The Italians joined the Germans, Americans, Soviets and British in deploying flamethrowers in World War 2. The Italian Army adopted the Lanciafiamme Spalleggiato Modello 1935 (Mod. 35), appropriately, in 1935 and accepted a conventional design featuring two cylindrical tanks, each tank divided internally to contain stores for the requisite nitrogen propellant and fuel reservoir. The tanks were combined by a hose running to a projector lance held with both hands by the operator. Ignition of these early-form systems was by way of flint, which ultimately proved unreliable in action. Ignition was made at the projector piece. Italian backpack flamethrowers were issued to crews of two due to their weight and cumbersome nature.
The Modello 1935 flamethrower came in at a manageable empty weight of 29lbs though this figure jumped to 56lbs when fully fueled. The overall size of the unit also precluded use of any other primary weapon for the operator, leaving them to rely on pistols (if available) and bayonets for self-defense. It was good practice to field flamethrower units with general infantry for their own protection as a a result. Direct hits to the tanks with incendiary rounds could lead to the operator (and all those near him) becoming possibly engulfed in flames. However, the pressurized tanks struck with standard rounds nearly propelled the operator in a direction against his will. Undoubtedly, flamethrower units were valuable targets to sniper elements on the other side of the battlefield.
The Modello 35 held a fuel reserve of 29 liters which allowed for up to 30 one-second bursts of fire or a continuous burst running 20 seconds. Maximum listed range was out to 27 feet though this was variable and influenced by environmental conditions to an extent. The flame stream could be directed at a line-of-side target/target area or arched onto embedded enemy units under cover. The fluid nature of the flame composition meant that the spreading spray had a disastrous effect against enemy forces holed up in fortified structures such as pillboxes. Wooden structures could be taken over in minutes under fire.
Flamethrowers held their value is flushing out determined foes. As such, they were used as both a physical tool to maim and kill and as a terrible psychological weapon. This proved the norm in the American advance across the Pacific against the fanatical Japanese. For the Italians, their flamethrower was in play during the Second Italian-Abyssinian War (1935-1941) where the systems were used on a wide scale. By 1940, some 1,500 units were in circulation as the standard Italian Army flamethrower. Units were sold to the Finnish Army in their war against the Soviets while Italian units along the Eastern Front also fielded the weapon against Soviet forces. Italian flamethrowers were also shipped to North Africa for the Italian involvement there.
In 1940, there appeared a slightly reworked version of the Modello 1935 utilizing a more reliable electrical ignition system. These were aptly designated as "Modello 1940".
Modello 1935 - Original Production Models featuring flint ignition system.
Modello 1940 - Electrical Ignition System
Liekinheitin M/40 - Finnish Army Designation; at least 16 units received from Italy.
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