SHIP CLASS: Littorio-class
SHIPS-IN-CLASS (4): Littorio I Italia; Vittorio Veneto; Impero; Roma
OPERATORS: Kingdom of Italy
PROPULSION: 8 x Yarrow boilers feeding 4 x Steam turbines developing 128,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts.
Detailing the development and operational history of the Littorio (Italia) Battleship.
Entry last updated on 7/10/2017.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The arrival of the Dunkerque-class fast battleships for the French Navy in the 1930s prompted the Italians to counter with their Littorio-class, a group of four warships that marked the last battleships to be completed for the Italian Navy. Littorio became the lead ship of the class which included sisters Vittorio Veneto, Impero and Roma. Littorio herself managed to the survive the war and was given up for scrap in the early 1950s. Beyond becoming one of the first true modern battleships to join the Regia Marina, Littorio also marked the first battleship vessel to be commissioned by the service since the close of World War 1 (November of 1918) - a 35,000-ton steel beast intended to fulfill the role of Capital Ship.
Ordered on June 10th, 1934, she was built by Ansaldo, Genova-Sestri Ponente with construction beginning on October 28th of that year. The vessel was launched on August 22nd 1937 and formally commissioned into service on May 6th, 1940. World War 2 began with the German invasion of Poland on September 1st,1939 so Europe was already at war by this time.
She held three triple-gunned turrets armed with 15" guns, two fitted forward and one aft. The aft turret was notably raised from the main deck in an effort to protect it from blast damage. A catapult was fitted over the stern for launching recoverable floatplane aircraft (three total aircraft were carried). At midships were a pair of smoke funnels seated in line and the bridge superstructure towered aft of the second gun turret. Beyond the main guns were 4 x 6" guns in triple-gunned turrets, 4 x 120mm illumination guns, 12 x 90mm guns, 20 x 37mm guns and 10 x 20mm guns (double-gunned turrets). Armor protection reached 14" at the main belt and 10" at the conning tower. Power was form 8 x Yarrow boilers feeding 4 x Steam turbines developing 128,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts. Maximum speed was 30 knots with a range out to 4,000 miles. Well armed and relatively fast, Littorio was a sound addition to the Italian Navy ranks.
Littorio was unfortunate enough to find herself berthed at Taranto when the British Royal Navy conducted its famous aerial assault on November 11th, 1940 (Battle of Taranto), leaving the warship damaged by three torpedoes from "Swordfish" bombers which led to her undergoing repairs until the following March. From then on, the warship was part of the Italian fleet charged with running down British naval forces in the Mediterranean, waterways so crucial to both sides of the war - particularly in securing and reinforcing elements in North Africa and the Balkans.
The Second Battle of Sirte was had on March 22nd, 1942 which involved Littorio as the only battleship present amongst a fleet of cruisers, destroyers and a few submarines. The outnumbered Royal Navy convoy was able to damage the mighty battleship by torpedo but a pair of enemy destroyers were disabled and three cruisers and three destroyers damaged in turn. The battle is largely viewed as a British victory.
In July of 1943, Littorio was renamed as "Italia" following the fall of the Fascist-led government in Italy. Now aligned against the Axis, Italia journeyed towards internment but became a target of German bombers on September 9th. Her bow was heavily damaged by a Fritz X radio-controlled bomb in the attack and her sister, Roma, was sunk (the official Italian surrender arrived in September of 1943). She eventually interred at Malta, Alexandria before ending her war time in the Suez Canal until 1947. Given to the United States as a war prize, the she was stripped of her usefulness and scrapped at La Spezia from the period spanning 1952 to 1954.