Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia (CSIR) (Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia)
by Shawn Bohannon

Constituted on 10 July 1941, the C.S.I.R. arrived in Russia from July-August 1941 and was initially subordinated to Generaloberst Eugen Ritter von Schobert’s 11th Army. On 14 August 1941, the C.S.I.R. was transferred to the control of Generaloberst Ewald von Kleist’s Panzer Group 1 (redesignated 1st Panzer Army on 25 October 1941). It remained under von Kleist’s command until 3 June 1942 when it was subordinated to Generaloberst Richard Ruoff’s 17th Army.

The original commander, Generale di Corpo d’Armata Francesco Zingales, fell ill in Vienna during the early stages of transport to Russia and replaced by Generale di Corpo d’Armata Giovanni Messe on 14 July 1941.

As formed, the C.S.I.R. consisted of the below listed field formations and the Intendenza Speciale Est [Special Intendancy East] (Colonnello Eugenio Gatti; later Generale di Brigata Carlo Biglino) comprising he following logistical services: medical, commissariat, administration, artillery, chemical, horse and veterinary, transports, automotive, staging, mail and telegraphic. The initial corps strength stood at 3,000 officers and 59,000 men, 5,500 motor vehicles and over 4,000 horses and mules.

The C.S.I.R. was dissolved on 10 July 1942 to form the XXXV Corps of Generale d’Armata Italo Gariboldi’s newly established Italian 8th Army on the Eastern Front, Armata Italiana in Russia (ARMIR). Messe remained in command of the XXXV Corps until 1 November 1942 when he was succeeded by Generale di Corpo d’Armata Francesco Zingales. On 23 January 1942, Germany decorated Generale di Corpo d'Armata Messe with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his leadership of the C.S.I.R.

C.S.I.R. Chief of Staff: Colonnello Guido Piacenza; Colonnello Umberto Utili from 1 November 1941 (departed Russia one year later on 1 November 1942, the same date as Messe)

C.S.I.R. Artillery Commander: Generale di Brigata Francesco Dupont

C.S.I.R. Engineer Commander: Colonnello Mario Tirelli

German Liaison Officer: Major Hans-Wessel von Gyldenfeldt; Major i.G. Reinhold Fellmer from October 1941-20 November 1942.

Corps-Level Assets:

* 30º Raggruppamento Artiglieria di Corpo d’Armata: Colonnello Lorenzo Matiotti – LX, LXI and LXII Gruppo cannoni da 105/32; IV and XIX Gruppo Autocampali cannoni contraerei da 75/46; 95a and 97a Batteria contraerei da 20 mm.
* 63a Legione CC.NN. “Tagliamento”: Console Nicolò Nicchiarelli – LXIII and LXXIX Battaglione CC.NN. and the LXIII Battaglione Armi d’Accompagnamento [support arms] (Army).

Line Divisions:

* 9th Pasubio Semi-Motorized Infantry Division: Generale di Divisione Vittorio Giovannelli (Divisional Infantry Commander: Generale di Brigata Aldo Princivalle) – 79th and 80th Roma Infantry Regiments (Colonnello Rocco Blasioli and Colonnello Epifanio Chiaramonti respectively) and the 8th Motorized Artillery Regiment (Colonnello Alfredo Reginella).
* 52nd Torino Semi-Motorized Infantry Division: Generale di Divisione Luigi Manzi; later Generale di Divisione Roberto Lerici (Divisional Infantry Commander: Colonnello, later Generale di Brigata Ugo de Carolis*) – 81st and 82nd Torino Infantry Regiments (Colonnello Carlo Piccinini and Colonnello Evaristo Fioravanti respectively) and the 52nd Motorized Artillery Regiment (Colonnello Giuseppe Ghiringhelli).
* On 12 December 1941, Generale di Brigata Ugo de Carolis was killed in action in southern Russia; he was posthumously awarded the Medaglia d’Oro al Valore Militare. On 9 February 1942, he was honored by Germany with a posthumous award of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.
* 3rd Celere Division “Principe Amedeo Duca d’Aosta”: Generale di Brigata Mario Marazzani (Vice Commander: Generale di Brigata Gioacchino Solinas) – 3rd “Savoia Cavalleria” Regiment (Colonnello Weiss Poccetti), the 5th “Lancieri di Novara” Regiment (Colonnello Egidio Giusiana), the 3rd Bersaglieri Regiment (Colonnello Aminto Caretto), the 3rd Horse Artillery Regiment (Colonnello Cesare Colombo) and the III Gruppo Carri Veloci “San Giorgio” (61 L3 tankettes in four squadrons).

