One of only four remaining (now three!) wartime Italian Siluro San Bartolomeo (SSB) underwater chariots has been scrapped. From a historical standpoint the type is hugely important in the history of SDVs (Swimmer Delivery Vehicles) on both sides of the Atlantic. For years the craft was on display at the Submarine Forces Library in Groton, CT, USA. I had noticed that it was no longer on display, and have recently learned through a friend that it has in fact been scrapped.
The Siluro San Bartolomeo (SSB) was a two-man underwater chariot introduced by the famous Italian Special Forces unit Decima-MAS in 1943 as an improvement on the original ‘maiale’ (pig) human torpedo. Although the Italian Armistice prevented it from being used in anger, it is widely accepted as a fundamental improvement on the original model which itself was used with devastating effect, sinking battleships.
After the armistice both the British and US Navy tested the type, acquiring several craft. One was taken to the US for trials by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, now CIA) and UDT (Underwater Demolition Teams, now SEALs). That craft ended up on display next to the first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, at the Submarine Force Library in Groton, CT. Other craft on display there include the USS X-1 midget submarine, a Japanese WW2 Ko-Hyoteki midget submarine and the Cold War SDV Mk.IX.
The Submarine Force Library is an outstanding museum with free admission and I am loathed to say anything bad about it at all, but it is a real shame this important piece of history, the only SSB in the Americas, is now lost forever. The craft was in poor repair, being exposed to the extremes of the Connecticut weather, and I do not know the circumstances of its scrapping. But I cannot understand why it was not given to another museum or even placed in storage. Very sad.
The remaining SSBs are in the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport, UK., the imperial War Museum, London, UK and the COMSUBIN museum, la Spezia, Italy.
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