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Landing reharsals took place in the bay of Castiglioncello, Tuscany, whose rocky coast was considered as roughly similar to that of Malta.
As many as 94,000 Axis troops, mostly Italian, were scheduled to participate in the planned invasion of Malta, called “Operation C. 3”: 65,000 men would be landed by sea, and 29,000 from the air. The first wave of the seaborne landings would consist of 32,000 Italian troops from the XXX Corps (1st Infantry Division "Superga", 4th Infantry Division "Livorno", 20th Infantry Division "Friuli", 10th Armored Group); the second wave would consist of 26,000 troops, also Italian, from the XVI Corps (26th Infantry Division "Assietta" and 54th Infantry Division "Napoli"). Another 7,000 troops from the Special Forces Command were also scheduled to take part in the seaborne landings: 2,000 Italian marines from the "San Marco" Regiment, 4,000 blackshirts from the Landing Blackshirt Battalions Group (the soldier in the foreground in this picture is one of them), 500 soldiers from the Italian special forces and 500 from the German special forces. The airborne invasion force would consiste of two paratrooper divisions, the 185th "Folgore" (Italian) and the 7. Flieger-Division (German), and one air landing division, the 80th Infantry Division "La Spezia" (Italian). The two paratrooper divisions were scheduled to seized the airfields, which would then enable the aircraft carrying the "La Spezia " Division (which, unlike them, was not a paratrooper division) to land.
The invasion fleet would have consisted of a mix of purpose-built landing craft and adapted vessels: ten troopships, 65 MFP/MZ-type large landing craft, 100 ML-type small landing craft, 24 requisitioned vaporetti (water buses) from the Venetian Lagoon, two requisitioned lagoon passenger ships, three minelayers (equipped with the ladders that can be seen in this photo), four dual-purpose tankers/landing ships, two requisitioned train ferries from the Straits of Messina, three coastal steamers, and fifty requisitioned motor sailing vessels. Direct escort and support for the landing would be provided by Admiral Vittorio Tur’s Forza Navale Speciale (Special Naval Force), which consisted of the old cruisers Bari and Taranto, the 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 16th Destroyer Squadrons (fifteen ships), twenty torpedo boats and between twenty and thirty motor torpedo boats.
The operation was postponed and later cancelled in the face of the victory at Gazala and the advance into Egypt in the summer of 1942, which convinced the Axis high commands that Alexandria and Cairo would soon be taken.
(picture from In guerra sul mare by Erminio Bagnasco and Maurizio Brescia)
Awesome back story.
I honestly thought they were scaling a huge statue of a soldier for a few seconds though.
I went to an old US airbase in Malta back in 2001. I can’t exactly remember where but I think it was Bugibba. (Boo Jib Bah) and the old Quonset hits were right there with original signage in some cases. I’d love to go back and explore more but I divorced my first wife who was Maltese and now I have no reason to go anymore.
Should known how it ended for Helms deep