The Folgore Parachute Division was one of the best performing divisions in the Italian army during the Second World War, but it never got to serve in its intended role. The division was extensively trained for the invasion of Malta, but the Italians and Germans were never willing to risk the invasion. Instead the division was sent to North Africa during Rommel's final advance into Egypt, arriving in time to take part in the battle of Alam Halfa. The division performed well in all of its battles, but never fought on the victorious side - it managed local battlefield successes during wider defeats.
We start with a look at the training of the division, comparing it both to other Italian forces and the German paratroops. Their training was clearly on a par with the Germans, but their equipment lagged some way behind. We then move onto their combat record, starting at Alam Halfa, then on the southern flank at the second battle of El Alamein, where despite managing to hold their ground most of the division was killed or captured. The survivors fought in a reorganised unit in Tunisia, but the division never recovered.
I do have a couple of minor quibbles. The author makes much of the division having been a rare example of light infantry standing up to an armoured assault at the Second Battle of El Alamein, despite having earlier made it clear that the infantry was only able to hold on because of well positioned guns that were moved into place during the battle. The division's high level of skill and well organised defence clearly played a part in their success, but they would have struggled without the guns. The second is a comment that most paratroops left in Italy after the Italian surrender fought against guerrillas from the 'Red International' - I doubt they made any distinction between the various resistance groups in northern Italy in the last year of the war.
Other than that this is a well researched unit history, using material from both sides to produce a picture of an Italian division that performed far better than the typical image of the Italian infantry would lead one to expect.
1 – Recruitment and Training
2 – Malta
3 – Major Operations Prior to El Alamein
4 – Operation 'Lightfoot'
5 – Tunisian Campaign, 1943
6 – Conclusion: Folgore – An Assessment
I – Orders of Battle
II – List of Gold Medal for Military Valor Recipients
Author: Paolo Morisi