Friday, 17 February 2012

Royal Italian Navy Submarines of WW2 - ARGONAUTA

 Argonauta at Sea

The submarine ARGONAUTA (second boat with this name; the first one operated in WW I) was the first and the eponymous of a successful series of 7 boats built in the early 1930s (Series ARGONAUTA Class "600"). This was the period in which Italy got started with a massive construction program of submarines, which would bring her, upon her entry into the war, to be the first submarine fleet in the world for total tonnage, and only second in number of boats to the Russian Fleet.

The ARGONAUTA was a submarine of over 600 tons of displacement, 61.5 m. long and capable of reaching a depth of 80 meters, something quite respectable for the period. With a surface speed of 14 knots and 8.5 knots submerged, the boat was armed with a single 102 mm gun, 4 machine guns and 6 torpedo tubes: 4 forward and 2 aft. The crew included 50 men of which 5 or 6 were officers.

Built by the C.R.D.A. (Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico) shipyard of Monfalcone, near Gorizia, the boat was laid down on November 9th, 1929, launched on January 19th, 1930 and delivered to the Navy on January 1st, 1932. Upon Italy’s entry into the war, the boat was assigned to the 61 Squadron of the VI Submarine Group based in Tobruk, Libya.

On June 10th, 1940 the ARGONAUTA, under the command of Lieutenant Vittorino Cavicchia Scalamonti, was one of the 55 boats already on patrol in the Mediterranean. Along with other boats, the ARGONAUTA was assigned an area between the Island of Crete and the Egyptian Coast where enemy traffic to Suez and the naval base of Alexandria was to be expected. In fact, from these bases the British sent out anti-submarine forces meant to free these waters of Italian submarines.

The ARGONAUTA remained on patrol until June 21st in an area about 100 miles north east of Alexandria, picking up on the hydrophones heavy anti-sub activity but failing to locate and attack any target. It should be considered that, according to the regulations in place at the time, boats had very limited freedom of action to “eliminate dangerous interferences with each other” and a small square of sea was assigned to each of them. They absolutely could not leave this “square”, but had to wait for enemy ships to come their way. Crossing into another square was very dangerous: since there were no means for recognizing “friends and foes” (today we have electronic systems), and in a fight between submarines only the one who fires first survives, precisely as it happened between the submarines TRICHECO and GEMMA. The latter had entered the area assigned to the first and was sunk; it happened to other navies.
 Argonauta in Messina
Enemy ships, instead, swept the sea in large numbers and on the 21st the ARGONAUTA was located and made object of an intense and precise bombardment with depth charges. With quick maneuvering (when a submarine is located and under attack by enemy warships, it prefers this tactic and reacts only if there is no way out), the boat was able to escape the enemy hunt, but suffered several serious malfunctions such as the failure of the attack periscope which practically blinded it.

Under these circumstances, the ARGONAUTA was forced to interrupt its mission and return to base in Tobruk where it arrived on June 22nd. The damage was repaired as well as possible, but the base was not equipped for the replacement of the periscope, thus it was decided to send the boat to Taranto, where the shipyard could have easily completed the task. At 21:45 on June 27th, the ARGONAUTA left Tobruk sailing along the Libyan coast to Cape Ras el Hilal (the northern most point of the coast), from which it directed to Cape Colonne, near Crotone (Calabria) on a north-north-west due course. After departure, all communication was lost.

From research conducted after the war, and by consulting documentation provided by the British, it was reasonably assumed that the ARGONAUTA was sunk around 6:15 on the 29th of June in position 35°16’ N, 20°20’ E (one third into the journey), by a squadron of British destroyers (DAINTY, DEFENDER, DECOY, VOYAGER and ILEX) which from the 27th to the 30th had patrolled the area between Alexandria, the Aegean Sea and the central Mediterranean as part of operation “MA3” in support of British convoys from the Greek ports to Port Said and from Alexandria to Malta.

