The Cannone a Grande Gittata da 75/32 Modello 1937 (English: 75 mm L/32 Long-Range Cannon Model 1937), better known as Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937, was an Italian field gun developed before the Second World War to equip the Italian Regio Esercito’s (English: Royal Army) infantry divisions with a high velocity and long-range field gun.
It was conceived in 1937 by reusing the carriage of the Obice da 75/18 Modello 1935 (English: 75 mm L/18 Howitzer Model 1935) and installing a new longer barrel. Although it originated as a field gun, it turned out to also be an adequate anti-tank gun. The delay in its production, which did not begin until 1941, did not allow wide use of this gun.
Before the Cannone da 75/32
In 1934, the Regio Esercito adopted the Obice da 75/18 Modello 1934 (English: 75 mm L/18 Howitzer Model 1934), which was supposed to replace the outdated Obici Škoda da 75/13 Modello 1915 (English: 75 mm L/13 Škoda Howitzer Model 1915) used by mountain artillery units, and the Cannoni da 75/27 Modello 1906 and Modello 1911 (English: 75 mm L/27 Cannon Model 1906 and Model 1911) used by artillery units of the Italian infantry divisions.
The Obice da 75/18 Modello 1934 had a range of 9,000 m and had a gun shield to protect its crew. In 1935, a new version was introduced, the Obice da 75/18 Modello 1935 (English: 75 mm L/18 Howitzer Model 1935). The Modello 1935 had a new gun shield and wheels with bigger diameter to ease towing by mechanized vehicles.
Due to low production numbers, the Obice da 75/18 never really replaced its predecessors. It was not even adopted as a mountain artillery piece, the purpose for which it was created. In fact, it was mainly deployed as a field howitzer and occasionally even as an anti-tank gun with minor success against light armored vehicles.
One of the new howitzer’s problems was the purpose for which it was created. The Regio Esercito favored a light, easily transportable gun at the cost of a small caliber for divisional artillery and a limited range. The Regio Esercito used the Obice da 75/18 as a short-range support gun, deploying heavier and larger caliber howitzers for indirect and counter-battery fire.
A few years later, the Servizio Tecnico Armi e Munizioni (English: Weapons and Munitions Technical Service) requested a new gun for divisional artillery. The main specification was an increase over the Obice da 75/18’s firing range, which only reached a maximum of 9,000 m. This was significantly inferior to the ranges of its counterparts, such as the German 10.5 cm leFH 18 (10,600 m) or British Ordnance QF 25 lb (12,200 m).
The Regio Esercito also wanted to standardize divisional artillery production as much as possible, so the new gun was mounted on the same carriage as the Obice da 75/18 Modello 1935.
During a meeting of the Comitato Superiore Tecnico per le Armi e Munizioni (English: Superior Technical Committee for Weapons and Munitions), the importance of the use of the Cannoni da 75/32 for long-range anti-tank firing was emphasized, which was useful for hitting vehicles outside the range of the Cannoni da 47/32 Modello 1935 (English: 47 mm L/32 Cannon Model 1935), the main anti-tank gun of the Regio Esercito.
History and Development
In 1937, the Comitato Superiore Tecnico per le Armi e Munizioni (English: Superior Technical Committee for Weapons and Munitions) had approved the creation of the Cannone da 75/32 to enable use against tanks and to increase the range of the field cannon.
The first prototype was built by the Arsenale Regio Esercito di Napoli or AREN (English: Royal Army Arsenal of Naples), one of the biggest artillery producing plants in Italy. It was unveiled by Ansaldo in 1937.
After some tests of an experimental battery of 5 Cannoni da 75/32, the gun barrel was shortened to 32 calibers (2,400 mm) and equipped with a “pepper pot” muzzle brake which was also used by the Obici da 75/18 mounted on Semoventi.
The original 34 caliber-long barrel version was modified and then used to equip the Carro Armato P26/40 heavy tank and some Italian semoventi.
In 1938, 192 Cannoni da 75/32 were ordered from Ansaldo, but production was not given high priority and it was not until 1941 that the first pieces were delivered.
