Naval War College Review


In March 1939 Italy’s Regia Marina established a specialized and secret naval warfare unit called Decima Flottiglia MAS (Motoscafo Anti Sommergibili), generally known as the 10th Light Flotilla or X MAS. This unit was innovative, in that it employed selected, highly trained personnel using special weapons and delivery systems to conduct sneak attacks. On the night of 18 December 1941, six members of this unit penetrated the main British naval base in the eastern Mediterranean at Alexandria, Egypt, and disabled the Mediterranean Fleet’s two battleships, a tanker, and a destroyer. In few military endeavors has so little been risked to achieve so much. This article examines the Alexandria action and some of the factors that contributed to its success. It also considers how this action applies to today’s threat environment.