The "Lagunari" / Reggimento "Serenissima"
The "Lagunari" are not the equivalent of the US Marines, but rather a coastal amphibious defense force for the region of the Venetian lagoon. However, the recent reorganisation of the national amphibious forces, which are now configured as "CapacitÓ Nazionale di Proiezionedal Mare", schedules the setting-up of an inter-force task force with detachments from the Landing Force of the Navy and from the Reggimento Lagunari Serenissima, as well as other units with specific tasks, designed to tackle the missions assigned in areas of crisis all over the world.
Along the Adriatic coast, between the mouth of the Isonzo and Po rivers, the contrasting action of both the rivers and the sea have, in the course of centuries, formed lagoons that are intersected by narrow strips of land. The coast, which is very irregular, offers some excelle;nt beaches, but there are also many marshes and canals that are constantly changing because of the work of the local inhabitants and the overflowing of the rivers.
This is the type of battle field preferred by the "Lagunari", infantry groups trained to fight tin the islands and in the canals and marshes and to thwart any attempts at landing from the sea. Like the Alpine troops, the "Lagunari" are recruited on a local scale and are generally fishermen, lifeguards, game wardens and the like. Their daily struggle with this particular type of terrain, the secrets and dangers of which are, well-known to them, make them excellent soldiers and worthy heirs of those men who, aboard the Venetian galleys, carried the fame of this republic throughout the length and breadth of the Mediterranean and barred Saracen expansion in the Latin world. For this reason, the regiment to which these groups belong was recently named "Regimento Lagunari Se ienissima". "Serenissima" is the adjective traditionally applied to Venice.
The "Lagunari" have very old traditions. Some of the earliest records speak about the "Panti da mar" (Sea Infantry), a militia of the Republic of Venice which garrisoned Venice's [do in the 16th century. During the seige of Venice in 1848, another militia known as the "Cacciatori del Sile" became famous for its defense of the lagoon. The "Palazzo dei Solti" (Soldiers' House) where the militia was housed is now he Command of the Regiment and a reminder of the glories of the past.
In 1877, some years after Italian unity, the "Lagunari" again came to the fore, when the 14th Sapper Company was formed for service on the lagoon. This later became a battalion under in bridge-building regiment. Because of the demand for transport on the lagoon and the rivers, the 8th Regiment was formed during the First World War and the eight companies performed some very valuable service behind the front, particularly in the 3rd Army zone where they were present at the retreat to the Piave and the successive battles that led to the victorious offensive at Vittorio Veneto.
Apart from transport, the Regiment was also responsible for digging new channels, building and handling boats, and taking part in the fighting. Several companies took part. in both offensive and defensive actions and received well-earned praise from the High Command. In the interval between the two wars, the "Lagunari" became a battalion under the 4th Bridge-Building Regiment and were chiefly concerned with technical questions.
At the end of the Second World War, the possibilities of attack from the sea had become an important factor in military strategy. The war itself had demonstrated the importance of amphibious operations, and many countries had already trained highly specialized units for this type of warfare. As a result, and because of defense requirements along the north-east borders, the Venetian lagoon once again became an advanced defense post against possible invasion from the sea.
The "Settore Forze Lagunari" (Lagoon Forces) was instituted in 1951 with the coastal lagoon battalion "Marghera" and the "San Marco" battalion. The "Piave'" coastal battalion was added at a later date. In March 1956, the "San Marco" became the "Isonzo" battalion and all groups were equipped so that they could fight either on land or in the rivers and marshes.
With the adoption of new methods of warfare and the introduction of new strategy, the structure of these battalions was revised. The "Lagoon Forces Command" became "Lagoon Forces Group Command", the battalions became amphibious and the "Armored Support Group" with tanks was added. Warfare in the localities described is of a special nature requiring diverse equipment and troops who are both self-supporting and accustomed to independent action. Each battalion operates with amphibious equipment which, apart from guaranteeing easy movement on land, along the canals and lagoons, also makes it possible to intervene in coastal defense.
With the addition of an armored battalion (which has replaced the "Armored Support Group") and an increase in fire power, the "Lagunari" regiment is now in a position to undertake land operations similar to those entrusted to motorized infantry. The variety, power and maneuverability of the regiment, however, would not be sufficient to make this a highly specialized unit were it not for the fact that recruits are very carefully selected and subjected to a high standard of training.
Training courses, in fact, include long marches over marshy ground, swimming and, rowing, fording rivers and streams, commando attacks, demolition and sabotage, and individual combat. Battle training is based on the principle that each man will be employed on difficult terrain, requiring the immediate employment of amphibious equipment during defense operations that demand aggressiveness, boldness, heavy fire power and mobility. Troops of the I'Lagunari" are required to show complete knowledge of the ground over which they are operating; complete knowledge of a wide range of weapons and amphibious equipment; ability to understand and adapt immediately to constantly changing conditions. These characteristics, combined with high morale, have made the "Serenissima" Regiment a modern, amphibious unit which is dedicated to the defense of one of Italy's frontiers.
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