103 years ago, Navy men sank the battleship Viribus Unitis

(To Marina Militare)

On a moonless night, between October 31 and November 1, 1918, one of the most memorable feats of the forerunners of the Navy's Special Forces takes place. 

In that phase of the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian Navy, avoiding the head-on collision, prefers to keep its major units safe in the well-defended base of Pola. The Italian Navy then devises a daring plan to hit enemy ships directly in their ports, engaging in the development of insidious units such as, in addition to the famous MAS, special vehicles such as the "Grillo" -type jumping boat and the self-propelled torpedo called " Leech ".

La Mignatta was for the time an "unconventional" craft of a very new conception: a float equipped with a propulsive system and with a very limited positive thrust, to be able to navigate in a hidden way at the surface of the water, equipped with two explosive charges with burst timer, from apply to the hulls of enemy ships by the two crew operators

The first mission is organized to attack the remaining major ships of the opposing Navy. Mission crew Major Raffaele Rossetti and Lieutenant Raffaele Paolucci. One, engineer of the Naval Engineers, inventor of insidious special means. The other, a doctor, scholar of the techniques and physiology of assault swimming. Together they can be considered the precursors of the concept of Special Forces.

In the night between 31 October and 1 November 1918, taking advantage of the very poor night visibility caused by the absence of the moon, an expedition composed of the MAS 94 and 95 and the torpedo boat 65 PN, with the self-propelled torpedo on board Mignatta, heads to the enemy naval base in Pula.

Arrived a short distance from the port, the torpedo boat puts the Mignatta which is accompanied up to below the breakwaters by the MAS, which remain there waiting. Having overcome the obstructions, partly by swimming and partly using the engine of the Mignatta, the two operators penetrate the internal body of water and head towards the hull of one of the largest moored units, the battleship Viribus Unitis, which undermine with one of the charges.

Having completed the operation, as they are about to reenter they are discovered by a projector; seeing the unavoidable capture, they sink the craft which, carried by the current, ends up with the second triggered charge, under the hull of the steamship Wien, causing its loss. At the scheduled time, the first charge bursts causing the opposing battleship to sink; the two operators are captured and considered prisoners of war.

Two days after the conquest of Pula, the Habsburg Empire gave up its arms, in 1929 the anchor of the battleship Viribus Unitis it was placed at the entrance of Palazzo Marina in Rome, a few months after its inauguration, to remind everyone of the Pola enterprise.