The assault engineer speciality was first born in Germany with the name of pionier. After the astonishing results obtained by those special engineers in the Ardenne region during the Battle of France (1940), Italy decided to create its own pionier which were named guastatori. Starting from 1940, the most offensive, strongest and bravest willing engineers were sent to Civitavecchia Assault Engineer School to attend the guastatori course. They were trained to approach enemy strong points and fortifications, place explosive charges to get the most effective results (slots, doors, air ducts), waiting for the explosion a few meters close to the charge and then, supported by assault weapons (such as machine guns, light mortars, flamethrower and offensive hand granades), break into the just opened breach. Pre-conditions for the success were: surprise, temerity, bravery, planning, synchronization and momento.
The Assault Engineers were organized in companies which were subsequently collected in battalions. The basic combat element was the platoon made up of two destruction teams (equipped with rifles, hand grenades, smoke sticks and bangalore torpedoes to open corridors and special charges to destroy fortifications) and two support teams (equipped with heavy machine guns and light mortars). This platoon was considered able to successfully strike a fortification with three or four active positions.
For parachute and alpine divisions were created and trained special assault engineer companies and battalions.
Movies from Istituto Luce, the historic Italian film institute:Guastatori lanch minefield breaching operation, Northern Africa 1942
Guastatori assault an outpost, Northern Africa 1942
The origins of the 8th Parachute Assault Engineer Regiment go back to the 8th Engineer Regiment (8° Reggimento Genio) of the Royal Army (Regio Esercito) which was constituted in Rome on 20 October 1926 for the renaming of the 7th Engineer Regiment (7° Reggimento Genio). The engineer battalions belonging to the 8th Engineer Regiment were deployed to Italian East Africa and fought in all of the Italian fronts during the World War II. The regiment was disbanded on 8 September 1943, the date on which the Armistice of Cassibile was made public.
Historical pictures from Italian newsreel archives - Istituto Luce: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Then the regiment was reconstituted on 11 September 1992 in Villa Vicentina, Province of Udine, from the transformation of the 184th Combat Engineer Battalion "Santerno". It participated in the Italian "Pelican Operation" aimed at stabilising Albania but afterwards was again disbanded on 30 November 1995 due to a reorganisation which involved the Italian Army.
It was finally reconstituted in Legnago Province of Verona on 13 October 2004 as the 8th Parachute Assault Engineer Regiment, stationed in the "D. Briscese" Barracks. It absorbed the 8th Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion.
The commanders (from 2004):
The 8th Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion (motto: Rompo, Dirompo, Irrompo), operational and deployable part of the regiment, was born in Tarquinia (Province of Viterbo) in the first months of 1940 as an infantry unit made up of three rifle companies, 22nd, 23rd and 24th, plus headquarters company. Once the parachute training was completed, the battalion was initially assigned to the 3rd Parachute Regiment (3º Reggimento Paracadutisti). In May 1942 it moved to Civitavecchia (Province of Rome) where parachutists attended the Assault Engineer Course (corso guastatori). The course was usually attended by engineers only but, due to the urgent requirement of the Italian Army to have the parachute division available to launch an air assault operation on Malta and the concomitant unavailability of engineers, it was decided to train infantrymen. Afterwards the just qualified Guastatori of the 8th Parachute Battalion were sent to Bagnoli (Province of Naples) where they attended the course held by the German Engineers.
- 1941 Italian parachutists' school - first half
- 1941 Italian parachutists' school - second half
- The prince of Piemonte visits the parachutists 04/07/1941
The 1st Parachute Division (1ª Divisione Paracadutisti) was born on 1 September 1941. It was constituted, in addition to the divisional support entities, of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Parachute Regiments (1º, 2º and 3º Reggimento Paracadutisti), the Parachute Artillery Regiment (Reggimento di Artiglieria Paracadutisti) and the 8th Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion (8° Battaglione Guastatori Paracadutisti). In June 1942 the division was named "Folgore" and was deployed to Northern Africa to sustain the Axis war effort. The battalion (minus the 23rd Company which stayed in Italy with other units of the "Folgore" to train the constituting 2nd Parachute Division, "Nembo", fought on the Northern African front until the Battle of El Alamein commanded by its first commander, Major Giulio Burzi, a hero of World War I awarded with the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor. The unit, invicta as the rest of "Folgore", remaining of a few dozen parachutists, withdrew in order as vanguard to protect the rest of the survived soldiers. But the story could not finish with that.
