered to be the precursors to modern naval special forces. Their record can be traced back to World War I and their operations against the Austro-Hungarian Navy and most notably the sinking of the battleship SMS Vinibus Unitis and the freighter Wien in Ola Harbor in 1918 by limpet mines. Italy's frogmen group originated in 1938 as the 1st Flottiglia Mezzi d' Assalto or 1st Flotilla Assault Vehicles, which was later reformed in 1940 as the Decima Flottiglia MAS or 10th Flotilla Assault Vehicles or X-MAS.

It is a matter of pride that Italy's naval special forces pre-date both the U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Teams or UDT, which was formed in 1943 as well as forerunners of the better known U.S. Navy SEALs or Sea, Air, and Land, and the British Royal Marines Special Boat Service or SBS which was formed as an off shoot of the Special Air Service or SAS.

In 1941, Commander Vittorio Moccagatta reorganized the First Flotilla into the Decima Flotiglia MAS, and divided the unit into two parts-a surface group operating fast explosive motor boats and a sub-surface weapons group using manned torpedoes called SLC (siluri a lenta corsa or "slow-running torpedoes", but nicknamed Maiale or "Pig" by their crews), as well as "Gamma" assault swimmers (muotatori) using limpet mines. Moccagatta also created the Frogman Training School at the San Leopoldo base of the Italian Naval Academy in Livorno.

In 1942, J. Valerio Borghese (The Black Prince) took command of the elite naval sabotage unit of the Italian Navy, which included surface assault craft, human torpedoes, midget submarines, and SCUBA assault swimmers.

Borghese belonged to a principal family of Rome's ostensibly Catholic "black nobility," many members of which claim descent from the elite of the Roman Empire. Numerous popes and cardinals came from the Borghese and allied families, such as the Pallavicini, the Colonna, and the Orsini; these families maintained enormous power into the 20th Century, and still today, in the Curia, the administration of the Vatican.

Following the surrender of Italy on 8 September 1943, Decima Flottiglia was disbanded and some of its sailors joined the Allied cause to fight against Germany. Borghese chose to ally himself with the fascist Italian Social Republic and continue fighting alongside the German Armed Forces, and on 12 September 1943, he signed a treaty of alliance with the German Navy. Many of his colleagues volunteered to serve with him, and the Decima Flottiglia was revived, headquartered in the Palazzo Fantoni in Salo. By the end of the war, it had over 18,000 members, and although Borghese conceived it as a purely military unit, it gained a reputation as a savage pro-fascist, anti-communist, anti-resistance force in land campaigns alongside the German Army, under the command of SS General Wolff.

Personnel from the unit sank the World War I-era British Royal Navybattleships HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth (both of which refloated and returned to action), the heavy cruiser HMS York, the destroyers HMS Jervis and HMS Eridge, and 20 merchant ships including supply ships and tankers. The total tonnage of Allied warships lost was about 86,000 tons and 111,527 tons of Allied merchant shipping. During the course of the war, the Decima MAS was awarded a total of 29 Golden Medals of Military Valor, 104 Silver Medals of Military Valor, and 33 Bronze Medals of Military Valor.

The feats of the Italian frogmen brought envy and respect from the British. When the British decided to create its own naval assault units, the trainees placed photographs of the 10th Light Flotilla on their walls for inspiration. The British and U.S. intelligence services' files on Borghese are still classified, as are the Borghese family archives in the Vatican after 1922, when Mussolini seized power.

It is nice to see that the Italian military is portrayed here as something other than the bumbling fools so often shown in U.S. films and books. This book, SEA DEVILS: ITALIAN NAVAL COMMANDOS IN WORLD WAR II treats the unit as they would any other unit, telling how it was formed, their training, their failures, and their successes. This book pays a long overdue tribute to the men of this barely known naval unit that had far-reaching affects on other nations naval special forces.

Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard
Orlando, Florida
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italian Naval Special Warfare 26 May 2012
By T.A.L. Dozer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Italian Naval Special Warfare

This book is an account of wartime service with the 10th MAS by an Italian officer. The book includes details of the development of equipment and operations for underwater warfare, employing frogman and midget submarines. The book also details descriptions of plans for attack on Freetown and New York as well as a major assault on Gibraltar, all canceled when Italy left the war. Overall, I have found this book to be highly readable and although the material is dated it is still historically significant in the study of modern special warfare. I believe that this title will appeal to the professional and armchair military historian and serving military personnel.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sport or war? 7 Oct. 2004
By Ignacio Recalde Canals - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The amazing stories in this book are worth reading even if one is a pacifist. This looks more like a team of people training for winning a cross country race than for a war. Their actions seem to be motivated by the pride of showing to the enemy how brave the italians were and the astonishing things that could be done with a short budget, courage and ingenuity more than scoring essential points in a war. They did not choose targets strategically, but anyway if their actions had a strategical result the High command did not take advantage. It is a delightful reading, not a boring and impersonal account of war campaigns.
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The true about Italians in the II war 9 April 2000
By Luca Testa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It is historically correct and witten by one of the protagonist, but this book deserve a special attention because it tells a lot about the character of the italian people, in a war they found themselves totally unprepared, in spite to the decision to engage it. Nevertheless the spirit of inventive, fantasy and individuality made out some remarkable points in light of the extremely scarce resources.
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