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Comandante Cappellini, Aquila III
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Comandante Cappellini, Aquila III, UIT-24
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Comandante Cappellini, Aquila III, UIT-24, I-503
- The R.Smg. Comandante Cappellini, was commissioned 1939 by the Regia Marina and named after Alfredo Cappellini, commander of the ship Palestro, and who's courage was noted at the Battle of Lissa 1866 in the Third Italian War of Independence. The Submarine had a length of 73 meters and took on a crew of 57. He was armed with eight 21 inch torpedoes, two 3.9 inch guns and four 13.2 mm machine guns.
- During his service in the 12th Squadron, 1st Group, Submarine Fleet, Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) he sank five ships; 15 Oct 1940 - Kabalo, Belgian steamship, part of convoy OB.223 5 Jan 1941 - Shakespeare, British steamship, part of convoy OB.262 14 Jan 1941 - Eumaeus, British troop transport ship 18 May 1942 - Tisnaren, Swedish motorship, part of convoy OS.27 31 May 1942 - Dinsdale, armed British fleet tanker
- 12 Sep 1942 Werner Hartenstein' and his U-156 attacked and sunk HMS Laconia (F-42) an Armed merchantman, former of the Cunard Line now carrying about 80 civilians, 270 British and 160 Polish soldiers, and to Hartensteins surprise, about 1800 Italian POWs. 13 Sep Hartenstein broadcasted a message on the 25-meter band in english to all ships in the arean;
- 16 Sep two of the submarines U-156 and U-506, gun decks covered with large Red Cross flags and towing life boats was spotted by Lt James D. Harden's B-24D Liberator. Lt Harden, Navigator Lt Jerome Perlman and bombardier Lt Edgar Keller was of the 343d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy) "the Pyramidiers", US Army, Middle East Air Force (later 9th Air Force), who had been delayed due to engine problems and was on way from Drane Field, FL, USA to Ramat David, St Jean, Palestine via Trinidad, Brazil, Ascension Island in the South Atlantic and Sudan. They had been requested by the British to provide air cover for the Ocean Bording Vessels, the former Ellerman Lines's S/S Corinthian now HMS Corinthian (F-103) and the S/S Empire Haven redirected from Freetown in search of Laconia's lifeboats.
- Lt Harden was given the order "Sink Sub" by the senior officer on duty that day at Ascension Island Captain Robert C. Richardson III of 1st Composite Squadron, Composite Force 8012, USAAF. The order later resulted in Dönitz's "Laconia Befehl" for the German Naval Forces stating survivors would not be rescued.
- In the spring of 1943 he along with six other submarines was rebuilt and converted for long-range transport as R-class merchant submarines after their designs had been found unsuitable for use against allied convoys. On loan to the Germans, for the price of seven new German Type VII-C u-boats but under Italian flag and commanded by Walter Auconi of the Regia Marina he was renamed Aquila (Eagle) III and sailed for Japan on 11 May 1943. He was carrying 95 tons of ammunitions including spare torpedoes for the German "Gruppe Monsun".
- Being the very first Italian submarine reaching the Far East he arrived in Sabang, Sumatra on 9 Jul 1943 on just about the Diesel fumes left in his tanks, refuels and arrives in Singapore on 13 Jul. He repaires damages from the rough seas of the Roaring Forties and the rounding of the Cape back in June. 25 Aug 1943 he is made ready for the return voyage to Bordeaux and is delayed by the Germans so that he may join up with the transport submarine Reginaldo Giuliani, but on 9 Sep 1943 Italy surrenders to the Allies in Europe. The Japanese Vice Admiral Hiraoka Kumeichi, Commander of the 9th Base Unit takes the Italian Captain and crew as prisoners of war and hands over the Aquila III to the Germans.
- Cappellini is renamed UIT-24 and commanding officer is now Oblt. Heinrich Pahls.
- He is rearmed with a 4.1 inch deck gun and a 20 mm Anti-Aircraft gun, and manned with a mix of German sailors, and Italians who wants to keep fighting. The UIT-24, with a cargo of rubber, tin ingots, tungsten, quinine, and medicinal opium makes one unsuccessful try to return to 12th U-boat flotilla based at Bordeaux, but is force to turn back on 12 Mar 1943 when the German supply ship Brake is attacked by HMS Roebuck (H-95)and is forced to scuttle. UIT-24 is forced to do an emergency refuelling from FrgKpt. Otto Heinrich Junker's type IXC/40 boat U-532, a long range ocean-going submarine, and returns to Penang on 5 Apr 1943. Between April 1944 and 1945 UIT-24 runs supplies between Southeast Asia and Japan.
- 10 May 1945 when Germany surrenders he is, again re-commissioned for the Imperial Japanese Navy and renamed I-503 and his very last commander from 15 Jul 1945 until 15 Aug 1945 was Lt. Hideo Hirota.
- List of Commanders:
- As Cappellini:
Lt.Cdr. Cristiano Masi - 23 Sep 1939 - Sep 1940
Lt.Cdr. Salvatore Todaro - Sep 1940 - 1941
Lt. Aldo Lenzi - 1941 - 1942
Lt. Marco Revedin - 1942 - 1943
- As Aquila III:
Lt. Walter Auconi - 1943 - 9 Sep 1943
- As UIT-24:
Lt. Heinrich Pahls - 10 Sep 1943 - 10 May 1945
- As I-503:
Lt. Hirota, Hideo - 14 Jul 1945 - 30 Nov 1945
- Captured by U.S. Task Group 96.5 (U.S. Task Force 96. Naval Force, Japan) he is scuttled on 16 Apr 1946 in deep water off the coast of Kobe, Japan. I-503, and the I-504 (former R.Smg. Luigi Torelli) fly all three Axis power's flags in World War II.