Italian cruiser Muzio Attendolo
Italian light cruiser Muzio Attendolo
|Laid down:||10 April 1931|
|Launched:||9 September 1934|
|Commissioned:||7 August 1935|
|Fate:||Sunk 4 December 1942|
|Class & type:||Condottieri-class light cruiser|
|Length:||182.2 m (597 ft 9.2 in)|
|Beam:||16.6 m (54 ft 5.5 in)|
|Draught:||5.6 m (18 ft 4.5 in)|
|Speed:||37 knots (69 km/h)|
|Range:||4,122 nautical miles (7,634 km) at 18 knots (33 km/h)|
|Aircraft carried:||2 aircraft|
|Aviation facilities:||1 catapult|
Muzio Attendolo was a Condottieri-class light cruiser of the Italian Regia Marina, which fought in World War II. She was sunk in Naples by bombers of the United States Army Air Forces on 4 December 1942. Although salvaged after the war she was damaged beyond repair and was scrapped.
Muzio Attendolo was part of the Montecuccoli sub-class, which were the third group of Condottieri class light cruisers. They were larger and better protected than their predecessors.
Completed in 1935, this ship served in the Mediterranean. During World War II she served in the following actions:
At the inconclusive First Battle of Sirte, which came about as a British attempt to intercept the resupply of Benghazi, Attendolo was part of the "Close covering force" for Convoy M42.
Sent as part of the planned Italian attack on the British Operation Pedestal in August 1942, the Italian cruiser division which was denied air cover by the Germans was instead withdrawn. Passing through the patrol area of two British submarines, Attendolo was torpedoed by HMS Unbroken (P42) in the early morning of 13 August. She lost all the hull forward the first turret, but the transversal bulkhead resisted enough to save her from flooding, and the loss of the damaged part lightened the ship herself. She was towed to Messina and Naples and mostly repaired within 3 months. The cruiser Bolzano, also torpedoed by Unbroken at the same time, had been struck amidships and was not repaired due to a lack of resources.
St. Barbara’s Day bombing
Attendolo was at least theoretically part of the 7th Naval division, together with two other Condottieri-cruisers, Eugenio di Savoia and Raimondo Montecuccoli. But the real formidable deterrent was the 1st Squadron, with all three Littorio-class battleships. All this could have been effective with classical naval warfare, but aircraft power soon changed things drastically, as shown in the Taranto and Naples port attacks (1940–41).
In late December, B-24 Liberator heavy bombers increased their activity over Naples which had become the Italian's most important naval base. Taranto had become too dangerous to harbour major ships, but Naples was still in the range of Liberator and Wellington bombers. On 4 December 1942 (St. Barbara’s Day) 20 USAAF B-24s of 98 and 376 Squadrons, based in Egypt, flew to Naples unnoticed. Confused with a formation of Ju 52s, and flying apparently from Vesuvio, they were already over the port before anti-aircraft defences opened fire at 16.40. The B-24s bombed with 500 and 1000 lb bombs from 6,200 m (20,300 ft). They searched for battleships, but these important targets were missed. On the other hand, while battleships were important but also hard to damage or sink, there were other ships less important, but much more vulnerable. Light cruisers were both light armoured and important targets, and the whole 7th Division was heavily struck.
Eugenio di Savoia had a near miss, but the aft hull was damaged with 17 killed and 46 wounded. The flooding and repair works were estimated as taking 40 days to clear. Montecuccoli was hit midships by a bomb just inside the funnel; although the funnel was reduced to a smoking crater, the armoured grating protected the machinery sufficiently but 44 were killed and 36 wounded, and seven months of works were needed.
Attendolo was hit in the midship by one or possibly two bombs, between tower 3 and tripod. The ship was totally taken out. The B-24 raid lasted until 17:28, and only after one hour did aid arrive. Attendolo had lost power and there was damage below the waterline and fierce fires aft. The fires were finally extinguished but an air raid alarm was sounded at 21:17. Although it was a false alarm, the vessels attending the Attendolo left and did not return to her aid until over an hour later. The ship hit the bottom and rolled of almost 180 degrees. It happened at 22:19. At least 188 were killed (the total number is unknown) and 86 wounded. One sailor was killed on Littorio, and 150 to 250 civilians died as well. Major ships were swiftly moved to La Spezia.
Attendolo was still considered repairable with 10 to 12 months estimated, but because of the precipitating events salvage operations did not begin before Italy surrendered. The ship was used as a dock with the Allied occupation; after the war's end, given that the structures of the ship were still in a good condition, it was considered the possibility of salvaging it and transforming it into an anti-aircraft cruiser (to be included in the Navy in the place of the old cruiser Cadorna), but the lack of financial means and the fact that it was certain that the Allied Commission would have opposed a refusal to the proposal led to its being raised to be demolished instead.