The very few parachutists who survived the Northern African Campaign who succeeded to move back to their homeland, belonging to the 8th and not captured by the enemies, the 23rd and the re-constituted 22nd and 24th, gave a new life to the battalion which was also called 8th the Second (8° Bis) and was assigned to the 185th Parachute Regiment - former 1st (185° Reggimento Paracadutisti - ex 1°), "Nembo", constituted in Pisa on 1 November 1942.
But this time the parachutists did not attend the Assault Engineer Course (corso guastatori) but stayed fusiliers. In fact the engineer support to the 184th Airborne Division "Nembo" was granted by the CLXXXIV Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion which will gain honor and fame in combat after the Armistice of Cassibile fighting with the Allies in the Italian Italian liberation corps, and particularly during the battle of Filottrano Province of Ancona (July 1944).
In 1943, while the main body of the 184th Airborne Division "Nembo", CLXXXIV Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion included, was ordered to deploy to Sardinia to fight as defensive force, the 185th Parachute Regiment and the 8th (bis) Parachute Battalion with it, played detached by its Division a different role. In July 1943, the 185th was firsty deplyed to Apulia to protect local airports, then moved to Calabria and finally to Sicily, to fight the allied invasion and the advance to Messina.
After tough clashes fought in vicinity of Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, Castroreale and on the foot of Peloritani, which were the last positions of the defensive line Messina, the Regiment was forced to withdraw by the Allies in direction of Messina first and to ferry to the continent later. The fight continued in Calabria in the country and on Aspromonte but for the 8th (bis) it incredibly finished at the dawn of 8 September. That morning, on Zillastro plan, just a few hours before the declaration of the armistice, the battalion, trying to break the possible encirclement, struck the more numerous enemies, the Canadian "Nova Scotia" and "Edmonton"; at the end of the battle, after very hard melee, the parachutists were defeated and the 8º Battalion got out of the roster of the Regio Esercito.
On 1 June 2001 the 8th Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion was officially reconstituted in Legnago province of Verona, once again under the adored "Folgore" as it was in origin. This time the battalion was made up of 4 assault engineer companies (instead of 3), plus the logistic support company. Then it was decided to reconstitute the three companies with their historical names 22nd, 23rd e 24th. In addition, for the 4th, it was decided to name it 21st, in honor of the company already belonged to the 7th Parachute Battalion, which fought close and with the 8th within the Ruspoli Group during the Battle of El Alamein.
From 13 October 2004 the 8th Battaglione belongs to the 8th Parachute Assault Engineer Regiment.
8th Parachute Assault Engineer RegimentCommander
(Leoni - Lions) Headquarters & Support Company
8th Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion Commander
21st (Giaguari - Jaguars) Parachute Assault Engineer Company (21st Coy March)
22nd (Angeli Neri - Black Angels) Parachute Assault Engineer Company (22nd Coy March)
23rd (Cinghiali - Wild Boars) Parachute Assault Engineer Company (23rd Coy March)
24th (Tigri - Tigers) Parachute Assault Engineer Company (24th Coy March)
The main Regiment's task is to provide close combate support to the Folgore Parachute Brigade granting the freedom of deployment and movement within the whole of the assigned objective area/area of responsibility and providing couter-mobility to the opposing forces as required. For this reason the guastatori paracadutisti must be expert scouts, masters in handling and using explosives, engineers able to create and/or remove obstacles as required, high trained troops in assaulting well organised enemy defensive positions and also able to launch tactical bridge. As for the other parachute units belonging to the Folgore, the preferential area of employment is the airborne operation.
In addition to the previous main military tasks, the 8th Regiment is also asked to support Italian population. The EOD teams dispose explosive remnants of war and other explosive devices, also in support of police forces, on daily basis. Parachute assault engineers also support civilian in case of natural disaster.North African Campaign - World War II (8th Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion - Battle of El Alamein)
Allied invasion of Sicily - World War II (8th Parachute Assault Engineer Battalion bis - Sicily and Calabria 1942)
Kosovo - Kosovo Force
Afghanistan - Enduring Freedom Operation
Afghanistan - International Security Assistance Force - ISAF
Iraq - Ancient Babylon Operation
Lebanon - Leonte Operation
CAR - EUFOR CAR (Central African Republic)
Campania waste management issue (2008)
Support to police forces to secure Italian streets
Disposal of explosive remnants of war and other explosive devices
2012 Northern Italy earthquakes (2012)
Caporal maggiore scelto (Corporal) Alessandro Di Lisio, Farah (Afghanistan) 14 luglio 2009, Croce d'onore alla memoria
Caporal maggiore scelto (Corporal) Roberto Marchini, Bakwa District (Afghanistan) 12 luglio 2011, Croce d'onore alla memoria
Veterans recount (in italian)