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Camouflaged World War II MAS in the Mediterranean Sea.

Motoscafo Armato Silurante (Italian: "Torpedo Armed Motorboat") commonly abbreviated as MAS) was a class of fast torpedo armed vessel used by the Règia Marina (the Royal Navy of Italy) during World War I and World War II. Originally, the acronym "MAS" referred to Motorbarca Armata SVAN ("Armed Motorboat SVAN"), where SVAN stood for Società Veneziana Automobili Navali (Naval Automobiles Society of Venice)[1]

MAS were essentially motorboats with displacements of 20-30 tonnes (depending on the class), a 10 man crew, and armament composed of two torpedoes, machine guns and occasionally a light gun.

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World War I

MAS were widely employed by Règia Marina during World War I in 1915-1918. Models used were directly derived from compact civilian motorboats, provided with compact and reliable (characteristics which were not common at the time) petrol engines. They were used both in the anti-submarine patrol role, but also for daring attacks against major units of the Austro-Hungarian Navy.

The greatest success of Italian MAS was the sinking of the Austro-Hungarian battleship SMS Szent István off Pula on June 10, 1918 when a boat was commanded by Luigi Rizzo.

World War II

Italian MAS continued to be improved after the end of World War I, thanks to the availability of Isotta Fraschini engines. The MAS of World War II had a maximum speed of 45 knots, two 450 mm torpedoes and one machine gun for anti-aircraft fire. In 1940 there were 48 MAS500-class units available. Older units were used in secondary theatres, such as the Italian East Africa.

Notable war actions performed by MAS include the torpedoing of the Royal Navy C class cruiser HMS Capetown by MAS 213 of the 21st MAS Squadron working within the Red Sea Flotilla off Massawa, Eritrea; and the failed attack on the harbour of Malta in January 1941, which caused the loss of 2 motorboats. They also sank two allied freighters on August 13, 1942, in the course of Operation Pedestal.

Five MAS were scuttled in Massawa in the first week of April, 1941 as a part of the Italian plan for the wrecking of Massawa harbor in the face of British advance. MAS 204, 206, 210, 213, and 216 were sunk in the harbor; four of the boats were in need of mechanical repairs and couldn't be evacuated.

Four MAS served a German request for Black Sea reinforcement in their intended attack of Sevastopol in June, 1942. The MAS squadron came under intense air attack from Soviet fighter-bombers and torpedo boats but performed well in the role. They sunk a 5,000 ton steamer and disabled a 10,000 ton transport which was subsequently destroyed by Stuka dive-bombers. MAS boats destroyed troop barges and damaged Soviet warships. One MAS boat commander was killed in battle. One MAS was destroyed and three damaged in September 1942 during a heavy attack on Yalta by fighter-bombers.[2]

The obsolescence of small MAS became apparent during the conflict, and they were increasingly replaced by larger Yugoslavian E-boats built in Germany and local copies of them (classified "MS" - Moto Siluranti by the Regia Marina).

Cultural legacy

The Italian poet Gabriele d'Annunzio, who employed MAS in some of his World War I adventures, used the MAS acronym for his Latin mot: Memento Audere Semper.

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See also

External links

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