The Axis undersea force of World War 2 (1939-1945) wasn't all U-boats from Germany or I-series boats from Japan for the Italians managed one of the larger collection of submarines by the time the war arrived: 107 were in inventory when the first shots were fired. Control of Mediterranean waterways would be key to the Axis victory and the Italian Navy was under pressure to broadcast its authority to points reaching northern Africa and beyond and its submarine force would surely play a role in the action ahead.
The Marcello-class of boats was commissioned from the period spanning 1938 until 1947 and saw eleven completed. These served with the Italian, German and Japanese navies for their part in the war. One boat of the class became "Barbarigo", a diesel-electric attack submarine armed through 8 x 533mm (21") torpedoes (four facing the bow and four facing the stern). For surface work, 2 x 100mm /47 caliber deck guns were fitted with 4 x 13.2mm machine guns to aid in local air defense. Power stemmed from 2 x CRDA diesel units for surface running and 2 x CRDA electric motors for submerged travel. The crew numbered 58 men.
Structurally the boat was given a length of 240 feet with a beam of 23.6 feet and a draught of 16.8 feet. Surface speeds reached over 17 knots while submerged speeds ran as high as 8 knots. The Barbarigo was a true "deep water", ocean-going submarine - not limited to coastal service as some other submarines deployed in the war.
Barbarigo was launched on June 12th, 1938 and formally commissioned for service in the Italian Navy on September 19th, 1938. War in Europe broke out on September 1st, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland and the Italian Navy went to work thereafter.
Barbarigo deployed to French Bordeaux for 1940 and centered her actions in the middle Atlantic from October onward but found little success beyond the sinking of "Navemar", a Spanish ship that stood as a neutral party in the war. In May of 1942, she engaged the Brazilian merchant Comandante Lyra but was chased off over the span of five days by Brazilian Navy aircraft - before the end of the year, many of her sister ships would be sunk. In October of 1942 she engaged the British corvette "Petunia", misidentifying it as an American battleship of importance.
With a new commander in place, the boat managed to claim three enemy ships during March of 1943. Following repairs, she was converted for service as a cargo-runner from German-held France to Japan in the hopes of being able to bring back much-needed war resources. However, the boat was attacked by Allied aircraft and presumed sunk in the Bay of Biscay on her first run out on June 16th, 1943 - bringing about an end to her limited legacy.
The rest of her class fared no better - of the eleven boats completed, ten were lost and one lived long enough to be scrapped.
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