#HistoricalDates | 64° anniversary of COMSUBIN

Established in 1952 – in its current status from 15th February 1960-, the COMSUBIN is an élite department of Italian Navy, born with the aim of preserving the precious techniques and underwater capacities shown during World War II. Today, on the occasion of their 64° anniversary, we will go through the steps of its establishment, its constitution and current status, and its main duties.

Key Points

Establishment of COMSUBIN

GOI (Italian Navy Raiders)

GOI, missions abroad

GOS (Italian Navy Divers)

Establishment of COMSUBIN

When World War II ended, Maricentrosub of Taranto (a Navy training center located in the city of Taranto, South Italy), instituted the Port Demining Units with groups of divers, who were also involved in clearing the ports from wrecks and thousands of unexploded devices. A separate group of scuba divers operated in Liguria, a region in the North West of Italy internationally known for its beautiful Cinque Terre, which was hit by war so much that it became a “ship cemetery” with more than 320 sunken vessels.

Im.1: GOI operators

Maricentrosub of La Spezia (another Navy training center located in the city of La Spezia, Liguria region) instituted new demining units with deep-sea divers and the Gamma Group; this latter group recruited personnel who secretly kept the skills learnt during the war (according to some restrictions from the Paris Agreement of 1947, Italian Navy couldn’t handle that kind of military know-how anymore).

In order not to lose the precious know-how, in 1952 Admiral and Navy Chief of Staff Pecori Giraldi asked lieutenant and Gold Medal for Militay Value Aldo Massarini to think about the possibility of creating a “diving raiders department”. Therefore, on 30th May 1952, after the revocation of the Paris Agreement restrictions, the Gruppo Arditi Incursori was established, under the command of Maricentrosub of La Spezia, with headquarter inside the ancient Castle of Varignano in Portovenere (near Cinque Terre).

After a first restructuring managed by Maricentrosub commander and Admiral Gino Birindelli, and after several name changes, the unit started to train personnel also for high-mountain combat and skydiving, besides sea operations. Finally, on 15th February 1960, the unity officially became COMSUBIN, with the institution of Navy Raiders and Divers Commando “Teseo Tesei”, in memory of Mayor Teseo Tesei who invented the SLC (Italian acronymous for slow-run torpedo) and then lost his life in the operation “Malta 2” in 1941.

COMSUBIN is divided into:

- G.O.I. (Italian acronymous for Italian Navy Raiders). This is the sole department of Navy Special Forces and its motto is: “E fluctibus irruit in hostem” (from latin: “from the sea we break onto the enemy”. They usually wear a green beret;

Im.2: GOI green berets

- G.O.S. (Italian acronymous for Italian Navy Divers). The most capable divers, distinguished by the blue beret, work under its command.

Im.3: GOS operator

GOI (Italian Navy Raiders)

GOI dates back to the 10th Fleet (Decima Flottiglia Mas) in World War II, whose brave actions led to sink/badly damage an enemy warship of 72.190 tons and a cargo ship of 130.572 tons. Ability, flexibility, operational and logistic autonomy: this is what makes GOI an extremely efficient unit for handling critical situations.

Due to current international scenarios and the continuous threat of terroristic attacks, actions from non-conventional and highly trained and equipped units are required. GOI is a paramount strategic asset when specific political, military, psychological conditions are required, besides the ability of operating hiding, solitary or in harsh and not-permissive environments.

Im.4: GOI

Among the many duties of GOI, there are:

- attack on warship and cargo ship located in the ports;

- attack on port and coast deployments and on military and civil infrastructures located within 25 miles from the coast;

- operations of naval counter-terrorism for the release of hostages on passengers or cargo ships and on marine installations;

- infiltration and permanence on hostile territory for fact-finding missions and/or support to naval gunfire.

GOI, missions abroad

GOI operators have been involved in Ruanda in missions aimed to get back Italian citizens during the political crisis and genocide of 1994, as well as during the operation of strengthening the peace in Timor Est, under ONU protection, during the political crisis of 1999. Again, from 2001 to 2005 in the Enduring Freedom operation. Since 2005, GOI operators have been involved in Afghanistan during ISAF mission in Task Force 45 (or TF-45, a Special Forces military unit in the Sarissa mission). Since 2016, GOI also works upon request by AISE (Italian intelligence) for confidential missions abroad.

Im.5: Task Force 45 badge

GOS (Italian Navy Divers)

GOS controls seven demining units located all over Italy, near the most important civil and military ports, such as La Spezia, Taranto, Augusta, Cagliari, La Maddalena, Ancona. They are in charge of marine defense of port Navy units, through:

- anti-sabotage operations against enemy raiders;

- checks on the vessel hulls in order to find any potential unexploded device;

- site inspections and operations on sunken vessels after fires or claims.

On 13th January 2012, GOS were the first operators to help when the Costa Cruise vessel “Concordia” wrecked in the waters of the island of Giglio (Tuscany), by opening gates through explosive charge on the half-inverted hull and letting the search of survivors.

Im.6: divers in front of Costa Concordia

Main duties of GOS are:

- neutralization of explosive devices. Italian Navy divers are certified bomb squad for the neutralization of both EODs and IEDs. They perform operations of demining, cleanup, securing and Low Order EOD techniques implementation;

- various diving operations across the globe. Among them: submarine demolition through explosive charge; rescue; specialistic support to military and civil agencies; deep-sea diving through different techniques, by using submarine and terrain equipment;

- search and rescue of submarines in need, through operations aimed to rescue the crew and help it with medical assistance.

These deep-sea diving operations are conducted using the saturation technique, to let divers work and stay in extremely deep waters for days or weeks.

Im.7: GOS getting ready (source: private)

The excellent work of Italian Navy Divers is well known in the international and national diving community. Their history dates back to 1849 and their operational know-how is unique. After a one-year course to obtain the certification of diver, they are constantly trained in both shallow waters (such as lakes and rivers) and very deep waters, including diving in cold waters and under the ice. They are also qualified as military skydivers.

Im.8: GOI - cover image

[Image sources: Italian Navy official website, unless otherwise specified]

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