Comando Aviazione (or Aeronautica) del C.S.I.R.: Colonnello Carlo Drago; Generale di Brigata Aerea Enrico Pezzi from 25 February 1942.

* 22o Gruppo Autonomo: Maggiore Giovanni Borzoni. Composed of the 359a, 362a, 369a and 371a Squadriglie equipped with 51 Macchi C.200 “Saetta” fighters; the group arrived in Russia in August 1941. During its service on the Eastern Front, the 22o Gruppo Autonomo claimed 14 Soviet fighters and several bombers without suffering any losses. The leading Italian fighter pilot on the Eastern Front was Sottotenente Giuseppe “Bepi” Biron of the 369a Squadriglie who shot down at least four Russian aircraft. Biron scored at least eight total kills during World War II.
* 16º Gruppo Autonomo Osservazione Aerea: Tenente Colonnello Bruno G. Ghierini. Composed of the 34a, 119a and 128a Squadriglie equipped with Caproni Ca.311 reconnaissance/observation aircraft; the group arrived in Russia in mid-August 1941.
* Sezione Trasporti [Transport Section] composed of the 245a and 246a Squadriglie equipped with Savoia Marchetti SM.81 “Pipistrello” tri-motor transport aircraft.


Higher headquarters assignments of the C.S.I.R.

as listed in German Army Kriegsgliederung (Order of Battle).
Note: The C.S.I.R. appears in these documents as the “italienische Schn. A.K.”

3 September 1941
Army Group South (Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt)
Panzer Group 1 (Generaloberst Ewald von Kleist)
C.S.I.R. (Generale di Corpo d’Armata Giovanni Messe)
9th Pasubio Semi-Motorized Infantry Division
52nd Torino Semi-Motorized Infantry Division
3rd Celere Division “Principe Amedeo Duca d’Aosta”

2 January 1942
Army Group South (Generalfeldmarschall Walter von Reichenau)
1st Panzer Army (Generaloberst Ewald von Kleist)
XXXXIX Mountain Army Corps (General der Gebirgstruppe Ludwig Kübler)
1st Mountain Division
4th Mountain Division
198th Infantry Division
Elements of the 7th Flieger-Division (Fallschirmjäger) – In his book La Guerra al Fronte Russo, Il Corpo di Spedizione Italiano (C.S.I.R.), Messe describes Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 2 serving alongside the 3rd Celere Division during the Christmas Battle of December 1941.
3rd Celere Division “Principe Amedeo Duca d’Aosta”
C.S.I.R. (Generale di Corpo d’Armata Giovanni Messe)
9th Pasubio Semi-Motorized Infantry Division
52nd Torino Semi-Motorized Infantry Division

22 April 1942 & 11 May 1942
Army Group South (Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock)
Armee-Gruppe von Kleist (Generaloberst Ewald von Kleist)
1st Panzer Army (also Generaloberst Ewald von Kleist)
XXXXIX Mountain Army Corps (General der Gebirgstruppe Rudolf Konrad)
4th Mountain Division
198th Infantry Division
3rd Celere Division “Principe Amedeo Duca d’Aosta” + one regiment of the 213th Security Division + 6th Bersaglieri Regiment
C.S.I.R. (Generale di Corpo d’Armata Giovanni Messe)
9th Pasubio Semi-Motorized Infantry Division
52nd Torino Semi-Motorized Infantry Division

24 June 1942
At the disposal of the Army High Command (OKH)
Ordered to the Eastern Front: Italian 8th Army headquarters with the II Corps, 2nd Sforzesca Infantry Division, 3rd Ravenna Infantry Division, and 5th Cosseria Infantry Division.
Army Group South (Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock)
17th Army (Generaloberst Richard Ruoff)
C.S.I.R. (Generale di Corpo d’Armata Giovanni Messe)
9th Pasubio Semi-Motorized Infantry Division
52nd Torino Semi-Motorized Infantry Division
3rd Celere Division “Principe Amedeo Duca d’Aosta” + 6th Bersaglieri Regiment

Notes

On 21 February 1942, the Alpine Ski Battalion “Monte Cervino” (Tenente Colonnello Mario D’Adda) arrived at the front.