There were no survivors. Other submarines were lost in similar circumstances.
An official British source indicates that an antisubmarine airplane of the type “Sunderland” (a large flight boat which was deadly to most submarines) on June 29th at at 14:50 attacked with two volleys of depth charges a submarine navigating at periscope depth in position 37°29’ N, 19°51 E; a point almost coinciding with the route of the ARGONAUTA, but quite ahead of what the position should have been based on the speed of the vessel. Since there were no other attacks and losses reported in those days, besides those checked and located, the report of the “Sunderland”, possibly erroneous in defining the actual position, could be correct. Anyway, the Historical Bureau of the Italian Navy, and the vast majority of historians, believes the first theory to be more believable. But, in my opinion, the doubt persists.


How to make Iran give up its nuclear program - Russian Media Report

UN sanctions, assassinations, terror attacks and military threats – none of these stopped Iran working on its nuclear program. What is the mood in Iran’s scientific community? Are ordinary people scared, or is the pressure bringing consolidation?

UN sanctions, assassinations, terror attacks and military threats – none of these stopped Iran working on its nuclear program. What is the mood in Iran’s scientific community? Are ordinary people scared, or is the pressure bringing consolidation?

‘Are you afraid of death?’ I ask two Iranian intellectuals. We had been discussing the situation in Iran for two hours. They can’t understand why I ask. They are both 30, they make documentaries, travelling across the country and getting to know fellow Iranians.

‘Of course,’ says Mohseni. ‘Why do you ask? Death is the most important test of your life. You have to be prepared for it.’

'Yes, I am, like all people are,’ Mohammed says after thinking for a minute. ‘A believer fears death because he is concerned about dying the right way. About standing trial.’

The paradox you see in Iran is that most people do not fear death itself so much as the “trial.” This is something that evades the hordes of journalists and analysts who talk about scaring the Iranian authorities into giving up their nuclear program.

When I say this and ask Mohseni and Mohammed if it is possible to scare Iranians with assassinations and terror attacks, they smile.

‘The more they pressure us, the stronger we become. Just like any Islamic society and especially Iran. These people do not understand Iranians’ Mohseni says.

The phenomenon of praying scientists

His name is Amir and he is almost 50. His field of work is related to the nuclear program. He looks and behaves like a secular man, possessing that western sort of success along with a great sense of humor. If I had not spoken with him about it, I would never have guessed that he is religious. By no means does he show anything off, although one could guess, when he disappears.

Students Seeking Death

Three students of the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran – Amir, Kahashayar and Mehdad – do not produce the impression of devotees exhausted by prayer either. They were present at the funeral of Professor Ahmadi Rushan, killed in January on his way to work. It was decided to make a student film about how the world reacted to the scientist’s death. Not for money and not for a place in the sun.

- He died the death of a martyr. We are proud of this scientist. We are proud of our science and of our nuclear program. You won’t find an Iranian willing for the nuclear program to be halted. And you won’t find an Iranian who believes that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. What we would like to know is how come our scientists are being killed and nobody even offers their condolences to Iran.

Amir has got many friends from migrant families. They write letters to each other, visit Iran and keep in touch.

- The thing is that the Iranian nuclear program has been carried out since the 1970s, but no one seemed to be interested in it until recently. And now there is so much fuss around it. That’s strange. Young migrants are also for the Iranian nuclear program, just like us. It looks strange for the Americans that we take pride in our achievements and in our martyrs, but it’s clear for the Iranians. Our scientists trust in God. The more of them get killed, the more young people are eager to replace them, Amir says.

I asked him to explain the desire to become a suicide bomber to me.

- That’s Islam’s basic principle. There is life after death. And it is more important than that before death. It depends on what you deserve. But in this life we must work. If there is war in my country, I will sacrifice my life for the sake of my mother and for the sake of my country.

Amir explains that Iran is not an aggressor, it poses no threat to anyone and is not making any weapons.

- Israel has nuclear weapons. As for us, we do not need them. We never attacked anyone, while the whole world is discussing how to attack us. When Ahmadi Rushan was killed, 333 students in Iran submitted their requests asking to be transferred to the nuclear physics department, which means that 333 Iranians rose because one person had been killed. We are not scared by their threats.