Although little consideration was given to the Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937, some members of the Regio Esercito’s High Command understood the capable anti-tank characteristics of this piece. One of these was Ispettore Superiore dei Servizi Tecnici (English: Superior Inspector of Technical Services) General Mario Caracciolo di Feroleto, who in November 1940 made a proposal to the Stato Maggiore del Regio Esercito (English: General Staff of the Royal Army) to adopt the Cannone a Grande Gittata da 75/32 piece on a large scale. The proposal was rejected by the Regio Esercito, which on 9th December 1940 denied the permission to increase production of the cannon in roundup No. 39853. This was justified by stating that crews needed too much time to put the gun in position, aim accurately, and fire against moving targets, such as armored vehicles.
In 1943, modifications were planned for the Cannoni da 75/32 ordered in the second batch from OTO and Ansaldo Pozzuoli. The new Cannoni da 75/32 would have improved performance against armored vehicles by adopting an automatic breech, providing a thicker shield, and adding an elevation and firing lever to the left of the breech but in the end, none of them were built with these modifications.
The Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937 began to be produced in 1941 by Ansaldo in its plant in Pozzuoli with a price of 470.300 lire for each gun, and the first examples left the factories at the end of this year.
Production proceeded very slowly. By September 1942, there were only 49 pieces available, while by summer 1943, there were 172.
In 1943 a second order was placed by the Italian Army for a total of 483 guns: 303 to Ansaldo Pozzuoli (170 guns ordered by Regio Esercito + 133 guns previously ordered by Portugal and taken over by the Army) 180 to OTO.
A document from the Direzione Generale Artiglieria – Reparto Produzione (English: General Artillery Directorate – Production Department) dated June 1943 stated that Ansaldo Pozzuoli could produce 60 Cannoni da 75/32 per month
No guns of this order were completed due the armistice.
|Production of the Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937|
|Notes||* Until 8th September 1943|
One of the goals of the Regio Esercito was to standardize the production of field artillery, so the Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937 gun was created by mounting a 32 caliber barrel on the Obice da 75/18 Modello 1935 carriage. The muzzle brake was intended to increase the accuracy and range and absorb some of the recoil which decreased as the elevation of the cannon increased.
The carriage was 2-tailed and could be spread apart and folded into 2 parts, which allowed for adaptability to various terrain elevations and allowed a 50° traverse and an elevation of -10° to +45°. The cannon was also equipped with a 4,2 mm shield.
The breech block is exclusively manual.
The spoked wheels were initially made of Elektron, a Magnesium and Aluminium alloy. During production, steel sheet was used instead.
The suspension was elastic and formed by torsion bar axles, the same as those of the Obice da 75/18 Modello 1934 and 1935.
The mount has two wheel tracks available: wide (for fire and mechanical towing) and narrow (for mountain towing).
The cannon weighed 1,160 kg. It was designed to be towed by light prime movers like the FIAT-SPA TL37, although animal transport by horse was also possible. Officially, a towing speed of 45 to 60 km/h was estimated, but in regular use, the speeds were probably much lower.
In 1943, two different versions of the gun were studied. The first was an aviation version of the Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937, while the second was to be installed inside the fortifications of the Vallo Alpino del Littorio (English: Littorio Alpine Wall), the complex of bunkers and other defensive positions that defended Italy’s Alpine borders with Austria, France, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia.
Unfortunately, nothing is known about the fate of these projects, but they were most likely abandoned because of the Armistice of 8th September 1943.
There are some photos of a Cannone da 75/32 at Ansaldo in Genoa Cornigliano in 1942 that appears to be undergoing testing for installation on an aircraft. The cannon was placed inside a structure that simulated the nose of an aircraft, possibly to test the resistance of the nose to the muzzle flash during firing.
The Cannone da 75/32 had a crew of four men, including the aimer who sits on the left and has control over horizontal aiming while the shooter sits on the right and has control over the firing lever and elevation adjustment. The other two crew members were responsible for supplying ammunition to the cannon.
The Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937 used a variety of semi-fixed ammunition types.
