June 25, 1944 sinking of a German destroyer.

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Airman 1st Class
Dec 11, 2005
Cupertino, CA
I understand that on June 25, 1944, the Tuskegee pilots sank a German destroyer with machine gun fire while flying P-47's.

Can anyone shed some light on this event?
I am reading now that it may have been May 9, 1944 in the Gulf of Venice.

It was an Italian destroyer (Ariete class) named Auriga that was transferred to the German navy. The Germans renamed her TA-27. She was 275ft long and weighed 1,150 tons.
Here she is: 275 feet and 1,120 tons.


For a size comparison, here's the USS Bailey. 314 feet and 1,215 tons:

Here it goes:
Class: ARIETE (classified as torpedo boats, not destroyers!)
Original name: Aurigia
Laid down: Gio Ansaldo&Co, Sestro-Ponente, 15th of jule 1942
size: 1.120 t.
length: 83,15 m
beam: 3,45 m
armor: virtually none except for the gunshields
armement: 2 * 10 cm;AA: 3* 3,7 cm; 14*2,0 cm; 6* 45 cm torpedo tubes;
provisions for mine laying
max speed: 31.5 kts, 22.000 SHP

The 15 torpedo boats of the Ariete class were the largest vessels of the italien navy to be overtaken by the germans after italien surrender in 1943. Aurigia renamed TA 27 had to be completed and was commissioned on 28.12.1943. The torpedo boats performed mine laying, coastel defense and escort dutys in within the newly formed 10th TB-Flottilla.
TA 27 was sunk by bomb hits (not strafing) at Portoferraio on 09.07.1944 after conducting mine laying operations with the 11th Sicherungsdivision, 2nd Geleitflottille.
Hope this helps.
I have dug into my records and found that theThe Auriga was sunk by bombs from USAF aircraft at the Pier at Porto Ferraio. It doesn't say what planes but there is no reason why they couldn't have been P51's.

She was a lot smaller than the Bailey. Her standard weight was 750 tons to the Bailey whch weighed in at 1630 standard so its not a fair comparison. A better comparison I suggest would be the US Escort Destroyers which were still larger but had a similar escort role.
US records credits an attack by the Tuskegee airmen flying P-47's and no bombs. It was a flight of six P-47's. (I'd say that qualifies as a rain of hell fire.)


One could see how the Germans would have concluded that it was bombs. After all, one of your destroyers blows up during an attack by fighter bombers. What would you conclude?

I think the US airmen, however, involved in the attack itself, would be in a position to know whether they were attacking with bombs or not.

See the following on tonnage. That 750 ton figure isn't right. Click "Technical Data" for the Ariete.


I believe you are correct on the USS Bailey's displacement.
Magister said:
I think the US airmen, however, involved in the attack itself, would be in a position to know whether they were attacking with bombs or not.
Yeah, but, first of all, one could think that they were in the position to know where they were flying.

There are no doubt that the TA-27 (Auriga) was sunk at Portoferraio and not near Trieste.
Near Trieste was sunk the TA-38 (Spada) an unit of the same class, on 13/10/44.
Axis reports stated that the crew sank it cause it suffered severe damages for an air attack, without mentioning bombs. So, it's probable that this is the right ship, and that the american site made a little confusion.
The Germans captured many units of this class because they were still under construction at the time of armistice.
However it was really a torpedo boat, not a destroyer.
Yeah, but, first of all, one could think that they were in the position to know where they were flying.

Indeed. So perhaps that aspect of delcyros' account is incorrect as well. Where is Trieste Harbor? Gulf of Venice.

275 feet long is not a "torpedo boat" in the common sense impression that such a designation has in English. Torpediniera translates to "Torpedo Boat" (The Italian designation does not track the English usage of the term - we would refer to PT-109 as a torpedo boat) and is obviously a ship as opposed to a "boat." Calling a 1,120 ton, 275 foot long vessel a boat in ter English usage sense really raises form over substance.

At any rate, after the Germans finished construction of her and renamed her TA-27, they deemed her a "Destroyer."
Magister said:
Indeed. So perhaps that aspect of delcyros' account is incorrect as well. Where is Trieste Harbor? Gulf of Venice.
Sure. And Undubtely the TA-27 sunk very far from this gulf, in a completely different part of Italy and in a different sea. This is what I wanted to say.
The only unit of this type that the Tuskegee could have hit in the Gulf of Venice in 1944 is the TA-38.
The substance don't change, but Delcyros' report is not uncorrect.
Magister. The Italian definition of Torpedo Boat does fit in with the normal usage at least in the UK and Europe. The French were also quite keen on torpedo boats having a number in service when war broke out.
The main criteria is the Torpedo Armament, as they have a heavy torpedo complement and small number of guns. Destroyers originally got their name because they were designed to destroy torpedo boats.

The PT Boats are what we call Motor Torpedo Boats, we wouldn't call them torpedo boats.
Its just a small example of a difference in the usage of the same language like the spelling of colour.

As for the size I still think that the Standard displacement is 750 tons as mentioned in the site you highlighted. 1,120 is the full load displacement.