One of 333

Saeed Mohammad Husseini is one of those 333 volunteers. The name Saeed means that he comes from the lineage of the Prophet Mohammed. He is currently in his second year of a Master’s course at Shahid Behesti University, the second-largest university in Iran. Saeed specializes in the legal aspects of environmental science, a field indirectly related to nuclear research.

Saeed was born in Nishabur, 120 kilometers from Khorasan, in a family of farmers. He has four brothers and a sister. All his siblings but one have a degree. One of his brothers chose a trade: he currently owns a small shop.

Saeed learned about the death of Ahmadi Roshan from a text message sent to him by a fellow member of the university’s Basinj cell (an organization of volunteers of all ages and professions uniting about 10 million people across Iran).

- I was taking an exam and I got a text message saying one of our scientists had been killed. Roshan did not teach at our university, but Majid Shahriari who was killed in 2010, was our nuclear physics professor. Four of our professors were killed in total.

All the students Roshan knew attended his funeral. He was buried in central Tehran, near the Imam zadeh-Sale Mosque.

- Everyone cried. We were all hurt. He was only 32, he had a four-year-old son. His son has not even been told that his father is dead. He is too young.

Another scientist, a colleague of the late Abbasi, was wounded. He survived and is now in charge of the nuclear program.

- He was in the car with his family. His wife saved him. She saw the bomb being planted, dragged her husband out of the car and shielded him from the blast.

Husseini believes that to be an example of Iranian selflessness.

- Americans should be told about acts like that so they understand how people in Iran feel about their duty and about each other.

After the funeral, the students held a discussion and decided that volunteers could write a letter, requesting that the best be selected for transferal to the nuclear physics department.

- Many of us had this idea while we were at the funeral. My thoughts were with him, I thought that I was sorry that I couldn’t have taken his place in that explosion. What I can do now is try and help our scientists as much as I can, and this is not about showing off. All those who signed the letter are willing to fill the gaps left by those who died.

Mohammad Husseini recalls that when Saddam Hussein started a war against Iran, many young men volunteered to go to the front, and he believes that it’s now time for the young generation to volunteer again.

- It’s possible that the ministry of education won’t approve my transfer to the nuclear physics department as I am a law student, but we all joined the wait list and we are ready to be of use. If necessary we can serve to protect our scientists, and it’s important for all people in Iran to know this.

The scientist’s bodyguards died protecting him, and so the country is in need of both scientists and soldiers, believes Husseini. There’s a special volunteer wait list to bodyguard Iran’s scientists and to study to become an engineer or technology expert.

Shahid Behesti University alone lists 173 volunteers, and there are more throughout the country. 333 candidates have been selected so far from those who were enrolled in courses related to nuclear physics.

In general, only the best of the best school graduates make it to the nuclear physics faculty in Iran, which has the highest competition, with about 1.5 million applicants each year.

- Thousands of talented students apply to study there, that’s why we are making such great progress in sciences. Do you know what progress we have made in medicine, in nanotechnologies? The tougher the sanctions, the greater our progress.

Mohammad Husseini’s companion asked me not to photograph him.

- Let’s protect our volunteers, they are our very best citizens. We are not scared of dying, but we do not want them to be killed, he explained.

Who kills scientists

Dr. Ali, an engineer, believes that the IAEA inspectors are all intelligence agents working on a mission against Iran.

- The IAEA resolution lists the names of all the scientists involved, and this is against the confidentiality clause. All personal data must be strictly confidential, and thus the IAEA has broken the rules of its own charter. Our scientists have been open with them, shown them around, and gave their names. And now the west sends assassins to kill off our scientists.

The story of the assassin Jamali Fashi, executed for having murdered Professor Alimohammadi of the University of Tehran in January 2012, is quite typical.

- This Jamali Fashi was a 25-year-old man who used to be a professional boxer without any significant educational background, just a secondary school graduate. He was on a competition tour in Turkey, when he was invited to the Israeli embassy and recruited to collaborate with Mossad with a promise of being paid 100 thousand US dollars for his mission. He wasn’t even aware of his target. He was given 30-day training on a site replicating the scientist’s residence, to ensure perfect knowledge of his routine. After that he was trained for 60 more days in Tehran to park the explosives-loaded motorbike correctly. Then he had to wait for the order, which he did.They even paid him only half the amount they had promised.

