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Luigi Torelli was a Marconi-class submarine of the Italian navy during World War II. The vessel operated in the Atlantic from late-summer 1940 until mid-1943, then was sent to the Far East. After Italy's surrender in 1943, the Torelli was taken over by Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine, then, in the waning months of the war, the Japanese Imperial Navy. It was one of only two ships to serve in all three major Axis navies, the other being the Italian submarine Comandante Cappellini.

Name: Luigi Torelli
Builder: Oto (La Spezia, Italy)
Launched: 6 January 1940
Homeport: BETASOM, Bordeaux
Fate: Seized by the Japanese in September 1943 and handed over to Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Name: UIT-25
Acquired: September 1943
Fate: Incorporated into the Japanese Navy following the German surrender in May 1945
Name: I-504
Acquired: May 1945
Fate: Captured by the U.S. Navy and scuttled on 16 April 1946
General characteristics
Class and type: Marconi-class submarine[1]
  • 1,195 tons (standard)
  • 1,400t (full load)
Length: 251 ft (77 m)
Beam: 22.4 ft (6.8 m)
Draught: 15.6 ft (4.8 m)
  • (surfaced/submerged) diesel / electric, 2 shafts
  • 3,600 hp / 1,500 hp
Speed: 17.8 / 8.2 knots (surfaced/submerged)
Complement: 57


Luigi Torelli was built at the Oto shipyard in La Spezia, Italy. One of six boats of the Marconi-class submarine, which were laid down in 1938-39, Luigi Torelli was launched in January 1940. Designed as an ocean-going vessel, she was intended for operations both in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic.

Service historyEdit

When Italy entered World War II in June 1940 the Luigi Torelli was still completing its training and shakedown period.[2] Afterward, it conducted a short reconnaissance mission in the Gulf of Genoa, and was then dispatched to the Atlantic to Bordeaux in occupied France to serve in the Italian submarine flotilla there.[2]

Between 11–29 September 1940, the Luigi Torelli was assigned to patrol an area just off the Azores Islands.[2] On 5 October 1940, she reached Bordeaux. In the following weeks, the boat left port several times and made short practice missions.[2]

On 15 January 1941, the Luigi Torelli sighted a small convoy and sank the Greek vessel Nemea, the Norwegian vessel Brask and the Greek vessel Nicolas Filinis. A fourth vessel was also damaged, but escaped due to the foul weather.[2] This was one of the few examples of an Italian submarine achieving great results while participating in a Wolfpack attack, according to Regia Marina Italiana.[2] Two weeks later, the Luigi Torelli sank the British vessel Urla. In July 1941, she sank the Norwegian tanker Ida Knudsen.[3] A year later, she sank the British vessel Scottish Star and the Panamanian motor tanker Esso Copenhagen.[2]

The Torelli had the distinction of being the first submarine to be attacked by an Allied Vickers Wellington using the Leigh light, on the night of 3 June 1942 at roughly 70 miles off the Spanish coast, suffering considerable damage but managing to reach the port of Avilés and, after an attempt to reach Bordeaux ended when an Australian Short Sunderland attacked the submarine and inflicted further damage upon it, it ended up in Santander; after emergency repairs, the submarine managed to exit the port (where the Spanish authorities intended to intern it) with a stratagem, and safely reached Bordeaux on July 15.[4]

In 1943, the Luigi Torelli, after surviving at least two serious air attacks, was one of seven Italian submarines designated to be transformed into transports. The Italian boats, due to their dimensions, were deemed better suited for long voyages to the Far East on missions to acquire precious and rare material. The Luigi Torelli left for the Far East on 14 June 1943. The operation was under German control but the Luigi Torelli retained its Italian crew.[2]

The Luigi Torelli was one of three Italian submarines in the Far East in 1943 when the new Italian government agreed to an armistice with the Allies. Of the three, the Luigi Torelli, Comandante Cappellini and Giuliani and their crews were temporarily interned by the Japanese. The Luigi Torelli and two other boats then passed to German U-boat command and, with mixed German and Italian crews, continued to fight against the Allies. The Kriegsmarine assigned new officers to the Luigi Torelli, renamed her the U.IT.25 and had her take part in German war operations in the Pacific.

Following the German surrender in 1945, the Luigi Torelli was again given a new name, the I-504, by the Japanese, and operated with the Imperial Japanese Navy until 30 August 1945. The Luigi Torelli and sister submarine Comandante Cappellini were the only two ships to fly the flags of all three main Axis powers during World War II.

As the I-504, Torelli's crew claimed the shooting down a B-25 Mitchell bomber while under Japanese flag near the very end of the war in the Pacific, allegedly the last success by an Axis naval vessel in the conflict.[5]


Captured by the U.S. in Kobe, Japan, at the conclusion of the war, the Luigi Torelli was scuttled by the US Navy in the Kii Strait on 16 April 1946.[3]

Ships sunkEdit

Ships sunk by Torelli[6]
Patrol Date Ship Flag Tonnage Notes
3rd 15 January 1941 Nemea   Greece 5,198 Freighter; 14 survivors from a crew of 31
3rd 15 January 1941 Brask   Norway 4,079 Freighter; 20 survivors from a crew of 32
3rd 16 January 1941 Nicolas Filinis   Greece 3,111 Freighter; 26 survivors from a crew of 29
3rd 28 January 1941 Urla   United Kingdom 5,198 Freighter; no casualties
5th 21 July 1941 Ida Knudsen   Norway 8,913 Tanker; 5 killed
8th 19 February 1942 Scottish Star   United Kingdom 7,224 Freighter; 4 killed from a crew of 73
8th 25 February 1942 Esso Copenhagen   Panama 9,245 Tanker; 1 killed from a crew of 39
Total: 42,968


  1. ^ Bagnasco p161
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Regia Marina, Luigi Torelli
  3. ^ a b Stories and Battle Histories of the IJN's Submarines, February 10, 2010, HIJMS Submarine I-504: Tabular Record of Movement Archived February 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Giorgerini, Giorgio (2002). Uomini sul fondo : storia del sommergibilismo italiano dalle origini a oggi. Milano: Mondadori. pp. 518–23. ISBN 8804505370.
  5. ^ Willmott, H. P. (2010). The Last Century of Sea Power, Volume 2: From Washington to Tokyo, 1922–1945. Indiana University Press. p. 276. ISBN 0253004098.
  6. ^


  • Erminio Bagnasco, Submarines of World War Two, Cassell & Co, London. 1977 ISBN 1-85409-532-3
  • Giorgerini, Giorgio (2002). Uomini sul fondo : storia del sommergibilismo italiano dalle origini a oggi. Milano: Mondadori. ISBN 8804505370.
  • Vincent O'Hara, Enrico Cernuschi: Dark Navy: The Italian Regia Marina and the Armistice of 8 September 1943 (2009). ISBN 1-934840-91-2
  • Roger Chesneau, Robert Gardiner: Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946 (1980). ISBN 0-85177-146-7

External linksEdit