Dark Navy: The Italian Regia Marina and the Armistice of 8 September 1943
In July 1943 Benito Mussolini, Italy's warlord and the father of fascism fell from power in a hastily arranged plot, the details of which even today remain controversial. A cabal of generals took the nation's reins and bungled their way toward an accommodation with the Allies. When General Eisenhower announced an armistice with Italy on the evening of 8 September he believed he had struck a deal that included Italian military cooperation against the Germans. In fact, the generals had promised more than they could deliver and Germany's terrible, swift reprisal shattered Italy's confused air force and army. The armistice likewise caught the navy by surprise, with its battleships raising steam to attack the Allied fleet landing at Salerno. Nonetheless, the Regia Marina obeyed its government's orders and honored the pact the generals had negotiated. Rather than evaporating like Italy's other services, however, it proceeded to fight a three-week campaign against Germany, without Allied support, and in the process retained complete control of its ships, regardless of the ports necessity forced them to seek refuge in.
This is the story of the Regia Marina and the Italian armistice of September 1943. It is a deeply-researched and highly readable exploration of this confusing and fascinating corner of history. It refutes the conventional notion that Italy's fleet abjectly surrendered to Allied power. It shows how the navy paved Italy's path from enemy to co-belligerent with the blood and unconquered spirit of its men. Despite German and Allied intentions to secure Italy's fleet for their own uses, it remained Italian to the end: a dark navy - not victorious, but undefeated.
Vincent P. O'Hara and Enrico Cernuschi have collaborated for publications including "Warship, World War II Magazine, World War II Quarterly, " and the new "Seaforth Naval Review." Mr. O'Hara has written several books including "Struggle for the Middle Sea: the Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean 1939-1945" (Annapolis, 2009). Mr. Cernuschi is a regular contributor to Rivista Marittima and Storia Militare. He has published a dozen books including "Le navi da guerra italiane 1940-1945" (Parma, 2003) and "Domenico Cavagnari: Storia di un Ammiraglio" (Rome, 2001) About DARK NAVY The huge tragedy suffered by the Italian navy and nation has been reduced, until today, to a brief mention in the very few books available abroad about the Regia Marina's war between 1940 and 1945. It is thus quite important that a new essay directed toward English speaking readers is dedicated, at last, to these events, allowing them to sortie beyond the confines of Italian naval historiography--which has long debated these themes--and beyond the scanty circulation abroad of the Italian language.--Erminio Bagnasco, editor of STORIA Militare
DARK NAVY is a masterful account of the Regia Marina's role in the Armistice of September 1943. The authors are to be commended for overturning the propagandist mythology which has often marred English-language histories of this difficult period in Italian history. A riveting story.--John Jordan, editor of WARSHIP
DARK NAVY gives an excellent overview of the naval, air, and land impact on the Italian military at the time of the 8 September 1943 Armistice. It clearly shows the hesitancy of various leaders, on both sides, as they grappled with "what to do?" in this radically changed wartime environment and gives solid detail on the actions that resulted.--Jack Greene, author (with Alessandro Massigiani) of NAVAL WAR IN THE MEDITERRANEAN 1940-1943.