Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia
Germany invaded Russia on 22 June 1941. Four days later 60,000
Italian soldiers were parading in Verona on their way to Russia.
Mussolini boasted that his troops were superior to the Germans
in men and equipment. This force was named the "Corpo di Spedizione
Italiano in Russia, CSIR" (Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia).
The CSIR was composed of three divisions. The semi-Motorized
Divisions: "Pasubio" (two infantry regiments, 79th and 80th
and the 8th artillery regiment). The "Torino" (the 81st and
82nd regiment, plus 52nd Artillery Regiment). The Cavalry Division
"Principe Amadeo Duca d'Aosta" also known as the "Celere" (two
mounted cavalry regiments plus the Bersaglieri Regiment, a light
tank group, an artillery regiment and service units).
Later a fourth division composed of Fascist personnel who were
accustomed to wearing black shirts was added. This division
was called the 63rd Assault Legion M Tagliamento. The CSIR was
attached to the German 11th Army, which followed the German
forces through the Ukraine, mainly on foot. The CSIR was tasked
the responsibility of taking certain strategic sectors of the
Dnieper region. By March 1942, the CSIR was dissolved to form
the XXXV Corps.
VIII Corpo d'Armata
The newly arrived Divisions Sforzesca, Ravenna and Cosseria
made up the II Corps. The German 294th and 62nd Infantry Divisions
were attached to what became known as the Italian 8th Army.
"No march on Moscow without the march on Rome."
In July 1942, General Italo Gariboldi took over command of the
8th Army. Mussolini also sent two Blackshirt Brigades the "3
Gennaio and 23 Marzo."
In August 1942, the Italian 8th Army was restructured and organized
as the following corps:
the II Italian Corps composed of the Ravenna and Cosseria Divisions,
with the "23 Marzo Brigade."
The XXXV Italian Corps had the Pasubio, Sforzesca and Celere
Divisions and 3rd Gennaio Brigade.
The XXIX German Corps had the 294th and 62nd Infantry Divisions
and the Italian Torino Division.
In September 1942, the elite Alpine Corps arrived to the Eastern
Front, which had the Cuneense, Julia and Tridentina Divisions.
The purpose of the elite Alpine Units was to support the German
Mountain troops fighting in the Caucasus region.
Interesting propaganda card mailed by a member of the Pasubio Division illustrating drawing images of Alpini troops fighting in the harsh winter climate of the Eastern Front.
As was expected on 16 December 1942, the Soviets launched "Operation
Small Saturn." Prepared for the attack were four Soviet Armies,
with a total of 425,426 men, 1030 tanks and almost 5000 artillery
The main blow was delivered by the Soviets 6th, 1st Guards and
3rd Guards Armies against the Italian 8th Army. The Italian
8th Army Corps crumbled immediately, leaving the German and
elite Alpine Corps stranded.
The Alpine Corps fought courageously, but was overwhelmed by
the Russians. The remnants of the Italian 8th Army was destroyed
and left a huge gap in the Don defenses. The Italians lost 3010
officers and 81,820 men who were either killed or missing in
In addition some 28,400 men were wounded or frostbitten. The
8th Army also lost all their heavy weapons, which included 100%
of their tanks, 90% of their artillery and 80% of their anti-tank
and motorize transportation. With the destruction of the Italian
8th Army and their Rumanian and Hungarian Army counterparts,
the German relief forces of Army Group "Hoth" could not reached
Stalingrad and save the trapped German 6th Army. By early January
1943, Field Marshal von Paulus surrendered his forces to the
In January 1943, the remaining Italian survivors regrouped and
set up defensive positions in the Ukraine but they were sent
back to Italy. The last forces returned to Italy by early May