Reorganized as a light mechanized division in March 1942, the 3rd Celere Division received the 6th Bersaglieri Regiment from the 2nd Celere Division “Emanuele Filiberto Testa di Ferro” (for a total of two Bersaglieri regiments of three battalions each), the 120th Motorized Artillery Regiment, the XLVII Battaglione Bersaglieri motociclisti (three companies), the LXVII Battaglione Bersaglieri corazzato (two companies of L6/40 light tanks), the XIII Gruppo “Cavalleggeri di Alessandria” (two squadrons of Semovente L/40 da 47/32 tank destroyers) and an expanded complement of mortars and anti-tank weapons.

Effective 15 March 1942, the two cavalry regiments and the horse artillery regiment were removed from the 3rd Celere Division to form the independent Raggruppamento truppe a cavallo under the command of Colonnello (later Generale di Brigata) Guglielmo Barbò di Casel Morano. The III Gruppo Carri Veloci “San Giorgio” returned home at this time.

On 19 April 1942, the Italian Legione Croata (Croat Legion) arrived at the front and was attached to the 3rd Celere Division.

In May 1942, the 22o Gruppo Autonomo was replaced by the 21o Gruppo Autonomo (Maggiore Ettore Foschini) composed of the 356a, 361a, 382a and 386a Squadriglie equipped Macchi C.200 “Saetta” fighters. (In September 1942, twelve Macchi C.202 “Folgore” fighters plus two photographic-reconnaissance variants joined the group in Russia.) Circa May 1942, the 71o Gruppo Autonomo Osservazione Aerea composed of the 38a and 116a Squadriglie equipped with Caproni Ca.311 and Fiat Br.20 “Cicogna” aircraft replaced the previous air observation group. With the establishment of the Italian 8th Army on the Eastern Front, the air contingent was renamed the Comando Aviazione (or Aeronautica) dell A.R.M.I.R.; it remained under the command of Generale di Brigata Aerea Enrico Pezzi. On 17 January 1943, the 21o Gruppo Autonomo flew its last sorties in Russia and, five days later, began returning to Italy. During its service on the Eastern Front, the 21o Gruppo Autonomo claimed 74 kills and lost 15 aircraft to combat and operational accidents.

On 29 December 1942, General Pezzi was killed in the crash of a Savoia Marchetti SM.81 “Pipistrello” tri-motor transport aircraft after departing from the encircled garrison at Chertkovo. All eight persons on the plane died including Colonnello Prof. Federico Bocchetti, army doctor of the Italian 8th Army.

 

Italian soldier on the Eastern Front
it-russia-2
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

 

Sources used

Stato Maggiore Dell’Esercito – Ufficio Storico (General Staff of the Army – Historical Office). Le Operaazioni Delle Unità Italiane Al Fronte Russo (1941-1943). Rome, 2000 (3rd Edition).
Massimello, Giovanni & Apostolo, Giorgio. Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 34: Italian Aces of World War 2. Osprey Publishing Ltd., Oxford, United Kingdom, 2000 (2002 printing).
Messe, Giovanni. Der Krieg im Osten. Thomas Verlag, Zürich, Switzerland, 1948. Originally published in 1947 in Italy as La Guerra al Fronte Russo, Il Corpo di Spedizione Italiano (C.S.I.R.).
German Army Kriegsgliederung (Order of Battle): 3 September 1941; 2 January 1942; 22 April 1942; 11 May 1942; and 24 June 1942.

Reference material on this unit

- None known at this time -

Do you have any corrections or additions to the material presented on the site?
Please help us improve the site by sending them to us.