My notes mention that the TA38 was sunk by an air raid after being severely damaged by a mine. That could explain why a ship of this size was sunk by gunfire alone, remembering that the US aircrew would not have known that she had hit a mine.
Remember that every unit of this type carryed 6 torpedoes on the bridge, every one of them charged with 270 Kg of explosive, plus the expolsive charges necessaries to launch them.
Easily the aircrafts' fire provoked the explosion of one or more of them, and the pilots judjed to have hit the powder magazine.
There are no doubt that the TA-27 (Auriga) was sunk at Portoferraio and not near Trieste.

I'm curious how it is that you are able to establish this. Why is it not possible for it to have been near Trieste?

Near Trieste was sunk the TA-38 (Spada) an unit of the same class, on 13/10/44.

By this date, all the Tuskegee were flying P-51's. I have read of the account from the pilots themselves and they state that they were flying P-47's.
I can confirm. There are records for all Ariete - class ships and their fate.
The second ship to be discussed here is ex Spada as mentioned by Glider and Dogw.
Renamed TA 38 the ship was fitted out and commisioned on 12.02.1944. It formed the 9th Torpedobootsflotille and contributed to sinking the british ML 1227 on05.10.1944. The torpedo boat was blown up on 13th of oct. 1944 by it´s own crew near Volo AFTER it was badly damaged by air attacks and stripped from useful material.

It is understandable that US airman mistakenly had identified such ships as destroyers. However they truly weren´t. I don´t know if the US navy ever had torpedo boats in it´s arsenal or not.
The germans did not overtook ANY DD from Reggia Marina. (possible exception are the torpedinieri of the Pilo class which were originally classified as destroyers back in ww1 but reclassified as torpedo boats in ww2)
They would fit in the british ww2 escort figate class very well. A destroyer would be faster, better armed, bigger and with more electronics and range (beside of the already mentioned tiny torpedos of the Ariete).
Also destroyer class ships would be far mor resistant against 0.50" fire due to its higher grade of compartimentation.

In order to summarize, here are the dates and regions for the remaining ships of the ex italian Reggia Marinae TB´s overtaken in german service which suffered destruction caused by air attacks:

TA 15 (ex Cacciatorpediniere Francesco Crispi, Quintino Sella-class)
-08.03.1944 sunk by two-three rockets fired from aircrafts near Heraklion-

TA 16 (ex Cacciatorpediniere Castelfidardo, Curtatone class)
-2.06.1944 sunk by explosion of nearby merchant at harbour of Heraklion caused by air attack-

TA 17 -damaged at Salamis and later broken up-

TA 21 (ex Cacciatorpediniere Insidioso, Indomito class)
-05.11.1944 hit by airdropped torpedo. Decomissined-

TA 22 (ex Cacciatorpediniere Gioseppe Missori, Pilo class)
-25.06.1944 damaged during air raid. Decomissioned. Blown up on 03.05.1945-

TA 28 (ex torpedinieri Rigel)
-04.09.1944 bombed in dry dock at Genova-

TA 31 -damaged and later broken up at La Spezia-

TA 33 (ex Cacciatorpediniere Squadrista)
-04.09.1944 bombed at (?)Livorno(?)-

TA 41 (ex torpedinieri Lancia)
-17.02.1945 bombed in harbour of Trieste-

TA 42 (ex torpedinieri Alabarda)
-21.03.1945 sunk during air raid in Venice-

TA 44 (ex Cacciatorpediniere Antonio Pigafetta)
-17.02.1945 sunk after bomb hits in Trieste-

TA 46 (ex torpedinieri Fionda)
-20.02.1945 severely damaged in air raid at Fiume-

TA 49 (ex torpedinieri Lira)
-04.11.1944 sunk in La Spezia during air attack-
Even if the maximum displacement was 1,127tons, it is still a good sized ship at about 20 times the 56 ton maximum displacement of an 80ft U.S. torpedo boat like the PT-109.
Certainly the only German destroyers lost around those dates were:
Z.23 August 21, 1944 scuttled after bombing by RAF aircraft
Z.24 August 25, 1944 driven ashore by RAF aeria rocket fire at Le Verdon
Z.37 August 24, 1944 was scuttled at Bordeaux
Z.23 June 9, 1944 driven ashore by gunfire from R.C.N. destroyers Haida and Huron at Uschant
Trying to make sense of things;

On 25th June 1944, assuming the pilots got the date correct.

TA-22 ex Giuseppe Missori
25.06.1944 heavy damaged in Trieste by British aircrafts
11.08.1944 decommisioned as not repairable
03.05.1945 scuttled in Trieste
1949 scrapped

Giuseppe Missori was built in 1914 and of approximately 650tons

None of the Ariete Class were sunk on 25/06/44.

For the ship sunk on 9th July 1944, that would be TA27 ex-Auriga at Portoferrario. Cause of sinking bomb hits (1 source says mine). This is not anywhere near Trieste.

The only conclusion that you can make from this is that the claim is completely bogus, else;

The US airmen didn't know what planes they were flying
The US airmen didn't know where they were flying
The US airmen had no idea what the date was


The US airmen took over a British squadron of P-51s, sank a Torpedo Boat and then gave them back.

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