|Ammunition for the Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937|
|Name||Type||Muzzle velocity (m/s) with first charge||Muzzle velocity (m/s) with second charge||Weight (kg)||Penetration in mm of a RHA angled at 90° at||Penetration in mm of a RHA angled at 60° at|
|500 m||1,000 m||500 m||1,000 m|
|Granata Dirompente da 75/32||High-Explosive||//||570 (estimated)||6.35||//||//||//||//|
|Granata Dirompente da 75/32 a d.e.||High-Explosive||360||570||6.30||//||//||//||//|
|Granata Dirompente da 75/27 Modello 1932||High-Explosive||350||490||6.35||//||//||//||//|
|Granata Perforante da 75/32||Armor Piercing||//||630||6.10||70||60||55||47|
|Granata da 75 Effetto Pronto (early type)||High-Explosive Anti Tank||//||580||4.50||55**||55**||50**||50**|
|Granata da 75 Effetto Pronto (late type)||High-Explosive Anti Tank||//||557***||5.20||*||*||*||*|
|Granata da 75 Effetto Pronto Speciale (early type)||High-Explosive Anti Tank||//||*||5.20||*||*||*||*|
|Granata da 75 Effetto Pronto Speciale Modello 1942||High-Explosive Anti Tank||//||399****||5.30||*||*||70||70|
|Notes||* Data not present
** British estimation
*** Muzzle velocity of the projectile fired from the L/34 gun
**** Muzzle velocity of the projectile fired from the L/27 gun
The Cannone a Grande Gittata da 75/32 Modello 1937 saw very limited use. The first unit to use this piece was the 201° Reggimento d’Artiglieria Motorizzato (English: 201st Motorized Artillery Regiment) assigned to the Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia or CSIR (English: Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia), which was later renamed ARMata Italiana in Russia or ARMIR (English: Italian Army in Russia, or 8th Army). Under the overall command of Colonel Enrico Altavilla, the regiment and its 36 guns were organized into 3 groups: Lieutenant Colonel La Guardia’s 1° Gruppo (English: 1st Group), Lieutenant Colonel Francesco Zingales’ 2° Gruppo (English: 2nd Group), and Major Vitale’s 3° Gruppo (English: 3rd Group).
On the Eastern Front, a gun battery supported the attack of the Battaglione Alpini ‘Vestone’ (English: Alpine Battalion), belonging to the 2a Divisione Alpina ‘Tridentina’ (English: 2nd Alpine Division), against a Soviet stronghold in the village of Scach on 31st August 1942. Another battery was sent as reinforcement, along with the 1a Compagnia Motociclisti (English: 1st Motorcycle Company), to the village of Bolschoj to reinforce the 2a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Sforzesca’ (English: 2nd Infantry Division) on 5th September.
The whole 201° Reggimento d’Artiglieria Motorizzato was destroyed during the Second Defensive Battle of the Don (during Operation Little Saturn and the Ostrogozhsk-Rossosh offensive) between December 1942 and January 1943. There is little information on the Regiment’s employment during this time. On 16th December 1942, the 1a Batteria (English: 1st Battery) of the 1° Gruppo, assigned to the 9a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Pasubio’ (English: 9th Infantry Division), was involved defending against the attack of the Soviet 38th Guards Division. The battery of Cannoni da 75/32 was completely destroyed by Russian forces who killed all the artillerymen. On 18th December, a section of the 3° Gruppo defended the village of Taly together with an amalgamation of Italian and German troops until the next day, when the defense passed into the hands of German units only.
By 1943, there were only 4 Cannoni da 75/32 Modello 1937 groups left. Two (24 pieces) of which were assigned to the 135a Divisione Corazzata ‘Ariete II’ (English: 135th Armored Division), which was deployed near Rome. They took part in the clashes against the Germans after the Armistice of 8th September 1943.
The other two groups were assigned to the 11a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Brennero’ (English: 11th Infantry Division) deployed in Greece and Albania. A photograph shows two guns of the 11a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Brennero’ used by the Battaglione Partigiano ‘Gramsci’ (English: Partisan Battalion) formed after the Armistice of 8th September 1943 by soldiers from the 41a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Firenze’ (English:41st Infantry Division), the 11a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Brennero’, and the 53a Divisione di Fanteria ‘Arezzo’ (English: 53rd Infantry Division). The Italian soldiers, under the command of Sergeant Terzilio Cardinali, joined the 1st Partisan Brigade of the Albanian Liberation Army in the days after the Armistice, preferring to fight against the Germans.
After the Armistice, the Germans captured 48 guns intact, naming them 7.5 cm FeldKanone 248(i) (English: 7.5 cm Field Cannon 248 Italian), using them both on the Italian front and in Yugoslavia against Tito’s partisans.
The only photo of German use shows us a Cannone da 75/32 used by a Fallschirmjäger unit, probably in Italy.
