Premuda, 10 June 1918, very first light of dawn, the reason for the "Navy day"

(To Marina Militare)

Spring of the 1918, the fate of the Italian war is poised. After two years of frontal attacks, the Austrians have called the Germans to their aid: the defeat of Caporetto and the Italian defensive successes of the Piave and Monte Grappa have been followed in order. Now the situation is deadlocked.

On 1 March 1918, the young Admiral Horthy assumed command of the Austro-Hungarian Imperial-Royal Navy.

The Chief of Staff of our Navy, Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel, knowing the mentality and precedents of the opponent, follows this appointment with great interest, judging a change of attitude as probable and imminent and foreseeing that the usual prudence of the enemy will probably follow a header. The reason is clear: Vienna is starving, even worse than Berlin. Russia has surrendered, but there is no way to get its grain and oil across the Danube due to Italy and its allies' control of the Mediterranean. As for the morale of the Habsburg sailors, it is under the heels.

The Austrians thus plan a spectacular raid against the mobile barrier device of the Otranto channel, put in place by the Italian Navy with the collaboration of the Anglo-Frenchmen from the beginning of the war. The Hapsburgs expect to be able to surprise the Italians, obtaining a success to be resold, as propaganda, as a second Lissa. We are on the eve of the offensive on the Piave, and in the intent of the enemy an Italian naval defeat would have had serious moral consequences on the spirit of resistance of the whole country.

In the perspective of an enemy action, Admiral Thaon of Revel issues a brief dispatch, warning the Navy commands that the Austro-Hungarian rule could be such as to expose "... to the imprudences of which we must be ready to take advantage ... we will take advantage of every enemy move to attack with submarines, destroyers, torpedo boats and MAS"

On the evening of June 9, 1918, the lieutenant captain Luigi Rizzo, already sunk, in December, of the Austrian battleship Vienna, receives the order to go out to sea with a section of MAS, on 15 and 21. This is the "usual assignment: exploration, ambush and mine research". While the small Italian units move towards the patrol area, unbeknownst to them the imperial fleet has left the port of Pula in force, heading south. There are 45 units, including all available battleships.

The 10 Jun 1918, the MAS 15 and 21 are off the small Dalmatian island of Premuda. At 3.15 in the morning Italians sight "... a big cloud of black smoke on the horizon". Not yet able to distinguish the type of ships, and excluding that it could be Italian units, the captain of corvette Rizzo legitimately assumes that it is a destroyer in search of adversaries. Without hesitation, the Italian commander orders to prevent the threat by approaching secretly the enemy ships, to attack them by surprise and open the way back by fighting.

Dawn, the little light in favor of the MAS, when Rizzo signals Ensign Aonzo, commander of the other unit, to prepare for the attack. The two small torpedo boats advance slowly, moving against what they consider a group of torpedo boats in exploration when, shortening the distances, they realize that they are in the presence of the Austrian naval battle team.

The sea is calm - perfect calm - limited visibility by a slight haze: a unique situation, a "prey" indispensable for the MAS Ace with the taste of hunting, which without hesitation and with clear awareness of the evident disproportion of the forces in field, however, challenge the two battleships escorted by ten units that protect them from all sides. A few words in a low voice (at dawn every sound runs away) between the two units, and the engines slowly increase the number of turns. No "mustache" on the prow. The petrol engines seize without problems. The Italians thus pass between two escort torpedo boats without being seen, thanks to a good kinematics and great seafaring expertise. We are in the launch circle. Out! The torpedoes descend into the water, the angle is perfect, from manual. The estimated distance of about 300 meters. 03.31 hours, "Torpedoes hit, target hit!". As reported by the Commander of the Tegetthoff"A flash of light accompanied by the thunder of an explosion was observed to the starboard of the Szent Istvan". Rizzo's MAS 15 centered the battleship St. Stephen, while the MAS 21 launches its torpedoes towards the Tegetthoff, which will only be saved for a malfunction of the burst of a torpedo, which strikes it without exploding.

Quick approach and route of removal! But now the two MAS are chased by a fighter that shoots on them, surprisingly Rizzo uses the only weapon still available on his MAS 15 to stop the enemy unit from pursuit, which is an anti-submarine bomb that explodes ahead of hunting causes these to renounce by reversing the route.

While the St. Stephen, dying, sinks, the victorious MAS 15 and 21 return to the port of Ancona. The Monte Cappuccini Semaphore, just spotted, given the large flags hoisted on the MAS, sensed the victory and reported it to the Ancona Marine Command with the famous telegram, vibrant with enthusiasm: "15 miles N – NE, two speedboats unloaded with torpedoes but laden with honor and glory headed for port".

Premuda's action, due to its military and political consequences, is equivalent to a great battle won, which definitively changes the course of the First World War in favor of Italy and gives great prestige to the Navy which, from 1939 onwards, in memory of that event, celebrates its Day on 10 June. In recognition of the heroism shown in action, Commander Luigi Rizzo "di Premuda" is proposed for a second gold medal for military valor, after the one already paid for the sinking of the battleship Vienna. It is an unprecedented fact. Moreover, they point out to court, that officer is of republican sentiments. "It is also the composer Mario, who wrote the Piave's song. Good patriots", Vittorio Emanuele III will reply, signing the decree serenely.