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Italian Frogmen (combat swimmers)

Discussion in 'Diving History: Tales from the Abyss' started by Akimbo, Jun 10, 2021 at 1:08 PM.

  1. Akimbo

    Akimbo Just a diver Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter


    @David Wilson can probably give us more information on the gear they used.
    David Wilson, ginti, Luis H and 4 others like this.
  2. Compressor

    Compressor ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: NYS
    This is simply outstanding.
  3. Scuba Client

    Scuba Client Banned

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Australia
    The Italians were daring but efforts of sabotage were short lived by both sides.
  4. tursiops

    tursiops Marine Scientist and Master Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: U.S. East Coast
    I lived in Italy, 1968-1972, across the road from Roberto Frassetto, one of those Italian Frogmen.
    Roberto FRASSETTO |
    Roberto Frassetto - Marina Militare
    Roberto Frassetto - HDS ITALIA - The Historical Diving Society
    After the war, he ended up at Hudson Labs, part of Columbia University, doing underwater acoustics research. He spent time at the NATO lab in La Spezia, Italy (which was where I worked while there), then started a lab in Venice https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02626668109490902 to study the sinking of Venice and the possibility of closing flood gates at the lagoon of Venice to protect against anomalously high tides coming in from the Adriatic. Acqua alta - Wikipedia
  5. Akimbo

    Akimbo Just a diver Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    What a great experience. Did you get a chance to talk to him very much about it?
  6. Angelo Farina

    Angelo Farina Marine Scientist

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Parma, ITALY
    I did know personally Luigi Ferraro, who was the most successful Italian frogmen during WW2.
    But instead of using the slow speed torpedos (Maiale) deployed by a submarine, commander Ferraro was disguised as an attache' at the Italian embassy in Turkey. During night, he did use his ARO (compact pure-oxygen rebreather) for swimming under enemy vessels inside the port, attaching to them small bombs with delayed explosion. This way the vessel was leaving the port and was sinking at several miles in the sea, giving the impression of having been hit by a torpedo.
    Commander Ferraro alone managed to sink more vessels and more tons than any other Italian navy team, including submarines.
    Here his web site:
    A War Hero | Luigi Ferraro
    One very interesting thing is that the wife of Luigi Ferraro, Orietta, was also an Italian military frogwomen. She was actually the only Italian female trained for war operations during WW2. In the plans she had to take part of the same under-cover operations as her husband, being sent to Tripoli, but in the end she never had the occasion to attack any enemy vessel, as Italy did loose Tripoli soon before her departure for the mission.
    Here her history:
    Orietta, his wife | Luigi Ferraro
    David Wilson, ginti, Akimbo and 3 others like this.
  7. Sbiriguda

    Sbiriguda Contributor

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Italy
    Breve storia dell’autorespiratore a ossigeno – seconda parte • Ocean 4 Future
    I.A.C. mod. 49 - rebreather | BluTimeScubaHistory
    (in Italian)

    The first rebreathers adopted by the Italian navy were the Davies rebreathers, invented in England. The Zannoni company manufactured the Davies rebreathers in Italy under a licence of the British company Siebe and Gorman.
    These first models were designed for rescue operations in the submarines and showed defects and limitations for the navy seals purposes. After some research a new rebreather was adopted, the model 49 and the subsequent model 49/bis manufactured by the I.A.C. (Industria articoli caucciù - Gum items factory) a subsidiary of the Pirelli company.
    So the rebreather used by the Italian X Mas frogmen during WW2 was the I.A.C. 49/bis
    David Wilson and Akimbo like this.
  8. Angelo Farina

    Angelo Farina Marine Scientist

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Parma, ITALY
    This instead is the ARO Cressi 57B, the rebreather which was still the workhorse for training new scuba divers in 1975, when I followed my first course.
    CRESSI SUB Aro 57 B rebreather | BluTimeScubaHistory
    After 4 months using this ARO in the pool, we were given twin-tanks (2x10l, with reserve) for the last two months of course, and finally we did use them in the sea for the first real dives in open water.
    The following year, during the course for the second degree, we were also allowed to use the ARO in the sea, but to a max depth of 10 meters.
    And my second-degree certificate did allow explicitly to use the ARO in the sea down to 10m. However, these were the last years for these CC rebreathers, they were removed from basic scuba training around 1980, when the first BCD units appeared.
    The legacy of Italian military operations lasted very long after WW2 here in Italy, whilst in most other countries the usage of air tanks was already the norm since around 1955.
    David Wilson, Bob DBF, Akimbo and 2 others like this.
  9. Akimbo

    Akimbo Just a diver Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    Interesting. I never knew that reserve valves, or K-valves in the US, were popular outside of North America.
  10. JMBL

    JMBL Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: France
    Anyone interested in the Decima Mas, should read this. There was also a English translation of the book by Valerio J. Borghese, who was the leader of that unit. The book is entitled "Sea Devils" (of course) and was published by the Naval Institute if I'm not mistaken. If I can get hold of my copy, I'll give you all particulars.

    I've also got references in French, in case you want them.

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