Dr. Ali says that Fashi sincerely repented of what he had done. The widow of the murdered scientist paid him a visit, and he begged for her forgiveness, he cried and said he had no idea who his target was supposed to be. He thought it was some politician.

- Even an assassin would not go against Iran’s nuclear program. He was executed on charges of treason. Homicide also is subject to capital punishment in our country.

Dr. Ali believes western countries are under the delusion that Iran can be broken by such methods and actions.

- They did the same when the revolution broke out – planted and detonated explosives. The countries of the west gave Saddam weapons to wage war against Iran for 8 years. As a result, we now have 80 graves at the Shahid cemetery, of the martyrs who got killed in the bombings together with Mohammad Beheshti, the hero of our revolution we named a university after. What result did they get? Our people have made progress. We have launched a satellite into space. Our adversaries have no logic.

On my way out of Tehran, in the airport, I had a conversation with two young Iranians who looked quite liberal, judging by their attire and hair. Both turned out to be living in France and visiting relatives in Iran. Many things in Iran they disagreed with, such as traditional dress code for women, the ban on bars and disco clubs, the regime on the whole, and excessive clergy representation in the parliament. My last question was about the nuclear program.

- We support it, and our parents do, too. You won’t find any Iranian who is against it, whatever the pressure. Don’t waste your time looking.

Police deaths mount in Caucasus as militants pick new ‘amir’

13 policemen have been killed in three days of fierce fighting with militants on the border of the Russian southern republics of Dagestan and Chechnya. This comes as a Turkish terrorist has reportedly become the new head of the Dagestani fighters.

At least five police officers were killed and six others injured in the fighting on the republics’ borders on Thursday, Interfax news agency reports.   The policemen were fighting several militant groups. According to the news agency’s source in the police, the operation is ongoing in complicated conditions, in mountains and forests, covered in deep snow. The militants are offering fierce resistance, the source added, and have reportedly sustained losses.

At least 13 policemen have already been killed in the operation in the last three days. 17 more have sustained injuries. Just about 20 kilometres away from the ongoing operation, Dagestani police is using aircraft to battle one more militant group hiding in the forest. Helicopter gunships have strafed the area, the Interfax news agency reports. There is no news on casualties.

The Russian Caucasus republics of Dagestan and Chechnya have for years been a center for militant violence and terror attacks targeting police forces and the civilian population.

There are also reports that the Dagestani militant underground has a new leader, or amir, the Turkish terrorist sheikh Abdousalam. His predecessor Ibrahimhalil Daudov died in a police anti-terrorism operation.

Daudov, along with his 21-year-old son and three other militants, was killed in an operation in the village of Gurbuki.  Injured Ibrahimhalil Daudov managed to escape a house, where the group had taken refuge. His body was later recovered near a local river. Militants reportedly confirmed the death of their leader, who was said to be exceptionally fanatical and cruel.

The new head of the Dagestani militants is due to be appointed by Doku Umarov, leader of the so-called Caucasus emirate, comprised of various militant groups. Abdousalam is said to have undergone training in camps of his homeland and reportedly arrived in the Russian Caucasus about five years ago.

The Caucasus emirate is a terror organization aimed at fighting Russia’s control of several Caucasus republics, including Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia.

Terrorism Supporters Unite - Pakistan allies with Iran against US

Pakistan has pledged to support Iran if the US launches a military attack against the Islamic Republic. The Pakistani president assured the Iranian leader that his country’s territory will not be used as a launch pad for such an assault.

­Should the United Stated decide to attack Iran, Pakistan will not support the move and will not allow the US to use its local airbases for military operations, the Pakistani leader Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday.

His assurances of support came during a meeting of the leaders of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan in Islamabad. The talks are seen as Pakistan’s way of sending a message of defiance to the US.

Relations between Pakistan and the US are at an all-time low, after a November US air strike on a Pakistani border post killed 24 troops who were mistaken for Taliban militants. It took the Pentagon a month to reluctantly admit their part of the blame for the deadly mistake and offer apologies.