In the book Latin American Wars. 1900-1941 “Banana Wars, Border Wars and Revolutions” by Philip S. Jowett, it is mentioned that Peru acquired some Cannoni da 75/32 in 1941, but no further information is available.
Portugal ordered 133 Cannoni da 75/32 during the war, but it was later canceled and taken over by Regio Esercito, and no cannons were built afterward.
Use on Vehicles
The Cannone da 75/32 was mounted on a few vehicles, but it was also the basis for the creation of the Cannone da 75/34, which was mounted on the Carro Armato P26/40 and on some self-propelled artillery vehicles.
Carro Armato P26/40
In July 1940, General Mario Caracciolo di Feroleto, the Ispettore Superiore dei Servizi Tecnici (English: Superior Inspector of Technical Services), had two mock-ups of the Carro Armato P26/40 tank built, one by Ansaldo and the other by the Direzione della Motorizzazione (English: Directorate of Motor Vehicles).
Both models were armed with a Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937 and a 20 mm Cannone-Mitragliera Breda da 20/65 Modello 1935 in the turret. The Cannone da 75/32 on Ansaldo’s mock-up did not have a muzzle brake, as it was not yet necessary for recoil management.
The Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937 was chosen because it had already been in development since 1937 and preferred over the Obice da 75/18 included in earlier mock-ups.
The first prototype of the Carro Armato P26/40 was equipped in December 1941 with a Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937 wooden dummy. Eventually, in spring 1942, the Cannone da 75/34 was chosen as the main armament because it was specifically developed for use on vehicles. It featured a fully semi-automatic vertical sliding breechblock and a completely revised and more suitable recoil mechanism designed for enclosed vehicles.
Semovente M40 da 75/32
In summer 1941, the Army General Staff had to choose whether to mount the Obice da 75/18 or the Cannone da 75/34 Modello SF [Sfera] (English: 75 mm L/34 Cannon Model Spherical Support) on self-propelled guns. With circular No. 11914 of 21th June 1941, the choice fell on the latter, but since the Cannone da 75/34 was not yet available, a Cannone da 75/32 was mounted on the hull of the Semovente M40 self-propelled gun on an experimental basis. The model, however, was not approved.
The Semovente was armed with a Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937 and an 8 mm machine gun.
Some sources mistake the main gun of the semovente with the Semovente M40 da 75/32 itself. In fact, they state that 24 or 25 of these semoventi were deployed by the 135a Divisione Corazzata ‘Ariete II’ during the defense of Rome on 9th and 10th September 1943. This is wrong. The 135a Divisione Corazzata ‘Ariete II’ had only 24 Cannoni a Grande Gittata da 75/32 in its ranks and these were deployed in the defense of the Italian capital city. Apart from the prototype, license plate R.E. 4443, on an early production Carro Armato M14/41, the Semovente M40 da 75/32 was not produced.
Autocannone da 75/32 su Autocarro Semicingolato FIAT 727
In 1943, Ansaldo was studying the installation of the Cannone da 75/32 Modello 1937 on the hull of the 3-ton Maffei-FIAT 727 half-track. The development was never finished due the Armistice of 8th September 1943. The Germans also stopped the production of the 3-tonne FIAT 727 half-track, putting an end to any further German development.
The Cannone a Grande Gittata da 75/32 Modello 1937 was a potent artillery piece, perhaps the best anti-tank gun developed by the Kingdom of Italy. Nevertheless, it suffered greatly due to the underdeveloped Italian industry and the lack of foresight of the Regio Esercito’s high command.
Mass production starting from 1937 would surely have allowed equipping Italian soldiers with a decent anti-tank weapon with which to counter enemy armor, primarily the Matilda tanks in North Africa, which spearheaded the British counteroffensive in Libya in winter 1940-1941.
Although it also performed well in Eastern Front against T-34s, the Cannone da 75/43 (Italian designation for the German PaK 40), which was adopted in 1943 by the Regio Esercito, was eventually preferred by the Italian troops for its precision and better anti-tank characteristics, even if many soldiers considered it too heavy.
A big thanks to Arturo Giusti and Enrico Micheli
Specifications of Cannone a Grande Gittata da 75/32 Modello 1937
|Weight in battery||1,200 kg|
|Barrel length||2.574 m|
|Muzzle velocity||624 m/s|
|Maximum range||12,300 m|
|Rate of fire||10 shots per minute|
|Shell weight||6.35 kg (explosive grenade Model 1932)|
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